Pushing open the door, Kanas walked into the quiet section of the library and found it empty. Around her the bookcases grew from the floor and into the ceiling, each stuffed full of volumes that seemed to watch and whisper to her. Closing the door, Kanas clutched the two books she had already picked up to tighter her chest and rested her chin on top of them. Her breath had caught and her eyes could not stop glancing around.
It felt wrong to be in here this late, but on the other hand she was relieved to have found a space to study. Abruptly, the next song on her IPod burst into her large headphones and she jumped. Catching herself on a nearby bookcase, which also caused a small scratch on her palm, she recovered quickly and slipped the headphones off. 12 Stones Open Your Eyes drifted softly into the room. Shaking her head, Kanas meandered around the bookcases and towards a centre isle, where a large table and fourteen chairs sat.
Kanas slipped her books and bag onto the table, which also held a number of green shaded lamps, a pile of abandoned books, a vase of dried flowers and another object which seemed out of place. Frowning, Kanas walked to the other end of the table to see what it was. The music from her headphones still floated out and in her curiosity, she seemed to have forgotten about it.
She stepped around the corner of the table and looked down. The object was a large painting in a wooden frame. It depicted a sleeping cat on a bookcase surrounded by birds, mice and books. The cat was a tabby and looked content with its body and paws wrapped around the books. Kanas smiled, it reminded her of herself and her bedroom. Slowly, she reached out and stroked the cat’s fur. There was no glass in the frame, so her fingers brushed against the dried paint.
Pulling herself away, she went back to the other end of the table and set herself up. She had an English essay to write on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Opening her laptop, she switched it on and left it loading whilst she sorted out her notes and the books. Just before she was about to start typing her eyes flickered to the painting once more, even though she now couldn’t see it from this angle. I’ll ask about it later, she thought as she slipped her headphones on and began typing.
She wrote solidly for an hour, finding it easy going and her essay taking shape nicely. She was so wrapped up in her work that she didn’t hear the door opening or the sharp coughing behind her. A figure appeared in the corner of her eye and Kanas jumped, her hands shot up to rip the headphones off and her mouth forming an O scream. With the music off though, the janitor’s voice came to her and her shocked faded.
‘It’s closing time. Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I didn’t know you were here. Are you all right?’ he was speaking.
Kanas nodded and looked at the time on her laptop, it was two am.
‘I thought it was an all nighter?’ she asked, saving her work.
‘It is. Was I believe, but there’s no one else here now. Bit silly if you ask me, keeping the university library open all night on a Friday,’ the janitor chuckled, then stopped as his eyes fell on Kanas, ‘Deadline due?’
‘Overdue. I got an extension till Monday. My aunt died last week,’ Kanas explained.
‘I’m sorry about that.’
‘My hall was too noisy and there was a group of media student taking up the twenty-four hour computer room. So I came here. I’ll leave if you want me too,’ Kanas added.
‘You got much left to do?’
‘You can come back tomorrow though,’ the janitor smiled.
‘Yeah, thanks,’ Kanas replied and quickly began packing up.
The janitor carried on his sweeping off the floor then began cleaning the other side of the table. Kanas saw him touching the painting and suddenly remembered about it. Slipping on her bag and picking up her books, she called to him and asked, ‘where did that painting come from?’
‘This?’ he asked holding it up, ‘I found it the other day behind one of the bookcases in here. No one seems to know anything about it and the head librarian told me to throw it away today. I think it’s too nice though. I was going to keep.’
Kanas bite her lip and nodded. She turned to go.
‘Wait. Do you…want it?’
She turned back and walked over. Her eyes fell on the painting and a smile came to her face, ‘Can I? There’s just something about it. It reminds me of myself…somehow…’ she giggled.
‘Sure. My wife’s sick of me bring things home. Here,’ he prompt and handed her the painting, ‘I’ll show you out.’
‘Thanks,’ she said and slipped the painting under her arm, ‘it’ll brighten up my room.’
‘I hear they are good for inspiration too,’ the janitor added.
They walked through the library and to the main door. After saying goodbye, Kanas stepped into the cool November night and headed back to her room. Her hall was quiet and after juggling the painting and books, she made it through her front and room doors. Putting everything down on the bed, she turned on the light and took the old clock down from the wall above the desk.
She wasn’t sure that the hook would take the painting, but after a few tries, she got it up. Stepping back, she looked at the sleeping cat and felt a wave of peace and tiredness creep across her. Sorting out her things, she then got ready for bed, but she couldn’t help but noticed that the painting really brightened up the room.