The wall was built long ago. Remnants of the barrier it had so boldly proclaimed still mounded here...crumbled there. A reminder of the lives that had been lost on this lonely field, their battle won.
Turning the stone to wedge it into the wall, I realized it's unique hue and shape...like it was made for a specific place from a different kind of stone. As I scraped a bit of lichen from it's side, I discovered a cavity. Thinking it may hold a fossil or bit of clay, I was curious to see what time had deposited there. As I dug the debris from the hole, I felt my knife strike something solid. Quickly, I poured the contents into my hand. And there, within the stone, wrapped in a scrap of oilcloth, was a tarnished, brass key.
As I looked at the key, the design triggered a memory. Where had I seen this emblem before? Like visions rushing to fill in the blanks, a picture formed in my mind. I hurried to my room to write a letter to my cousin in England. It read, “Dear John, Do you still have the chest Grandfather kept in his room?”
Pondering the letter, I wondered how much I should say about the key. Maybe it was just my memory playing tricks on me. There was a quick knock at the door. Feeling a bit nervous about my find, I didn't want company just now. After some fumbling with the lock, the door opened and a foppishly dressed, middle aged fellow I'd seen in the lobby breezed past me and moved quickly across the room.
When I opened my eyes, the room was dark. I must have been out for several hours. Looking around I could see that my room had been ransacked! My head was buzzing and my hair felt sticky with blood. As I staggered to the mirror, I saw a small paper propped against the glass...and the sign read...”We have the key. Wait here until you hear from us.”
As I sat there crying, out of frustration, confusion and fear, I realized that I'm not getting any younger... an adventure like this might be more than I can handle...
Fighting on the street below interrupted my sleep but quickly dispersed when the angry innkeeper stepped outside.
Grandfather loved playing his fiddle and singing! He'd pull it out of the chest in his room and say, “Sit a spell and I'll play you a piece!” I laugh out loud remembering that he never called me by my name. After listing his daughters, he'd end at "Sharry" and that stuck.
He'd tell stories about the railroad and how hard the men worked. It was a time of segregation and the Klan, war and depression, increasing industry and women leaving home to support their families while the men were overseas. Once women began to enjoy their independence, they weren't so quick to come home and many couldn't because their husbands and sons never came back.
I thought about my family. My daughters never knew my grandparents. One of the first thoughts I had after making the announcement, “Surprise, I'm pregnant!”, was that I wished Grandpa were still alive. But they've both heard the stories! And I'm glad I had that much to share with them.
I was surprised to see his wife behind him smiling timidly as he handed me the tray. She quickly dismissed him, as only women from the old country can do, and came in to see that I was comfortable.
She said the recipe had been handed down from her grandmother who baked bread and pizza in an outdoor oven.
After questions about homework and chores were answered to her satisfaction, she sent him off with a warning to be home before dark.
He sang this verse;
“Are we going to make our move? That key isn't the only thing we need.”
I couldn't believe my ears! Having entered the pub through the back, I was still out of sight. There were two men sitting at a small table in the corner. Both had their backs to me. The British voice was definitely the same one I'd heard in my room two nights ago...and he was right about me. I had been afraid but now my resolve hardened. I knew I was in over my head.
That's strange. Maybe I'd dialed the wrong number. A sinking feeling crept over me. I dialed again. It was ringing!...and ringing. The television in the next room was blaring the Friday night football game. Maybe that's where he is...at the high school game. I let it ring a long time before hanging up.
I considered running but curiosity got the best of me. Making a wide berth around the edge of the porch I stepped closer.
Across the circle was player #6, one of the tallest players on the team. Kinda quiet and a little more low key than some of the others, it seemed like there was something on her mind. Then I saw her raise her head slightly and peek at Tommy. He smiled and sorta waved at her. Her head popped up and the smile that lit her face was beautiful! This wasn't all about soccer, it was about finding yourself and realizing that someone else was noticing, too.
Indignation and a host of other emotions flooded through me. Rushing out of the room, through the kitchen and down the garden path, I sat down under a tree, near the pasture fence, shaking with emotion. It was like not being able to find a lost child and wanting to hug and spank them all at the same time when they're found.
26) (16 words about when I was sixteen)
I was sixteen when I saw him for the first time. I smiled, he smiled back.
