The key he found while weeding in the garden was clearly an antique. He inspected it briefly then put it inside of his pocket. He decided he’d take another look at it afterwards once he’d finished with the garden. Planting was now very important to him. He’d finished mowing the lawn and now he wished to complete the task he’d set for himself that day: plant the flowers once and for all. He wished to make his front yard look presentable, his neighbors evidently cared about presentation judging by the effort that was put into their gardens (front and back of the houses). When he’d moved in, he heard from a childhood friend that had been married and lived here for a few years now, that, in this town, people considered gardening as an art and a way of life. They felt that the flowers not only gave them pleasure, allowed them to have time alone to think clearly, but more importantly, it made for a pleasant view during a walk for any passer-by. He thought this was very considerate and for this reason only wanted to participate in the tradition of the town he’d now called home. This was, for him, the perfect opportunity to show his neighbors that their views were similar. He regarded it as a great way for starting conversation with them as well. The first time he’d spoken to a neighbor was about ten days ago, when he asked if he could know the best store to buy what he needed for gardening. The elderly lady seemed pleased that the owner wished to participate in neighborhood’s activity and told him that the general store just out of town would have the best tools, flowers, etc. as well as help offered for this task. He thanked her and ever since, every morning this woman would say good-morning and offer a cup of tea to start his day. At first he’d declined but eventually he accepted and found that he and this woman, whom he now regarded as a friend, had many common interests. He felt very proud of himself. And after waiting for a day that was convenient he decided to finally begin his long and hopefully prosperous journey of gardening.
Once he’d finished, he went inside to take a quick shower. He was covered in dirt. His new friend had just invited him over for a cup of lemonade and he’d accepted gladly, needing to cool off. For a while he’d forgotten the key he’d found. But upon putting his pants into the old washing machine, he touched something a bit hardened. He slid his hand inside of his pocket and took out the key. He sat down on his bed and looked at it. Yes, he was now certain it was an antique. It looked too beautiful to be a new kind. Who knows how long it had been buried in the earth. He wondered if there was an interesting story behind it. He then noticed that there were two letters engraved on the key. He was surprised he’d overlooked it before. The letters were A and C. Were they initials to a name? If so, who’s name? Yes, yes, they were certainly initials. Why else would a person engrave two letters onto a key? He glanced at the clock. He still had ten minutes before he needed to meet his neighbor, Martha. He tried the key on every lock in his house, but nothing came out of it. He deduced that the key did not belong to the house. Though he asked himself why it should be buried in its front yard. He decided he’d ask Martha. Perhaps it belonged to her. Perhaps she could enlighten him on the proprietor. Or, perhaps she could tell him the history of this town, maybe there would be something in it that could help. The initials could be the name of some man of business whose initials were found on all his belongings. Perhaps this man’s descendants would like this key restored to them. In any case, he wished to know. The key was rather beautiful and very unusual. He was rather intrigued.
After speaking to Martha about random things, he inquired about the key. He showed it to her, but she seemed to have as little information to offer as he.
“ I could not tell you what that key is. I’ve never seen anything like it. Could I take a closer look?” she asked
“Of course. Here you are.”
“It is very odd that you should find this buried after so long. Judging by its appearance it should be at least a hundred years old. Probably more. Wait,” she said as she scraped some dirt off with the thumb of her right hand, “something is starting to show. Oh, there is another letter you’ve not seen!”
“Really? Show me.”
“There, it’s another A.” she replied as she handed him the object.
“Then I suppose this means those are initials.”
“Certainly, yes. I wonder if they are a man’s or a woman’s.”
He told her of his previous suspicions. But she had a quite different idea: “No, I bet to you it’s a woman’s. The key is far too pretty to belong to a man. And the fact there are three letters must mean that the middle one is her maiden name, and the last her husband’s family name. I think at the time this key was created, men would simply put first and last name initials.”
“I suppose, but we cannot know anything. Martha, do you know when my house was built?”
“I believe it was built around the same time mine was. All the houses around here. And this is an old town. Other than renovations, it’s never changed.”
“I guess that doesn’t help us.” He answered rather mockingly.
She tapped his knees as she replied, “Oh don’t be so sarcastic. I’m sure there are many people around here who know many things about this town that would help.”
“Really? Like who?”
“Many, many…. In any case my husband should be back from the coffee shop soon. He grew up here, he could help with this mysterious A.C.A.”
“I hope so. I must admit I do wish to know more about this key. It’s so strange to have found it on my first gardening day.”
“I hope that went well.”
