It was a small door, as far as doors go, no taller than three feet, and easy to miss. When I removed Granny’s dresses hanging in the closet, just the top of it was visible, the rest covered by three boxes stacked on top of each other. Curious as to why there was a door inside Granny’s closet—who wouldn’t be?—I twisted its knob, jiggled. Locked tight.
I put the mystery out of mind, but not completely; I would be keeping an eye out for keys as I went through Granny’s possessions.
The task of cleaning out Granny Sophie’s house after her death had fallen to me, since, as my mother had put it, “You have nothing better to do.” I had decided to stay home, hadn’t taken my mother up on her offer to accompany her on a six-week cruise the summer between my senior year of high school and beginning college. At the time, I hadn’t wanted to be away from Bradly that long, especially since we would be attending college thousands of miles apart come fall. But the main reason I had declined her offer was I couldn’t bear the thought of being cooped up in a small suite of rooms with her for six whole weeks. She was the type of woman one couldn’t take in large doses, a woman who was more concerned with money and social status than most anything else. And since she had about burned through the savings account and assets that after Daddy’s death a year ago had become solely hers (except for a fund he’d set up for my college education), she was on the lookout for a new husband. “While I still have my looks, you know,” she had said with a toss of her long, blonde mane.
Snaring a well-to-do gentleman was Mother’s sole purpose behind booking the cruise. I didn’t think she minded at all that I hadn’t gone with her. I wouldn’t be there to judge when she set her hooks in whomever she had picked to be my new father. And if the man were married, she would consider it only a minor obstacle in her path.
Less than two weeks into my mother’s cruise, Granny Sophie died, and I assumed Mother would fly back home, but I had underestimated her selfishness. “Sophie was not my mother, she was your father’s. And you know we were never close. You’re a big girl, Moira, you can handle things until I get back.” I’d had a feeling that if Granny Sophie had tons of money in the bank and an expensive home, Mother would have swum back if necessary to settle her mother-in-law’s estate. But Granny didn’t have much, just a small, going-to-seed house on the outskirts of town and barely enough money in her bank account to pay for her cremation.
I glanced at the urn holding her ashes that sat atop the dresser. Knowing Granny’s love of all things purple, I had picked it out myself—a deep royal color shot through with lightning streaks of silver. Its reflection glinted in the mirror, reminding me of the twinkle in her violet eyes.
When I was a child, I had seen that twinkle many times: when she taught me how to make faux gingerbread men using mud down by the small branch that meandered behind her house; how to cut off a piece of wild grapevine and smoke it like a cigarette; what weeds and flowers to pick in the woods across the branch, and the potions and things one could make with them. But her eyes always sparkled most when she told me about the place she had discovered when she was a child, a magical world full of fairies, dwarves, giants, and dragons you could ride.
Continue reading “The Key”