Flash Fiction #17 – Key in Hand
“What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” Kylie demanded.
“Manners, Kylie,” he mother said.
Hollis rolled her eyes at her cousin. She would have thought that maybe…just maybe, Kylie would have outgrown her overblown sense of entitlement. Nope. She was just as much of a bitch as ever. And her aunt was just as ineffective as ever, too.
The lawyer glanced at the rest of the assembled family members then shrugged. “Your grandmother wanted you to have it.”
The lawyer continued discussing the rest of their grandmother’s assets with Hollis’ aunt, uncle, and parents while Kylie glared at him. When she got nowhere with that, she turned her scowl on her sibling and cousin and stalked over to stand in front of them. She looked at the boxes in Emily’s hands. “I can’t believe you got her china and her cameo.”
“Get over yourself, Ky,” Emily muttered. “You got her engagement and wedding rings. And her diaries and that key.”
Hollis shrugged. “You are the oldest. Those are the sorts of things that get passed down to the oldest. Keeper of the family history and all that.”
Kylie stared at Hollis’ inheritance. Longingly stared at Hollis’ inheritance. “I’d rather have the pearl necklace and bracelet set and the and diamond earrings.”
“Are you…pouting?” Hollis asked.
Kylie shook her head. “No. Of course not. God, you’re so stupid.” But she didn’t take her eyes off the jewelry.
Hollis stared at her cousin. She and Kylie had never really gotten along. To look at them, no one would even believe they were related–no one in the freshman dorm did, anyway. Hollis looked like a walking ad for Alterna-Chick Monthly and Kylie had the letters for the sorority she was pledging incorporated into her manicure. Hollis glanced down at her own chipped, midnight blue polish and cringed.
“Look, I’m probably never going to wear this stuff,” Hollis said. “Why don’t we just trade?”
“Well, if you’re not going to wear it, you should just give it to me.”
Hollis snorted. “Whatever, Kylie. See you around.” She turned toward the door.
“Wait. Give me the pearls and the earrings, and you can have the key and diary.”
Hollis turned around and noticed Emily was trying not to laugh. She and Em had never had that much in common, but they liked each other. Turning her attention back to Kylie, she said, “You can have the pearls or the earrings.”
Kylie’s mouth fell open, but before she could protest, Emily said, “It’s only fair, Ky. If you want both, give Hollis the rings, too. And quit being such a spoiled little bitch.”
Kylie’s head whipped toward Emily like a velociraptor spotting its next meal.
The last thing Hollis wanted to do was get involved in a sisterly smackdown. “Kylie,” she said, pulling her cousin’s attention back to her. “What’s it gonna be? I’ve got to be to work at four, and it takes at least two hours to get back to campus.”
Kylie looked at the tiny rings in her hand then looked at the jewelry in Hollis’. “Fine,” she huffed. “The diamonds are bigger in the earrings, anyway.”
They made the trade, and Hollis slipped her grandmother’s rings on the middle finger of her right hand. The tiny diamonds and alexandrites glinted in the diffused light of the lawyer’s office. Lifting her hand, she waved to her family and the lawyer and headed out into the misty, spring rain.
Once she was safely in her car, she opened the diary, and a piece of paper fell out. She unfolded it and read the familiar handwriting that had gotten more spidery over the years.
If this book is still in Kylie’s possession, I’ll assume this note will never be read.
If this note is being read, I’ll assume it’s Hollis reading it.
A chill skated up the back of Hollis’ spine, and she looked back down at the piece of paper in her trembling hand.
Hi, honey. Good job trading with Kylie. At least, I assume that’s what happened.
The rules state that I had to pass the key down to the eldest born female, and since I had boys, that meant Kylie. However, what she chose to do with it after it was in her possession was up to her. She’s a sweet girl, but she never would have appreciated what you’re about to discover.
Hollis looked around. The rain was falling heavier and her car windows had fogged over. If it wasn’t for the occasional sound of tires rolling along the rain-wet pavement, she would have felt like she was utterly alone in the world. Heart thudding in her throat and eyes drawn back to the note from her grandmother, she continued to read.
I know you would have preferred a different university, but there’s a reason your grandfather and I insisted on paying for this one. You need to go to the basement of the library. Ignore all those signs about authorized personnel.
Once you’re down there, turn right and walk until you find a narrow hallway that says “no exit”. At the end of that hallway and behind the buckets and mops is an old cage front elevator. Take that as far down as you can go into the sub-basement.
When you get out, you’ll see seven doors, choose the one you feel most drawn to and open it with the key. Your life will never be the same.
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