The father clock that watched over the silent library was the only noise save for the rain on the window.
Scarlett sighed as she accepted the fact that she would be getting no work done tonight.
Her dorm had been far too noisy with her roommate’s study group visiting so she had decided to spend her time in the typically silent library. However, the library didn’t feel very silent tonight. Sure, thinking pragmatically, the library was about as silent as her college campus was going to get on a Friday night.
Perhaps there were simply more people in the library than were normally there, or perhaps the rainstorm outside added more sound than she was accustomed to hear in her quiet sanctuary.
But still, something felt very strange. She knew that there would be no more studying for the night.
Scarlett closed her textbook and began packing her things when she noticed that the book she had been reading for fun was missing from the table. Frantically, she searched the ground, her bag, even other tables nearby. But she couldn’t find it.
That book was about the only thing keeping her together during finals week,its plot simply magical, and now it had disappeared almost as mysteriously as it had found Scarlett the first time.
Guilt and curiosity surfaced in her mind immediately when she thought of the experience of finding the novel.
About a week ago, she had been looking for a new book to read as a distraction from finals when she had stumbled across a section she had never seen before. Most of the shelves were covered in odd texts with weary covers and drab colors, but one book all the way in the back of the section had stood out to her.
The cover looked as if it were plated in auspicious gold. It shimmered in the rays of sunlight drifting in through the nearby window. Scarlett had immediately plucked it from the shelf and ran her hand over the smooth material of the hardcover, flipping through the pages that had edges also clad in gold. There was no description on the back or the inside cover of what the story was about, but what was even more strange was the lack of author mentioned as well as no title to the story.
She had contemplated deeply on reading it because as much as she wished differently, she hated the unknown. Especially when it comes to reading material. If she was going to pick up a book she wanted to know exactly what the story was about and who wrote it. Wasting time to begin a story just to never finish it seemed utterly preposterous to her, even if the book had a sparkly gold cover. Eventually she resolved and brought the book to the front desk of the library, though she had noticed early on it held no library barcode.
Strangely, the librarian had not been there. Even after several minutes of waiting, and eventually ringing the little bell on his desk multiple times, she gave up and decided to bring the book with her back to the dorm. As she made the trek back to her dormitory the guilt of taking a book without checking it out first screamed in her mind like an unrelenting dry cough on a pollen filled spring night.
She fought back in the debate taking place in her mind with the rebuttal that she would make sure to check back in the coming days at the library to see if the librarian had returned to his post.
Scarlett was dragged out of her thoughts by the sound of squeaky wheels on hardwood floors. She looked to her left to find the missing librarian she had been searching for the past several days strolling through the shelves with a trolley full of books.
Oh thank God. She thought to herself.
The pit in her stomach created by harboring an illegal library book was eating away at her day and night and it felt like finally some pressure was lifted.
Until she remembered that she had just lost the book.
Of course she lost the book. Scarlett could study Biochemistry all night long and ace tests on the most difficult exams she had ever experienced in her entire life, and yet she lost the shiniest book in the world.
It was laughable.
Contemplating her choices, she watched as Mr. Kutitilo took books off the trolley and placed them carefully back on the shelves.
She could just make a run for it. Escape into the shadows and he would never know the difference of one book missing. Even if he did, he would never know that it was Scarlett because she didn’t check out the book to begin with.
No, no. She could definitely not do that.
She could simply just approach the old man and tell him the truth. Mr.Kutitilo read the title of the book in his hand and smiled softly before putting it away. His black hair was graying and balding in a few spots, and she had noticed his nametag the first or second time they met stating that he had worked there for over 30 years. She wondered just how old Mr. Kutitilo was.
She decided after much deliberation that she could not approach him, and as much as it pains her to admit it; partially was due to her overactive imagination.
What if he went all “Percy Jackson’s pre algebra teacher Mrs. Dodds” and turned into a scary looking monster that attacked students for not returning their library books.
Or not checking them out in the first place. Scarlet’s inner monologue choursed.
She huffed in frustration, sick of her crazy mind, but knowing she still needed to get that book back.
Suddenly, a shimmering object appeared in her peripheral vision. Immediately, her eyes flew to the source and saw a boy with lime green hair and a half open backpack walking away from her. But it wasn’t his bright hair that had caught her attention at all.
What was inside his half open backpack was the sparkling gold cover she knew all too well.
Snatching her bag and tossing it over her shoulder she chased after the boy. It occurred to her that she was most likely causing a commotion as she wrestled with chairs and bookshelves, leaving a destructive wake behind her as she struggled to catch up to the figure. But in that second she didn’t care. She needed that book back or she could get into big trouble! Or worse, she might never know the end of the story.
Scarlett noticed that the boy she was practically running after was actually in one of her classes and she began stumbling over the names she could remember from that course, trying to find the one that fit.
She could swear it started with an L…
Liam? No, definitely not.
Luke? Maybe… no Luke was from French class.
Leo! It was definitely Leo.
“Leo!” She whisper-yelled, just in time to realize that he had his headphones on.
Great, learning his name was a total waste of effort.
He took a sharp left and stopped abruptly and as she turned to the left she just barely caught herself before almost tumbling into him.
He turned around, eyes wide when he figured out that he had a library stalker. Leo removed one headphone muff from his ear and raised his eyebrows in question.
“May I help you?” He asked.
“You have my book,” Scarlett responded, pointing towards the almost overflowing backpack.
“I don’t see your name on it,” he commented.
“It’s actually not mine. It’s the library’s,” Scarlett explained. He just narrowed his eyes.
