Authors: Brandon Dorman
Her first glimpse of the library was so overstimulating it took a few moments for Brystal’s mind to catch up with her eyes. In all the years she had spent wondering what the library looked like inside, she never imagined it could be so magnificent. It was an enormous circular room with an emerald carpet, the walls were covered in wooden paneling, and natural light flowed in from a glass ceiling. A massive silver globe stood in the center of the first floor, and dozens of law students were spread out at antique tables and armchairs around it. But most amazing of all, the library was surrounded by
three stories of bookshelves
that stretched into the upper floors like a multilevel maze.
The sight of thousands and thousands of books made Brystal light-headed, like she had just stepped into a dream. She never knew so many books existed in the whole world, let alone in her local library.
Brystal spotted the elderly librarian standing behind a counter at the front of the room. Her impromptu plan would end in disaster if she didn’t play her cards right. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, wished herself luck, and approached him.
“Excuse me, sir?” Brystal asked.
The librarian was busy applying labels to a fresh stack of books and didn’t notice her right away. Brystal instantly felt a spark of jealousy toward the old man—she could only imagine how many books he had touched and read over the years.
“Excuse me, Mr. Woolsore?” she asked after reading the nameplate on the countertop.
The librarian squinted at her and reached for a pair of thick spectacles nearby. Once his glasses were on, the old man’s jaw dropped. He pointed at Brystal like a wild animal was loose in the building.
“Young lady, what are you doing in here?”
Mr. Woolsore exclaimed.
“Women aren’t allowed in the library! Now, get out before I call the authorities!”
“Actually, it’s perfectly legal for me to be inside,” Brystal explained, hoping her tranquil tone would mellow his. “You see, according to the Hired Help Act of 417, women are allowed to enter male-only premises to seek employment. By posting the sign outside, you’ve given me the legal right to enter the building and apply for the position.”
Brystal knew the Hired Help Act of 417 only applied to women older than twenty, but she was hoping the librarian wasn’t as familiar with the law as she was. Mr. Woolsore scrunched his fuzzy eyebrows and watched her like a hawk.
want to be a maid?” he asked.
“Yes,” Brystal said with a shrug. “It’s honest work, is it not?”
“But shouldn’t a girl your age be busy learning how to curtsy and flirt with boys?” Mr. Woolsore asked.
Brystal was compelled to argue, but she swallowed her pride and kept her eye on the prize.
“To be honest, Mr. Woolsore,” she said, “a boy is
why I want the position. You see, there’s this Deputy Justice I’m
just smitten with.
I desperately want him to propose to me one day, but I don’t think he sees me as wife material. My family has servants—
many, many servants
—so he has no reason to believe I’m even capable of household chores. But when he finds out I’ve been cleaning the library all by myself—
, I might add—he’ll know I’ll make him a better wife than all the other girls in town.”
Brystal even twirled her hair and blinked her eyes helplessly like a deer to sell the performance.
“I sympathize, but you aren’t a practical candidate for the position,” the librarian said. “I can’t have you in the library while law students are studying. A young girl would be too much of a distraction for young men.”
“Then perhaps I could clean in the evening after the library closes,” Brystal suggested. “Most establishments have their maids clean after hours. I could start as soon as you leave and it would be spotless when you return the next morning.”
Mr. Woolsore crossed his arms and eyed her suspiciously. She was almost too convincing to be trusted.
“This isn’t some scheme, is it?” he inquired. “You aren’t applying for the job so you can be around
, are you?”
Brystal felt her heart plunge into her gut. The librarian was seeing through her dishonesty as easily as her mother would. But instead of letting the panic surface on her face, Brystal laughed the idea off and tried using his ignorance against him.
“Mr. Woolsore, I’m
a fourteen-year-old girl
. What interest would I have in
According to the librarian’s body language, reverse psychology did the trick. Mr. Woolsore chuckled to himself, as if he was foolish for thinking it in the first place. Brystal knew she was close to persuading him—she just needed to offer him one more perk to sweeten the deal.
“How much does the position pay, sir?” she asked.
“Six gold coins a week,” he said. “The position is five days a week. Employees don’t work weekends or the royal holidays Kingsgiving and Champions Eve.”
“I’ll tell you what, Mr. Woolsore, since you’ll be doing
a favor, I’ll do
a favor, too. If you hire me to clean the library, I’ll do it for three gold coins a week.”
Her offer was music to Mr. Woolsore’s ears. He scratched his chin and nodded as it became more and more appealing to him.
“What’s your name, young lady?” he asked.
“It’s Brystal Ev—”
Luckily, Brystal stopped herself before revealing her family name. If the librarian knew she was an Evergreen, her father might find out she had applied for the job—and that was a risk she couldn’t take. So Brystal gave him the first name that came to mind, and her alias was born.
“My name is
—Brystal Eve Bailey.”
“Well, all right then, Miss Bailey,” Mr. Woolsore said. “If you can start tomorrow evening, you’re hired.”
Brystal couldn’t contain her excitement. Her whole body began to vibrate like she was being tickled from the inside out. She reached across the counter and vigorously shook the librarian’s frail hand.
“Thank you, Mr. Woolsore—thank you so much! I promise I won’t let you down!
Oh, pardon my grip—hope that didn’t hurt!
See you tomorrow!”
