There he was. Fear pulsed throughout Alice’s body and her mind started racing. She knew she was not supposed to be upstairs… but neither was he! He must have followed her, she decided. But why? Was he trying to get her in trouble? There were only two choices: remain hidden and attempt to sneak out before he sees her, or make herself known before it’s too late.
Alice decided that she did not need to accept fear.
“Excuse me,” she confidently announced, coming out from behind the bookshelf with a tall posture, “do you have permission to be here?”
He furrowed his eyebrows, as if he was puzzled to see her there. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key. “I was wondering what happened to the main copy,” he said, glancing at the original key that Alice clenched tightly in her hand.
“Wh-what,” she gasped, suddenly unable to speak as her confidence dropped like a person jumping off the empire state building. There was no possibility of recovering, the way his beautiful brown eyes laid on her.
“This is a restricted area, you know?” He gently told her, in a way that felt more like he was trying to protect her rather than blame her. Kind of like the way one speaks to an innocent child — with genuine concern. And just like that she felt her confidence starting to rebuild itself.
“Right. Well, I work here. What’s your excuse?”
“As do I,” he instantly replied. “Except for the fact that I’m in charge of this area, and part of my responsibility is making sure we don’t have any intruders…” he gave her a suspecting look.
Alice’s eyes widened and her face turned red. He had caught her red-handed. The risk of losing her job was not what had cut her so deep. It was the fact that she had been wrong about him all along, that his progressively frequent appearances in the library had nothing to do with her. So he wasn’t a secret admirer after all, just an employee doing his job. Of course, it all made sense now, she thought.
“I’m sorry,” she confessed, looking down with tears in her eyes. “Are you going to report me?” At this point, she didnt even mind losing her job because she could not bare to look at him again and be reminded of her foolishness.
“Please just do this: make me a promise to follow the rules and you’re fine. How else am I going to make it through my days, without being able to sneak glances at that cute girl behind the front desk?” He giggled.
Alice felt her heart instantly sink to the ground! “I promise,” she blushed.
“Now you’ve got blackmail on me,” he came a little closer, “I’m taking a risk by letting this slide, you know.”
“I know,” Alice fiercely nodded with gratefulness.
“Since you’re already here…” he shrugged, “might as well show you around real fast.” He motioned his arm to follow him down an aisle.
Alice’s heart was beating so strongly that she could hear it. She followed the intriguing man in total awe. Looking at the books, she was amazed by the titles: A Manual of Occultism (1915); An Encyclopedia of Occultism (1920); A Suggestive Inquiry Into The Hermetic Mystery (1850); A Dweller on Two Planets (1905); Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored (1941); Divine Pymander (1650); Hieroglyphic Monad (1564)…
“Original copies,” he explained, “some dating all the way back to the 16th century.”
“This is incredible. Thank you so much for showing me around. I promise not to come back, or even tell anyone I was here. But before I leave, there’s just one thing I felt extra curious about…” Alice turned and pointed at the chest where she had discovered the love letter.
“Aha,” he opened the chest and pulled out a collection of not just one, but many, many letters. All written with the same handwriting, by the same person. “These letters are more mysterious than any book you’ll find up here. Let me explain. Every now and then I’ll skim through these books and find random letters that had been placed in between the pages. They’ll fall right out. It’s as if someone strategically placed letters in certain books, hoping they would be found. The strangest part is that there are no names, no dates… nothing.”
Alice was hooked harder than any other mystery novel she had read before. “There are a lot of books up here… there could be even more letters hidden elsewhere!” she exclaimed, “What do these letters say?”
He opened his mouth as if he was about to say something, then quickly stopped himself.
“What?” Alice looked at him with raised eyebrows.
“I, uh,” he fidgeted his hands around.
“What is it?” her eyes pierced into his soul.
“I was gonna say…” he paused for a moment… then continued, “this one’s my all-time favorite,” he unfolded one of the letters and then turned to look at Alice. “It, um… it reminds me of someone I know…”
It has been yet another day of loneliness without you. Daylight makes it so clear to me that you are not mine. With every passing hour I grow twice as old without you in my arms.
At dawn, I am free to live in the illusive world where we have each other. Dreaming of you as I am alone is better than being with anyone else who makes me feel alone. I can stay in this world where rejection and separation do not exist… until dusk.
You make me feel something that goes beyond happiness, beyond excitability, beyond joy… absolutely indescribable. When we lock eyes, it’s as if all is well in the universe and the stars are perfectly aligned. My words only represent a fraction of what is unfathomable. I’m not sure if you truly understand.
Love always, xoxo.
Alice took a deep breath and nodded with a coy smile, “yeah, I like this one too.” Her eyes remained fixated on the piece of paper for a moment… and then she slowly turned her head to meet his eyes, which she found had already been fixated on her, and she felt a whole rush throughout her body.
Then her mind became flooded with questions. “Well, what happened? Did they ever find their letters? Did they ever get returned? Did they ever have a chance? Do you think that there are more letters hidden around here? Can we find this person, if they are even still alive?”
To be continued…