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Adventure Friendship Kids

“Would you be quiet?” Ms. Stern hissed through clenched teeth as a giant chicken approached. She drew her sword (standard librarian tool) and moved into a fighting stance.

The chicken bwaked.

Hazel giggled. I clapped a hand over her mouth. She put her hands over mine as Ms. Stern muttered, “I told Roger chickens were a mistake to add to the collection.”

Fifty-Seven Minutes Earlier

I took a deep breath as I stood on the steps of the Haversham Library. It was a week past my ninth birthday which meant I was finally old enough to enter the oldest (and coolest) building in town.

The library was six stories of dreams come true. At least that was what my brother, Austin, had told me for the last three years. My dad called it a research center. Mom called it an archive. Me? I just wanted to see inside. The Children’s Room was supposed to be epic.

“Ready?” Mom asked.

I nodded. Nervous. But totally ready. Mom opened the door and I took my first step inside the perfectly temperature-controlled sanctuary. I gasped, turning slowly as I looked up at the ceiling. The stories were true! The lobby ceiling was a tiny model of our solar system. The planets, moons, and stars moved slowly across the inky blackness.

“This is so cool.” I said in my quietest voice possible.

Being quiet was the number one rule of the Haversham. Loud noises disturbed the residents of the library. Apparently the bedtime stories really liked their daytime naps and could be absolute monsters if woken up.

Mom guided me towards the circular front desk. A tall, angular woman sat at the desk checking in materials. Pulled back in a tight bun, her white hair said grandma old, but her skin was tight and smooth like she was younger than my mom.  When we stopped in front of the desk, her eyes flashed up. I shivered. Her eyes were icy blue, reminding me of an ice covered pond. A name plate on the desk identified her as Ms. Stern.

“Yes?” Her voice was like ice too.

Mom nudged me. My throat closed up. How was I supposed to talk to this person? I stared at her. She stared back.  Mom nudged me again. I tried to remember what Austin had said he had done. I took a shaky breath. “I would like a library card.”

“Your name and age?”

“Emily Creswell. Nine years and one week old.” I said softly. Mom pulled out my birth certificate and handed it to Ms. Stern.

The librarian accepted it, examined it, and then pulled out the smallest permission form I had ever seen. “By signing this, you agree that the Haversham Library is not responsible for anything that happens to you within these walls.” She slid the paper across. “Or on the roof.” She added.

I stared at the woman. I knew the Haversham wasn’t a normal library or exactly safe (there was a reason you had to be nine years and a week old before you could get a level one card) but suddenly I was feeling a little concerned. Mom took the paper and put an arm around my shoulder. “Don’t worry Em. If you follow the rules, you’ll be perfectly safe.”

Follow the rules. I could do that. I nodded. Mom pulled out a pen and handed it to me. In my very best handwriting, I wrote my name and dated it. Then Mom signed it as my legal guardian. Ms. Stern took the permission slip back and reviewed it. She nodded once.

“Stand still.” Ms. Stern said and snapped my picture. She put all the information into the computer and it spit out a shiny white card with my picture and black lettering detailing my name, age, and access level.

“Thank you.” I beamed. I had my library card!

I skipped by Mom’s side as she showed me where the Children’s Room was. I inserted my card into the reader and the glass doors slid open. The smell of strawberries and cream filled my nose. I breathed in deeply one of my favorite smells in the world.

“I’ll be back in one hour,” Mom said. “Stay in the Children’s Area and don’t forget to be…”

“Quiet,” I finished. I held up my hand in a solemn promise. “I will be.”

Mom chuckled. “Have fun,” she said as I stepped inside and the door closed behind me.

“Wow,” I whispered. Austin talked about this place all the time but it was nothing and everything like I had imagined. High above me, puffy white clouds shifted forming new shapes against a back drop of a perfectly blue sky. The carpet was soft and slightly bouncy. Towering bookcases spoked out from the center of the room. I wondered if I got a good enough jump, could I reach the top of them?

I bounced around, looking at everything. Along the back wall were giant windows that didn’t look outside of the library but into an enclosure. “No way.” A brontosaur passed by the windows. My mouth dropped so low that if I were a cartoon, it would be on the floor. Why had nobody told me there were dinosaurs in the library?

“Cool huh?”

I jumped and squeaked as a girl appeared at my side.

“Sorry!” The girl said and then giggled. She clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry, again. I laugh when I get nervous.” I stared at her. Her hand lowered from her mouth and she gave me an apologetic look before sticking out her other hand. “I’m Hazel. You’re new.” Her eyes widened and she giggled again. Her hands fluttered in front of her like she didn’t know what to do with them. “Not that your name is new, unless it is, but that you’re new to the library. I’m Hazel!”

