Short Story | Fiction | Relationships
The mailbox was full of the usual junk; she dumped the fliers from the local grocery store and set aside the bills for Rick to open later. One of them looked like a final notice and she tensed as she anticipated his reaction.
There was an ivory envelope addressed to her and she quickly slipped it into her purse. Late that evening, after he was sleeping, Piper found a chance to open it. Inside she found a letter on heavy stationary embossed with the logo of a lawyer in the city. She had an appointment in two weeks.
“I have to go to the city,” said Piper the next day as they opened the diner. “I got a letter from my Gran’s lawyer and they’ve set up an appointment in a few weeks.”
“I’m not sure if you should go alone”, said Rick with a sneer. “You won’t be able to find it. You have the worst sense of direction of anyone I’ve ever met.” Then he turned toward her with a sudden thought. “Maybe she left you something. If it’s about money, I should be there too. I’ll come with you.”
“I’ll be ok,” said Piper. “I doubt it’s about money. All that was settled months ago. Besides, the appointment is on the 13th and you were going to that trade show.” She tried to remain casual, hoping he would let her go alone. “I’ll tell you everything that happens, I promise.”
“Well,” he said, thinking about the free booze and swag that he would get at the show. Also, there might be a chance to spend some time with that cute little sales rep if Piper wasn’t around. “You have to be back the same day to take care of the diner. I’m not made of money you know,” he said.
“Of course,” she said, “I’ll be back in time to take care of things here.”
The air conditioning on the bus wasn’t working, so the 3 hour ride was dusty and hot. It hadn’t helped that the bus was full and the large woman sitting next to her perspired heavily, complaining all the way.
Piper stepped into the foyer and welcomed the touch of cool air on her skin.The high ceilings and marble floors brought her solidly back to the moment at hand. She crossed the room and pressed the button for the elevator. Fifth floor, # 510 was the address on the letter tucked in her purse.
The office was furnished in traditional dark wood and leather. She was reminded of her weekly visits to the library with Gran as she inhaled wisps of dust with hints of lemon polish. A small man in a dark shiny suit rose and held out his hand in greeting.
“Ah, you must be Piper,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Your grandmother spoke of you many times, bless her soul. I’m sorry for your loss.” He gestured to a chair as he sat behind a desk covered in neatly stacked files.
“Thank you,” said Piper as she shook his hand and then she sat, placing her purse on the worn plank floor. The office was quietly elegant and she felt out of place. “Gran never mentioned that she had a lawyer. I was surprised by your letter. I thought I’d settled everything when she died last fall.”
“Yes. Well,” he hesitated, “this was one of the tasks that she entrusted to me and her instructions were very clear. It was to be done outside of her will, at least six months after her death. She directed me to contact you if no one else came forward in that time.”
He reached into his desk and drew out a small, ornately carved box. She could see it was covered with finely detailed acanthus leaves and as he slid it toward her, she saw that the leaves entwined their way across the corners and contours with no visible beginning or ending.
Piper held it in the palm of her hand and turned toward the lamp, examining the familiar pattern. She couldn’t remember where she’d seen it before. Then, she jumped as the box buzzed softly. A pleasant feeling washed over her in a wave that felt like sliding under the surface of a warm bath. As she moved her fingers over the leaves, she was nudged to press specific ones in sequence. With it’s help she solved the puzzle and the box slid open with a whisper. There were three small insect pins nestled inside. The largest one had silver filigree wings attached to an enameled yellow body.
“Oh,” she said, turning it over in her fingers. “My grandmother was always embroidering yellow butterflies.”
“It’s not exactly a butterfly,” the lawyer said. “If I’m not mistaken, it’s a Shakari token, a tribal one I think. I don’t know what the other two signify. It’s an unusual box. I’ve never seen one like it before. How did you open it?”
“I don’t know exactly; my fingers knew what to do, “ she said.
“I wonder where my grandmother found this? She never told me about a box. “Or the pins.”
“I don’t think she ‘found’ it at all. It likely came from her family.”
He glanced at the document in front of him, “Her letter says the box and its contents are to “pass into the safekeeping of the next blood heir” six months after her death. She also asked me to give you this.” He slid an envelope across to her.
“I wonder why she wanted you to wait six months?” she said.
“I’m not exactly sure, but this type of instruction is common in cases where there is a chance of another person coming forward. They didn’t, so I contacted you.”
Puzzled, Piper carefully tucked the box and the envelope into her purse and thanked him for his time. He gave her a business card with instructions to call if she needed anything. As she rode the elevator down, her heart jumped as she realized that she might have family she didn’t know about.
She settled into the back booth of the coffee shop across the street. The whole thing was so unexpected that she was confused by the possibilities. The idea that a ‘Shakari’ token was somehow connected to her Gran, completely changed how she saw her. Her eyes widened as she realized that it wasn’t just her Gran that was connected to them, so was she.
Piper sipped her coffee slowly and reviewed her options. Rick was going to want to know what the letter had been about and she knew she could never show him the box. He’d take it and sell it for sure.
Opening the envelope, she found three thousand dollars in cash, a scrap of paper with an address in the city and a small embossed card. The writing on the card was unfamiliar; the message was written in a dark bold print, not the spidery hand of her Gran. Tears rose up as she felt a pang of loss. Her Gran had raised her and was the only family she knew.
“To the bearer of this token”, it said, “if you hold this box, you possess a secret passed from generation to generation by the ancient ones. Protect it and it will serve you well.”
More mysteries, she thought and pocketed the envelope with half the cash. She put the other half in her purse. Rick could have some of it, but he wasn’t going to get his hands on the box. She zipped it carefully into the side pocket of her purse and headed for the train.
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