The Reading Nook

Elisabeth glanced at the new book lying open on the bench … “aah,” she thought, “I’m going to enjoy this one.”

When Elisabeth was five years old her father died in a riding accident.

 

He had always been the one who read to her every night and tucked her into bed sending her on her way to the sweetest of dreams. Shortly after he died, her mother remarried and, ever since then, Elisabeth’s safe and comfortable life was anything but.

Very quickly she learnt to stay out of his way and her mother, devoted to her new husband, found no time for her. One day, while exploring the grounds of estate, Elisabeth stumbled upon a bench deep in the woods. On the bench there was a book lying open revealing the page of one of her favourite nursery rhymes. 

The young Elisabeth struggled to sound out the words of the familiar ditty and, before long there was Humpty Dumpty sitting beside her, smug as could be … well, until he toppled off the seat and landed on the ground!

The next time Elisabeth visited the woods, Hansel and Gretel were there. They left a bit of a mess behind them but Elisabeth didn’t mind. Another time, she ran into the Secret Seven, traipsing through the woods in search of a notorious robber. Soon every day was a new adventure and whenever she’d finished reading a story, she’d carefully put it back on the bench where she’d found it and the next day there’d be a new one.

Elisabeth practically grew up on that bench. In her teens, she’d shared confidences with the Bennet sisters who’d sneaked away to avoid Mrs. Bennet’s continual eavesdropping. She’d had her first kiss with the audacious Holden Caulfield … of course, he’d broken her heart. She’d wept with Jane as she struggled to love the damaged Mr. Rochester.

Sometimes Elisabeth sensed a presence near her in the woods. There’d be a slight rustling in the leaves, or a gentle spontaneous breeze. It wasn’t frightening or sinister; after all, she reasoned, someone had to be delivering the books for all these years.

It was her 21st birthday, traditionally a special day for most young people but, for Elisabeth, just another day being despised. At breakfast time, her stepfather announced it was time she moved out; he’d had enough of her in his home. Her mother said nothing and pretended to be busy with the twins. Elisabeth ambled off to spend the day with Nicholas Nickleby and, just as she closed the book on the final chapter, there he was. She recognised the voice immediately; it had been the last sound she’d heard every night for so many years and contained the happiest memories of her early childhood.

“I’m so sorry I had to leave you; I didn’t mean to. I saw how you suffered with that beastly man and your very own mother turning against you. I was desperate to help you escape. This was all I could think of.”

The breeze fluttered like a feather against her cheek and was gone.