Found: Key, Part IX – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Keys III by Catherine-Elizabeth via

Keys III by Catherine-Elizabeth via


Part IX, by Catherine-Elizabeth

Tuesday dawned clear and warm. She arrived at work an hour early, just to be safe and was well into her work as the other partners came in. That should reassure them, she thought as Felicity nodded at her when she passed by the door. She’d already been there three hours when Jason called.

“Lunch? One o’clock at Revise. The chef has chicken, fresh from some farm upstate.”

“Sure.” She grinned as she held her cell phone to her ear. She felt good. His call last night had put her in a good mood and her nausea had disappeared. “I have something to talk over with you.”

“Uh oh.” He laughed. “Bad news or worse news?”

“It’s not bad. Just something we need to discuss.” She briefly wondered what he’d think about going to her parent’s for Thanksgiving then pushed the thought away. She’d find out at lunch. “See you at one.”

“See ya.” He blew a kiss into the phone and clicked off.

She sighed and dropped her phone in her pocket. Ying wasn’t sure if he was ready to meet the parents but November was still weeks away. It would be fine, she decided, and went back to work.


At lunch, she was shown to a table, the waiter whisking the RESERVED sign away with a flourish. Jason arrived as the water glasses were being filled. “Sorry about that. A call came in just as I was leaving.”

Ying noticed him spin the watch on his wrist. She smiled at him, her usual warm glow returning, just like every time she saw him. “No worries. I just sat down.” She looked around. “Pretty fancy for lunch.”

“The chef is a high school buddy of mine. He was just hired here, a real coup for him since he’s only twenty-seven.”

“Good for him.” Ying sipped her water as the waiter placed menus on the table. “What’s the specialty here?”

The waiter nodded. “The chicken, madam. Organic, local, fresh chicken, roasted or grilled.”

She grinned across the table. “Sounds wonderful. I’d like it grilled and placed atop a salad, no onions please.”

He nodded. “And the gentleman?”

Jason handed the waiter the menu. “Roasted, and I’m starving so I’ll take the scalloped potatoes and the side salad. No onions for me either, I’m meeting a client later.”

“Very good, sir, madam.” He tucked the menus under his arm and left.

“So,” Jason took her hand across the table. “What’s the discussion.”

“Mother was quite cross at me Sunday night, I mentioned that yesterday. She wants us to come for Thanksgiving.” Ying held her breath. This was where guys usually started backing away.

“Fantastic! I’d love to.”

Ying blinked at the speed of his happy response. “Don’t you have family to visit?”

“They’ll understand.” He twisted the watch around again. “I’m looking forward to meeting the people responsible for the lovely young woman sitting across from me.”

Another wave of well-being flowed through her. “You will get everywhere flattering my parents like that. I warn you. Mother can be…demanding. But if she likes you, you’re in and never escaping. Trust me.”

Jason laughed. “I’ll take my chances.”


After meeting her client Ying was at her desk, making notes and organizing her thoughts on the best products for her. She absent-mindedly stroked the key she now wore as a necklace. The move made her nauseous, as usual. For a moment she wished it would give her the warm glow she got whenever she saw Jason. It sucked feeling sick so often. She stopped tapping her keyboard. Warm glow. She looked up at the far wall of her office. Every time she saw Jason. Every time he played with his watch. His antique watch.

She called Eleanor, skipping the pleasantries. “Your group have a watch artifact?”

After a short pause, Eleanor said, “Let me look.”

Ying could hear Eleanor pull down the ancient book and flip through the pages. “No. At least not that I can find at the moment. Why?”

Feeling more and more angry, Ying blurted, “Because I think Jason is using an artifact on me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Not totally.” Ying took a breath. Maybe she was just reading too much into it. “He said it’s a watch that’s been in his family. Every time he plays with it, I get a warm, loving glow.”

“Every time? Or just every time you notice it?”

Damn her for being so logical. “I don’t know.” Ying drummed her fingertips on the desk, furious that it could be that she was being manipulated into liking him. “I know it’s every time I notice. How can I be sure?”

