Little Macy loved going to the library.
Exploring all the shelves of books both fiction and nonfiction could easily occupy an entire afternoon. But today's trip would be different. Today's trip would change her life.
Looking back, she should have recognized this trip would be different. Normally, she and her mother would end their Wednesday errands by stopping at the library. Her mother enjoyed coffee and a good book while Macy went from shelf to shelf picking her favorites.
"Remember, Macy," her mother would remind her, "only 3 books. We'll be back next week." Asking an inquisitive 12-year-old to wait a week for something desired was like asking her to hold her breath that long!
"A whole week?" Macy asked incredulously and far too loud for the local librarian's taste. You see, Macy was not like the average preteen who had lost the love of reading. No, her greatest joy was curling up in her bed and reading till she fell fast asleep.
Then she would dream of the knights and princesses she'd read about. The fantastic lands they visited and the great adventures they had were not wasted on Macy. She eagerly devoured each volume and was always ready for another.
However, today's visit was different because her mother was babysitting Macy's twin cousins. They were cute and all that. They really were like living baby dolls, but they took up too much time.
If her mother wasn't feeding them, she was changing them. These girls were sloppy eaters, and their food didn't stay with them very long either. And wow! Macy sure didn't recall them eating anything that smelled that bad!
As they pulled into the library parking lot, her mother warned her in advance. "We won't be here long; these toddlers aren't that patient...or quiet. The librarian will chase us out of here too quick." Even with the added responsibility, she didn't want to stifle Macy's reading appetite.
Macy nodded in agreement, already lost in thought about which story she'll choose this time. Will it be the continuation of the space adventure she stated last week or the romance serial from the week before? These romance novels didn't seem to bother her as much as they used to. Her mom said it had something to do with "poverty"...or some other word that sounded like that.
"You're growing up," her mom would say. "I know you love reading, but there's a "real world" out here you don't want to overlook." This was their recurring argument. Her mom wanted her to take on more responsibility at home while Macy was content to live her life between the covers of a good book.
Macy's response made sense, at least to her 12-year-old mind. "Life is too depressing," she would say. "In my books, I have so much more control. If things go too fast, I can slow down my reading. And if a part is too scary, I can skim over it."
Since her Grandma died, she had become more withdrawn. Her mother tried to reason with her on this but to no avail, preteen logic is unassailable. Macy was at that delicate stage where she no longer felt she needed her parents' constant supervision.
But she was still too young to drive, drink, or do the other things that grownups did. So, books were her next best escape. Macy could shut the world out and be completely alone. All that was about to change.
Macy's mom was right. the twins were not library ready!
They were loud and they were wild. These were two ingredients that Miss Brady, the librarian, did not want in her "kitchen." She started with the customary "Shhh" that all librarians learn on their first day of employment. That didn't work.
"Excuse me, Ma'am," the librarian began, "this is not a day care, perhaps your children are not yet ready for the library."
Macy's mom juggled one twin in her arms and the other in the stroller. "So sorry," she apologized. "We're just leaving. My daughter is checking out now"
"Perhaps, you can wait in the car," Miss Brady said, her patience was wearing thin as other customers were now starting to stare and complain.
"It's ok, Mom," Macy said. "I'll meet you out there." You have not seen anything quite like a 12-year-old being embarrassed in public. Her mother nodded quickly and hustled the twins out the door to the polite applause of those in the library.
Macy's face reddened as she handed over library card. The three books she selected didn't even matter anymore, she just wanted to melt into the floor so no one could see her. Once out in the parking lot all she wanted was to make it to the car and escape.
Where was her mother's car? Her mother would always pull up to the front door, but she wasn't there. Macy looked to where they were parked, and the spot was empty! Had her mother left her? Macy's heart started to beat like a drum in her chest.
Panic began to set in. Why would her mother leave her? Sure, they had argued again, but being abandoned wasn't expected. What would she do, how could she contact her mom?
That was another argument. Macy knew she was ready for a cell phone, but her mom thought she was still too young. This problem would be solved if she could call her mom right now! This episode would be ammunition for their next discussion.
After looking right and left and even walking around the parking lot, Macy began to reason.
