By Your Side

By: Kasie West

CHAPTER 1


I was locked in the library trying not to panic. Literally locked. As in, no escape. Every door, every window, every air vent. Okay, I hadn’t tried the air vents, but I was seriously considering it. I wasn’t desperate enough . . . yet. My friends would realize what had happened and they’d come back and free me, I assured myself. I just had to wait.

It all started when I had to go to the bathroom. Well, before that there had been a lot of soda—a two-liter of Dr Pepper that Morgan had smuggled into the library. I had drunk more than my fair share of the bottle when Jeff sat down next to me, smelling like trees and sky and sunlight every time he leaned over to ask my opinion.

It wasn’t until the windows darkened to black, the librarians asked us to leave, and we made it all the way to the underground parking garage where the fifteen of us were dividing into four cars that I realized I wasn’t going to make it down the street, let alone all the way to the canyon campfire.

“I have to pee,” I announced after I plopped my bag into Jeff’s trunk. Lisa rolled down her window. Her car, parked next to Jeff’s, was already running. “I thought you were coming in my car, Autumn.” She gave me a knowing smile. She knew I wanted to go with Jeff.

I smiled too. “I’ll be right back. There is no toilet at the bonfire.”

“There are a lot of trees,” Jeff said, rounding the car and slamming his trunk shut. It echoed through the nearly empty garage. In his car I could now see three heads in the backseat and a fourth in the passenger seat. No. They all beat me to it. I would have to go with Lisa after all. No big deal, I’d have plenty of time to talk to Jeff at the bonfire. It wasn’t in my nature to be bold in my declarations of undying affection, but with my limbs all jittery from nearly two liters of caffeine and Lisa’s warning about Avi stealing Jeff out from under me buzzing in my head, I felt powerful.

I rushed back down the long hall, up the stairs, and through the glass walkway that overlooked a courtyard. When I made it to the main floor of the library, half the lights were already out.

The library was too big and needed more bathrooms, I decided by the time I made it there. I pushed open the heavy wooden door and quickly found a stall. The box holding the paper seat covers was empty. Looked like I’d have to hover.

As I was zipping my pants back up, the lights went out. I let out a yelp then laughed. “Funny, guys.” Dallin, Jeff’s best friend, had no doubt found the breaker. It seemed like something he would do.

The lights remained out, though, and no laughing followed my scream. They must’ve been on motion detectors. I waved my hands. Nothing. I inched forward, feeling along the door, trying not to think about all the germs clinging to it, until I found the lock and slid it open. A streetlight shone through an upper window, so I was able to see just enough for a thorough hand washing. It was an eco-friendly bathroom, meaning only air dryers. I wiped my hands on my jeans, opting for speed over the most inefficient way ever to dry hands. My reflection in the mirror was only a shadow, but I leaned forward anyway to see if my makeup was smudged. From what I could tell, it looked fine.

Out in the hall only a few random overhead lights illuminated the way. The place was completely shut down. I picked up my pace. The library at night was creepier than I’d thought it could be. The ten-foot-long enclosed glass hallway sparkled as snow began to fall outside. I didn’t linger like I was tempted to. Hopefully the snow wouldn’t affect the bonfire. If it stayed light, it would make it magical. A perfect night for confessions. Jeff wasn’t going to freak out when I told him, was he? No, he’d been flirting with me all night. He’d even picked the same era as I had for the history essay. I didn’t think that was a coincidence.

As for the cabin with the girls after the bonfire, the snow would be perfect. Maybe we’d get snowed in. That had happened once before. At first it had stressed me out but it ended up the best weekend ever—hot chocolate and tubing and ghost stories.

I reached the door to the parking garage and gave the metal bar a shove. It didn’t budge. I pushed a second time. Nothing. “Jeff! Dallin! You’re not funny!” I pressed my nose against the glass, but as far as I could see both ways there were absolutely no cars or people. “Lisa?”

Out of habit, I reached for my cell phone. My hand met only the empty pocket of my jeans. I’d put my black weekend bag with all my stuff—cell phone, clothes, jacket, purse, snacks, camera, medication—in Jeff’s trunk.

No.

I ran the entire library, searching for another way out. A way that apparently didn’t exist. Six doors to the outside and they were all locked. And so there I was—back leaned up against the door to the parking garage, its cold seeping into my skin—stuck in a big empty library, caffeine and anxiety battling it out in my body.

A heart-fluttering panic worked its way up my chest and took my breath away. Calm down. They’ll be back, I told myself. There had just been too many people getting into too many different cars. They all thought I was with someone else. Once the four cars reached the bonfire, someone would notice I wasn’t there and they’d come back.