“You could have him bring the watch in. Tell him you’d like to get it appraised.”

“If he knows it’s magic, he’s not going to show it to you. And even if I can get him to your shop, how would you know if it’s an actual artifact?”

“We have tests. But it’s up to you.” Her voice was eager. “We haven’t identified a new artifact in decades. It would be a feather in my cap to bring a new one in.”

Ying understood Eleanor’s enthusiasm. “I suppose it would. Is there some way to counteract the magic?”

“You don’t like being manipulated.”

“No. I don’t.”

“Usually not. I’ll do some research. Love artifacts are fairly common. I’ll let you know.”

“Fair enough. I’ll see if I can get him into the shop. We’ll work it out from there.”

“Excellent. Take care, Ying.”

“I will.” Ying clicked off. She had to think about how to get Jason to the shop.


Thank You!

End Part IX: 938 Words

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Found: Key, Part VIII – Flash Fiction Friday Post

The Jack's Keys by delusional

The Jack’s Keys by delusional

Part VIII The Jack’s Keys by Delusional,

Saturday night melted into Sunday morning. Jason was attentive, both in bed and out. She woke to the Sunday paper and a tray of croissants, butter, jam, fresh fruit and both coffee and tea. “You’ll spoil me.” She picked up the soft pastry, spread a bit of jam on the end and bit it.

“You deserve it.” Jason lolled across the end of the bed, a mug of coffee in hand. “What’s your pleasure, Miss?” he asked as they finished breakfast. He picked up her hand and kissed the back of a finger. Ying’s spine tingled. “Dress and go out? The day is beautiful. A walk in the park?” He kissed the next finger. “Go see a movie? The new Space Avengers is playing just down the block.” He arched an eyebrow and kissed the next finger. “Or perhaps, you’d rather stay here, indolent and pampered?”

Ying laughed and pulled her hand away to caress his cheek. He hadn’t shaved and the dark beard was beginning to show. She liked the scruffy look it gave him. “You are a tempter, Sir. You know I love the Space Avenger series.” Ying sighed and gazed into his eyes. “But I think I’d rather stay. We’ll read the paper, watch a movie, make dinner.”

Jason grinned. “Just as milady desires.” He reclaimed her hand and pulled her close, breath mingling. “That leaves time for this.” He kissed her.


It was after eight Sunday night before Ying returned home. She hummed as she entered her apartment. She felt the most relaxed she’d ever been. Kicking off her heels, she padded to the bedroom barefoot. The black evening dress was peeled off and dropped into the bag for the dry cleaners. When she finished her shower, she put on her pajamas and emptied her clutch. Her cell phone tumbled out with a tiny makeup bag, her credit card and driver’s license and two tens. She was putting them in her purse for the morning when she realized the phone was off. Puzzled, she turned it on. It took a moment. Then message after message alert came in, the phone dinging and buzzing nearly non-stop for over a minute. The office, her mother, her girlfriends, had sent message after message. The last ones were near frantic, especially from her mother. She hit her mother’s speed dial.

“Mom, it’s me.”

“Where have you been? I was going to call the police!” Her mother’s voice was a mix of panic, relief and anger.

“I’m sorry, Mom. My phone was off. I was on a date.”

“Date? What date lasts two days? Who is this date?”

Ying sat on her bed. Mom was ticked off. “Jason. I told you about him. We went to the opera last night, then I stayed over at his apartment.”

The other end of the call was silent for a moment. “You should call. Why your phone not on?”

Her mother drifting back into patois was an indicator of how upset she was. “I’m sorry, Mom, really. I don’t know how the phone was off. Maybe I never turned it back on after the opera. I should have called you today, I know. It’s my fault.”

Ying heard a snort from the other end.

A long breath could be heard then, “You must like this boy.”

“He’s not a boy, Mom. He’s a couple years older than me.”

“Hmmph. Still a boy. An inconsiderate boy who does not think about your family.”

“Stop, Mom. Jason treated me like a queen. I had a wonderful time.”

Her mother hummph’d again. “Maybe. Now we have to meet this Jason. You and him come for Thanksgiving.”

