Published Stories

The Key

Here is a sample of my writing. A quick challenge story.

keyThe Key

“It is strange, isn’t it?” Grandmama lifted her frail hand to pull the sheer curtain away from the window. “Autumn is so beautiful.”

“But that’s when everything is dying.” I try not to let her hear the tears building up behind my eyes.

She sighed, looking at the red maple and aspen trees that hid our house from the rest of the world.

“Ah, but this is when everything is ready to show you what they’ve done with their lives.” Her hand fell away from the window and the curtain slid back into place. “Which reminds me…” She turned her head toward me.

It’s the first time I’ve seen her eyes in weeks. When she’s awake, she looks out the window. She sleeps most of the time.

“What is it?” I prompt when she remains silent too long.

“A memory.” She sighs. “But that’s not what I wanted to tell you. Go to my dresser, in the sock drawer at the back you’ll find a loose panel. Behind it is a key.”

I get up and follow her directions. It takes me a while to get the panel open, and the key is stuck. She’s asleep when I get back. I’m not supposed to wake her, not ever. She needs her sleep, so Mother and the Aunts say. They wouldn’t let me in here at all if Grandmama didn’t insist on it. Only the commands of an elder made them leave us in peace.

Now with this key, antique silver and like no other key I’ve seen before, I needed to know why she made me get it. I gently touched the back of her hand. So light I wasn’t sure if she’d have felt it even if she were awake.

Her eyes flutter open. “You get it?”

“I… I have the key.”

Her eye darken for a moment. “Oh, right, the key.” She turns back to the window and pulls the curtain away again. “I should have given that to your mother, but I’m glad I didn’t. She’s not the right one for it.”

I clutch the key tighter. Mother and Grandmana have been at each other’s throats for as long as I can remember. I never knew what the fight was about, just that Mother didn’t want Grandmama to teach me about the World Ways. Not that I wouldn’t learn them along with all the others at the council.

The truth is I’m much closer to Grandmama than Mother.

“What is it?”

Grandmama smiled, but didn’t take her eyes from the trees out her window. “That, Saphia, is just a key. You’ll need to find the lock it opens.”

An adventure? Grandmama was sending me on an adventure. I could hardly wait.

“Don’t be glum.” She cautioned.

“I’m excited.” I kept my voice low, but Grandmama laughed anyway.

“Do you remember the old shed?” Her window faced the old property. The land we’d been forced to leave just before I was born. The main house had burned when squatters took over. The government men said they’d burned the place around themselves, but only the house burned and the people inside. I learned not to trust the government men.

“Just north of the ruins.” I nodded though she wasn’t looking.

“Good, good.” She sighed and let her hand fall. “I want to see them.”

It took me a moment to realize, she couldn’t hold the curtain back any more. I reached over and fixed it. Something about that act warned me this was my last conversation with Grandmama. I clutched the key to my chest while she caught her breath.

“Under the floor boards, there’s a hidden chest. It’s not locked, but it holds a map.”

“Under the floor, find the map.” I repeat it several times to myself. It’s almost winter, and the likelihood of getting away before the weather turns would be something fierce.

“You’ll need the winter to learn it.” Grandmama, turned to look at me. Her eyes were turning cloudy now. “Use the chaos to…”

“Grandmama?” I knew she wouldn’t answer, but I couldn’t make myself believe it. “Grandmama?”

My voice must have risen and called in the aunts. I was shoved aside while they bustled about fussing over their mother. I had just enough wits about me to shove the key in my pocket before Mother had hold of my arm dragging me out.

“You selfish little twit. You should have called us before she was gone.”

“I…” I sobbed. “I didn’t know.”

“And a liar, too?” Mother shoved me into my room and slammed the door.

I flopped on my bed and let the tears soak into my pillow. I don’t know how long I lay there, letting the pain wash over me. When I went to my door it was locked from the outside.

“Typical.” I started laughing. I could hear them down the hall arguing about something. My mother and her sisters only agreed on one thing – Grandmama spent too much time with me.

She’d said something, just before she died. “Use the Chaos to…” I smiled. “Use the chaos to get away. My door was locked, which meant they wouldn’t bother checking on me for an hour at least. I’d be gone by then. If I were lucky they wouldn’t notice until I got back. No that would mean bringing the map back with me. There was more to the old property than just the shed. I packed as quick as I could. I’d be back, but only in the night to raid the kitchen. Grandmama had set me on an adventure with her dying breath. I smiled as I climbed out the window and disappeared into the multi-colored forest of her dreams.

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