Part VII Photo Key by pej0, http://www.deviantart.com/art/key-110125031
A month later Ying was having tea with Eleanor on Saturday afternoon.
“Why do you track these dusty old relics?” Ying put her empty tea cup and saucer on the tray in front of the sofa in the antique shop. “What do you get out of it?”
Eleanor smiled and dunked a cookie in her cup and delicately bit it. She chewed, lost in thought. “I was 22, just out of college when I was first approached. I had just graduated with a degree in French History and looking for a job.” She smiled and shrugged. “It was a passion. I loved everything about it. I just didn’t think about how that would pay for a roof over my head and food in my belly.” She sighed. “I was approached by a very distinguished gentleman. He took me out for lunch.” Again Eleanor shrugged. “It’s embarrassing, really, how I stuffed my face. I was so hungry.” She took a deep breath. “Anyway, I turned him down. I was young and full of myself. I was going to make my degree pay.” She chuckled. “Six months later, my girlfriend was giving me the eye about crashing in her apartment and the man approached me again. I wasn’t so dismissive that time. Again, I stuffed my stomach full but I actually listened. It was intriguing, being an agent in charge of historic artifacts.” She made a face. “That’s how he put it. But really, job prospects for a French History major are few and far between.” Eleanor sipped her tea. “I agreed.”
“And you ended up with an antique shop?” Ying was fascinated. This woman had taken a wholly different path but still seemed successful.
“Eventually. There was training. By the time I actually realized what they were about, I was fully invested. Talk about history!”
Ying organized her thoughts. “Jason and I have been dating. I’ve told you all of that.”
Eleanor nodded and refilled her cup.
“What I haven’t told you is that I don’t use the key with Jason.”
Eleanor’s cup hovered just off of the saucer. “Not at all?”
Ying shook her head and refilled her cup. She sipped. “Nope. What does that mean?”
The back of Eleanor’s fingers rubbed against the bottom of her chin as her eyes drifted to the elaborate antique tin ceiling, now painted white. “You’ve told me that you and Jason are happy. Good company, fine dining, happy outings.” She looked Ying in the eyes. “You’re in love?”
Ying was surprised to find her face flushing. She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve only known him a month.”
Eleanor smiled. “That’s enough, isn’t it?” She sipped her tea. “I like that you’re not using the key on him. You’re doing this for real, as the youngsters say. That’s good.”
Another flush rushed up Ying’s cheeks. It was suddenly clear to her why she’d not used the key. She didn’t want a man that had been coerced. Her hand shook and the cup rattled in the saucer. She put it down on the table. “So there’s nothing in your book about this?”
Eleanor shook her head. “Nothing. The previous owners were focused on becoming rich and powerful. You’re different. The key is behaving differently with you than our records indicate.” She grinned. A sheepish one that made her blush. “I have to admit. The other guardians are very interested in this case. It’s seldom that we get new data on an artifact’s behavior.”
Ying grinned. “Ah. You’re becoming a celebrity. Good for you.” She stood and smoothed her pantsuit. “I’ll keep you informed. I have a date with Jason tonight. I’ll let you know if anything unusual happens.”
They walked across the opera house lobby floor arm in arm. Ying could see the men’s eyes snap in her direction as they passed. She knew she looked good in her black ankle-length dress, décolletage cut to her navel. But more, she and Jason together were a power couple. She could see it when they passed in front of a plate glass window coming into the opera. Her entire body buzzed with it. The key, made into a necklace on a fine gold chain, hung between her breasts. The buzz must be the key, she thought, the subtle movement creating the magic, but this was different. The key usually made her dizzy or nauseated. This was like electricity flowing through her. She thought that if she held her hand out and pointed, lightening would come shooting out of her fingers. It was heady.
After the opera and stops to talk to people each of them knew, they were seated in a quiet bistro on a side street. The wait staff, even at nine-thirty at night were attentive and smiling. The chef came out to personally take their order.
Jason shrugged. “I come here a lot. I tip well.”
Ying grinned. “Maybe. But these people seem to really like you.” She watched a blush run up his cheeks.
“Yeah. Well. What can I say.”
While drinks and appetizers were served, they talked about the opera. Over dinner and wine, they exchanged their plans for the future.
“What about you, Jason?” Ying took a sip of the Beaujolais Jason had ordered.
She noticed him play with his watchband. It was something he did when he was thinking. “I want the company to grow, of course.” He spun the band around on his wrist. “Perhaps rival The River one day.”
Ying grinned. “Ambitious, going from a gaming company to a world-wide distribution corporation.”
“Why not?” He grinned. “The River was just a book seller when they started.”
She laughed. The tingling returned. The power she felt was intoxicating. “I’m sure you’ll get there one day.”
After dinner the night air was cool and refreshing after the heat of the day. “Come to my house for a nightcap,” Jason offered.
“Come on. It’s been a month. More if you count the time I knocked you on your butt.”
She understood. Going to his house meant staying the night. On one hand tomorrow was Sunday so no having to get up to go to work. On the other hand, did she want to move to that step? She glanced at her phone, waiting for it to ring. Her mother always knew. “Yes.” She threaded her arm through his right arm. “It’s time.”
End Part VII: 1064 Words
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