Ying rolled her eyes. That would be stressful at the very least. “Maybe. He runs a big company, Mom. He may not be able to get away.”

“You tell him. Thanksgiving. Our house. Now go to bed. You have to work in the morning.”

A grin spread across Ying’s face. She’d won her mother over. “Okay, Mom. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“You’d better.” The line clicked off.

Ying stared at the phone in her hand. Now to see what work was calling about. She hoped it wasn’t something critical.


Ying massaged her temples. The shit had hit the fan Sunday with a client and the office had been calling her all Sunday to come in and help. When she arrived an hour early Monday, every partner was in the conference room and turned to stare at her entry. Felicity gave her head a slight shake as the lead partner sneered, “Glad you could join us.”

“I’m sorry. My cell phone died. I couldn’t get the store to recover my old one until this morning and then all the texts came in. I hurried right over.” She sank into the chair at the end of the table that was hers and quietly opened her portfolio.

After the meeting, Felicity gave her the dressing down of her life. All of the scut work, stuff that should have gone to the newest associate, had been handed to her to handle. Phone calls, deep data entry, excruciating research, it was all hers and she had partners coming in all day to check on her progress. Now it was eight. The partners and even the partner’s secretary had gone home. The crisis was averted and Felicity had stopped at her door on the way out.

“Good work today. We never would have thought to take the direction you uncovered.”

Ying nodded. “Thank you. It just came to me.”

“Well, a bad start but a good end.” She turned and left.

Ying opened a desk drawer and opened the bottle of aspirin. She took two with a swallow of cold coffee, making a face at the taste. She never would have found the solution without the key. She’d used it so much during the day that she was still nauseated. Wearily she stood, gathered her things and headed home. She hoped that never happened again.


Thank You!


End Part VIII: 1000 Words

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Found: Key, Part VI – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Fairy Keys by bodaszilvia

Fairy Keys by bodaszilvia

Part VI Fairy Keys by  bodaszilvia,

She met Jason at a coffee shop near her office building. It felt a little awkward when she walked in. He was already at a table, wearing Dockers and a polo shirt, and stood up to greet her when he saw her come in. Ying extended her hand, it seemed too early in the relationship to even kiss cheeks in greeting.

He looked a little surprised but grinned as he held her chair. Jason waved a waitress over. “I’ll have coffee, a bowl of oatmeal and a side of fresh fruit.”

Ying was pleased. He didn’t go for a huge fry-up. “Coffee, soft boiled egg and I’ll have the fruit, also.”

“Right away, folks.” The waitress left.

“How’s your leg?” He sat quietly, not fidgeting with the salt and pepper shakers, his hands folded together on the table.

Ying liked that he looked interested. She held the leg out and pulled up her suit pant’s leg. The skin was scraped, a few streaks where blood had been drawn. He leaned over the table to look. “I didn’t want to pull stockings over it.” She dropped the pant leg.

“Sensible. You’re working today?”

“I am.” Ying paused as the waitress brought their coffees. “Thank you,” she told the waitress.

Jason thanked her, too, then reached for the cream.

Ying reached for the sugar. “I just made partner and six work days a week is kind of standard.”

“Congratulations.” Jason handed her the creamer as she pushed the sugar toward him. “What do you do?”

“Thank you. I’m a sales rep for Stein and McVie, selling financial products. You?” Now she’d find out how a young man could peel off hundred dollar bills to pay for cabs.

“Video game designer. Race to the Moon is one of our recent games.” He stirred the sugar into his coffee.

“Nice. I haven’t heard of it but good for you.”

Jason rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I get that a lot. But it doesn’t matter. It’s a big market anyway.”

“You have a company? I heard you say ‘our’?” Despite the fact they were seated in the middle of the coffee shop, the conversations going on around them felt like a curtain. Totally private.

“Yeah. I’m the owner, well, third owner. My two college buddies are the other partners.”

Ying smiled. “Very good! I’m impressed. You’ve done well for yourself.”

