Don’t hold with flowers in winter,’ Len grumbled when I told him what I’d been doing. ‘They aren’t natural. Winter’s a time for the earth to sleep. It’d be like us staying up all day and night, otherwise.’ He tapped his stick on the floor of the mobile library. ‘There should be no flowers till the first snowdrops.’
I could have pointed out the winter-flowering jasmine cascading over his garden wall, but I kept my mouth shut. He’d only say they didn’t count, or something along those lines.
I didn’t mind. I was used to Len, since meeting him on my first day on the ‘bookbus’, back in the summer. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks. My new job, that was, not meeting him. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t prefer travelling along winding country lanes, verges frothy with cow parsley, to being stuck in a dark building all day? I’d briefly been down similar lanes before, in the backs of cars, between foster homes. But that’s another story.
‘What’s up with your nose?’ His gruff voice that day had made me jump. Looking up, I saw opaque, almost milky, eyes magnified behind dark-rimmed glasses, a grizzled face complete with grey beard, and fingers that were stained, but not with nicotine or ink. ‘Had a fight with a stapler?’