Once upon a time there was a poor kitchen maid named
Cinderella... On the day she died, Bitsy Howell didn't
want to get out of bed. Her bedroom was cold, for one
thing. It was always cold, thanks to her landlady, Mrs.
Withers, who turned the heat down to fifty-five degrees
every night to save money on heating oil. It didn't matter
one bit to Mrs. Withers that it was the coldest winter in
And ff the cold bedroom wasn't reason enough to stay in
bed, well, the fact that it was Thursday made getting up
especially difficult. Bitsy hated Thursdays.
Thursday was story hour day at the Broadbrooks Free
Library where she was the librarian. Just "thinking about
story hour depressed Bitsy. She found it practically
impossible to keep ten or fifteen pre-school children
focused on a storybook. Thanks to TV and video games, they
had no attention span whatsoever. They fidgeted and
wriggled in their seats, they picked their noses, they did
everything except what Bitsy wanted them to do which Was
to sit quietly and listen to a nice story followed by a
finger play or song, or maybe a simple craft project.
This Thursday, however, happened to be the last Thursday
in January. That meant the library's board of directors
would meet, as they did on the third Thursday of every
month. Bitsy would not only have to cope with story hour,
but with the directors, too.
Bitsy had come to the tiny Broadbrooks Free Library in
Tinker's Cove, Maine, from a big city library. One factor
in her decision to leave had been her poor relationship
with her boss, the head librarian. Little had she known
that she was swapping one rather difficult menopausal
supervisor for seven meddlesome and inquisitive directors.
Bitsy sighed and heaved herself out of bed. She padded
barefoot around her rather messy bedroom, looking for her
slippers. She found one underneath a magazine and the
other tangled in a pair of sweat pants. One of these days,
she promised herself, she would get organized and pick up
the clothes that were strewn on the floor. Not today, of
course. She didn't have time today.
On her way to the bathroom she raised the shade and peered
out the window, blinking at the bright winter sunlight.
Shit, she muttered. It had snowed again.
Arriving at the library, Bitsy studied the new addition
which contained a children's room, workroom, and
conference room. It was undeniably handsome, and badly
needed, but it had been a dreadful bone of contention.
When she had first come to Tinker's Cove the library was a
charming but antiquated old building that was far too
small for the needs of the community. Getting the board to
agree to build the addition, and then raising the money
for it had been a struggle, one Bitsy wouldn't want to
repeat. Now, if she could only get them to take the next
step and buy some computers so the library could go on-
"Tiny baby steps," she muttered as she unlocked the door.
Flicking on the lights as she went, Bitsy headed for her
office. She had an hour or so before the library opened
and she wanted to have her facts and figures straight
before the board meeting.
Pushing aside a few of the papers that cluttered her desk,
she set down a bag containing a Styrofoam cup of coffee,
with cream and sugar, and a couple of sugary jelly
doughnuts. She draped her coat over an extra chair and
took her seat, flicking on the computer. Soon she was
happily immersed in numbers and percentages, all the while
slurping down her coffee and scattering powdered sugar all
over her desk.
At ten minutes past ten she heard someone banging at the
main entrance and realized she hadn't unlocked the doors.
“I’m so sorry," she apologized as she pulled open the
heavy oak door. "I lost track of the time."
"No problem, my dear," said Gerald Asquith, smiling down
at her benignly. Tall and gray-haired, dressed in a
beautifully tailored cashmere overcoat, he was the retired
president of Winchester College and one of the members of
the board of directors. "I know I'm a bit early, but I
want to go over the final figures for the addition before
"Of course," said Bitsy. "I'11 get the file for you."
Bitsy had hoped Gerald would seat himself at the big table
in the reference room, but instead he hung his coat up on
the rack by the door and followed her into her office.
When she gave him the file he sat down at her desk,
displacing her, and began studying it.
Bitsy gave a little shrug and headed for the children's
section. She had to come up with something for story hour
anyway; it was in less than an hour, at eleven.
She was leafing through a lavishly illustrated edition of
Cinderella when she felt a presence behind her. Turning,
she greeted Corney Clarke with a polite smile. Corney, an
attractive blonde of indeterminate age, ran a busy
catering service and called herself a "lifestyle
consultant." She was also a member of the board of
"Can I help you?" asked Bitsy, mindful of her status as an
"No. I came a little early to see the new addition. It's a
big improvement, isn't it. r' said Corney, walking around
the sunny area, admiring the low bookshelves and child-
"It sure is," agreed Bitsy. "We must have been the only
library in the state without a children's room."
"It must be fun doing story hour, now, in such nice
surroundings," surmised Corney.
"Oh, yes," said Bitsy, attempting to sound
enthusiastic. "Today we're reading Cinderella.
"Oh." Corney wrinkled her forehead in concern. "I don't
want to tell you how to do your job, but are you sure
that's a good choice?”
"The children like it…" began Bitsy.
"Well, of course they do. But does it send the right
"It's just a fairy tale." Bitsy bit her lip. Personally,
she didn't think every story had to have a socially
redeeming message, and she wasn't sure Corney was the
right person to decide what was suitable for young
children, either. After all, she was childless and never
married, though not from lack of effort.