27) (100 words + prompt)
My heart melted as I remembered that tender time, so long ago.
28) (50 words + picture prompt)
We looked around the pub while we waited. Just down the bar was a small tree decorated with strips of bacon, bits of sausage and various meaty treats! Curious and comical at the same time, it piqued our interest. The bartender told us to help ourselves to this traditional fare.
29) (200 words + prompt)
We strolled through the village toward the inn. A rather homey place where everybody knew everybody else, warily allowing tourists into their ranks. Yet, somehow, it seemed I had made a niche for myself with the innkeeper's family.
30) (100 words + prompt)
With the holidays behind us, we decided to let the authorities in on what had been happening since my discovery of the key in the wall weeks ago. Especially since the car episode on the street Christmas Eve.
There had been no word from the fellows who'd knocked me out and stolen the key but it was obvious they still wanted something from me. Before Christmas, I'd resolved to back off but now that Wally was here, I thought, "Resolution, Schmezolution!" I need to get to the bottom of this!
Maybe it was time to finish the letter to my cousin, John.
31) (100 words + prompt)
We decided it would be better to mail John's letter from the post office in the next town. Rather than send it off with one of the villagers, Wally wanted to take it himself.
32) (cliffhanger conclusion in 50 words)
William grabbed some rope before we rushed to the cliff.
Grinning weakly, Wally held me tight.
33) (epilogue in 150 words)
Wally died as a result of the beating the thugs had given him after dragging his dazed body from the car as it hung over the cliff. Matthew admitted to being in on the plan and was taken into custody for receiving a large sum of money in exchange for ratting him out. While at the scene, they broke into my room again and tore pages from grandpa's ragged journal.
John thought a return letter might not get through so he met me at the inn a few days later where he learned of Wall's demise and joined me in a memorial service under the trees near the abandoned house.
We traveled back to John's home to examine the trunk.
The rusty lock opened easily.
The trunk was empty.
All the treasures Grandfather had shown us as children while telling us tales of his adventures...gone.
Looking back on that day, it still frightens me. Thankfully, Wally wasn't hurt badly and the damage to Matthew's car was minimal. The thugs had followed him from the post office and ran him off the road toward the cliff. After dragging him out of the car, they mucked him about to make sure he'd gotten the point.
I thought the mystery might end there.
34) (100 words + prompt)
But I was wrong.
35) (100 words + prompt)
The inn's library contained a few military books. Wally found Matthew's name in the register. He'd fought for the allies, too. We tried to steer the conversation toward his service days but he seemed quiet and thoughtful.
36) (100 words + prompt)
I couldn't help but notice the box on the sideboard next morning. It was full of pictures, books and various mementos.
37) (6 word autobiography)
"Searching for answers, intrigued by history."
38) (100words +prompt)
These words were written on the back of the photo. I looked questioningly at Anna. She smiled, nodding her head....the man was Grandpa. He had been Matthew's best man. Their hospitality to me no longer spoke only of Old World charm but of deep friendship.
39) (100 words +prompt)
Later, Anna knocked on our door carrying a tray of tea and cookies. Wally had gone with Matthew to get supplies. After pouring tea, she sat down near the window and gazed thoughtfully through the panes. After a few moments, she turned to smile at me.
Her story began with the end of the war and her marriage to Matthew. Moving into the inn with his family, who had been the proprietors for nearly 125 years, she'd felt at home. Anna left her folks in the south and admitted that saying goodbye was harder than she thought... but her new life, though dull to some, excited her.
40) (5 x 5 = 25)
(Theme:Good things come in fives.)
Moving to a new home.
Married to a fine man.
Planning a new life together.
Dreams of children frolicking about.
Good things but anxious thoughts.
41) (98 words including the prompt)
She brought out a small, well worn leather journal from her apron pocket. In it were photos of Matthew, her family and friends...including Grandpa. She lovingly turned the pages and related bits of history as she fondly ran her fingers over each one as if to communicate with the folks pictured there. The smile that played over her face spoke as clearly as her words. Inside the cover you could read her name, written in faded script, and in the corner, the price of the book...it was only ninety-eight cents...a very small price for so many dear memories.
42) ( 100 words + prompt)
43) (100 words + prompt)