I was locked in the library trying not to panic. Literally locked. As in, no escape. Every door, every window, every air vent. Okay, I hadn’t tried the air vents, but I was seriously considering it. I wasn’t desperate enough . . . yet. My friends would realize what had happened and they’d come back and free me, I assured myself. I just had to wait.
It all started when I had to go to the bathroom. Well, before that there had been a lot of soda—a two-liter of Dr Pepper that Morgan had smuggled into the library. I had drunk more than my fair share of the bottle when Jeff sat down next to me, smelling like trees and sky and sunlight every time he leaned over to ask my opinion.
It wasn’t until the windows darkened to black, the librarians asked us to leave, and we made it all the way to the underground parking garage where the fifteen of us were dividing into four cars that I realized I wasn’t going to make it down the street, let alone all the way to the canyon campfire.
“I have to pee,” I announced after I plopped my bag into Jeff’s trunk. Lisa rolled down her window. Her car, parked next to Jeff’s, was already running. “I thought you were coming in my car, Autumn.” She gave me a knowing smile. She knew I wanted to go with Jeff.
I smiled too. “I’ll be right back. There is no toilet at the bonfire.”
“There are a lot of trees,” Jeff said, rounding the car and slamming his trunk shut. It echoed through the nearly empty garage. In his car I could now see three heads in the backseat and a fourth in the passenger seat. No. They all beat me to it. I would have to go with Lisa after all. No big deal, I’d have plenty of time to talk to Jeff at the bonfire. It wasn’t in my nature to be bold in my declarations of undying affection, but with my limbs all jittery from nearly two liters of caffeine and Lisa’s warning about Avi stealing Jeff out from under me buzzing in my head, I felt powerful.
I rushed back down the long hall, up the stairs, and through the glass walkway that overlooked a courtyard. When I made it to the main f loor of the library, half the lights were already out.
The library was too big and needed more bathrooms, I decided by the time I made it there. I pushed open the heavy wooden door and quickly found a stall. The box holding the paper seat covers was empty. Looked like I’d have to hover.
As I was zipping my pants back up, the lights went out. I let out a yelp then laughed. “Funny, guys.” Dallin, Jeff’s best friend, had no doubt found the breaker. It seemed like something he would do.
The lights remained out, though, and no laughing followed my scream. They must’ve been on motion detectors. I waved my hands. Nothing. I inched forward, feeling along the door, trying not to think about all the germs clinging to it, until I found the lock and slid it open. A streetlight shone through an upper window, so I was able to see just enough for a thorough hand washing. It was an eco-friendly bathroom, meaning only air dryers. I wiped my hands on my jeans, opting for speed over the most inefficient way ever to dry hands. My reflection in the mirror was only a shadow, but I leaned forward anyway to see if my makeup was smudged. From what I could tell, it looked fine.
Out in the hall only a few random overhead lights illuminated the way. The place was completely shut down. I picked up my pace. The library at night was creepier than I’d thought it could be. The ten-foot-long enclosed glass hallway sparkled as snow began to fall outside. I didn’t linger like I was tempted to. Hopefully the snow wouldn’t affect the bonfire. If it stayed light, it would make it magical. A perfect night for confessions. Jeff wasn’t going to freak out when I told him, was he? No, he’d been f lirting with me all night. He’d even picked the same era as I had for the history essay. I didn’t think that was a coincidence.
As for the cabin with the girls after the bonfire, the snow would be perfect. Maybe we’d get snowed in. That had happened once before. At first it had stressed me out but it ended up the best weekend ever—hot chocolate and tubing and ghost stories.
I reached the door to the parking garage and gave the metal bar a shove. It didn’t budge. I pushed a second time. Nothing. “Jeff! Dallin! You’re not funny!” I pressed my nose against the glass, but as far as I could see both ways there were absolutely no cars or people. “Lisa?”