“So have you. Partner already and you’re what, twenty-two?” He arched an eyebrow and grinned.

“Cute way to ask. No, I’m twenty-seven. You?”


Just then the waitress brought their food. As they ate, they traded information on favorite hobbies and books. As she paid her check, Ying realized she never even touched the key in her pocket, she’d been that comfortable with Jason.

When she stood up to go, Jason stood with her. “Look,” he gave her a card. “Call my number, make an appointment with my secretary. We might be in the market for some financial products.”

Ying’s eyebrows went up. “Oh!” She took the card, confused. Had he called her because he liked her or because she was a financial rep? “Uh, sure. First thing Monday.” She turned and left the shop, tucking the card in her jacket pocket. All the way to the office she tried to puzzle out what just happened. She thought they were getting along so well.

In her office she researched video game companies and drafted out a plan to talk to them about. By three, most of the rest of the partners and associates had left. She tidied up her desk and left notes with the outline for Sharon to type up in the correct format and went home, still confused about Jason. Was the key keeping them apart or did he think she was just after his business? She changed into running gear and left her apartment. A run would help clear her mind.

Sunday morning, she was deep into the financial pages of the Sunday paper when the phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hey, Ying. It’s Jason.”

Her heart began to beat like humming bird wings. “Hi, Jason. I wasn’t expecting a call.”

“Well, I meant to ask you yesterday but you left me bemused. How would you like to have brunch? I hope you haven’t eaten. The Ritz has the best brunch on the planet. Tell me you haven’t eaten!”

She laughed with relief that it didn’t seem as though he was just looking for financial products and the way he was pleading. “Well, I did have some fruit a couple of hours ago but I think I can manage brunch. What time should we meet?”

“Let’s say noon. That gives you an hour to get ready.”

“Very considerate. I’ll meet you at noon at the Ritz.”

“Great! See you there.”

Ying, grinning, clicked her phone off. So, based on his enthusiasm, he liked her too. She took a deep breath and patted the key in her lounging pants pocket. “Thank you key,” she murmured and got up from her sofa, pages of the paper cascading to the floor. Time for a shower and a look through the closet. She wanted to strike just the right note when he saw her.

Thank You!

End Part VI: 865 Words

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Found: Key, Part V – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Available Keys by Art by Star LaMoore

Available Keys by Art by Star LaMoore

Part V Available Keys by Art by StarLaMoore,

Ying waited a week before going back to the antique shop to see Eleanor. Once she was there, she told the guardian what she’d done the previous Friday.

Eleanor’s eyebrow arched. Ying watched as the fingertips of Eleanor’s right hand tapped on the sofa arm and Eleanor stared off into space. “Interesting,” she finally said. “No, no women, that we know of, have ever held the key. Times were different, women didn’t go into business, in general, anyway.” She smoothed the gray skirt over her legs. “What has the key done?”

“Nothing different than last month. My projects are all going well. I’m getting valuable clients. Presentations are flawless.”

“You haven’t met your dream match?”

Ying shook her head. “Nope. Not yet. But it has just been a week. It looks like the key wants to stay with me, so that’s something.”

“Indeed.” Eleanor’s fingers tapped again. “Not to pry, but I’d really like to follow this, if you wouldn’t mind sharing.”

“Why not.” Ying shrugged, then stood up. “You don’t want the gory details, just the progress toward making a family. I can do that.” She picked up her purse and briefcase. “You don’t mind if I email you, do you, with updates?”

“Not at all. You have the shop card. Use that email. I’m the only one that checks it.”

“Appreciate it. I’ve left early two Friday’s in a row, now. People at work notice these things.”

Eleanor stood and walked with Ying to the door, holding it for her. “Not at all. But don’t be shy. When you can, come by and we’ll have tea. I like our chats.”

“I’ll do that. Thanks again.” Ying started out of the door and as she cleared the recessed entryway onto the sidewalk, a young man in a gray business suit collided with her. She spun and the heel of her shoe broke. Her briefcase went flying, tangling with the man’s and both of them skidded off of the curb into the street. “Oh!” She landed on her hip, stockings shredding on the sidewalk.

