Albert glanced under the counter as he took his seat at the information desk. The thick, black, leatherbound book sat in its place as it did every morning; no matter how many times it was given away.
Albert considered the book just one more mystery in a world full of them. The book more or less drove the previous librarian insane; he tried destroying it countless ways but it always reappeared. He eagerly told everyone the day someone finally asked for the book then snapped the next day when it was back. Albert volunteered to man the information desk after that due to the solitude. It helped him avoid conversation about his missing imprint. His coworkers already knew he did not have one and didn’t like talking about it. Wearing long sleeves helped strangers see past his missing mark.
After Albert took over, others came looking for the book more often. He handed it over only to find it back the next day and took it all in stride. As Albert settled in his seat and logged in, he felt a burning, itching sensation on the inside of his right arm.
“Owwwww,” he whispered softly to himself as he scratched it for all he was worth.
“That looks fun,” a blonde girl that looked about his age was suddenly standing in front of his desk. She wore a baby blue t-shirt with a golden star on it, and the words, “Star Academy”; she grinned when their eyes met. “Hi,” she said. “I’m looking for a book.” Albert chuckled.
“You’re in the right place,” he reached under the counter and grabbed the heavy black tome. He set it on the counter. “Is it this one?” he asked with a smile. The smile didn’t last long; the itching sensation kept throbbing on his arm and he reached up to scratch it some more. “Sorry, I think something bit me,” he added. The girl shook her head.
“No, I’m not on that quest, I’m looking for a different book,” she said. “I’m looking for a book titled, ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’.” Albert nodded, pulled his hand from his arm and started typing.
“Author?” he asked. The girl shrugged.
“Don’t know, doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’m just checking if the book’s here.” Albert gave her a curious glance but continued searching the computer. After a couple of minutes and dozens of mouse clicks, he shook his head.
“We don’t carry it, none of our sister branches carry it, and I can’t find anything about it online. I’m not sure it exists,” Albert said. The itch burned and his hand moved back in place to continue scratching it. The girl smiled.
“Thanks!” she said. “That’s all I needed to know.”
“If it existed?” Albert asked. She nodded.
“Okay,” Albert tilted his head a bit. “Though, you probably could have checked the internet at home and saved yourself a trip,” he said.
“Not from my home,” she winked at him. “And I’m glad I made the trip, I got to meet you,” she extended her hand over the desk. “I’m Micha.”
“Albert,” he happily shook her hand. He felt an almost electric excitement at their touch; the itching sensation vanished as he focused everything on her. Albert’s mind raced to find something to keep her there and talking now that her business was done; he caught sight of the black tome in the corner of his eye.
“What did you mean you’re, ‘not on that quest’?” Albert asked. He grabbed the book and put it back under the counter.
“Well, that depends,” Micha leaned forward on the raised edge of the counter and lowered her voice to a whisper. “How open-minded are you about the world around you?” Albert chuckled.
“Well, I do have a magic book that’s impossible to get rid of. And of course, there’s the imprint,” as he mentioned it, curiosity got the better of him. Because Albert did not have one, he made a habit of not checking other’s imprints; he wanted to avoid the topic as much as possible. He glanced at Micha’s upper arm, and saw no imprint; he quickly looked to her other arm and saw only smooth tan skin. “The imprint you don’t have…,” he said.
“What imprint?” she asked sincerely. Albert narrowed his eyes.
“The imprint everyone on Earth has? It’s the first words one soul mate speaks to another. You should have words on your…,” he pointed at her initially, then used his hand to touch his own arm.
“Oh,” she said. Her face changed suddenly, she looked a bit sadder. “What’s yours say?” she asked. Albert glanced left and right to check for any eavesdroppers but found none. He stood and pulled his right arm into his long sleeve. He pulled the edge of the shirt up while moving his arm free.
“I don’t have one either,” he said as he pointed at the spot. Her face changed again; she giggled and her cheeks blushed. Her reaction puzzled Albert and he glanced at his arm.
Bright red letters spelled out: “That looks fun.”