Helen and Margaret were sisters but they were as different as chalk and cheese. Helen was outgoing, extrovert, friendly, confident, talkative, noisy, exuberant and always laughing. She was also beautiful with a fine delicate complexion, high cheekbones and long auburn hair that seemed to be always shining. Margaret, on the other hand, was introvert, timid, lonely, more of a listener than a talker and unsure of her place in the world. She was also rather common-looking with a pallid face, slightly protruding nose and mousy black hair which seemed always needing to be combed.
And yet they were as inseparable as twins – always together, looking after each other, going out together. They had no secrets between them so much so that oftentimes they recounted their dreams and expectations of life. Very often they were in each other’s room, swooning over records of their favourite singers. Helen liked modern singers and bands like One Direction and Rihanna while Margaret favoured the old singers like Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Johnny Ray.
Margaret ran single-handedly the town’s library with dedication and fervour that put a smile on her face every day. She was passionate about books, reading everything that came her way, whether they were ‘classics’ or ‘comics’. She knew all there was to know about books and their authors. Clients told her that she was ‘a walking reference book’. She had purposely sought work at the library because she genuinely loved books. She felt calm and at ease in the quite atmosphere of the library surrounded by shelves and shelves of all kinds of books.
In the evening, when her sister was out with her boyfriend, Margaret liked lounging in the small sitting room engrossed in a new publication while her father smoked his pipe or read the newspaper. The picture-frame on the mantelpiece showed a photo of her mother who had died five years ago. It was, in fact, her Dad who saw to their up-bringing, watching them emerge from teens to young women. And Margaret was Dad’s favourite. “You know Marge”, he told her as he put his newspaper down for a moment, “You may think that beautiful people have an advantage over the likes of you and me. But if Helen’s got beauty, you have brains. You’ll always have a good brain to rely on while beauty fades with age. Just remember that when you feel sometimes envious”. “I’m not envious Dad, but sometimes wish that life is more generous with me, that’s all” replied his daughter. “That’s why you must use the talents you’ve been given Marge, to get what you want from life” retorted her Dad. He patted her affectionately on the knee but he could see that she had more than her fair share of lemons and therefore could understand her attitude to life.
When Helen took up with Ben, she encouraged her sister to go out on dates with friends of her boyfriend. She did go out with a couple of boys but there was no follow-up interest and, therefore, she returned back to her old routine of library work and home by her father. One evening, while smoking his pipe, her Dad noticed that his young daughter was staring at the ceiling. “A penny for your thoughts Marge”, he said. “They aren’t worth a penny Dad”, she replied. “A half-penny then”, he again responded. “They aren’t even worth that much either”, said Margaret in a subdued tone, fed up and feeling miserable. “Some aspects of life are sad dear, but there is nothing we can do to change them”, said her father in an effort to cheer her up.
One day at the library, she noticed a man looking for a book in the ‘classics’ section. It looked as if he had not found what he was looking for. She left her desk, went over to him and asked if he needed any help. “I’m looking for ‘The Black Arrow’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, but I can’t find it under the ‘S’ shelf”, he replied. She went to check the movement of books loaned out to clients in her computer and found that the book had been loaned out two weeks ago. “It’s out Mr, but it should probably be returned by next week, shall I hold it for you?” she asked.
When he returned the following week, she gave him the book but they also started chatting about the ‘classics’, what books they liked, their favourite authors and other subjects. His name was Steve and he worked as an accountant. They found that they had a lot in common, especially books. He came frequently to the library and their conversations about books and about life in general continued. Margaret found that she liked him and looked forward to see him. He was decent, intelligent, book lover and, of course, good-looking men don’t come along very often. This could be her spark of happiness. She also hoped that he liked her, despite that she was not beautiful like her sister and that eventually he would invite her for coffee or something. With such small things does love begin, she thought.
Their unscheduled meetings and literature gossip continued for some weeks. She still harboured hope of a romantic ending with Steve. One day, after discussing the merits of an author and his novels, he asked her – “Are you free next Saturday Margret?” She was stunned. Her heart beat faster than usual; the words she had hoped to hear had finally been said. This was the beginning of something special. “Yes, yes, I am”, she replied. “In that case, I want to invite you to my house for tea, would you accept Marge?” her new-found friend asked. ‘He is serious in his intentions’, she thought and immediately accepted his surprise invitation. She waited, in anticipation for his next words. Then he continued “I want you to meet my wife! She’d be pleased to meet you”.