The man was down on one knee, having done his best to catch her when she fell. He was looking at her face, an arm around her shoulders.

Eleanor hurried to them. “Are you all right?”

Ying took a breath. His face pulled her in, high cheek bones, deep brown eyes and sandy brown hair framing it all. She blinked the second time Eleanor called her name. “Uh, yes. I think so.”

“I’m so sorry,” the man said as he helped her to her feet. “I didn’t see you there.” He hurried to the curb and picked up both briefcases. “A little scuffed, but I’m afraid I’ve ruined your shoes and your suit.” He handed Ying her briefcase.

Ying was brushing off. “I’m sorry. I didn’t look before I came out of the doorway.”

“My fault entirely, miss.”

He looked so upset she had to smile. “I’m Ying Lee.” She held out her hand.

“I’m Jason Fitch.” He shook her hand. “I am like a bull-dozer. I am so sorry.” He looked at Eleanor. “Thank you for rushing to her aid.”

Eleanor smiled. “No problem at all. I wasn’t much help, I’m afraid.” She turned to Ying. “I’ll leave you to it, then.” She quirked an eyebrow out of sight of Jason and went back inside.

“I should catch a cab, I think.” Ying took off both shoes. There was no way to walk in them with one broken.

“Let me pay,” Jason said. “It’s the least I can do.” He walked to the curb and went between two parked cars and began to wave down an approaching cab.

“That’s not necessary. Really.” Ying picked her way to the street beside him. Gravel dug into the bottoms of her feet.

“It is, Ms. Lee. I won’t take no for an answer.”

The cab pulled up and Jason opened the back door. “Please. My treat.”

Ying sighed. “Very well, then.” She got into the cab and pulled a business card out of the brief case. “Call me.”

His face brightened. “Certainly. I’d be happy to.” He closed the cab door and leaned in the front passenger window. “Please take the lady where ever she’d like to go.” He pulled his wallet out and handed the driver a hundred-dollar bill.

“Yes, sir.” The cabbie gave him a salute.

As the cab pulled away, Ying could see Eleanor in the shop window watching. She told the cabbie her address and settled back into the seat. She patted her suit jacket pocket. Thank you, key.

She thought about Jason Fitch’s eyes. How she’d just fallen into their depths. She tingled with excitement. He seemed nice. Polite. Considerate. Well dressed. And obviously successful the way he paid the cabbie. Her cell phone rang. She pulled it from her purse and looked at the screen. Perfect timing.

“Hello, mom.”

“Hello, Ying.”

“You have perfect timing. I just met someone.”


Ying had to chuckle at the excitement in her mother’s voice. “How do you know exactly when to call?”

“I’m your mother. Now. Tell me all about this young man.”

“Okay, mom. I’ll tell you everything.”

She was still talking to her mother when the cab pulled up in front of her building. “Hey. I’m home. Let me call you later.”

“You’d better.” She blew her daughter a kiss.

“I will, mom. I promise.” Ying clicked off and thanked the driver. In her apartment she tossed the shoes into the trash, the stockings too.

She’d just finished washing the blood from her scraped leg when her phone rang. Unknown number, she noted. “Hello?”

“Is it too soon to call?”



Thank You!


End Part V: 945 Words

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Found: Key, Part IV – Flash Fiction Friday Post


Heart Keys by DementedViking,

Part IV Heart Keys by DementedViking,

Ying hurried out of the shop and onto the street where she had room and air to think. No family? She’d always assumed there would be a family. There had never been a rush before. She was only twenty-seven. As she walked to her apartment, the briefcase she carried seemed heavier than usual. Like a boulder, trapping her in a job she was no longer sure she wanted. Her steps were slow, not at all her usual brisk pace. Her eye caught every woman with a child that came along the sidewalk. It occurred to her there weren’t a lot of those. There were plenty of shops, even a toy store but not a lot of children. Why?

