Dorothy woke to an empty house the following morning. She sat up, panicked for a second when she couldn’t find her key, then relaxed after she ran her hand across the smooth barrel resting beneath her pillow.
A white shirt and a pair of shorts sat on the foot of her bed, along with packaged underwear and tank tops. She inspected each, and though she might have preferred the cotton stirrup pants she had seen in the latest IN magazine, she supposed jean shorts and a white T-shirt with the words CHOOSE LIFE written in bold pink letters across the chest wasn’t too bad. Probably more of a message from her father than a fashion statement.
Parents. Go Figure.
Dorothy dressed and practically hauled her key into the kitchen—fricking thing seemed like it had become five pounds heavier overnight—and was pleasantly surprised to find a plate of sliced apples, oranges, and pears sitting beside a note that read, Take it easy today, buttercup. Dad must have bugged out after last night, and she was glad for it.
She poured a glass of juice, grabbed a fork, and nibbled on her breakfast, going after the pears first, then the apples, and finally two slices of orange. She looked down at her shirt and frowned.
Choose life. On a day like today only a few months ago, Dorothy would have begun her morning in a similar fashion. Mom would have prepared breakfast, and Dad would’ve left for work over an hour ago. Dorothy would have dragged her boom box to the kitchen and dropped in the latest mix tape that her friends had made for her. Wham! had led off the most recent cassette. More often than not, both Dorothy and her mother would sing along, even dance if the mood struck them.
She shook off the thrum of sadness, not wanting to ruin the rest of the day, and turned her attention outside. The grass sparkled with dew, and glimmering droplets of condensation fell from the stable’s planked roof. Isais popped into view from time to time, bustling about with sacks of grain or bales of hay.
She was disheartened to see Isais moving about on the far side of the stable. Dorothy had planned to continue her search through the stockpile of old boxes in her little pen project, and she wanted to pull a few pictures of her mother for keepsakes. She needed to be alone for that—well, mostly alone. Dorothy tapped her key and smiled.
Isais’s proximity to the stable presented a problem. Dorothy wanted to bring her key with her, but the dang thing kept getting heavier, and she could see no way to hide it from Isais. It took a substantial—and visible—effort to move the glass key from one area to the next. Questions would arise, judgments made…she simply couldn’t risk it.
The only way she could conceal the key was if she put it in its box. The box was feather light—with or without the key inside.
Dorothy poked the key with her fork. It moved easily, as it normally should. She tried again with her finger and could scarcely nudge the key an inch across the table. The effort turned the skin under her fingernail white, and she had to rub out a slight numbness along the base of her palm. She propped a spoon under the key and slapped the handle against the table. The key launched into the air, flipped, and landed as if it only weighed a
few ounces. She picked it up again—anvil heavy.
Dorothy wondered if this should concern her. It was obvious this fantastical object reacted to her touch, but the reason why was anyone’s guess. She supposed she should be cautious, maybe even afraid. But she wasn’t. The fricking thing was cool—hella-cool!
“I wonder if it does that with everyone?”
To find the answer Dorothy would have to let somebody else hold the key, but she really didn’t want to do that. This key was hers and hers alone, and she rather liked keeping it a secret. What if the key decided she was giving it away? She wouldn’t have that, no-siree Bob-ski. Dorothy ran to her room, grabbed the box, and hefted the key inside. She headed for the stable whistling a modified version of “Careless Whisper” while tossing the box from her left hand to her right.
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