I grabbed one of her hands and shook it. “I’m Emily. My ninth birthday was a week ago.”

“Mine was two weeks ago!” Hazel beamed. “I’ve been dreaming of coming here for years though. My parents do research here all the time.”

“Same.” I said. And like that we were friends.

Hazel showed me around. The rabbit enclosure quickly became a favorite-they’re just so soft and fluffy! And it was quickly followed by the oversized checker board and an actual maze that featured many book characters from Alice in Wonderland to The Wizard of Oz.

And then there were the actual books- I was sure that practically every children’s book ever written was on the shelves. I ran a hand along the spines. I would happily spend every day just reading. “I love the Haversham,” I said softly.

“Me too.” Hazel sighed.

We walked around a bookcase corner as a librarian, an ax strapped to his back, passed us with an empty cart. He smiled at us. We smiled back as he went through the “Librarians Only” door. My smile froze. One of the larger gray rabbits from the pen was hopping through the doorway.

I grabbed Hazel’s arm and pointed.

In the next three seconds, a lot happened. Questions such as how did the rabbit get out, had we left the gate open, and was the rabbit smiling passed through my head. Without thinking, I ran towards the rapidly closing door. My hand grasped the handle before the lock clicked shut. I pulled open the door and stuck my head through.

Hazel squeezed in next to me, a panicked look on her face. “Where did he go?”

“I don’t know.” Did my voice sound panicked? Because I was feeling panicky. The rabbit was gone and there was a very real possibility that we were the ones responsible. My heart started doing a tap dance recital in my chest. “We have to find him.” If we didn’t, we would lose our library privileges.

“Agreed.” Hazel’s voice trembled as if she were thinking the exact same thing. We stepped through the door.

It closed with a thud behind us.

We looked at each other and then dropped to our knees. We crawled, checking under anything a rabbit could squeeze under. Book carts, storage shelves, desks, and a super fancy paper cutter.

The rabbit was nowhere.

“Maybe he escaped through one of the other doors. There’s a Botanical Room. Maybe he got hungry,” Hazel suggested.

“Oooh. Good idea.” I said. Better than mine. I was wondering if the floor had just opened up and swallowed the rabbit. This was the Haversham.

“I think it’s this way,” Hazel pointed down a long hallway that had a lot of doors. We crawled, keeping an eye out for any trace of the rabbit. Thankfully the doors were labeled so we found the Botanical Room pretty quickly. We stood up. I grabbed the handle and opened the door.

Uh-oh.

Ms. Stern’s eyes flared wide with surprise and then narrowed. “What are you two doing here?”

“Uhh…” How to explain this? Hazel giggled. A flash of gray fur caught my attention. “Rabbit!” I shouted and pushed past her.

“Shhhh!” Ms. Stern hushed us. She looked around quickly like she was expecting an imminent attack. Her hand darted to the sword hanging at her side.

“Rabbit.” Hazel echoed and followed after me into the humid room. Sun shined overhead and plants were going everywhere.

“What do you mean rabbit?” Ms. Stern followed after us. “Steven!” She growled as she spotted the rabbit.

The rabbit froze, looking like a deer caught in headlights. Then he smiled. “Felicia,” He drawled her name out. “It’s not what it looks lie.”

“You can talk?” I couldn’t believe it. I mean, yes it was the Haversham and I literally just saw a dinosaur but still…rabbits talking? Austin had left out some of the best stuff.

Steven sniffed. “Of course I can talk. I’m not uncivilized.”

“And yet, you don’t know how to follow the rules.” Ms. Stern’s voice was popsicle cold.

I glanced up and swallowed hard. A deep frown pulled at her features making her appear even more severe than she had at the desk.

Steven sat up on his hind legs and placed a hand over his heart. “My dear Felicia…”

Whatever Steven was going to say was interrupted by a thunderously loud bwak, bwak. Was that a chicken? What type of chicken was that loud? I looked to Hazel. I expected to see matching confusion. Instead she looked scared. My heart took up its tap routine again.

Ms. Stern grasped the hilt of her sword. “Get back,” she hissed, moving in front of us.

My mouth dropped as a giant hen came seemingly out of nowhere. Her black and white feathers gleamed in the sunlight. Her head did that bobbing motion that all chickens (and humans trying to imitate chickens) make. “Bwak, bwak,” the chicken thundered.

I covered my ears and looked at Hazel. “A giant chicken?” I whispered.

