Central Library, Manchester, U.K., by Robin Gosnall
"Miss, what's that building there?"
The brassy voice sounded like one of those overfed businessmen upon whom Felicia had preyed in New York. She'd traveled a long way to remove herself from that particular temptation, to get a fresh start. But here was another one. She glanced at him over the edge of the book she was reading. He even looked familiar, with his sparse hair, rotund belly, and rosy face. She hoped he wouldn't recognize her. She tugged her cap down, set the book on her lap, and tried to ape the local accent.
"Which one, gov?"
"Across the street, there, with the columns."
"That's the library. You know, full of books." She waved The Life and Crimes of George C. Parker at him as an example. She really was planning to return it, eventually.
"See, I told you. It's just a library," Flint said to the woman on his arm.
The woman pouted and fluffed her bleached hair. "But I thought--"
"What're they doing to it?" Flint asked Felicia, ignoring his wife.
Felicia looked at the scaffolding on the roof, and said the first thing that came to her mind. "They're building diving boards."
"For the Olympics, you know. Diving competition." She waited for them to laugh.
"Ooh! I love divers!" squealed the fluffy woman.
The man scowled. "In a busy intersection? That's ridiculous."
"No, no," Felicia warmed to her topic. "It's austerity. The gov'ment can't go building fancy places just for the games, so they're making do. They'll block off the streets for the water, and set up viewing stands inside the big windows there. Lorry drivers'll save petrol by not driving through here. And the building heads can cut costs, too, changing from 'library' to 'lido.' Fewer letters, see?"
"What's a lido?" the woman asked absently, stroking the tiny dog in her oversized handbag. Her husband's face ripened to scarlet.
"Just a swimming pool, mum."
Flint let out his breath. "They're going to do all that right here, eh? I'd like to see that."
Felicia sat up straighter. "Well, there you're in luck, gov. You're looking at the exclusive dealer of tickets for the diving events."
"Really? Oh, Horace, you have to take me!" The wife tugged on the man's sleeve.
"Well, I don't know..."
"Yes, you do." A startlingly steely look appeared in her mascaraed eyes. She turned to Felicia. "Two tickets, please."
"How much?" Flint grumbled. Felicia named an exorbitant price for the best seats behind the big windows. To her surprise, he forked it over. "What about the tickets?"
"Well, sir, they haven't been printed up yet. Just you come back in July, and you'll get what you paid for. What was your name again?"
Felicia wrote the names on the last page of the book, and the couple began to walk away. "Wait, sir," she called. "I'm puttin' you down on a receipt. Hold on 'til I rip it off."
She handed Flint the paper, and turned the other way. With his dough in her pocketbook, she thought it must be lunchtime.