The Book of Lost Things

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Hidden away in a dusty old shelf in the back of the library, there is a book that tells the story of what could have been, had life taken a different turn.

Submitted: June 19, 2018

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Submitted: June 19, 2018

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Aaron didn't often go into the old library. He wasn't much of a reader; he preferred physical activity. Still, it was a quiet place, and that was what he needed right now.

He had just graduated. Just last night. Fairgrove High School Class of 1998. His classmates, or former classmates now, he guessed, were holding all sorts of parties right now. Aaron had just come from one, actually. He spent most of his time there standing in a corner, drinking some soda.

It wasn't that he was antisocial. He just never knew what to say to people. He preferred to act instead of speak, but even then he wasn't all that great. An average football player who didn't interact much with his teammates outside of practice or games.

He just needed a quiet place to calm down. The library seemed as good as any.

Aaron made his way to the darkest corner of the library, where dust gathered on old leatherbacks, and he leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, his eyes fell on a book on the shelf next to him. He read the words on the spine:

The Book of Lost Things

He wasn't sure why he was drawn to this random book, but he took it from the shelf and opened it to a random page and read...

"Aaron took a deep breath to calm his nerves and approached Gracie. Could he really do this? Not for the first time, he went through what he would say in his head. He had to get this right."

This... This happened. Aaron stared at the page in confusion. He had wanted to ask Gracie to Prom, but had lost his nerve. Why was this written down in the book?

No... He kept reading. This wasn't right.

"'Gracie?' Aaron asked. She turned from her locker and looked at him quizzically.

"Standing there, under her bright blue gaze, Aaron wasn't sure if he could do this. But there was no going back now. He had to do this.

"'I think you're a pretty cool girl,' he said, and winced internally at how awkward that sounded. Still, point of no return. 'I was wondering if you'd like to go to Prom with me?'

"Gracie stared at him for what seemed like an eternity. 'Oh,' she said. 'I'm sorry, but Peter actually already asked me out, so...'

"'Oh,' Aaron said. 'Oh, um, OK.'

"'Sorry!' Gracie said with an apologetic smile before walking away."

That didn't make any sense. Gracie hadn't gone to Prom with Peter. But then Aaron read on.

"'Tough luck, man,' a voice said behind Aaron. He turned to see Gracie's friend Cindy.

"While Gracie was blonde and a cheerleader and well-liked by most everyone, Cindy was none of those things. She preferred the grungy look, and dyed her hair black, and got along with only a small handful of people.

"Aaron had never really interacted with her, but now she was giving him a sympathetic look.

"'It's alright,' Aaron said. 'I guess it's small wonder someone already asked her.'

"Cindy frowned. And then she sighed. 'You're the first one, actually.'

"'But she said...'

"'She lied,' Cindy said, cutting Aaron off. 'I'm sorry.'

"Aaron stared at her, dumbfounded. 'So,' he said slowly, 'she just... She just didn't want to go with me.'

"Cindy looked away from him. 'Sorry,' she said. 'Look, if you... You know, if you still want to go, uh, no one's asked me yet.'

Aaron stared at the page and kept reading, as the book an impossible of him and Cindy going to Prom, of her confessing a long-standing crush on him, of them becoming a couple.

None of it had happened, but... It might have. If he had mustered up the courage to ask out Gracie. Then things would have turned out different.

They would have turned out like this.

Aaron closed the book and placed it on the shelf, and then left the library to find Cindy.


*

Cindy supposed there were worse places to live than Fairgrove. The people here were friendly, and she had a decent life here, a decent husband.

And, she thought as she smiled down at the little girl holding her hand, a perfect little daughter.

There was an event at the library today; a little storybook reading for young children. Tara was three now, and Cindy thought this would be a good event for her.

Her daughter sat down with the other kids to listen to the story, and Cindy found herself wandering throughout the library, smiling softly, remembering how she had married Aaron just a year out of high school, how he had come and found her after their graduation and asked her out. She'd been crushing on him pretty hard, so much so that she had begged her friend Gracie to turn him down for prom if he asked (he didn't), and she had been overjoyed when Aaron had found her that day after graduation.

He was working with his dad as a contractor, and Cindy had postponed her plans for college to stay with him. Then the next thing she'd known, they were married, and little Tara was on her way into their lives.

She drifted out of he reverie to find herself in a dark corner of the library, and her eyes landed on the spine of one particular book: The Book of Lost Things.

Something about the book seemed to call to her, and Cindy reached out and pulled it from the shelf.

She flipped it open, and read...

"It wasn't an easy decision for Cindy to go off to college, but she knew that Aaron would understand. Cindy wanted to be a musician, she wanted to study song writing and music theory, and Fairgrove just wasn't the town for that."

