The book was ruined. He could only stare at the teenager who had brought it up to his desk. He stared at it long and hard and tried to make sense of what must have happened for the book to come back to him in that condition.
Some of the pages were half-ripped off, a good part of the book was not quiet wet though far from dry, the pages curling slightly at the corners. There was some scribbling in permanent pen and some in crayon. That was just half of it.
He stared at the teenager again, trying to still understand but no understanding came to him, he couldn’t fathom what had happened. The teen looked like a blank canvas, as if bringing the book back in that condition was common.
“What happened?” Finally he found his voice, still barely daring to touch the book more than was absolutely necessary, as if it would worsen its condition though that seemed impossible in itself, he doubted, short of throwing the book into the fire, that anything could worsen its condition.
“It was an accident.” The teen blinked and frowned, looking at the book without really seeing it.
Armin opened and closed his mouth, he repeated the motion a couple of times more as his brain tried to understand that he had just been told that somehow this had been an accident.
“This is ridiculous, it looks like the books was thrown into the toilet after having been used as a drawing board where the participants were unhappy with the results so they tore out pages!” He was trying hard to keep his calm but it wasn’t all that easy. Books were supposed to be cherished, he couldn’t understand how something like that could have happened, he really couldn’t.
“I was babysitting, the kids got a hold of it, it’s not my fault.”
Rubbing the bridge of his nose as he watched the teenager more than he looked at the book, Armin took another slow breath and he shook his head. “Look, when you take a book from the library, it becomes your responsibility. You’re the one who had the book in a place where it could be reached by the children you were babysitting. It’s your responsibility to keep it in the same condition it was when you got it from here. I’m going to have to talk to your parents.”
Books didn’t pay for themselves, he didn’t want to have to pay for it out of his own pocket and he just hoped the girl’s parents would be a bit more understanding about this, he really did.
Her eyes widened as understanding washed over her but the look faded within moments, as if it really didn’t matter in the long run. She wandered off before he really could get any other word in and he let it be. He scanned the book as best as he could, the scanner wouldn’t read the tag. He entered the number by hand and printed out the sheet that stated who had taken this very book out last. He then ran a quick search to find the teen’s phone number. It was just one of those things that were required when registering a card. If the books were late in coming back, someone had to be reached, he just hoped the parents would answer this phone.
The parents turned out to be a lot more understanding than their daughter. He doubted she would be coming back for books in his library any time soon and he didn’t care, if someone could let a book get used and torn this way, they hardly deserved to have books in hand as it was.
The book wasn’t an overly expensive one so it didn’t weigh much on his mind and he was glad the parents agreed to pay for it. He figured things might have been different if the book had been in the two or three hundred dollar range. There were a fair few of those in the library, only because they were so old but in such good condition. His heart would break if one of those books ever came back to him in such terrible condition. It wasn’t even in poor condition, it was in terrible condition.
The twins had come to him after the whole ordeal had been over, curious to know what had happened and he told them as it had happened. That the teenager had brought back the book in a condition where it could no longer be used by the library and there had been a fee to pay. Books might have been free to borrow but they still were supposed to be cherished. Too few seemed to grasp that one part anymore.
Mira still was somewhat slow in what he did but Armin knew it was natural. The young man really should not even have been around just yet but he had insisted and he knew that Agni being without Mira was something that just didn’t work out so well. It was sweet in its own way. He didn’t know exactly what had happened to the teenager though he had heard mention of a broken arm. He supposed it did prove the theory of demons Eoghan had told him about if he had healed as quickly as he had seemed to. It was so strange but wonderful in its own way.
Moments before he had been about to close the system down for the day, Mira did come to him with two books in his arms. It was clear he was favouring one but Armin let it go, it wasn’t his place to really ask the teenager what had happened. Accidents were not all that unexpected in these years of life, at least for those who could appreciate it with all of their limbs intact.
He scanned both of the books and set them out in his own reusable bag. He hardly minded since they all lived in the same building in the end.
“Should we get Agni to carry these two?” He smiled at the teenager and received a grin in return. The books were heavy, he knew Mira could have handled the weight but if it was anything like his leg (in a very temporary way) he knew that at times, letting someone else do the heavy lifting was just one of life’s little pleasures.
Agni did carry the bag, keeping between Mira and Armin as they walked back towards the bus stop and waited on their transportation. It was a quiet little day, the sun was still bright in the sky and when they did get off at their stop, they walked the last of the distance, just two blocks, in companionable silence.
Once inside the building, Agni carefully removed the books from the bag and he offered the latter back to its owner. Armin murmured a quiet thank you and thanked them for a good day of work before bidding them a good night.
Short of the one issue with the girl and the nearly destroyed book, it had been a good day. No raised voices, no fights, no issues with the system. Just one absolutely absurd statement out of a teenager who could not have cared less about the book she had brought back in. Hopefully sleep would find his mind peacefully tonight.