Found: Key, Part X of X – Friday Flash Fiction Post

 

Skeleton Keys by Livefast_x via DeviantArt.com

Skeleton Keys by Livefast_x via DeviantArt.com

Part X of X http://www.deviantart.com/art/Skeleton-Keys-130788426 by LiveFast-x

NOTE: This final installment is a little longer than the usual flash piece. Enjoy.”

 

Ying opened the door to the antique shop. “You’ll love this place.”

“I already love it. It’s where I met you!” Jason kissed her cheek as he entered.

Inside, Eleanor was at the counter cashoug out a customer. She nodded at Ying, acknowledging her presence. In the background, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata played. It was a little heavy for Ying’s taste but played as softly as it was, it made for a relaxing stroll around the store. Ying inhaled the scent of lemon polish and bees was, detectable but not overwhelming. It provided her a feeling of quiet and comfort.

Jason stopped inside the door and looked around. Ying couldn’t help noticing, even with her annoyance at being manipulated, how nice he looked in his Dockers and polo shirt.

“I can see why you like it here. Lovely things surround you.” He turned and smiled. “Have you bought anything yet?”

“Not yet.” She threaded her arm through his, the one with the watch, and led him to the Chinese screen she’d noticed on her first visit. “What do you think?”

“It’s gorgeous! What are you waiting for?”

Ying shrugged. “It’s kind of pricey.”

“Nonsense. You should get it. It’s perfect.” He dropped her arm and stepped to the screen to examine it.”

Eleanor joined Ying. “Hello.”

“Eleanor. You’ve met Jason.”

Jason stepped away from the screen and held out his right hand, the watch clearly visible on his bare wrist. “Nice to meet you under better circumstances.”

“Yes. It is.” She glanced at his watch. “What a lovely watch.”

He pulled his hand back, left hand covering the watch. “Thank you. A family heirloom.”

Eleanor exchanged glances with Ying. “Would you mind if I looked at it? Professional interest, you know.”

Ying thought he looked uncomfortable. He spun the watch around his wrist several times. She was waiting for the rush of warmth but it never came. Jason was looking at Eleanor, who suddenly looked confused.

“Eleanor?” Ying put her hand on her friend’s arm.

Eleanor gave herself a little shake and smiled at Jason. “I won’t damage it, I promise.”

It was Jason’s turn to look confused. He glanced at the watch.

“Go ahead, Jason. She’s an expert.”

His eyes met hers, then back to Eleanor’s. “Umm, I suppose.” His reluctance to unclasp the ltach and hand the watch to Eleanor was obvious in his slow movements. Jason lay the watch in Eleanor’s outstretched palm.

Eleanor hefted the watch. “Gold, I presume?”

Jason nodded. “It was my great-great-great-grandfather’s.”

“The style is certainly old. Let me get my lupe.” Eleanor turned and strode to the counter.

Ying watched Jason dart after Eleanor as though she were stealing the watch. That was inconclusive proof that the watch was magic. He would do the same if it were simply what he claimed. She followed them to the counter.

Eleanor had laid the watch out on a square of black velvet. Jason’s hands hovered at the edge of the cloth. Ying had to admit it was a handsome watch. The face, also gold, had gold hands elaborately pointed and engraved. The face had what looked like diamons at 12, 3, 6 and 9 with the following numbers in ruby and the last four numbers in emeralds. Mystic symbols were engraved on the face. The antique dealer fixed her lupe to her eye and without touching it, examined the watch closely. She already had her book of artifacts open on the counter beside the watch.

“It’s a beautiful piece, late 1800’s? It must have cost a great deal. Watches for men were only just coming into style.”

Jason nodded. “No one ever said how much it cost.” His voice was tight – as though having the watch on the counter was painful.

Ying put her arm around his waist. “A wondful keepsake, Jason.”

“Hmm,” was his response. He watched Eleanor flip through her book.

“I don’t see anything like it.” She took the lupe from her eye. “It must have been custom made.”

Ying watched Jason stiffen as Eleanor flipped the watch face down. She studied the back. “a lovely sentiment is engraved on the back. ‘To my darling Husband, Love and Long Life, Mary’” She looked up. The elaborate script is right for the time frame. “Your three greats grand-mother? What was her maiden name?”

He sighed. “Mary Whitten. It was her wedding gift to him.”