Cindy stared at the page in confusion. It was almost like the book was talking about her life but... not. She had wanted to go to college to study music, but she'd stayed in Fairgrove with Aaron.

She flipped to a different page and read some more.

"After so many months apart, she had seen it coming. Cindy thought it would hurt more than it did, but when Aaron said those words during that phone call, 'I think we should break up,' she'd only felt... relief. The truth was, she'd fallen out of love with him already, and keeping up the charade of a long-distance relationship was too much.

"Now Cindy could focus on her studies. Her professors said she had talent, and the band she'd formed with Kelly and Tina was coming along nicely."

This was... impossible. There was no way her life could have gone like this. Could there? Cindy flipped over more pages and read a different part of the book.

"'Here we are,' Cindy said, handing the sheet to Nate. He looked over the music.

"'This is some good stuff,' he said. 'That last song was a hit, and I think this one should be a good fit for Esther.'

"Cindy considered this. 'I thought this song was supposed to be for Tina.'

"'You know Tina's better with the low notes,' Nate said. 'I'll shop it around a bit, but I think Esther will probably be the best fit.'

"Cindy shrugged. No skin off her teeth. About half the pop stars in the industry had performed at least one of her songs by this point."

Cindy closed the book. "I could have been a songwriter," she muttered. She placed The Book of Lost Things back on the shelf.

Tara's reading hour was probably wrapping up now. Cindy headed back for her daughter, he head swimming. She could have been a songwriter. Her music could have been enjoyed by thousands; millions.

No, no, she had a daughter now. That had to be her priority. She was all that mattered.

This was fine.


*

Tara was in the library often.

She liked the quiet. Well... she liked the peaceful quiet. Her dad was an anxious bundle of nerves, and when her mom had her, there were always the probing questions and the constant stream of presents.

Tara wasn't dumb. She knew that her parents' divorce had been bitter and painful, and that it had left scars on the both of them that had never fully healed. Sometimes, it was easier to get lost in the world of a book than to deal with that.

Even as a child, she'd felt the divorce coming. It had finally happened in 2010, when she herself was only a decade old. Sometimes she wondered what would have happened if she had begged them to stay together, to do it for her. Would they have listened?

Probably not. And with how often they fought, it was probably for the best. Now, seven years later, neither of them had really moved on.

She had two homes, two families, two Christmases, two birthdays, and sometimes all she wanted was to get away from all of them. Books were the best way to do so. Well, books and a certain someone. She smiled at the thought.

She'd read through quite a lot of the fantasy and science fiction sections in her years coming here, and Tara felt that it was time for her broaden her horizons, so she was exploring the library, looking for anything that seemed interesting.

And that was how she found herself in a dark corner of the library, staring at The Book of Lost Things.

There was something magnetic about that book. It seemed almost to call to her. She reached out and pulled it from the shelf.

"'Please, don't break up!' Tara pleaded, her ten-year-old face set in determination. 'Stay together. Do it for me!'

"Her parents stared at her, dumbstruck."

"What the fuck...?" Tara muttered. Her scanned over the rest of the page, at the words that described her parents making a promise to stay together. It was like someone had taken a childhood fantasy of hers and transcribed it onto paper.

This page was toward the start of the book. Tara flipped to another page near the end.

"She was tired. Her parents tried to hide their fights from her, but she wasn't deaf and she wasn't dumb. Who did they think they were kidding. She heard them all night, cursing and spitting at one another.

"This morning, her mom had left for work early already, and so she'd confronted her dad about it. He'd tried to change the subject, but like the stubborn fool she was, she pressed him, even though she knew what he was going to say.

"'We stick together for you.'

"So now she was at school and feeling like shit. And there was that little bitch Margaret in front of her locker again. No one liked her. No one liked Tara much either, but at least she wasn't Margaret.

"'Get the fuck out of my way,' Tara spat, shoving the girl away from her locker.

"'I'm sorry,' Margaret said meekly. 'My locker's right next to yours, so...'

"'I don't want to hear it,' Tara said. 'Fucking dyke.'"

Tara slammed the book shut.

There were tears running down her face. She couldn't keep reading this... this awful trash.

She put the book back on the shelf and turned away, trying to do her best to forget about it. But she couldn't. The scene the book described kept playing in her head, and even though she knew it had never happened, the guilt was almost too much to bear.

Tara pulled out her phone and sent a text to Maggie; she was the only one allowed to call her "Maggie."

>You free?

It took a few moments for her to receive a reply.

>Yeah. Y?

>Wanna see you

>Aw. <3 well come on over

Tara left the library, wiping the tears from her eyes.

She needed to go see her girlfriend.


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