Brystal practically floated out of the library and down the road to the eastern countryside. Her plan was more successful than she could ever have predicted. In just one day, she would have access to thousands and thousands of books. And with no one in the library to supervise her, Brystal could easily sneak a few home each night after she was finished cleaning.
The prospect was exhilarating and Brystal couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so much happiness coursing through her veins. However, Brystal’s euphoria came to a screeching halt as soon as the Evergreen house appeared on the horizon. For the first time, she realized just how impractical the situation was. There wasn’t a feasible way she could work evenings at the library without her family noticing her absence—she would need to give them a reason for why she was leaving the house at night and staying out so late.
If she wanted to work at the library, Brystal would have to create a spectacular lie that not only gained her family’s approval, but also avoided any suspicion whatsoever. If she was caught, the consequences would be catastrophic.
Brystal clenched her jaw as she thought about the daunting challenge ahead. Apparently getting a job at the library was only her
impossible task of the day.
“Like a child wearing a man’s clothes,” Brooks quipped.
“No, you look perfect,” Brystal said. “Like you were born for it.”
Brystal was so proud of her brother, but also especially grateful for an excuse to look so cheerful. Whenever she thought of her new job at the library, no one questioned the smile that beamed across her face. Everyone in her family shared the same excitement—even Brooks’s bitterness softened after a few glasses of sparkling cider.
“I can’t believe my little boy is going to be a
,” Mrs. Evergreen said through happy tears. “It feels like only yesterday you were wearing my long shirts and sentencing your toys to hard labor in the backyard. My, how time flies!”
“I am so proud of you, son,” Justice Evergreen said. “You’re keeping the family legacy alive and well.”
“Thank you, Father,” Barrie said. “Do you have any advice for my first week at the courthouse?”
“You’ll only be observing cases for your first month, but pay attention to every detail of the proceedings,” the Justice advised. “After that, you’ll be assigned your first prosecution. No matter what the charges are, you
recommend the maximum penalty, otherwise the sitting Justice will think you’re weak and will likely side with the defense. Now, when you’re assigned your first defense, the secret to—”
Justice Evergreen went quiet as his eyes fell on Brystal. He had almost forgotten she was in the room.
“On second thought, perhaps we should continue this at a later time,” he said. “I would hate for our conversation to be absorbed by
The Justice’s comments made Brystal go tense, but not because her father’s words offended her. After a long afternoon of plotting, Brystal was waiting for the perfect moment to secure her future at the library, and this might be her only chance.
“Father? May I say something?” she asked.
Justice Evergreen grunted like it was a chore to give his daughter any attention. The other Evergreens looked back and forth at Brystal and the Justice with nervous eyes, fearing dinner would end on the same note as breakfast had.
“Yes, what is it?” the Justice asked.
“Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said this morning,” Brystal began. “I don’t want to be disrespectful to the law, so perhaps you were right when you suggested I eat meals elsewhere.”
“Oh?” her father said.
“Yes, and I believe I’ve found the perfect solution,” Brystal continued. “Today after school, I stopped by the Chariot Hills Home for the Hopeless. They’re desperately understaffed, so with your blessing, I would like to start volunteering there evenings after school.”
“You want to catch fleas at a
?” Brooks asked in disbelief.
Mrs. Evergreen held out a hand to silence her eldest son. “Thank you, Brooks, but your father and I will handle this,” she said. “Brystal, it’s very kind that you want to help the less fortunate, but
need your help in this house. I can’t manage all the chores and cooking dinner on my own.”
Brystal lowered her head and looked at her hands so Mrs. Evergreen wouldn’t detect any dishonesty in her eyes.
“But I’m not abandoning you, Mother,” she explained. “After school, I’ll come home and help you cook and clean—
just like always
. And when it’s time for dinner, I’ll simply slip away for a few hours to volunteer at the Home for the Hopeless. At night, I’ll return home and do the dishes before bed—
just like always
. I may lose an hour or two of sleep, but it shouldn’t affect anything else.”
The dining room went quiet as Justice Evergreen considered his daughter’s request. Brystal felt like an invisible weight was tied around her stomach, and with every passing moment, it became heavier and heavier. The thirty seconds it took to get an answer seemed like hours.
“I agree, a change is needed to prevent other
like the one this morning,” her father said. “You may volunteer evenings at the Home for the Hopeless, but
if it doesn’t create extra work for your mother.”
Justice Evergreen banged the table with his fork like it was a gavel, cementing his final ruling of the day. Brystal couldn’t believe she had pulled it off—
working at the library was now a reality
! The weight around her stomach was suddenly released, and Brystal knew she had to get out of her family’s sight before she started bouncing off the walls.
“Thank you so much, Father,” she said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll give you and Barrie some privacy so you can speak freely about the courthouse. I’ll come back to clear the table when you’ve finished dessert.”
Brystal was excused from the dinner table and hurried upstairs to her bedroom. Once the door was closed behind her, Brystal danced around her room as energetically as she could without making a sound. As she twirled past her mirror, Brystal saw something she hadn’t seen since she was a small child. Instead of a depressed and defeated girl in a silly school uniform, she was facing a happy and vibrant young woman with hopeful eyes and rosy cheeks. It was like she was looking at a different person altogether.
, Brystal Eve Bailey,” she whispered to her reflection. “A very, very