Eleanor pulled another book from the shelf and began flipping pages. “Ah, here she is. An accomplished woman, your grand-mother.”

Jason picked up the watch and put it back on. “Yes, she was, in her day.”

Eleanor looked him in the eye. “You know she was considered a great Spiritualist?”

“All table knocking non-sense, of couse.”

Her eyebrow rose. “You think so?”

Ying noticed Jason begin to fidget.

“Nice to have met you again, Eleanor. Ying, I have a meeting back at the office.” He twisted his watch.

As the warm glow came over her, Ying clasped the key. The nausea and the glow fought for a moment, then they both disappeared. “I know the watch is magical, Jason.

He stopped and turned back to her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I know the watch has magic. You twist it on your arm whenever we meet or when you want me to do something. A few minutes ago you tried to use it on Eleanor.” Ying raised an eyebrow at Eleanor. “I’m not sure why it didn’t work on you.”

“We’re trained to resist magic used on us.” She shrugged at Jason. “Your watch’s magic isn’t very powerful against trained people.”

Jason stared at both Eleanor and Ying. “You’re magicians?”

Ying shook her head. “No. but I carry a powerful artifact. I could feel it every time you used the watch.” She saw his face fall. “It wasn’t necessary, you know. You’re charming, funny, smart, I’d have gone out with you without the manipulations.”

Jason closed his eyes and sighed. “I thought so but you’re so high-powered, I didn’t think you’d take the time.” His eyes focused on the key around her neck. “You have an artifact? A magical piece?”

Her hand crept up to the key. “Yes. I found it. Or it found me. It’s good with business.”

“Wow.”

The two stood staring at each other. Ying was certain he would break up with her and she realized she wanted him to stay.

Eleanor cleared her throat. “I think, if I may be so bold, that the watch is making it possible for you two to be together.”

It was Ying’s turn to be puzzled. “How so?”

“Just a guess, really.” Eleanor glanced at Jason. “No other documented owner has had a family. So something has changed.” She made a pointed look at zjason’s watch. “The watch has to be the difference.”

Ying reached out and stroked Jason’s watch. It was warm to the touch, nothing at all like touching metal. She smiled at him as the familiar warm glow washed through her. “I think this could work.”

 

Thank You!

 

End Part X of X: 1186 Words

 

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Found: Key, Part VII – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Key by pej0

Key by pej0

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.

“Impressive.”

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.

Ying hesitated.

“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.”

 

Thank You!

 

End Part VII: 1064 Words

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Found: Key – Part II Flash Fiction Friday Post

Tray of Keys by Randy Cockrell

Tray of Keys by Randy Cockrell

You can see Part 1 here.

Part II

Ying Lee finished her report and with it, submitted the contract to her boss.

Felicity Morgan smiled as she flipped through the documents “This is fantastic, Ying. We’ve been trying to land this client for years. Congratulations.”

“Thank you, Felicity. I’ve been following the advice you gave me in the mentoring sessions. It was extremely effective.”

Her boss nodded. “I think the partners will be favorably impressed. You’re still interested in the partnership?”

“I am.” Ying could hardly contain her excitement. Finally! “I think I’m ready to take on the additional responsibility.”

“I think so, too. Let me talk to the other partners at your next meeting. I think it’s time.”

Both women rose and shook hands. “I appreciate the support, Felicity. Thank you.”

#

At home that evening, Ying poured herself a celebratory glass of Merlot. Barefoot, with glass in hand, she retrieved the key from her purse and took it into the kitchen. Unwrapping the tissue, she put the key on her counter. All of the elaborate designs were filled with dirt. She thought about Eleanor’s idea that rubbing the key might activate its powers. She was reluctant to do that but it bothered her to see such a beautiful object, a work of art, really, so grimy. Pulling a glass mixing bowl from the cabinet she filled it with hot water and a squirt of dish soap then put the key into the bowl. “Where have you been the last hundred years, key?”

Ying sipped her wine as she stared into the bowl. She sighed and left the kitchen. There were still reports to read before bed. She’d think about the key in the morning.