There must have been an emergency. One of the twins probably needed something that wasn't in the oversized baby bag. How much do two little girls need for one afternoon? Macy didn't pack that much for her 2-week trip to summer camp!
So now that Macy could make sense of what was going on, she could appreciate her situation.
She was stranded at her favorite place in the whole wide world, the library! Her mom would no doubt return, Macy just needed to wait for her. Wait for her while reading other books, this was great!
But wait! Macy had just slinked out of the library in shame. How could she walk back in now? Being such an imaginative young girl, Macy decided to sneak back in and then hide among the shelves until her mother returns.
Sneaking back into the library was not as difficult as Macy thought it would be.
This actually made her start to wonder how safe the library really was. Anyone could walk right in through the back door as new books were being delivered, just like she did. No wonder her mom normally didn't allow her to come here alone.
Macy now looked at the different characters hunched around the tables with a little more suspicion.
She settled into a corner with a thick book about traveling to Spain. Before she knew it, she was lost in its pages. She could taste the calamari sandwich from Sobrino de Botin, supposedly the oldest restaurant in the world. There is even a Guinness World Record certificate to prove it!
Hours past and young Macy didn't even notice as all the other patrons gradually left the building.
The library is always quiet, Miss Brady makes sure of that. But with no one there, no computers running, no hushed whispers, the silence was deafening! She hadn't even noticed that her eyes had adjusted to the few emergency lights that were constantly left on.
How long had she been there?
Macy glanced down at the large book about Spain and saw she was 2/3 of the way through. She'd been reading for some time! Where was her mother? Surely, she could have gone home and returned by now.
The panic began to grow in her chest again.
It began in the pit of her stomach and slowly grew like one of those time-lapse videos of flowers she'd seen on YouTube. All sorts of scary ideas jumped into her head. Had her mother been in an accident?
That was the first of many thoughts that began to fill her mind. Then her attention turned to her own situation.
What would become of her? Would she have to stay here all night? Where is the phone so that she could call her mother? Funny how the familiar shelves of books and magazines take on an ominous tone when you're all alone.
She made it to the main desk where the librarian checked out books and she saw the phone.
She picked up the receiver and tried dialing her mother's number. No response, then she noticed there was not even a dial tone. She tried again with the same silence. What grade do they teach students that most businesses require you to dial 9 to get an outside line? Apparently, Macy’s school, Washington Middle School, needs to add it to its curriculum.
Macy found her way to the front entrance only to discover the doors were locked from the outside!
She couldn't get out and she could phone out either. Was there anyone out there? That's the trouble with an overactive imagination. All her time spend in fantastic tales and stories had her conjuring up apocalyptic scenarios.
Surely, some disaster had killed off her parents and the rest of civilization leaving her as the sole survivor!
The very books that had been her constant companions were now taunting and leering at her from off the shelves. She heard every creak of the old building and when the air conditioning kicked on, she jumped out of fear. On top of all that, now she had to use the bathroom.
Once that matter was taken care of, Macy gave serious thought to how she would spend her night. She wanted to be as close to the front of the building as possible. There was more light there and she was relieved to see traffic on the street. There had been no global catastrophe.
Then her heart leaped in her chest.
She saw a patrol car pull into the parking lot, no doubt doing routine security. If she could only get his attention. Macy's young mind raced until she remembered the story about how lighthouses warn ships of approaching danger. She went to the light switch and started turning them on and off as fast as she could.
As she did so, she wondered why she hadn't turned the lights on in the first place. Why had she stumbled around in the dark for the last few hours? No matter, the lights got the policeman's attention and he walked cautiously up to the door. He was startled when young Macy screamed at him through the glass explaining how she was trapped and needed to get out.
Within the hour, her parents were contacted, and her father came to pick her up.
What had happened? One of Macy's twin cousins had a severe reaction and had to be rushed to the hospital. In all the excitement, her father misunderstood the message and thought she was at the bookstore in the mall. He had already prepared a speech on why she had kept him waiting so long.
"Well, Dad," Macy began, "I think I learned what Mom has been trying to say all this time. Books are great ways to learn and relax, but they definitely don't take the place of the real world."
Her Dad responded, "That's a great lesson, Mace. Sometimes, we have to close the book and live our own story."