Chapter no 12 – Book of Regrets

The Midnight Library

Nora stared at it. She could see it now. e small typeface embossed on the cover.

The Book of Regrets

‘Every regret you have ever had, since the day you were born, is recorded in here,’ Mrs Elm said, tapping her finger on the cover. ‘I now give you permission to open it.’

As the book was so heavy Nora sat down cross-legged on the stone floor to do so. She began to skim through it.

e book was divided into chapters, chronologically arranged around the years of her life. 0, 1, 2, 3, all the way up to 35. e chapters got much longer as the book progressed, year by year. But the regrets she accumulated weren’t specifically related to that year in question.

‘Regrets ignore chronology. ey float around. e sequence of these lists changes all the time.’

‘Right, yes, that makes sense, I suppose.’

She quickly realised they ranged from the minor and quotidian (‘I regret not doing any exercise today’) to the substantial (‘I regret not telling my father I loved him before he died’).

ere were continual, background regrets, which repeated on multiple pages. ‘I regret not staying in e Labyrinths, because I let down my brother.’ ‘I regret not staying in e Labyrinths, because I let down myself.’ ‘I regret not doing more for the environment.’ ‘I regret the time I spent on social media.’ ‘I regret not going to Australia with Izzy.’ ‘I regret not having more

fun when I was younger.’ ‘I regret all those arguments with Dad.’ ‘I regret not working with animals.’ ‘I regret not doing Geology at University instead of Philosophy.’ ‘I regret not learning how to be a happier person.’ ‘I regret feeling so much guilt.’ ‘I regret not sticking at Spanish.’ ‘I regret not choosing science subjects in my A-levels.’ ‘I regret not becoming a glaciologist.’ ‘I regret not getting married.’ ‘I regret not applying to do a Master’s degree in Philosophy at Cambridge.’ ‘I regret not keeping healthy.’ ‘I regret moving to London.’ ‘I regret not going to Paris to teach English.’ ‘I regret not finishing the novel I started at university.’ ‘I regret moving out of London.’ ‘I regret having a job with no prospects.’ ‘I regret not being a better sister.’ ‘I regret not having a gap year aer university.’ ‘I regret disappointing my father.’ ‘I regret that I teach piano more than I play it.’ ‘I regret my financial mismanagement.’ ‘I regret not living in the countryside.’

Some regrets were a little fainter than others. One regret shied from

practically invisible to bold and back again, as if it was flashing on and o, right there as she looked at it. e regret was ‘I regret not yet having children.’

at is a regret that sometimes is and sometimes isn’t,’ explained Mrs Elm, again somehow reading her mind. ‘ere are a few of those.’

From the age of 34 onwards, in the longest chapter at the end of the book, there were a lot of Dan-specific regrets. ese were quite strong and bold, and played in her head like an ongoing fortissimo chord in a Haydn concerto.

‘I regret being cruel to Dan.’ ‘I regret breaking up with Dan.’ ‘I regret not living in a country pub with Dan.’

As she stared down at the pages, she thought now of the man she had so nearly married.

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