#

She’d set her clock for half an hour earlier than usual. In the kitchen, over her coffee, soft boiled egg and mixed fresh fruit, Ying drained the water from the bowl. A good deal of sand washed into the sink. She hoped it wouldn’t clog the drain. The key, now on a kitchen towel, cleaner, still had a great deal of grime embedded in the scrollwork. Ying sighed. Should she take the chance to clean the grime out with a wooden toothpick? Leaving the dirt in there just highlighted the intricate design. She should just leave it.

Instead, she found herself bent over the counter, gently digging the dirt away from the key. When she finished it was half an hour past time she usually left the apartment. Her stomach churned as she dressed and dropped the key in her suit jacket pocket before running out of the door. Crap. I just talked to Felicity about being able to handle more responsibility and here I am, late for work.

She tried to hail a cab. No luck. Traffic was even worse than usual. Instead she hurried along the sidewalk. Dashing between people, she was focused on getting to work. It seemed as though everyone in the city was on the sidewalk. By the time she arrived in her office, her feet were killing her and she was sweaty from the struggle to arrive.

The staff was in the conference room. Oh my God. I’ve missed a meeting! She searched her mind in a panic. She didn’t remember any meeting. Briefcase still in hand she stopped in the conference room door. Everyone was focused on the television mounted at the rear of the room. Crowds of people filled the screen. Most of them covered in soot and blood. Crying, calling for help. “What’s happening?”

“Oh my God, Ying!” The associates secretary, Mandy, leapt from her seat at the table and ran to the door. “We were so worried.” She gave Ying a hug. “Are you okay?”

“Yes. What’s happening?”

“Don’t you know? A terrorist attack on the subway. It’s your line. We thought you were in there.”

The entire room was up and surrounding her. Everyone asking questions at once. “No. No. My alarm didn’t go off. I overslept. I walked to work.”

Felicity came into the room. “Ying. We were worried. Are you all right?”

Ying was blinking with confusion. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine. What’s this about terrorists?”

“Hell of a thing. Bombed the subway. So many people hurt and dead.”

“I’ll get you a cup of tea.” Mandy hurried off.

“Yes. Come to your office. Rest.” Felicity threaded her arm through Ying’s and led her to her cubicle. “We were worried. I’m so glad you’re safe.”

“Thank you.” At her desk she put her briefcase against the cubicle wall and sat down. Her hand crept to her jacket pocket. She could feel the key through the cloth. “I can’t believe it.”

“Yes. Well. I suppose this is the sign of our times. Isn’t it.” Felicity made herself at home in the guest chair beside the desk. “Are you sure you’re all right? You look a little stressed.”

Ying nodded. “I suppose I am. I usually ride that subway. I just. I just was walking. Today.”

“A good thing.” Felicity patted Ying’s hand. “We wouldn’t want to lose our newest partner so soon.”

It took Ying a moment to change her mind from worrying about being late, then terrorists to the implied information her boss just told her.

“Partner?”

“Yes, dear. Partner. We were going to announce it more formally but with the attack, it seems inappropriate. We’ll announce it later in the week.”

Ying nodded. “Of course. Totally inappropriate.” She managed a smile. “Still. Thank you and the partners. I’ll keep it to myself, of course.”

Felicity nodded. “Good girl. I knew you’d understand.” She rose just as Mandy came around the corner with a cup in hand. “We’ll expect your analysis of those reports by the end of the day.”

“Of course.” Ying nodded.

Mandy put the mug on Ying’s desk. “Gosh. They don’t let up do they. You let me know what you need. I’ll be right at my desk.”

“Sure. Thanks, Mandy.”

Ying fingered the key through her pocket. Was it the key or just stupid luck?

Thank You!

Part II: 1000 Words

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Found: Key, Part I – Friday Flash Fiction Blog

Key by Chunkygummybear via www.deviantart.com

Key by Chunkygummybear via www.deviantart.com

http://www.deviantart.com/art/key-62685439, Key by chunkygummybears

Part I

Ying Lee hurried along the sidewalk, high-heels clicking a staccato beat, her briefcase tapping against her skirted thigh. She rehearsed her presentation as she traveled. If she could land this account, that would put her in the running for partner. She felt good about this. She’d been emailing her potential client, sending him freebies, making friends. Today it was time to close the deal.

A glint from the sidewalk made her step stutter. She backed-up, causing the man behind her to bump her shoulder. “Sorry.” He glared but went on. Ying stopped and stared at the grubby junction between the building and the cement sidewalk. Crouching, she studied the key that lay in the dirt. It didn’t look shiny now. It seemed old—an ancient skeleton key, like in some story book.

