Chapter no 43 – Dinner with Dylan

The Midnight Library

La Cantina had hardly changed in years.

Nora had a flashback to the evening she had taken Dan there years ago, on his first visit to Bedford. ey’d sat at a table in a corner and had too many margaritas and talked about their joint future. It was the first time that Dan had expressed his dream of living in a pub in the country. ey had been on the verge of moving in together, just as Nora and Dylan apparently were in this life. Now she remembered it, Dan had been pretty rude to the waiter, and Nora had overcompensated with excessive smiles. It was one of life’s rules – Never trust someone who is willingly rude to low-paid service staff – and Dan had failed at that one, and many of the others. Although Nora had to admit, La Cantina would not have been her top choice to return to.

‘I love this place,’ Dylan said now, looking around at the busy, garish red-and-yellow décor. Nora wondered, quietly, if there was any place Dylan didn’t or wouldn’t love. He seemed like he would be able to sit in a field near Chernobyl and marvel at the beautiful scenery.

Over black bean tacos, they talked about dogs and school. Dylan had been two years below Nora and remembered her primarily as ‘the girl who was good at swimming’. He even remembered the school assembly – which Nora had long tried to repress – where she had been called on stage and given a certificate for being an exceptional representative of Hazeldene Comp. Now she thought about it, that was possibly the moment Nora had begun to go off swimming. e moment she found it harder being with her friends, the moment she slunk away into the margins of school life.

‘I used to see you in the library during breaks,’ he said, smiling at the memory. ‘I remember seeing you playing chess with that librarian we used

to have . . . what was her name?’ ‘Mrs Elm,’ Nora said.

at’s it! Mrs Elm!’ And then he said something even more startling. ‘I saw her the other day.’

‘Did you?’

‘Yeah. She was on Shakespeare Road. With someone dressed in a uniform. Like a nurse’s outfit. I think she was heading into the care home aer a walk. She looked very frail. Very old.’

For some reason, Nora had assumed Mrs Elm had died years ago, and that the version of Mrs Elm she always saw in the library had made that idea more likely, as that version was always the exact version she had been at school, preserved in Nora’s memory like a mosquito in amber.

‘Oh no. Poor Mrs Elm. I loved her.’

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