Reading was, for Emilia, never a habit, much less anything she would think of picking up a book for any reasons. Language and literature subjects were never her favourite in school, hence often getting mediocre marks for those subjects. She could not have bothered less.
Visiting the school library was worst; she hated being surrounded by books though they had never done her damage. While everyone would get around searching for books, getting into discussions, she'd sit at a corner doing nothing. Her language teacher would often pushed her, forced her more like, into choosing a book from any of the sections. She chose a maths book once since there was no heavy reading needed, and the language teacher was furious. Emilia could do nothing but watch her teacher yell at her – in the library! – Which ironically enough often requires quietness.
So…she made off to choose another book and plonk down at her usual corner by the window with old grey curtains. She flipped to any random pages of the book and started reading – pretended to. The library had often worked as a place of solace for her where she can escape with daydreaming and lost in her own thoughts.
She had no idea what she was reading about, she couldn't care, and why should she? Slowly, she drifted into daydreaming. She was so lost in daydreaming she didn't feel anyone settling down next to her.
"Is that Jane Eyre you're reading?" the newcomer asked.
"Wha-what?" Emilia snapped back to reality.
The newcomer, a girl slightly older than she is, pointed at the book before her half-smiling and all. Her dark brown hair was neatly braided and her school uniform cleanly pressed – unlike hers, which was often scrummy, un-pressed and food-stained. The way the new girl talks was all classy and yuppie, something Emilia often thought as ridiculous.
"Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte," the new girl arraigned.
Emilia's eyes narrowed. She clearly was annoyed by her unexpected intrusion. "I don't know; I don't bother what I'm reading."
But the new girl was persistent. "Have you tried Charlotte Bronte's other works? You should…"
"No, I don't," Emilia impulsively retorted. Then there was a distant ring followed by doors opening and people talking all in a mixed rush. Last period's over, joy! Emilia thought happily to herself. She could get away from the books, her language teacher, and most importantly that preppy new girl. She gathered up her things and made for the exit, not being able to wait to not talk to the girl. In her rush she forgot to put back her book. Her teacher yelled at her – always yelling! – "Emilia, your book!"
But she was already out of the library by then, making for her classroom to get her bag. It was the last period of the day and she was homeward-bound.
Lunch was ready by the time she reached home and had wasted no time in wolfing down the food set before her on the table. Her mom, irritated by her un-woman-like behaviour started berating her. Emilia paid no attention. Until her mom talked to her about school.
"I heard from your teacher that you misbehaved in school today," her mom interjected.
"I'm busy," Emilia said between stuffing her mouth of food.
"Stop putting so much food into your mouth, that's so un-lady-like!"
Who cares? She continued stuffing her mouth. "I'm hungry."
"Emilia, listen to me!" he mom said piercingly.
Emilia stopped eating altogether and glared at her mom, clearly having some sort of attitude problems and tension here. She let her utensils dropped to the table spilling food over the surface. "What?" she asked ominously.
"Would you pay attention when…" and her mom trails off when she grabs her bag and made for the door. Her mom became exceedingly frustrated and concerted, pulling her, desperately trying to control her every movement – which only made her more determined to escape her mom's overbearing outburst.
She ran, fast, towards where she has no idea. Several minutes later she found herself in front of the National Library, huge and made of marbles. A place where she often came to lose herself to her own thoughts. She went in, finding her own usual spot – a small rectangular space between two intercepting bookshelves. She shoved her bag in, then slowly wedge herself through before settling down to her own contentment. The small rectangular place serves as a mini base for her, or a hideout in the huge National Library. So far no one had found her – just yet.
When she leaned against the thin and narrowness of one of the bookshelves her hips hits something hard and solid, a small protruding block of sorts. She reached back and grab hold of…a book. Her eyes furrowed. She does not remember putting anything inside this small rectangular space, much less bringing in or leaving behind anything in her "mini base". She was careful not to leave anything behind. She had it put on her folded lap.
The cover was hard with a grey cloth wrapped over it. It has no title either, nor author nor a blurb. It was a funny book, she decided. Unable to wait, she turned to the very first page. On it has a very small opening line in the middle of the page, which reads:
A very audacious biography of a serendipitous young woman
Read at your own justification
What the ever-living flying fox is this book? She cursed inwardly. Turned the pages anyway, and she began reading, captivated by its contents. The first chapter itself introduces the birth of the book's main character who, strangely enough, has the same first and family name as she does. Plus, the events had largely taken place at the city where she resides.
The time passes and she took no notice. At every turn of the page she felt she knew where it was headed for despite the fact that she was very sure has never read or seen the book anywhere before. By the time she nearly reached the final few chapters of the book she stopped and read the last paragraph of the current chapter she was at:
The clock ticks away in the background while she has finally reached the final paragraph of the chapter, asking herself what she would do. Lost in her thought, she contemplates in the small interception of the National Library shelves. She was tired, but was still determined to follow through in the events that precedes this pages. But then again, something about reading this particular book has made her nervous and scared.
