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Amelia slouched over her microeconomics textbook as her heavy eyes struggled to stay open and alert. So far she had spent a total of four hours in the library that day, studying for her exam the next morning. Outside, the fierce winds of North Carolina violently whipped at the windows of the small building and the fresh white snow began to pile up on every surface it could find. Amelia was still getting used to the high altitudes and frigid temperatures of her new college, and was feeling the unfamiliar pangs of homesickness almost everyday. The time on her iPhone was nearing eleven O’clock and the swarms of sleep-deprived college students had slowly dwindled to a small group in the back corner of the room, furiously typing on their laptops. It was uncannily dark outside; not even the moon was visible behind the dense layer of clouds and fog. The eery silence of the library was suddenly broken by a low voice crackling over the outdated loud speakers. “Attention students: due to a severe blizzard warning we will be closing the library until morning. Sorry for the inconvenience.” The handful of students in the back let out muffled groans and shuffled out the back door like zombies, rubbing their eyes and struggling to stand up straight.
Unfortunately, by that point Amelia had fallen into a deep slumber and had missed the announcement completely. It had seemed as though the library attendee on shift that night was also struggling with severe sleep deprivation, and had forgotten to do his rounds before locking up. It had entirely slipped his mind to check the area with the couches hidden behind the Sci-Fi sections, where Amelia was lying sound asleep. The monotonous ticking of the grandfather clock and the relentless wind dancing through the air were the only noises in the nearly uninhabited library for the next two hours. When Amelia finally awoke she felt a chill down her spine as she glanced up to find herself in an empty and dark library at one in the morning. Immediately she headed for the front door, praying that they had forgotten to attach the padlock to the handle. Despite the dreary state of the man closing up, the one thing he had remembered to do was tighten a lock around both the front and back doors. Amelia let out a deep sigh and considered her options. It was too dark to continue to study and the thick cinderblock walls prevented her phone from getting any service to call for help. She figured the best choice would be to crash on the couch for the night until they opened the library back up in the morning, so she hesitantly closed her eyes and started to drift back to sleep.
It was only about ten minutes later when she jolted out of her dream, awoken by a resounding creaking noise as if someone had walked over a loose floorboard. The sound echoed through the vacant building as Amelia’s heart rate shot up. Her eyes scanned the room and her body involuntarily tensed as she stood up to peer around the corner. All she saw was rows and rows of books, no one else in sight, so she desperately tried to convince herself that it was the building settling, or maybe a mouse knocking something off a shelf. As hard as she tried she wasn’t able to go back to sleep after that, and ended up pacing around the couch trying to find ways to occupy her mind. She decided to walk around the library some more, in hopes of tiring out her body and mind and getting some rest. As she neared the far corner of the library she found herself staring into a pair of dark and mysterious eyes. As if time had slowed down all together, she hesitantly gazed up and down the figure before her until a tall and muscular man was visible through the moonlight.
“HELP!” Amelia shrieked, as she tried to build up the strength to dash for the exit.
“Be quiet. I’m not going to hurt you,” the man whispered. In one swift movement he had made his way over to Amelia and had tighten his hand around her mouth to prevent her from yelling.
Amelia had a million thoughts swarming through her head, but was only able to formulate one: escape. She knew her options were limited, and didn’t think her two and a half years of karate lessons would be enough to fight off the large man. He towered over her and she was able to get a clear look at his face for the first time; he did not look very old, probably around her age. He directed her to the couch and instructed her to sit. Although Amelia was scared senseless, something inside of her told her that he probably wasn’t dangerous, so she hesitantly complied.
“I know who you are, Amelia, and I want you to know how much your family made me suffer.” His words sounded unreal to her but nonetheless, he had spoken her name.
“Please… what do you want? I’ll give you all the money I’ve got if you just leave me alone,” she said between silent sobs.
“Don’t you recognize me?” he scoffed, “I’m your brother for God sake.” His loud and frustrated voice made her quiver as she racked her brain to who this man could possibly be. Amelia had two little sisters, but no brothers, that she knew of at least. Suddenly it dawned on her, when she was five years old her twin brother was kidnapped from their room, but it was a memory that her and her family had tried to push back far into their minds. She began to notice subtle resemblances to her own face as her quiet sobs grew louder.
“Caleb?” she shuddered. Could it really be him?
“The best thing Mr. Lewis ever did for me was save me from you awful people. He told me what your parents did to me… terrible things, just horrible.” he continued to ramble on senselessly.
Amelia was at a loss for words as she desperately tried to put the puzzle pieces together in her mind. Mr. Lewis. It sounded familiar but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it
“I’m sorry Caleb. I don’t know what you mean.” Amelia struggled to produce those words. Her voice was sparse and she was shaking violently by her sobs.
“He told me the stories. Your family gave me away because they didn’t want me. I grew up with Mr. Lewis; he was my only family. He taught me math so I could be smarter than all the kids in my class.”
The math teacher, that’s who Mr. Lewis was, she thought to herself. It was slowly starting to make sense to her. The man who had kidnapped her brother was none other than the math teacher who lived down the street from her childhood home. He had brainwashed him into thinking her family had abandoned him, and as a result he had clearly suffered from years of emotional abuse. She knew she had to get through to him somehow, but getting him to realize his entire life had been a lie was not an easy task.
Amelia calmly, and very slowly began telling Caleb the truth. She spoke as gently as possible in an attempt not to upset him, but it didn’t work.
“That’s exactly what Mr. Lewis told me you would say if I ever found you!” He yelled, with a look of distrust and sadness. She said everything she could to try and reason with him and eventually he started to calm down. It wasn’t long before Caleb was crying too; she seemed to be finally getting through to him.
“Do you promise you’re telling me the truth?” he asked.
“Oh course, why would I lie to you? Our parents missed you so much and it would mean the world for them to see you again.” Amelia was starting to calm down as she realized she was going to be safe. The two of them talked for hours as she tried to fill in all of the blanks for him and he listened intentedly. Soon enough, the sun began to rise and the dense layers of snow outside started to slowly melt. When the doors of the library were finally unlocked Amelia felt a sense of relief that she had never felt before, not only because she was no longer trapped, but because of the joy that having her brother back brought her.