This week’s short story is brought to you by the prompt, “adjust.”
I hope you enjoy the story.
When Pearl arrived to the library she wasn’t as excited for her book club meeting than she normally was. She enjoyed the cozy mystery they had read that month and was eager to discuss it. But the host of the book club, the man who had put together the club in the first place and had been running it monthly for the past five years, decided he no longer was able to fit it into his schedule. He had just gotten married and was currently on his honeymoon. He didn’t plan on coming back to the book club when he returned from his trip.
Pearl didn’t understand why, but she was happy for him. So many people have come and gone within the book club in the past five years. Some people she missed, some she stayed in touch with, and others she was happy to see leave. The group had been through a lot in terms of members but now they would have to get used to a new host. It was a weird feeling and Pearl felt almost sick. It was strange to continue to club without him. She had been part of it since it started, leaving her the only original member left.
Luckily, the club had a good group of people so Pearl didn’t feel so alone. She would do her best to make this new host feel warm and welcome. After all, it was just a book club. How bad could it get?
Pearl was the last one of the group to arrive. When she entered the study room, a young, unfamiliar woman sat at the head of the table. Her blonde hair was pulled back so tightly into a high bun that Pearl wondered how she was able to get any thinking done during the day. Her lips were pursed together as she stared down at a piece of paper in a small binder. Pearl narrowed her eyes wondering what that was all about. They never had anything to bring to the book club except themselves and the books. Was this woman expecting to take notes?
The air felt stiff. The room was eerily quiet and the other members of the group stared at Pearl with wide eyes as she entered. Pearl shrugged at them silently begging someone to say something, but no one said a word. The study room was rather large being able to hold about ten people but the book club, including Pearl, only had five members. She didn’t understand how the atmosphere could feel so stuffy.
“Ah, you must be Pearl,” The new host said, finally looking up from her paper. She smiled sweetly, standing with an outstretched hand.
“I am, hi. Nice to meet you,” Pearl replied, shaking her hand.
“I’m Ms. Beckett the new host for the book club. Please take a seat.” The woman sat down.
Pearl furrowed her brows, slowly taking a seat in between two other members. They were all on a first-name basis so it was odd to Pearl that this new host wanted them to refer to her like a teacher. But she wasn’t going to nit-pick. Pearl decided she would welcome this new host with an open mind.
“Are we all here?” Ms. Beckett asked.
The rest of the group nodded as though they were afraid to speak.
“Great, let’s get started. First, I want to say that I would like to begin our meeting at precisely six o’clock, so please be here on time. Arriving ten minutes early is a good time to be here and will account for any traffic you may run into.”
Pearl side-eyed the member on her right, who looked as though she were about to get up and walk out. Pearl turned her full attention back to Ms. Beckett wondering just how old this woman was. She looked so young, maybe in her late twenties or early thirties yet she spoke as though she were an old school teacher.
“I understand the club was run a bit differently? I was told by the old host that you chose a book, had about four weeks to read it, meet to discuss the book and then choose the next book at the same meeting?” Ms. Beckett asked.
“I think that format will suit us nicely, but I’d like to add to it. I have worksheets and questions for everyone to answer before each meeting so that we have some things to discuss.”
“We already sort of have a format?” Pearl piped up. “We typically discuss…”
“Excuse me,” Ms. Beckett snapped her gaze to Pearl with a tight smile. “I’m still speaking.”
Pearl remained with her mouth gaped open not having a clue of how to respond to that nicely.
“Don’t think of it as homework. Think of it as critical thinking and preparing for the meeting to come.” Ms. Beckett reached down into her back and picked up a decorated paper towel roll that looked as though a five-year-old made it in art class. The ends were tapped shut and it made a sound resembling some sort of rain stick.
“This is the talking stick. We’ll pass it around the table to whoever is speaking.” Ms. Beckett gazed around the room. “Since I’m new I’d like to get to know all of you. Your names, favorite authors, favorite genres… we can practice with the talking stick.”
Pearl raised her hand and immediately felt silly for doing so.
Ms. Beckett grinned excitedly. “Perfect!” she passed the talking stick to Pearl.
Pearl cracked a weak smile. “Yeah, thanks… um, I’m sure we’d love to get to know you as well but the meeting is only an hour long. Some of us have kids we need to get to bed and we’d like to discuss the book.”
Ms. Beckett reached out for the talking stick and Pearl handed it back to her.
“I understand, so we’ll skip the book discussion this month. Today will be an ice breaker and next month, with your critical thinking sheets, we’ll discuss the book. So, we’ll skip a month of reading but that’s alright. Now… I’ll begin the ice breaker. My name is Ms. Beckett and I love historical fiction…”
Pearl slouched the rest of the meeting until it was her turn to talk. No one seemed to be too talkative that night.
She loved her book club. But maybe after five years it had reached its limit.