Chapter 1

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The cold november breeze caressed her cheeks now and then. Its chillness burning her nose and turning it red at its tip. She stuffed her hands in the pockets of her long, brown leather jacket to keep them warm. She quickened her pace through the crowded street and soon enough, was seeing her destination to her left. The library.

There stood a huge building with large glass doors that read 'open'. She pushed them and stepped inside, the warm atmosphere instantly relieving her from the outside cold.

She looked at the creme coloured coloured walls covered with pictures of famous authors and poets. Rows and rows of books of every genre called out to her. The light brown carpet she stood on, now seemed a bit rusty and worn out. But, the feel, the positive vibes of this place brought an involuntary smile to her face.

"Janette! You arrived at the perfect time! We just received a bunch of new books and novels. Wanna have a look?" Bethy, the librarian, offered Janette.

Janette Wilson was a young, 18 year old girl, who always had an interest in the books. She often came to the library to check out some new books and, sometimes, help Bethy with her work. Today was no exception.

"Sure. I would love to." Janette said while moving towards the boxes placed in front of Bethy's wooden desk.

"Just unpack this box and arrange the books in that shelf. Over there!" Bethy said while pointing her finger to the shelf just behind Janette. Janette turned to scan the empty shelf behind her and nodded.

She sat on the ground and took her time in taking out the books from the carton, reading the description of the ones which were fortunate enough to gain her attention.

Bethy, on the other hand, watched Janette's every move, while cleaning her desk. She smiled when she saw Janette squeal with excitement. Her smile created wrinkles on the edge of her eyes, indicating her old age. Janette noticed Bethy smiling at her and she merrily returned the favor.

But her smile slowly turned into a frown when she saw an unusual book sitting at the bottom of the box in a corner. She took it out and frowned even deeper when she didn't find a title or a description. It had a black leather cover with gold engravings. She traced her fingers along the intricate designs in awe. She held the edge of the book and tried pulling it open. But it didn't even budge. Suddenly she noticed that the book was bound by thick, long, thread like structures which resembled branches of a tree. She tried pushing them aside but to no avail. 'How do I open this book?' Janette thought. She looked around, trying to find Bethy. But Bethy was nowhere to be seen. She sighed and continued stacking books at the shelf.

When she was done, she picked up the mysterious book and left the library.  But before leaving, she left a note for Bethy on her desk, informing her about this wierd book she was borrowing.

              *           *          *          *

The reddish-purple sky looked mesmerizing in contrast with the blanket of white snow below it. Janette had somehow managed to reach her house before it turned dark and before the temperatures decided to turn freezing cold.

She sat on her dining table, eating fettuccine pasta with red sauce which she prepared at home. While she ate, she thought of her parents. She missed them.

She lost her father when she was just six. He died serving for his motherland. He was in the army. He always said that he would die like a hero. But, he never needed to die in a battle to be called a hero. He was always a hero for Janette. And he always will be.

Suddenly, she tasted something salty on her tongue. It was then when she realized that she had been crying. She hated crying. Why? She didn't know. Maybe she didn't want to feel weak. Maybe she wanted to be like her father. Courageous. Fearless. Valiant. And heroic.

She sighed. She picked up her iPhone and dialled her mother's contact.

Riing! Riing! Ri-

"Hello?" Her mother's tired voice answered the call.

"Hey mom. How are you doing? How's the work going?" Janette asked.

"Oh, Janette! I am fine, dear. Just a little tired. It is very stressful here, really. With the speed of progress, the speed of work is also accelerating. Haha!" She laughed at her own small joke.

Janette smiled as she heard her mother laugh. Although her mother's laugh wasn't whole hearted, but after her husband's death, Janette seldom saw her smiling. This was one of those precious moments.

"I miss him." Janette said suddenly.

Her mother's smile dropped and she frowned, but Janette couldn't see it. "Me too." She whispered in a low voice.

Janette heard sniffing from the other side of the phone. She immediately regretted bringing the topic of her father's death. "Mom? You okay?" She asked.

No response. "Mom?" She tried again.

"Janette, I have some work to finish for tomorrow's meeting. So, will call you tomorrow evening, okay?" Her mother answered in a hoarse voice, hinting Janette that she was trying hard not to cry.

"Yeah. Bye. Take care." Janette replied warmly.

"You too honey." And then, she hung up.

Janette sighed loudly. She left her plate in the sink and sauntered to her room upstairs. Her two storey house was pretty big for her, as she lived alone. To the right of the entrance was the living room. And to the left was the open kitchen which had a wooden theme. The living room had large sliding doors which overlooked the small garden in front of the house. Directly in front of the entrance, at the opposite wall, were the stairs that lead to Janette's bedroom.

Her bedroom was nothing special. No posters. No decorations. Nothing. So when Janette opened the door to her room, the simple, plain light blue walls of her room greeted her dully. Other than that, there was a bed, a study table, a dresser, a closet and a bookshelf. Nothing more, nothing less.

She plopped down on her bed and sat cross legged. She turned to her left and in an instant, her eyes zeroed in on the strange book resting on her bedside table. She picked it up and stared at it. She closed her eyes and deeply inhaled its rusty but refreshing smell. She opened her eyes and thought 'this book is really different. I have only seen these kind of books in fantasy movies. It looks like one of those magical grimoires. But, what is it exactly?'

"What are you?" She voiced her thoughts. As soon as the words slipped from her mouth, the branches started untangling themselves on their own. Janette still held the book in her hands, but was completely frozen. Her eyes had widened to the size of tennis balls and her mouth was wide open.

The branches slowly untangled and the edge of the book started to rise up steadily. And that too, on its own. By the time Janette recovered from her shock, the book had already opened to the first page. But it was empty. She raised her hand and caressed the rough, yellowish, old page with her finger tips as if it was fragile.

She turned the page to find the next one empty too. She frowned. She again turned the page to find the next one also empty. So, she held the book by the edge and swiftly turned the pages of the entire book, holding all the pages at once between her thumb and the four fingers. She did that again and again to realize that the book was completely empty.

'A diary? What was a diary doing in the library?' Janette thought. "Well, if it's not a book, then it's of no use to me. I will return it back to Bethy tomorrow. Or whenever I get time." She kept the book on her bedside table again and sighed. Switching the lights off, she slipped under her blue duvet and wandered off into her fairyland.

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