“I think so. But who knows what else I’ll find in the future.”
He left an hour later. Martha’s husband did not prove to be a disappointment. He knew the town’s history better than anyone. He had stories to tell for all of eternity. He told him about when the town was built, he told him about those who built it. He also told him of previous owners of his house. One caught his attention. He was an old man who had married a beautiful young woman. She was kind and came from a rather wealthy family. No one, evidently, understood the match, or the choice of their home for that matter (they could have afforded something somewhere else). Though the elder man was equally wealthy and generous, he was far too old for her. Somehow others, when in their presence, described them as two people deeply in love. However, this mysterious woman never had visitors. The couple never had children either and eventually moved out of the town, to, as some speculated, a much more grand home. Over twenty years later a woman and a man, who we later learnt was her twin brother, moved into that home and her neighbors swore she was a copy of that other beautiful woman. But enough time had passed for many to have forgotten her. The newcomers now lived by themselves and rarely (not to say never) ventured into town. Their presence there was as quizzical as that other couple’s was. They finally made an appearance at some festive party or other and claimed to be the very children of that couple before mentioned. The woman talked and her brother said nothing. She informed them that their parents had just passed away one after the other and she’d decided to come to the home where they’d told her they bore their happiest memories. Afterwards she was only ever seen buying necessities, nothing more. Although, she always wore the most lavish clothes. She was far more mysterious than her mother, and more attractive. She and her brother spent five years in that house, living the exact same way. She gardened very often. The first time she was seen past her doors was when she was bent on her knees. She’s actually the person who truly began the town’s famous gardening tradition. It’s really thanks to her.
“So there you have it. Now you know to whom that key belongs.”
“But there are three letters on this key. She must have been married, yet you say she lived without a husband.” Wondered the young man.
“I told you she was very a mysterious young woman.”
He was not satisfied with this answer. This woman couldn’t have already been widowed at that age. She was obviously so attached to her parents that she came to this town to live their life. She certainly left when she found it was very boring. It seemed like the only logical explanation. And her brother served as her guardian certainly. The key mustn’t belong to her. Perhaps it was her mother’s however. And the daughter buried it. But then why it be in her possession? Unless her mother wished for her to come back here. She must have been looking for its lock all these years. And, certainly after such a long time, she found there was no hope and wished to be rid of the useless key. He decided he’d talk to his neighbor again, he had many questions on his mind and wished to share his ideas with both Martha and her husband. And, he also decided he’d start looking for this lock, wherever it may be.
He woke up the following morning still thinking of this woman. Who was she? What did she do all day for five consecutive years? Who were her parents that no one then seemed to understand? Why did they leave? And why did their children come back? Was it their parents’ dying wish? Was it out of curiosity? And, even more intriguing to him, was this: why would she bury this key? Was it meant to be found by another? If so by whom? Why? This woman lived here over sixty, maybe even seventy years ago. If someone were to find this key, it should have been found. What does it open? What kind of lock? The key seems to date back from the nineteenth century, of this he was certain. Was it a family heirloom? But, again, if so, why bury it? Was she trying to hide it from someone? But why spend five years sheltered in this home? He wondered if there was something else buried around his house. Or, perhaps, something hidden inside the house. Maybe he would stumble upon another antique object. Something else that would help him unravel this family’s secret. He needed to ask his neighbor for their name. Yes, he would go today. That would help.
“Yes, yes, I completely agree with you. There is no logical explanation to her behavior, or to her brother’s.” Martha’s husband, John, replied as he held his pipe firmly in his hand.
“Whatever story is related to this key is turning out to be far more interesting than I thought.” Retorted Martha.
“Well I suggest you go take a look at more weeds over there, you just might find something else.” Added John.
He took his advice and began gardening in the backyard but to no avail. The next day he tried again and to his surprise came across a chain. He was uncertain if it was gold or not but after a check, he was sure. Evidently he couldn’t tell how old this chain was. Gold has always been rare and therefore precious in the West. However now that he’d found something else, something that certainly belonged to this family he was certain that these objects had a significance. More so, he was pleased. He was pleased because no one would bury a chain without reason. These two objects couldn’t have been lost so randomly in the ground. Something must have been attached to this chain. He got his gardening tools and tried again but did not find anything. He was not discouraged though.
He invited John and Martha to dinner that night and revealed to them this discovery. They were surprised but delighted. “How fascinating!” exclaimed Martha, “Finally something to talk about that isn’t gossip. How wonderful! Oh I hope you do find out what all this means but not too quick now, because the magic’s in the mystery.”