I tried to hide my unhappiness and reluctance to visit Aunt Teddy with my parents but somehow they knew.
"Sweety, why the gloomy face? It's Aunt Teddy, remember? We visited her last summer. She promised to bake a chocolate cake and some chicken pie just for you."
I smooth out the invisible dirt on my flower dress before lifting my eyes to look at my mum. "Yes, ma. I remember her."
My mum squatted in front of me so she could meet my eyes on the same level. "Sweety, why are you not excited? Daddy and I cannot leave you alone with Martha. She's going to be busy and you can't stay home all by yourself. So cheer up, okay?"
I could see she wanted me to be happy about the visit so I pretended and smiled a little. "Okay, mum. I can't wait to see Aunt Teddy."
"Good girl. Now come on. Your Dad's waiting in the car." And so we drove for two hours to the next town to visit Aunt Teddy.
Arriving at the house after all the hugs, kisses, laughs, and devouring a plate of delicious pie, Aunty Teddy said, "Temmy dear, I know you love to read. I have new Enid Blyton books in the library. Go on, now. Adults have to talk." I froze. No, not the library!
I felt my lips tremble a little, a feeling of nausea starting to rise from the pit of my stomach. My mum frowned a little at my silence. I quickly hid my reaction to the library invitation, nodded my head and walked out of the dining to the library.
Aunt Teddy's house is an old, big house with lots of room inside. I remembered last summer when we came to visit, it was my first time here and I was excited to explore her library. I opened the door, the room was dimly lit. A table lamp sat on the big, mahogany desk giving off amber light that covered only the desk and around it. Lots of dark corners around the tall shelves. I shivered a little as my memories of last summer came flooding back.
The library was spacious enough with shelves and books neatly arranged on it. I remember pulling out a big book with lots of interesting pictures in it. Then I turned a page, on it was the picture of an hourglass with a little girl inside, sitting on the sand and a bird sat atop the hourglass.
I was sure I heard the bird chirp. A very faint sound but I heard it nonetheless. I gasped. Then the impossible happened, like it was a dream. The bird turned its head slightly to look at me, just as the little girl in the hourglass moved a little. I was mesmerized. I could not move. My hands held onto the book tightly of their own will.
The little girl moved closer to the glass and placed her palm on it. Like she wanted me to place mine on hers. My chest felt tight, I could not breathe properly. "Wh-who are you?" I whispered just so no one would hear me from outside and think I was talking to myself.
The little girl's eyes widened like she could not believe I would talk to her. She stood up from the sand, placed both palms on the glass and her lips moved but I could not hear her. "What? I-I can't hear you?"
She beat the glass with her palm again and again. I could hear the dull thud. Instinctively, I placed my small nine-year-old palm on the page to cover the little girl's palm. It was as if I felt the ground tremble a little. I held onto the mahogany desk on which I placed the book. Then a bright light shone through my hand and became brighter. I had to shut my eyes. When the light died down, I opened my eyes slowly.
In front of me stood a very pretty young lady, an older version of the little girl in the hourglass. I could not believe my eyes.
She smiled at me, "thank you so much, little one. You saved me. I am Aliah. May I know your name?" I was tongue-tied. How did a book character become alive? It seems she could read my thoughts.
"It was a very long time ago. An elder fae cursed me into the hourglass. If the last grain fell and I was still in it, I would die and never see my people again. She painted me in this book and sold it. Then I was brought here. Your aunt is a very nice woman. She has kept me here all these years but none of her children could see me. You are the first to see me. You are special."
"Really?" I croaked. I could not believe that was my voice. She chuckled. It was a beautiful sound. "Yes. Really. You saved me."
I cleared my throat. "Temmy. M-my name is Temmy," I replied, touching my chest to be sure everything happening was real.
She curtsied and smiled. I just kept staring at her. "Now I must go, lovely Temmy."
"Where would you go?"
"Do not worry about me, little one. I will find my way to my people." She said with determination and touched my forehead with her index finger. I think I fell asleep till my mum came to wake me up.
I lifted my head from the picture book I was reading. I stared at the book. The picture on the page was of an empty hourglass. No little girl, no bird. Was it all a dream?
"Temmy, are you alright?" Mum asked, looking at me strangely. I wiped my mouth, nodded and stood up. "Yes, ma. I'm fine." I thought it was all a dream as I raced past my mum out of the library, promising myself never to return to this house again.
On our way back to our town, I saw her. Aliah walking on the road. She smiled widely and waved at our car as we drove past her. It was not a dream after all.
That was last summer. Now I am a year older. As I walk around the shelves, I touch the books, lovingly. I could feel the hum against my palms. Is it me or do I just have a connection with the books in my Aunt's library?