Out of habit, I reached for my cell phone. My hand met only the empty pocket of my jeans. I’d put my black weekend bag with all my stuff—cell phone, clothes, jacket, purse, snacks, camera, medication—in Jeff’s trunk.
I ran the entire library, searching for another way out. A way that apparently didn’t exist. Six doors to the outside and they were all locked. And so there I was—back leaned up against the door to the parking garage, its cold seeping into my skin—stuck in a big empty library, caffeine and anxiety battling it out in my body.
A heart-fluttering panic worked its way up my chest and took my breath away. Calm down. They’ll be back, I told myself. There had just been too many people getting into too many different cars. They all thought I was with someone else. Once the four cars reached the bonfire, someone would notice I wasn’t there and they’d come back.
I calculated the time that would take. Thirty minutes up the canyon, thirty minutes back. I’d be here for an hour. Well, then they’d have to find someone with a key to open this door. But that wouldn’t take much longer. They’d all have phones. They could call the fire department if they had to. Okay, now I was getting dramatic. No emergency departments would have to be called.
My pep talk helped. This was nothing to get worked up about.
I didn’t want to leave my post for fear my friends wouldn’t see me when they came back. Or I wouldn’t see or hear them. But without my phone or my camera I had no way of passing the time. I started humming a song very badly, then laughed at my effort. Maybe I’d just count the holes in the ceiling panels or . . . I looked around and came up empty. How did people pass the time without cell phones?
“. . . skies are blue. Birds f ly over the rainbow.” My singing wasn’t going to earn me a record deal anytime soon, but that hadn’t stopped me from belting out a few songs at the top of my lungs. I stopped, my throat raw. It had been at least an hour.
My butt was numb and the chill from the f loor had crept up my body, making me shiver. They must turn the heat down on the weekend. I stood and stretched. Maybe this place had a phone somewhere. I hadn’t thought to look until now. I’d never had to look for a phone. I always had my phone with me.
For the seventh time that night I walked back through the glass walkway. Everything was white now. The ground was covered in snow, the trees frosted with it. I wished I had my camera with me to capture the contrast of the scene—the dark lines of the building and trees against the stark whiteness of the snow. I didn’t, so I kept walking.
I started in the entryway, but couldn’t find a phone anywhere. There might have been one in the locked office, but a big desk blocked my view. Even if I could see one, I obviously didn’t have a key. Past a set of double glass doors was where half the books lived. The other half were behind me in the children’s section. It was darker in there, and I lingered by the doors for a while, taking in the space before me. Large, solid shelves filled the center, surrounded by tables and seating areas.
Along the side wall were computers. I could send an email or a direct message.
It was even darker once I stepped all the way inside. Some table lamps were spread throughout the area and I reached under the shade of one to see if they were for decoration or if they actually worked. It clicked on with a warm glow. By the time I made it to the computers, I had turned on three lamps. They did little to dispel the darkness in such a large space, but they created a nice ambience. I laughed at myself. An ambience for what? A dance party? A candlelit dinner for one?
I sat down in front of a computer and powered it on. The first screen that lit up in front of me was a prompt to enter the library employee username and password. I groaned. Luck was not on my side tonight at all.
I heard a creaking noise above me and looked up. I don’t know what I thought I’d see, but there was nothing but darkness. The building was old and probably just settling in for the night. Or maybe it was the snow or wind hitting an upper window.
Another noise from above had me walking quickly to the hall. I jogged up the stairs and reached the front door. I pulled on the handles as hard as I could. The doors stayed firmly closed. I looked through the narrow side window. Cars drove by on the main avenue in front, but the sidewalks were empty. No one would hear me if I pounded on the glass. I knew this. I’d tried earlier.
I was fine. There was no one in the library but me. Who else would be dumb enough to get trapped in a library? All by themselves. With no way out. Distraction. I needed a distraction. I had nothing with me, though.
Books! This place was full of books. I would grab a book, find a faraway corner, and read until someone found me. Some might’ve even considered this scenario a dream come true. I could consider it that too. There was power in thoughts. This was my dream come true.