The biggest problem in having a rare gift is that you never get to use it freely.
There are cautions, warnings or handful of forbidden things that has to be remembered, even consequences so Lila S. Garcia never got to use hers out of fear. This is unfortunate for Lila. She loves books and stories and fantasies that seem to offer a sanctuary, an escape. When she sees shelves with books she can't help but feel a tug towards it, a strong tug like a rope is on her waist, knotting harder when she walks away. Drawn to infinite possibilities of adventures, of worlds and lessons and words, yes even words: the way it sounds, the way it is constructed, its impact and meaning... But no matter how much badly she wanted to read a novel like someone inside her wants to crawl out, scratching her throat, she can't. She won't allow it, he won't allow it not that he can stop her now.
Thinking of her grandfather, she never questioned her actions strongly until well, until he died. And because of a letter that arrived two years late. Leonard G. Cruz, a first degree cousin of hers, finally looks up from reading the letter with a splitting frown on his forehead. She might have come in a wrong time.
“I have to ask, what am I supposed to realize from this?” he regards his cousin sternly as he sits back in his comfortable executive chair. Lila has grown, he could tell. She’s still the skinny girl he knew but she’s taller now, five feet perhaps.
It hit Lila then that what she would say probably, no, definitely sound crazy to her cousin knowing he was never in on the secret. Telling him could change everything though, she needs to try.
“Do you remember the story Newt used to tell us? One that was about a boy with certain… abilities” she begins.
Leonard raises his eyebrow confuse of the transition but his mind reels back to the moment their grandfather insisted on telling them a story about this jumping ability or was it a gift to travel… books yes, that was it. A book traveling gift or something where in the story that boy could go inside the book, literally. Lila saw him thinking, processing, she knew he would remember. Her heart is now starting to beat faster. Here goes nothing.
“I have something to confess.” she blurts.
Leonard sighs trying to be patient with her partly because he has not saw her in about two years and he was always hustling off to some cases.
“Go on” he urges her, nonchalant.
“I – uh, I am a book traveler.” Lila says a matter-of-factly. “A what?” Leonard replies, surprised at the degree of deviance this has from a normal conversation.
Lila looks at him with expecting eyes letting him figure things out on his own than saying it herself. Leonard read the letter again piercing things together. His chestnut eyes grow serious, eyebrows furrow deeper.
“You’re saying that your father as Newt mentions here is a book traveler and that you are one yourself…” Lila nods enthusiastically sending shoulder-length black hair out of order.
“And the story our grandfather told us was real, which would make the gift real as well?”
She bobs her head the second time feeling some kind of weirdness like she just got seen naked or like she had an x-ray of her entire anatomy uploaded on the internet. The secret she locked up, they locked up, all her life is out in the open and she is only beginning. Leonard rubs his forehead irritated thinking this is a waste of time.
“Okay this is getting–”
“It’s true” Lila insists “And papa…”
Suddenly stepping out of Leonard’s office, Lila found herself on their grandfather’s personal library. It didn’t change. To her left, tall windows let the inclined light of an afternoon sun reach part of the remaining floor. The rest of the room is lined with rows and rows of bookshelves, that almost reach the ceiling, and still held hardbound books in an alphabetical manner. The smell of vanilla on paper so palpable she could taste it, degrading pages and binding reminded her of the time she runs these walls, when Newt was still alive and he would read to her, even the silly arguments she had with Leonard over something trivial.
“Is what?” Leonard asks as he follows her and lean on one of the shelf beside Lila. “Is alive. Maybe” she says softly.
Of all the things Lila said to him this afternoon, her father being alive is the most surprising albeit unbelievable and disquieting so far. Her father disappeared without a trace for twelve years now. The possibility of him being alive or showing up would be highly improbable.
Before her cousin could say something hurtful and bold, Lila snatches the letter from Leonard’s hand. “‘It was uncharacteristic of him to travel alone and so I waited but he never came back’ says here.” Lila quotes.
“I’m confused. Let’s just say that he traveled or whatever, the letter doesn’t actually say he’s alive either”
“Yes, but now there’s a possibility that he is”
“It’s more possible that his bones are somewhere buried in Sahara Desert or in the outskirts of Africa…” Leonard stops himself.
He is being a bit harsh but Lila’s father has been gone too long she’s better off not having false hope. It was not what stopped him though. There is an expression on her face. She is withholding something besides all she conceded.
“You know, for someone who just read a letter you don’t retain much.” She says. “They were together when papa disappeared and they were here” she emphasizes the library with a flick of her fingers “He’s here.”
“Here? In the library?” Leonard says sweeping his eyes around sarcastically. Lila just nodded.
“This is extremely counterproductive and unhealthy. If you just said you were having a hard time coping up with loss you should have told me from the start” Leonard retorts concern eclipsing his confusion.
Her face falls hard. It’s not like he was going to believe right away but it’s still making Lila irritated. “How about this, have you seen me read a book, ever?”
“Yes, when you were homeschooled and Newt read to you. Somebody has to read a book even once in his lifetime. Besides we all need to read”
“I know, but honestly I haven’t read a non-academic book. Ever. Zero!” she slings her frustrations. Now he is really concerned. She could be suffering from a mental illness, worse schizophrenia.
“Lila, does your mother know about this? We could go to a psychiatrist” he says softly as he reaches for her.
Exasperated, Lila stumps her way to the shelf behind her, denying her cousin’s hand and brought back a thin book. This is her last resort. If Leonard’s not going to believe after seeing her she might go nuts herself.
Her stomach juggles with fear. What ifs play on her head like a radio she can’t shut off. As she inhales deeply, as if the exercise would slow her racing heart, she opens the book.
“Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away…”
The book falls. Lila vanishes along with her words, leaving a flabbergasted Leonard behind.
© SEVEN, 2018. All rights reserved.