At home unusually early, only five p.m. she changed into casual clothes and took a walk to the park. Ying sat on a bench near the playground and watched. Moms with little kids in close view chatted on benches. Kids screamed with delight as they raced each other up slide ladders or dared each other to swing higher. Mothers called to children and they left in ones and twos, to go home and make supper, Ying guessed. What was that like? Get supper on the stove, get the kids washed, send a fast kiss hubby’s way when he came home? Maybe it was all rush, rush. Ying remembered soccer practices and games, or skating lessons, or piano lessons most every night of the week. Sure, there were sit down dinners but generally only on Sunday.

Is that what she wanted? Domestic bliss? She shook her head. It hadn’t seemed important before today. She pulled the key from her pocket and studied it as it lay in the palm of her hand. The scroll work on it was now free of dirt. The key was beautiful—more art than function. She mused on the original owner and the castle study. Was it a den, books lining the walls, or a lab, beakers and flames and mysterious bubbling colored potions? An alchemist, Eleanor had told her. Ying pictured an old man in robes and a pointed hat, more wizard than scientist. More Merlin than Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Slipping the key into her pocket she rose and wandered through the park, trying to sort her thoughts.

Her cell rang. A glance at the screen showed a picture of her mother. “Hey, Mom.” Appropriate her mother would call now.

“Ying. I was thinking of you and decided to call.”

The woman must be psychic. “Nice to hear from you, Mom. How are you and Dad?”

“We’re fine. Your father insisted on fixing the bathroom sink himself. Now the sink is completely broken. We have to use the guest bath.”

Ying chuckled. Her father was an excellent attorney, but a terrible handyman. “Ouch. Will it cost much?”

“More than it would have.” Her mother’s voice was dry. “Anyway, I thought you’d like to know your old best friend, Lena, is having a baby.”

Ying rolled her eyes. This was how her mother reminded her that they wanted grand-children. “How nice. She’s been married, what, three years? Her wedding was so beautiful.”

“Yes, it was.”

There’s another hint. “I took off of work early today. I’m in the park.”

“Good. You work too hard. No wonder you’re so skinny. Men don’t like boney girls.”

“Mom! I’m perfectly healthy. I work out and eat right, that’s all.”

“Hmmpf,” sounded clearly over the cell. “Maybe. Are you coming home for Thanksgiving?”

“Thanksgiving is four months away. I’ll see. I’m a new partner, I don’t want to seem too privileged.”

“You didn’t come last year.”

There was that tone. “True. I was trying to make partner, Mom.”

“Well, now you’re a partner. You come home.”

“I’ll do my best, Mom. Look. I have to go.” Ying blew a kiss into the phone. “Tell Dad I love him.”

“I will.” She blew a kiss back to her daughter. “Find a husband!” She clicked off.

There it was. Ying wondered when she’d toss that into the conversation. She slid the phone into her pocket. What if I do want children? What if that’s what makes me happy? Were any of the other owners women? Perhaps the key would work differently for a woman? Ying stopped in the shade of a huge maple and pulled the key out of her pocket. A short distance away, a young family was spreading out a blanket, the two toddlers hindering in their efforts to help. She smiled as they all laughed at the mess they were making. So, key. What do you think? If I want a successful family and success in business, can you give that to me? She stroked the key, wrapped her hand around it and closed her eyes. Ying formed a picture in her mind of a husband and a child, laughing at the beach, her taking a picture.

A wave of nausea roiled her stomach. She opened her hand and stared at the key. “What did you give me, key? What did you do?”


Thank You!


Part IV: 842 Words

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Found: Key, Part III – Flash Fiction Friday Post

Keys by KororowoxDD

Keys by KororowoxDD

You can see Part 1 here.

Part III

The new account needed to be set up and work begun on sending the client the required products. Each time she sent the owner an email or talked to him on the phone, she fingered the key. It occurred to her about the third time she did it, that she knew the key was working because she’d feel dizzy or nauseous. She did her best not to be fingering the key all day long. It seemed greedy, somehow. But for important transactions, dealing with her clients, sitting at the partner meetings, she would stroke it once or twice and then take her hand out of her pocket.