“Well this is unfortunate.” Steven drawled. Hazel giggled and then looked stricken.

“Would you be quiet?” Ms. Stern hissed through clench teeth as she unsheathed her sword- one of the standard tools for a Haversham librarian. She took a fighting stance.

“Bwak, bwak.” The hen cocked her head. Her beady black eyes focused on us.

Hazel giggled. I clapped a hand over her mouth and she clapped her hands over mine.

Ms. Stern’s eyes narrowed. “I told Roger that adding chickens to the collection was a mistake.” I felt a stab of pity for Roger. I had a feeling he would be hearing from Ms. Stern once we got out of here.

The sword flashed in the sunlight and the chicken went crazy. Feathers flew in every direction and bwaks filled the air like a thunderstorm was right on top of us. I screamed. Hazel screamed. Steven hid behind our legs as Ms. Stern threw herself into battle.

Sword met chicken leg. I thought for sure the sword would go through the leg like it was butter. It did not. The sword bounced off the leg like a sword would against a shield. Chicken legs were surprisingly tough.

“Get out of here,” Ms. Stern shouted.

We didn’t have to be told twice. Hazel and I bolted for the door.

“Wait for me!” Steven called after us. “I have shorter legs.” Considering how fast he had disappeared on us to begin with, I wasn’t worried.

Hazel yanked open the door and we piled into the cooler hallway. We slammed the door shut and backed up against the other wall. Bwaks and sword clangs made us wince.

And then there was silence.

The door did not open.

Steven’s ears drooped. He placed a hand over his heart. “Oh, Felicia. You were a fine librarian; one of the bravest. You will never be…”

The door burst open. Ms. Stern’s laser gaze zeroed in on Steven. “I’m not dead.” She closed the door behind her and sheathed her sword. A single curly strand of white hair hung loose- the only sign she had even been in a fight.

Her eyes narrowed. She licked two fingers and smoothed the hair back into place. “Now,” she said. “What am I going to do with you?”

Steven threw himself onto the ground. “Do not punish these innocent girls! It is my fault and my fault alone.”

Everyone looked at him. He looked over his shoulder at me and Hazel. “This is the point where you jump in and take part of the responsibility.”

“But it is your fault,” I said.

“Yeah,” Hazel agreed. “You should have stayed in the rabbit pen.”

“And you shouldn’t have followed me,” Steven said. “There is plenty of blame to go around.”

We all looked at Ms. Stern. Her face was unreadable.

“You two.” Hazel and I snapped to attention. “This is the only warning you’ll get from me. Stick to your areas.”

I nodded so hard I thought my head would disconnect from my neck. Hazel nodded just as fast.

“And you,” Ms. Stern looked down at Steven. He smiled at her. “If you’re so desperate to be out of the pen, then I have just the place for you.” Ms. Stern smiled like the cat that got the canary. “Dede has been in need of company.”

His eyes widened. “No. Felicia. I beg of you. Not that. Anything but that.”

“Who’s Dede?” I whispered.

“The Dodo bird.” Steven said with disgust. “Never allows anyone to get a word in edgewise.”

Hazel and I exchanged wide-eyed looks. “Dodo bird?” We mouthed to each other.

“Come along,” Ms. Stern said. We hurried after her. Steven pleaded the entire way back to the Children’s Room but Ms. Stern did not budge.

Ms. Stern opened the door to the Children’s Room. Her icy eyes held ours. I tried to smile. She did not smile back. “Remember what I said.”

We nodded and hurried inside. Ms. Stern shut the door behind us.

Hazel giggled while I let out a breath.

“Well, that happened,” my new friend said.

“Yes it did,” I agreed. Austin was not going to believe a word of it. Or maybe he would. This was the Haversham.

“So…” Hazel said. “Checkers?”

Hmm. It was quiet and it was in the Children’s room. I smiled and nodded. “Sounds perfect.”

April 30, 2021 16:06

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2 comments

Jade Young
16:19 May 01, 2021

This is such a creative take on what a library can be. I think I'm in love with your actually library and the creativity of the different sections for the different age groups as much as I am with how you represented your librarians lol. The worldbuilding in this story is absolutely amazing, like I'm sitting here genuinely in awe. I love how gaining a library card is a prestigious rite of passage. I love how the librarians, especially Mrs Stern, are depicted as sworded badasses because of the types of animals found inside the library. And th...

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Lyn Carstone
16:04 May 03, 2021

Hi Jade! Thank you so much for your complements! I'm really glad you liked the story. :) ~Lyn

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