Her eyes widened. She was tired herself, but something about this book has really unnerved her and her head was swimming. She was very sure she has seen the contents of this book came to life before, some place, some other times before, but where exactly she could not remember.
She took the book with her to the receptionist and the library and enquired about it, taking long strides and steps, her bag bouncing against her back. Every stride and step has made her nervous and scared, she wanted to stop walking and just run for home. But something was pushing her on, so hard that she breaks into a small run towards the sectional counter and dropped the book down before the surprised librarian.
The librarian looked up, flabbergasted at how Emilia had handled the book before her face. Her greying hair was pulled back in a tight neat bun, and her light green blazer was evidently few sizes bigger than that of her original petite body size.
Adjusting her eyeglasses she quipped, "What is it, young woman?"
"I…I would like to know who wrote this book," she said all in a flash, and blazed a smile. "Please. And thank you too."
The old lady gave the book a strange, long look before turning to the catalogue shelves behind her looking for anything that could possibly lead to the origins of the book. It took her a long time and she was still fumbling through the catalogue cards. Another woman came by, a staffer, Emilia decided by the outfit she wears. She was much younger. Emilia glimpsed at her name tag. It says Jasmine, permanent staff.
"Jasmine?" the older woman in light green blazer called. "The girl at the counter said she found book and would like to know who the author was. And I have a problem tracing. Would you mind helping me search?"
The younger woman, Jasmine, came over to look at the book Emilia had shown. "Oh this…book," she said, half-sceptical. "It does not hold any particular authors, and it's a strange book as well indeed."
Both Emilia and the older woman gave her blank looks. "The contents changes every now and then, depending on who managed to lay their hands on it, and it is like some sort of biographical book. Sometimes it stops at the current time period, sometimes it continues till the end of the reader's life. It's up to the reader to choose to continue reading or not – if there are anything left in the remaining pages, that is."
"But who writes this kind of stuffs…?" the older woman said, slightly annoyed. Emilia took the book and went back to her secret place, not wanting to hear the conversation. She re-read the book again, this time making more sense from it. She understood why it was so familiar now. She read and she read up till the current point and stopped.
She turned the page over a little to see if there are any contents left for her to read. There are! She slammed the book all too hard and too fast. Apparently her rough behaviour has attracted an audience, that new girl she met today in her school library during language class. She was still in her school uniform and her plaids.
"I see you have found joy in reading," she said playfully. She approached her and wedged herself into the small rectangular compartment between the intercepting shelves, now making it even smaller and tighter for two grown young ladies to fit in. That pompous, uninviting, shallow freak!
"Get out, I didn't invite you in! I didn't give you permission either!" Emilia growled, furious at the uninvited guest. She tried pushing her out but the tight space disallowed them unlimited movements. She gave up in the end and stuck her face back into her book, giving the intruder a silent treatment.
"Are you enjoying the book yet, darling?" the new girl asked.
Emilia did not bother. "I apologize if I did not properly introduce myself. I'm Sandra," the new girl said, smiling.
Emilia puts down her book for a little. "I'm Emilia."
Sandra smiled back, but something about that smile makes Emilia uneasy. Sandra turned her attention to the book in Emilia's hands. "Oh it's that book. I see you have been a narcissist yourself! A piece of advice my dear: if you don't want to know what the future holds for you, don't turn the pages, because each turn can either surprise you pleasantly or it can shock you so bad you do not wish to live your life anymore. Your life is yours to make."
Sandra then, without speaking more, gathered her skirts and wedged herself through the openings of the interceptive shelves. She said nothing more, nothing less – just like that. That has put Emilia in an indecisive situation. She badly wanted to know what would happen to her for the rest of her life, if she'd get to like reading in the end, if her mom has stopped getting tired of hearing misdemeanours about her, if her language teacher has finally found a way in appreciating messy students – like her, or who Sandra really was and what parts she plays in her life. So many things she would have loved to find out, but had decided not to.
She had finally then came to a conclusion that she would love to make changes to herself, though she was tempted to finishing the book. But…what if it was something she does not wanted to find out or to know in the first place. The question ebbed in her mind relenting at the growing passion in finding out how her life will turn out in the end.
Hence, in the end she had decided to give up on the strange grey-clothed covered book. She had it hidden between books at another shelf in another section, hoping that someone else would find it and read their own life story instead - making decisions, ideas, plans, whatever - for themselves like how she had.
The trip back home had been a gloomy one for it was rainy and she has no umbrella with her, just her bag. Cars zoomed pass her, splashing rainwater at her and on the sidewalk. She reached an intersection and the traffic was heavy with commuters going back home. She was not paying attention and crossed the road.
She heard screams and shouts and the next thing she knew, she saw her body sprawled across the road, her neck twisted and blood pooled around her. People surrounded her.
What happened? She felt dazed, her body felt light but not solid. She looked down on her own body and realized she had died in her own hands, never making back home to her family, never going to find out answers to questions, and found herself fading into the thin air itself.