“There’s no barcode on it either,” he says, pulling out the book from his bag and examining it again.
“Where did you even get that?” Scarlet asked. “It was on my table one second and the next it was just…gone.”
“It was just in my bag. I was browsing the shelves and all of a sudden felt my backpack weigh a little more than usual. I looked in it and there was this absurdly shiny book,” Leo explained.
He had dark brown eyes, with matching eyebrows. Deeply contrasting from his unnatural hair color.
Scarlett also had to practically look up to him due to his height, he was a giant.
“Well we can clear this all up if I just get my book back,” she stepped forward and put a hand on the book. “Then I will leave you to your…browsing,” she pasted on her polite smile and hoped it stuck.
“Actually,” his grip on the book tightened, response smile dripping with sarcasm. “I think I will be keeping Goldie here, all to myself,” he looked at the book and then back to Scarlett.
Goldie. That is a stupid nickname for a book. The book’s name is Goldilocks, actually. Scarlett thought to herself with an eye roll. She had named the book on the third day she had it.
“Actually, I had Goldi-LOCKS first,” she put a very dramatic emphasis on the “locks” part of the name.. “Therefore I get to keep it,” she pulled on the book and didn’t miss the flash of anger that crossed Leo’s features at the yank.
“Sharing is caring,” he yanked the book right back.
“Not when you’re not done reading!” Scarlett raised her voice and then immediately regretted it as a nearby library dweller shushed her. A pang of fear at getting caught fighting over a book went shooting up her spine and Leo took her immobilization as an advantage, pulling the book once more.
She was not giving up this fight yet. Not only had she just gotten to an excellent section in the story where the hero was about to face off against a momentous green dragon that had eyes as black as night, but she also was not about to get caught by the librarian for never checking out the book.
She yanked even harder and he pulled back. Soon it was a full on tug-of-war and the two were spinning around each other in circles, digging their heels into the ground in an attempt to keep their footing on the slippery and well polished hardwood.
“Just give up!” Leo practically yelled at her. Another shush coming from another direction of the library.
Scarlett ignored it that time. “Never!” She felt like they were spinning at a surprisingly fast pace.
It continued to get faster and faster until their circle was moving absurdly fast and the only thing that felt like it was keeping them from flying away was holding onto the book in both of their palms.
Leo’s voice was now panicked, also sensing the change in the air. “Maybe we should stop!” He yelled at her. “You can have it, I don’t want the book anymore!”
Momentarily she felt triumphant until fear seized her up too. It felt like they were flying away in a flurry of…magic? She didn’t know. She couldn’t even feel the hardwood floors or smell the scent of books that represented the library anymore.
“We should let go!” She shouted at Leo.
“I don’t know if that is a good idea!” His reluctance shone in his wide dark eyes. But it was too late, Scarlett was already letting go.
She went flying and hit the ground with a hard thud and looked up shakily to see Leo on the ground nearby.
But that’s when she realized that she wasn’t in the library anymore.
They were standing on a grassy hillside that overlooks a beautiful landscape of trees and lakes and valleys and hills flourishing with flowers. But the book was gone.
Leo was on his feet quicker than she was, and helped her to her feet before they both squinted at the sun and looked around.
“What is this place?” Leo asked.
“I have no idea,” Scarlett responded, then tilted her head at something that appeared to be moving over a hilltop. “Do you see that?”
“See what?” Leo asked, looking in the direction that Scarlett pointed to.
At the same time it seemed they came to the impossible realization as to what was coming over the mountain top.
“Is that what I think it is?” Scarlett asked.
“A big scary red dragon with blue eyes, then yes, yes it is.” Leo answered.
“First off, that is most definitely a green dragon with black eyes, and second, I think we should run, ” Scarlett started turning as the dragon quickly approached, brushing her red hair back from her face.
“I think you’re right,” Leo replied, already picking up in a run.
With him running in front of her she noticed that his hair looked very similar to the dragon’s scales. And now that she really thought about it, his eyes were also a very similar hue.
She pushed the thought out of her mind as she glanced back and saw that the dragon was almost on their tails.
“We have to go!” She yelled, picking up speed even more.
“What do you think I’m doing?!” Leo called back over his shoulder, but then she heard him swear under his breath.
“What is it?!” She called out.
“There’s a cliff!” He yelled back to the wind. “We’re going to have to jump!”
“Jump?! We can’t jump, are you crazy!” Scarlett said, peaking over at the dragon that was dangerously close.
“Probably!” Leo answered, picking up speed as the cliff approached.
“That was rhetorical!” She would laugh if they weren’t about to jump off a cliff.
They were only a few feet away from the cliff’s edge and she had no idea what was below. Once more, she looked back and saw that now fire was coming at them from the dragon’s mouth.
There was only a second left as Leo yelled the final “Jump!” And they leaped off the cliff, only the tips of their hair taken by the fire.
Scarlett woke up with a start in her dorm room.
The lights were out and the moon was high, the only sound that could be heard was the rain hitting the window and the soft snores of her roommate. She panted hard, her eyes wide and a beating heart that felt like it was about to jump out of her chest. She looked around the room frantically, hoping for some kind of explanation to what had just happened.
It must have just been a dream. She thought with a sigh of relief.
Then she looked down at her lap and was greeted by one extremely shiny gold cover. Without thinking twice she opened to her bookmark and could stifle a gasp as she picked up two small pieces of singed hair. One red and one lime green.
She reached for her phone immediately and unlocked it to see thirteen missed calls from a man she never thought she would know.
The phone began flashing again with another call from Leo.