Chapter no 65 – How It Ends

The Midnight Library

Mrs Elm looked a lot older than she had done at the Midnight Library. Her formerly grey hair was now white and thin, her face tired and lined as a map, hands spotted with age, but she was as adept at chess as she had been years ago in the Hazeldene school library.

Oak Leaf Care Home had its own chessboard, but it had needed a dust down.

‘No one plays here,’ she told Nora. ‘I’m so pleased you came to see me. It was such a surprise.’

‘Well, I can come every day if you want, Mrs Elm?’

‘Louise, please call me Louise. And don’t you have work to do?’

Nora smiled. Even though it had only been twenty-four hours since she had asked Neil to put up her poster in String eory, she was already inundated with people wanting lessons. ‘I teach piano lessons. And I help out at the homeless shelter every other Tuesday. But I will always have an hour . . . And to be honest, I have no one to play chess with either.’

A tired smile spread across Mrs Elm’s face. ‘Well, that would be lovely.’ She stared out of the little window in her room and Nora followed her gaze.

ere was a human and a dog Nora recognised. It was Dylan, walking Sally the bullmastie nervous one with the cigarette burns who had taken a shine to her. She wondered, vaguely, if her landlord would allow her to get a dog. He’d allowed a cat, aer all. But she’d have to wait until she’d caught up with the rent.

‘It can be lonely,’ Mrs Elm said. ‘Being here. Just sitting. I felt like the game was up. Like a lonely king on a board. You see, I don’t know how you remember me, but outside of school I wasn’t always the—’ She hesitated.

‘I’ve let people down. I haven’t always been easy. I’ve done things I regret. I was a bad wife. Not always a good mother, either. People have given up a little on me, and I don’t entirely blame them.’

‘Well, you were kind to me, Mrs . . . Louise. When I had a hard time at school, you always knew what to say.’

Mrs Elm steadied her breath. ‘ank you, Nora.’

‘And you’re not alone on the board now. A pawn has come and joined you.’

‘You were never a pawn.’

She made her move. A bishop sweeping into a strong position. A slight smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

‘You’re going to win this,’ Nora observed.

Mrs Elm’s eyes sparkled with sudden life. ‘Well, that’s the beauty, isn’t it?

You just never know how it ends.’

And Nora smiled as she stared at all the pieces she still had le in play, thinking about her next move.

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