Home > No Offense (Little Bridge Island #2)

No Offense (Little Bridge Island #2)
Author: Meg Cabot

 Chapter One


The program wasn’t going the way Molly had planned.

Oh, the children were delighted with the cookies that Island Bakery had provided. They were having fun slathering on the frosting and sticking on the different-colored candies. Most of these were going into their mouths, actually, but that was fine. That wasn’t the problem.

The problem was who else had shown up to the program besides the children and their parents.

“Boom chicka boom boom boom,” Elijah Trujos said, manipulating a gingerbread man he’d decorated to resemble an extremely well-endowed male adult-entertainment star into French kissing an equally well-endowed gingerbread woman. “Get a load of this, kiddies!”

The children, not having any idea what Elijah was doing, laughed delightedly.

The few parents who’d squeezed into the tiny child-sized chairs around the play table in the children’s section of the Little Bridge Island Public Library did not laugh. They stared in horror at the teenage boy.

“Elijah,” Molly said in a firm tone. “Could I have a word with you in private, please?”

“Not right now, Miss Molly,” Elijah said, forcing his gingerbread cookies to do something sexual that Molly was fairly certain was illegal, even in the state of Florida. “I’m busy enjoying this lovely children’s program you’ve set up.”

Gritting her teeth, Molly wished she’d listened to Phyllis Robinette, her mentor and predecessor, who’d warned her, “Never do any children’s programs involving food. They don’t end well.”

But what could possibly go wrong with cookie decorating? Molly had asked herself. The cookies she’d ordered were gluten-, dairy-, and nut-free, and so couldn’t trigger the allergies of any of her known patrons.

And the dough had been cut and baked into human shapes—completely androgynous. She’d even been careful to ask for no gingerbread women (in skirts), as that might be perceived as sexist. Her gingerbread persons were completely gender neutral.

And yet somehow Elijah Trujos had found a way to pervert even this.

She leaned over Elijah’s shoulder and said, as patiently as she could, “That’s the problem, Elijah. This is a children’s program. You’re sixteen, and so technically a young adult. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable over in the young adult section?”

“At what age does childhood end, Miss Molly?” Elijah asked, pausing the gyrations into which he’d been twisting his festively decorated cookies to give the farmyard mural on the children’s room’s ceiling a thoughtful glance. “The Jewish faith says childhood ends at thirteen, when a boy achieves adulthood through his bar mitzvah. Here in Florida, eighteen is considered the legal age of consent, at which we can also vote and join the army to sacrifice our lives for our country. But neurologists now say the human brain isn’t fully mature until the age of twenty-six. So shouldn’t the Little Bridge Island Public Library allow their patrons to remain in the children’s section until at least that age?”

Molly narrowed her eyes, and not only because of the excessive amount of cologne Elijah was wearing. She’d heard all of his speeches many times before. “You do know that if a patron engages in disruptive behavior, the librarian has the right to ask him or her to leave?”

“How am I being disruptive?” Elijah asked. “I’m following the program guidelines—decorating cookies.” He held up his obscene gingerbread man and woman. “Although I’m a little offended by the fact that you’re so offended by my humor, Miss Molly. You really need to loosen up.”

Molly restrained an urge to say something she’d regret. This was not her first tangle with Elijah Trujos in the five months since she’d taken the job as children’s media specialist at the Little Bridge Island Public Library.

But she was determined that it would be her last.

“Fine, Elijah,” she said calmly. “If that’s the way you want it.”

Then she walked back to her desk and picked up the phone.

“Ooooh,” Elijah cried, delighted. “Calling the po-po, are we? Gonna get me sent to the big house for cookie porn? Overreacting much?”

Molly hesitated. How could Elijah think she was calling the police? Did he not know her well enough by now to realize that she would never dial 911 on a minor, particularly one who wasn’t being violent, particularly him? Elijah’s mother had once confided to her how grateful she was to Molly for allowing him to hang around the children’s room, since—now that she and his father had split—he spent most of his time when he wasn’t at the library in his room, playing video games. His mother preferred him to be at the library. (Mrs. Trujos seemed unaware that the library had a wide and extensive collection of video games and consoles.)

