It was a simple enough idea, really. Go to the library. Look up the necessary reference books. Find said reference books. Relocate said reference books from the stacks to the table. Look up the necessary information. Write a report. Simple. Nothing complicated about it. It wasn't even mildly difficult. Students did it all the time. Students had been doing it for years, even. But when Miranda was involved, well... things never went quite so swimmingly as all that.
It was a simple enough idea, really. Go to the library. Return the books one has already read. Peruse the stacks to locate other such books which might be of interest. Remove said books from the stacks. Relocate them to the front counter. Check out the books. Take the books home and commence reading. It was simple enough, really. People did it every day. Gary, himself, had done it numerous times. Unbeknownst to him, however, on this particular day, that easy task was going to prove... not so easy.
"Go to the library, she says. Find the books, she says. Write our bloody report for us, she says," Miranda muttered as she walked, "If I wasn't such a bloody pushover, she'd never get away with treating me like this. It's a shame, that's what it is. It's a beautiful day and well... I'm certain that there are lots of lovely shows on the telly. I'd much rather be watching them than doing this. And isn't the point of a 'group project' supposed to be that you do it as a group? Hmm?"
At the end of her increasingly loud outburst, Miranda pushed open the doors to the library with a little more force than necessary. She never noticed the quiet yet pained, "Oof!" uttered from behind her when the doors swung back the other way. She was too intent on her goal.
When Miranda reached the card catalog, she pulled out the subject headings and sighed heavily. This really was such a waste of time. Home Economics was a waste of time already -- who needed to learn how to cook when there were such abundant resources for take-away? -- but that they had to write up a report on a style of cooking was just ridiculous. Miranda had better things to do with her time. (She'd just about finished painting the faces on her dozen eggs, after all. Really, they would make a far better choral group than the radishes had. Those cheeky brats were always sharp, those radishes. She ought to have known better. The eggs would have a rounder sound, she was sure. Much better suited to her purposes.)
But for now, Miranda was stuck here with this report. It was so bloody stupid. Well. At least now she knew where she had to be looking. "Home Economics" was in the 640s. Brilliant. She'd just nip on over there and see what they had...
Miranda looked back just in time to see some poor fool walk straight into the card catalog drawer she'd pulled out. Eyes widening, she muttered, "Bollocks!" under her breath and scooted off towards the relevant section of the library. By the time she reached it, she was out of breath and blushing like mad. She'd not gotten a fantastic glimpse of the poor man, but he had been... not exactly unfortunate looking. In fact... Miranda hung her head and sighed, "Face it, Miranda. He was bloody gorgeous. You'd not kick him out of bed for eating crackers, that's for certain. Now that's an odd expression, isn't it? Where did that expression come from, anyhow? Why would one eat crackers in bed to begin with? If one wanted a bedtime snack wouldn't cookies be more appropriate? And even so, why would that be a woman's primary concern if she had a man in her bed, anyway?"
That last thought caused Miranda's blush to flare up and she briskly smacked her hands against her face, "Right, right. Not important. What is important is Indian cuisine. There must be a book or two around here, somewhere. Here, booky, booky, booky... Here, booky, booky..."
"You know... books don't often come when called like that. I've tried and I've never yet had one respond."
Miranda turned towards the sound of the voice and all but fell from the ladder in shock. It was the man from earlier. The... no. Not a man. A boy. And not much older than she was, if Miranda was any judge. (Which she really wasn't, but that was neither here nor there, was it?) She frantically searched her mind for something to say, almost desperate to find some way to continue the conversation -- after all, it wasn't as though this sort of encounter happened every day for her! Cute boys simply did not pay attention to girls like Miranda. They paid attention to girls like Tilly and Fanny -- girls who were small, pretty and wore all the right clothes and had perfect hair and perfect teeth. Not that Miranda's teeth weren't perfect. They were. She had all of them and the dental records to prove it.
And this wasn't getting her any closer to coming up with an answer for the young man. Eventually she blurted out, "Well, perhaps you just don't have the knack for it! It takes a special sort to be a book whisperer, you know."
"A book whisperer? A book whisperer? Miranda, what are you thinking, you stupid girl?" she thought. She put a brave face on it, though, trying her best to achieve the same haughty look that all the other girls at her boarding school had mastered by age eleven.
The young man simply smiled and said, "Well, as the books don't seem to be listening today, no matter how nicely you're calling them, perhaps I can offer my assistance? I frequent this section often. I may be able to help you find what you're looking for."
Miranda laughed, then, a loud, awkward bark of a laugh that most certainly wasn't elegant or ladylike, but the boy smiled back at her just the same, even joined in with the awkward laughter. When Miranda finally calmed, she said, "I have to find books on Indian cuisine for a home economics paper that my so-called partners left me to do all on my own. Downright unfriendly of them, don't you think?"
The boy watched her for a moment, one finger tapping thoughtfully against his chin. Finally he shrugged and said, "Perhaps they know you'll do a good job and don't want to get in your way? You seem like a smart girl, after all." He paused, then rushed to continue, "Not to imply that you seem bookish or anything. That isn't the case at all. You just seem more focused on... not on..." He trailed off, a blush staining his cheeks a light pink as he cleared his throat, "Right, then. Indian cuisine. This way, then."
He turned towards the next shelf and reached for a book just as Miranda attempted to get down from the ladder. As was often the case, however, she got a bit tangled up. In her own feet. She went sprawling off the ladder and reached out her hands in a desperate attempt to brake her fall. One hand caught on the boy's shirt sleeve, the other on one of the shelves of books... and she took out both with her when she fell -- the boy beneath her and the books on top of them both. The one which landed on top was titled, "A Beginner's Guide to the Art of Indian Cuisine."
Miranda stared down at the boy trapped beneath her and he stared back up at her. Miranda had never been so mortified in all her life -- and she'd been fairly mortified of an occasion in the past -- but she couldn't hold onto it for long. The boy's lips twitched and finally broke into a wide grin. He started to laugh. Miranda started to worry he'd hit his head. But still... there was something infectious about that laughter and Miranda couldn't help but join in.
When they'd both calmed and Miranda had finally climbed off the boy and helped him out of the drift of books, he held out a hand to her, "I've always heard it was preferable to introduce oneself before landing horizontal with a girl, but I suppose after will always work in a pinch. Gary Preston. Pleased to meet you."
Miranda blushed hotly and held out her hand to shake Gary's, "Miranda Hart. Pleased... pleased to meet you, too."
Gary smiled as he patted Miranda's hand, "I suspect life around you is anything but dull, eh, Miranda?" At Miranda's horrified look, he added, "I've always thought a man could do with a bit of excitement in his life, yeah?" He handed over a small stack of books, then leaned over to whisper conspiratorially to her, "What say we flee for the main counter before they figure out we're responsible for this mess, hmm?"
Miranda let out a breath, "Oh God, yes."
A moment later, they were up and sprinting for the main desk like a pair of children trying not to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Miranda was so giddy with the small adventure and Gary's attention that she didn't even notice the trashbin until she'd tripped over it and sent it and herself sprawling.
Gary smiled, an impish twinkle in his eyes, but rather than make fun, rather than laughing, he simply extended a hand to help Miranda up, certain that his life had just gotten quite a bit less dull... and supremely glad of it.