She reached out and picked it up. It had an elaborate, curlicue bow, but no key ring or cord attached to it. The shaft had four cuts of different lengths and widths. She couldn’t imagine what kind of lock the key would open. Standing, she pulled a tissue from her purse and rubbed off some of the dirt. Ying felt a little dizzy. She took a breath and thought, stood too fast. It’s pretty. She wrapped it in the tissue and put it in her purse. Ying checked her watch and continued to her meeting. I’ll go to a locksmith after the meeting and ask what kind of key this is.

Ying was pleased as she left her client’s office. The contract was bigger than she expected. She grinned all the way out of the building. Take that, Clint Baker. I’m going to be the next partner. As she went along the sidewalk two mothers with strollers blocked her way. She stepped into the nearest doorway to let them pass. An old man in a Veteran’s ball cap rode by on a motorized chair. Ying glanced in the window of the shop. A display of keys, old ones, caught her eye. Her found key leapt to mind.

Opening the door, she went inside. Antiques, she realized. The store had classical music playing in the background. Everything was displayed elegantly, dusted and expensive looking.

At the counter an old woman sat, a gilt-edged book open on the counter in front of her. “May I help you?”

Her voice was firm, a surprise. Ying expected a weak, quavery voice. “Umm, yes.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the tissue. She placed it on the counter and unwrapped it. “I found this a little while ago. What can you tell me about it?”

The old woman put a ribbon in her page and closed the book. “I’m Eleanor. I own this shop.” She pulled a magnifying glass out from under the counter and examined the key. “Interesting. Where’d you find it?”

“Just up the block. I saw it glint.”

Eleanor descended from her stool like a queen from her throne and turned to the wall of research books behind her. She studied the spines then selected a book with a spine so old, faded and broken, Ying couldn’t read it.

Eleanor opened the book and turning the pages with care, stopped on a page near the middle. Even upside down, Ying could see that the illustration looked exactly like the key she’d found.

“Interesting.” Eleanor adjusted her glasses. Circles sat in such a thin gold frame it was nearly invisible. The frames were attached to black ribbon that went around her neck. “It’s been over a century since this key has been seen.”

“What do you think it goes to?”

“Originally, the study in a castle in France. A famous alchemist of the time owned the castle. At least that’s the rumor. The last report of it was from before World War I. A young Frenchman found it and apparently met with much success despite the war.”

Ying pushed down her impatience with such an unbelievable story. “Okay. Really?”

“I can see you don’t believe the story.”

“Well.” Ying shrugged. “I’m a practical person. I succeed because I work hard. There’s no magic.”

“The history of the key is quite clear.” Eleanor ran her finger down the page and turned it. “Every owner, that we know of, has had remarkable luck. Each owner said the key was responsible.”

A small snort escaped Ying. “I’m sorry, Miss. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“Let me ask you a question,” Eleanor smiled. “Did you meet with some success this morning?”

Ying’s eyebrows rose. “I did. But I was prepared and I landed a new client.”

“Did it surpass your expectations?”

“The contract was bigger than I had anticipated.” Her eyes narrowed. “But I seriously don’t think it was because of a magic key.”

Eleanor shrugged. “Perhaps it was your hard work. Take the key. Keep it with you for a month then come back and tell me what you think.”

Ying eyed the key. “So, what? I rub it or something?”

“Is that what you did this morning?”

“I, uh, I just…” She remembered rubbing dirt from the key. “Yes. Yes I did.” She nodded to herself. “Can I wash it? It’s really dirty.”

“Try it.” Eleanor smiled again. “Thank you for stopping in. Do come back and tell me how it goes.”

“Ying re-wrapped the key in the tissue and put it back in her purse. This whole thing sounded crazy. “I, uh, I will.” On the way out the door she chastised herself. Why’d you promise to come back? I don’t have time for fairy-tales. Get back to the office and fill out the reports.

Thinking about her new client and the benefits the account would bring to her cheered her up. Her steps grew more definitive until her heels made a staccato beat on the sidewalk. No one or nothing is responsible for my success but me. Her chin rose. Poor Clint won’t know what hit him.

 

Thank You!

Part I: 989 Words

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