At the end of the month she remembered the antique store owner, Eleanor. I need to talk to her. Get more information about this key. Ying left her private office early, telling the partner’s secretary, Sharon, “I have some personal business to take care of. See you on Monday.”

Outside of the antique store, Ying hesitated. The tray of keys was no longer in the window. What did that mean? She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. I’ll have to ask.

Inside Eleanor was ringing up a customer. She nodded at Ying and went back to her transaction. Ying wandered the store. She saw a carved, enameled screen, black with gold edging, an oriental scene done in the same pastel colors she had decorated her apartment in. It would look stunning in the living room corner.

Eleanor arrived as Ying was turning over the price tag. “It is a lovely piece, isn’t it?”

Ying’s eyebrows rose at the $3,000 price. Too much for her. She wasn’t used to her new pay scale yet. She dropped the tag. “Yes. Very pretty.” She turned to Eleanor. “I’ve been using the key.”

Eleanor’s cocked an eyebrow. “Interesting. Let’s sit down. Tea?” She led Ying to a small seating area near the counter.

“Yes. Thank you.”

Eleanor went into the back and came out a few minutes later with a china teapot on a tray, two cups on saucers and a plate of cookies. “I do believe the English tea time ranks right up on the civilized behavior scale with the European mid-afternoon nap time.” She poured for both of them and sat back, cookie on her saucer and cup in hand. “Tell me all about your month.”

Ying settled back and related the subway terrorist incident, her other uses of the key and that it made her dizzy or sick when used.

“The sickness is in the book. I can confirm that. I’m interested in the key saving you the first morning. You were taking care of the key. It seems to me it was reciprocating the favor.”

Ying sipped her tea, now cold. She leaned forward and poured more into the cup to warm it. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.” Cup returned to the saucer she sat back. “What happened to the tray of keys in the window?”

“Those?” Eleanor looked over the rim of her cup. “I change the display often. I moved them into the back.”

Ying had the feeling the tray was supposed to attract her inside the day she found the key. “Does the key show up on a schedule?”

“Perceptive. It does have a cycle. It was time for it to appear. We never know where, though.”

“We? Who are you? Your group?”

Selecting another cookie from the tray, Eleanor dunked it lightly into her cup. “I suppose you could call us guardians. We know the history of many powerful objects and do our best to keep track of them.”

“And the key is just one?” Ying’s mind began to race at the thought of many of these objects circulating through the world.

“One of many. When one does show up, we try to offer the finder help.”

“Why not just get the things and lock them away?”

Eleanor chuckled. “That was tried, centuries ago. The objects have a mind of their own. They select their users and will not be denied. The key is benevolent, for the most part.”

A shock ran through Ying. “What do you mean?”

“Magic has to be paid for. Nothing is free, in this world or the arcane world.” Eleanor shrugged. “How have you been?”

“Fine, except for when I use the key. But that’s just a little momentary discomfort. Why?” Ying put the cup and saucer back on the tray and waited for the answer.

“Have you been out at all? Socialize, date?”

“I’ve been too busy. I was just made partner. I’m working eleven or twelve hour days, six days a week.”

Eleanor nodded. “The key is giving you what you want. You’re a professional woman. You’re focused on your job. You’re young and already a partner. Did you have any plans for a family?”

Ying blinked. “Someday. Of course. When I find the right man.”

Eleanor sighed. “In the key’s history, there has been no mention of the users ever marrying or having a family. That’s the price your object charges.”

Up until now, a husband and family were just vague future plans. Her parents had been riding her since high school to find a husband and start a family. They were very Chinese that way. But she kept putting it off, first for college, then to work. They approved of her every advancement but grand-children were their primary goal. “I. Um, I’m not sure.”

“Sure of what?”

“Whether I want a family. What if I do? Will the key leave me? Has anyone tried to have a family while they had the key?”

“If they did, the other guardians never made a note of it.”

Ying stood up. She had to think. “Here’s my card.” She pulled a card out of the little pocket on her briefcase. “Has no one given up the key?”

Eleanor shook her head. “Not that we know of.”


Thank You!


Part III: 989 Words

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