Truth be told, Molly did find Elijah amusing . . . even the cookie thing was kind of funny. Under other circumstances, Molly would have laughed.

But the parents of the small children at the play table didn’t seem to find the cookie thing funny or think she was overreacting. They were all gazing at Molly with approval as she punched buttons on her phone’s keypad.

Elijah looked slightly less sure of himself, though he maintained his air of righteous indignation.

“Go ahead, Miss Molly,” he said, his mouth full of Red Hots and chocolate sprinkles. “Call the po-po! What are they gonna charge me with . . . being the only person here with a sense of humor?”

“Yes, hello,” Molly said, as someone on the other end of the phone picked up. “This is Molly Montgomery from the children’s section of the Little Bridge Island Public Library. We have an individual here who is being—”

“—hilarious!” Elijah shouted. “We need an officer to come down and arrest him for making us all feel great!”

Molly eyed Elijah sternly as she went on to describe his skintight denim jeans, black hoodie, camouflage backpack and baseball hat, shaggy brown hair, and general height and weight.

Elijah, meanwhile, began rapidly to eat the evidence against him.

“The po-po,” he exclaimed, spraying cookie crumbs everywhere. “The po-po’ll never get me!”

“Wouldn’t it make more sense,” one of the weary-looking fathers asked Elijah, “for you simply to leave?”

“I got as much right to be here as you do, man,” Elijah said, biting into the head of his male cookie.

“No, you don’t,” the father said. “I’m here with my four-year-old. And I’m not subjecting the rest of us to pornography.”

“Pornogwaphy,” echoed one of the toddlers at the activity table in a delighted voice.

“The First Amendment defends my right to free speech,” Elijah cried.

“Not in front of my child,” said the mother of the child who’d repeated the word pornography. “At a cookie-decorating program in the children’s section of a public library.”

Molly felt as if she’d barely hung up the phone before Henry from the reference desk came running in, looking pale but determined.

“I got your call,” he said to her. His gaze focused on the back of Elijah’s head. “This the kid?” Then, when Elijah turned around, Henry’s enormous shoulders slumped. “Oh, it’s you.”

Elijah, who’d been licking icing off his fingers, looked similarly disappointed.

“Wait,” he said, throwing Molly a disgusted look. “You called Henry?”

“I didn’t want to,” Molly said. “But you pushed me too far this time.”

Elijah laughed. “I should have known you’d never call nine-one-one on a kid.”

“No,” Molly said. “I wouldn’t. But next time, Elijah, I will call your mother.”

He rolled his eyes, unimpressed. “I can’t believe I ate all that frosting for Henry. I feel sick.”

“Serves you right,” Molly said.

Henry placed a heavy hand on Elijah’s shoulder. “Come on, kid. You’re going back to YA.”

All the fight had left Elijah. He and Henry, the reference librarian, had tangled often in the past, and Henry always won, due not only to the nearly one hundred pounds—most of it muscle—he had on the boy, but to his endless patience.

“Fine,” Elijah said, rising from his chair. “But I want all of you to know that what you witnessed back there was one of Elijah Trujos’s finest performances, and one day, when I have my own comedy special on Netflix, you’ll say to yourselves, I knew that boy back when he did cookie porn at the library.”

“I’m sure we will, Elijah,” Henry said, still keeping a hand on Elijah’s shoulder. “Don’t forget your backpack.”

“I enjoyed the show, Elijah,” Molly couldn’t help calling after him. “It just wasn’t appropriate for a younger audience.”

“Ingrates,” Elijah said, allowing himself to be steered from the children’s section just as a voice called, “Miss Molly?”

One of the younger children’s mothers waved to Molly from the direction of the restrooms.

Molly wondered what could possibly have gone wrong now. This was not the first time, of course, that a parent had expressed concern to her about the condition of the restrooms, although there was something more urgent than usual in this particular young mother’s expression.

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