The Library


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It was a hot spring day. Claire was bored of studying. Through the skylight of the library ceiling she could see the blue, cloudless sky. Her mind wandered from her work. She was too distracted to concentrate anyway. She had a plan and today she'd decided was the day to put that plan into action.

Across the table from her Michelle was engrossed in a history textbook. Her thin fingers turned the pages restlessly. Every so often she'd stop to write something down or brush back her long blonde hair if it got in her eyes. Claire was mesmerized by her. Her pale blue eyes. Here fine hair. The cute way her lips curled upwards when she smiled. And then that most special thing - the way she sneezed. First her eyelids would flutter, her nose twitch just slightly. There'd be a glazed expression on her face as she stared in the distance, almost as though she was mentally preparing herself. A tantalizing half-second gap, a barely audible intake of breath and out it would come. Not loud and vulgar, the way some people sneezed, as though they were putting on a performance. But not quiet either, stifled or apologetic. It was just so natural. A solid, satisfying release of energy.

Claire so wanted to share these feelings with her friend. In her dreams it was easy. They'd be sat together in the privacy of her flat. At first they'd be messing around as they often did. Two college students having a laugh. There'd be a hug, then a kiss  and then another. Sometimes they would just chat, sometimes they would make love. Eventually Claire would pluck up the courage and mention her fascination for sneezing. Michelle would not laugh at her. She would not give her a strange look. Far from it. She'd be fascinated, eager to try out this new thing. It all felt so right. Claire would feel a heat running through her body. She was about to enter paradise. And then-

And then, invariably she would wake up, alone, defeated and depressed.

The truth was that in reality she wasn't sure how to broach either subject. She'd thought over and over, but nothing revealed itself. Michelle would simply think she was weird, their friendship would end and she might never see her again. Yet she was sure she'd caught Michelle watching her once when they were changing to go out for a party. So there was a chance they could be lovers. But as for the sneezing - where did you begin with something like that? As much as she tried, it always defeated her.

And so it was on this warm spring day. She had got no further for all her thinking.

Still, in the meantime there was her little plan. It might not make any difference in the long term, but at least it could be a bit of fun. She glanced briefly at the small pile of sneezing powder she'd carefully extracted from the packet in her bag. It lay there in the open palm of her hand, carefully out of sight from anyone but herself.

"Hey, how's it going."

Michelle had put down her book and was massaging the back of her neck, moving her head to the left and right to get loose.

Claire drew a quick breath. Her heart skipped a beat. Now was her chance.

"Here, you have something on your lip."

She reached across calmly and brushed a finger just below the bridge of Michelle's nose. A small trail of the sneezing powder scattered, barely visible, through the air.


Claire smiled reassuringly. "It's okay, it's gone now."

"Thanks." Michelle returned to her book, turning over another page.

Claire sucked her lower lip. It was an effort to stay still. She tried to sort some papers in her folder, all the time watching Michelle from the corner of her eye. The tension was unbearable. Time seemed to have slowed down to nothing.

Eventually Michelle looked up, her eyes opening and shutting rapidly.

"What's wrong?" Claire asked innocently.

"I don't know. I have this itchy feeling in my nose like I really have to sneeze."

"Here, use this." Claire took out a handkerchief that she'd brought along especially for the occasion.

"Thanks," Michelle murmured.

The sneeze had already begun to form, gripping her body. She was halfway through unfolding the handkerchief when it came.


It was a powerful sneeze, but the sound was muffled by the handkerchief.

"Bless you," Claire whispered, trying not to show her excitement.

Michelle looked up at her. "My nose feels all kind of tingly."

Her voice was breathless. She was trying to hold back from sneezing again but it was obviously a losing battle. "Ah  Ah  ASHOO. HUHSHOO!!" She sneezed twice, her long hair swishing out of shape with the movement.

"Whew" Michelle grinned. "I don't know where that came from."

Claire could say nothing. She felt hot inside. Just like in her dream.

"Uh oh, here we go again."

Michelle held the handkerchief over her nose in preparation. She was staring into the distance. One breath. Two. A sigh. She sniffed, as though it might have passed and then blinked rapidly. "ah .. ah .." There was a bigger intake of breath. "AHHSHOO!" Afterwards she tried to push the hair from out of her eyes, but was caught by two more rapid sneezes. "Huh-CHOO! Huh-TISHOO!"

"Bless you again." Claire's voice was barely audible.

She was suddenly afraid Michelle would notice her reaction. She put a hand to her face and tried to look away. It was then that she realized that some of the sneezing powder was still on her hand. She tried brushing it away but it was too late. She could already detect a faint tickling sensation at the back of her nose.

Michelle's sneezes gradually become less regular. She had returned to her book, but the handkerchief was still held there in readiness. Claire was trying frantically to halt the tingling sensation in her own nose. It was a massive effort of concentration, but it was all in vain. She was going to have to sneeze.


Michelle smiled at her. "Hey, now you have the sneezes too."

Claire nodded. She couldn't speak. There was already another sneeze coming. She pinched her nose, trying to deaden the sound. "HUH CHH!" She suddenly felt vulnerable, the noise magnified by the silence of the library. She was blushing. "Hey come on, let's go outside."

"Okay." Michelle started to pack her books away. Claire had already stood up and was heading for the exit, but not before another sneeze tumbled out. "ATISHOO!" She prayed no one was looking. She loved to watch other people sneeze, but hated the thought of other people watching her. Not Michelle maybe, but all the other strangers in the library.

The little garden outside was empty. Sunlight cast shadows on the grass. In the distance traffic climbed up the hill.

Michelle came out behind her, a wide grin on her face. "Hee hee, that was crazy. First me sneezing and then you."

Claire shrugged her shoulders and tried to look innocent. "I don't know  it's probably just dust. You know how dusty places like that can " She stopped, realizing there was another sneeze coming.


It was louder and more forceful than the earlier ones. She had no time to cover her mouth, barely time to turn away from Michelle. Her body was hot again. Her legs felt weak. The sneeze itself was a mini orgasm, a brilliant release. Perhaps now was the time to tell Michelle her true feelings about her and her sneezing. She was loose, caught up in the excitement of the moment. It had to be now.

But before she could say anything Michelle was pointing up at the hill, over to where the road was. "Hey, there's my bus." She picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder. "I'll see you in college tomorrow."

"Okay." Claire felt her heart sink. The perfect opportunity had been snatched away from her.

Michelle set off towards the bus stop and then turned back. "Here, you better have this."

She handed back the handkerchief and then set off again. Claire watched her join the queue of people getting on the bus, waiting until she'd disappeared inside.

She sighed. So near. She brought the handkerchief close to her face. It felt warm and she could detect a faint whiff of Michelle's perfume. Carefully she folded it up and put it in her pocket. She smiled. The day hadn't been completely wasted.

And there was always tomorrow.