He smiled his most innocent smile, but his eyes betrayed his deceitful lips. She managed a simple thank you and accepted it. She watched him sauntered to the front door and finally exhaled with relief. She held her breath again when he stopped. “Oh and by the way Elizabeth, it's a good book. You're a librarian, I bet it gets lonely in here and at home; no one wants to be lonely. But good thing you have your books to keep you company. I think you would appreciate and really understand the book,” he said. He bowed a courteous farewell, and exited the building. Elizabeth stood there still clenching the book and the lily. Once she realized the damned things were still in her hands she dropped them to the floor. A magician huh? She ran to the front door wishing to see the horse drawn carriage of her strange visitor. If he was a magician surely he would be traveling with a circus of some kind, a carnival perhaps. She pulled the door open and was perplexed at what she found ... absolutely nothing. She ran her hands through her hair. How could a man vanish into thin air? Tremulous trees danced in the brisk autumn breeze in a colorful ballet of red, orange, and brown, dropping their once beloved leaves to the sordid earth. The sweet perfume of dog roses and bellflowers pranced through the air; there was something else in the air also. Something foul. Her eyes burned as if she was staring into an open furnace and salty tears started to brim within their lids. A worm of nausea crawled through her stomach as the vile stench crawled up her nose. The odor of rotten eggs, of sulfur, of brimstone overwhelmed her. It was as if the gates of hell had been left ajar. She yanked a handkerchief from her pocket and nearly threw it to her face as she fled back into the library. Elizabeth inhaled a breath of the library's stale air, it seemed fresh compared to what she had just smelled. She held the air in her lungs as if it was something to be savored, and her nausea started to subside. She rested her back against the door, her head thrown back in relief, her eyelids clenched shut as her mind tried to make sense of it all. They flung open like a spring loaded trap. “How did he know my name? I didn't tell it to him,” she said. Elizabeth looked at the white lily on the cold floor and then at the book. A warm shiver ran through her body, and fear ballooned in her heart. She opened the door with her back still to it, her eyes still on the nefarious gifts lying across the room. She slid out the cracked door and bolted for her home.
Elizabeth burst into her home and slammed the door shut. Her lungs drew in breaths of fire, her hands rested on her thighs and kept her from keeling over on the floor. Her feet were inflamed as if she was standing on hot coal. They were raw and sore from the run home. Her pitiful cheap shoes were talking, the soles peeling away. I'm home, my sanctuary. He can't get me here, who or whatever he is. She looked at the crucifix hanging above the door that led to the kitchen while air left her lungs as quick as it was drawn in. She looked at the portrait of the Virgin Mary above the mantle of the fireplace. The Holy Mother stared back with placid and divine compassion. For the first time since she had encountered the strange man at the library, Elizabeth felt safe. Even so she dropped to the floor and thrust the palms of her hands together so hard they shook in front of her face as she prayed. But even that wasn't enough. She cleared her throat and sang Ave Maria by Schubert, her favorite composer, while she held her hands up to the heavens. She sang it in her most perfect German, doing the best she could. It was a strange dialect to sing for a Romanian tongue. Finally after her fear had subsided from a raging tsunami back to a calm sea, her soul consoled by her Lord, Elizabeth sunk into her dingy couch and looked around her pitiful home. There were no children playing in the living room. She didn't hear