Welcome back to the daily prompts. The third for this week.

Heart, lock and key: Picture prompt

The heart-shaped stone was clean, the scratched markings clear if unintelligible. The ornate, patinated key shone, as did the separate, unattached-to-anything lock. A silver ribbon loosely tied the three objects together.

The sigh of a memory breathed at the back of the antique dealer’s mind, and died again. He looked at the young woman who had laid the heart and its fellows on the glass counter top. Her hair hung in damp curls to the shoulders of her wet coat.

‘Very pretty. What do you want to know?’  Its worth, of course. All they ever wanted to know. Never anything else from sixty years handling the ancient and the merely old detritus of people’s lives.

‘It belonged to my grandmother.’

Yes, pretty hearts, keys and ribbons always belong to grandmothers. Useless information.

‘Uh, uh.’

The girl reached out a finger and lightly touched the lock and key. ‘These don’t fit together, you see, which makes me think perhaps there’s another, matching set.’

She raised her eyes hopefully to his. That sigh of a memory rose from its previous still birth and loitered in the shadows of his mind.

‘I wondered,’ the girl said, ‘if you’d ever seen anything like it before?’  

Ah. Provenance not pennies. The antique dealer’s interest was piqued.

‘May I?’ he said, and at her nod he picked the little collection up and weighed it in his palm.

A tingle, a tiny electric shock, thrilled his skin, and retreated. Memory stepped beyond the shadows to rifle among its fellows. The antique dealer squinted at the heart.

‘Your grandmother,’ he said, ‘did she ever talk about these?’

‘Only the once, when she gave them to me the day she passed.’ Her lips trembled. ‘We were at home, just the two of us. She told me to fetch her the wooden casket which she’d stashed at the back of her wardrobe.’

‘And this was in the casket?’  Casket. Memory gave a start of recognition. ‘Did you bring the casket today?’

‘No. I was sure I’d put these back into it, and left it on Gran’s dresser. But when I went to fetch it this morning, these were lying by her brushes and the casket was gone.’

‘Hmm.’ The antique dealer’s brain prodded memory to give up more. A casket, a key, a heart …    

‘I asked my mother if she’d seen it, and she stared at me. What casket?’ The girl leaned forward. ‘I think she was lying.’

A grandmother, a lying mother, this girl. A casket, a key, a heart …

Memory crowed in triumph. The antique dealer gently returned the objects to the glass counter top. He stroked the key, felt the buzz. One last question before he let himself acknowledge that memory’s triumph was justified.

‘What did Gran tell you?’

He asked the question casually, but she had scented the whiff of his stamped-down excitement and stared closely into his eyes.

‘That, if I asked the right being, the key would bring me home.’

A casket, a key, a heart … bring me home.

The antique dealer’s old heart soared. She was here, the promise made so long ago his too-long-with-humanity dulled senses had forgotten it.

He lifted his long beard from the glass, swung his short legs around and slid from his high stool behind the counter. Pushing back his hair he grinned when the girl stared at his elfin ears.

He walked around to stand in front of her and bowed deeply before extending her his hand. She laid hers in his. An amused, knowing smile played about her pretty mouth. Gran had said more, it seemed.

He laughed. ‘Your mother believes the casket is needed.’ Joy filled his next words. ‘She is wrong. May I escort you home, princess?’

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