You’ve been given a key that can open one building, room, locker, or box to which you don’t normally have access. How do you use it, and why?
‘Daniel, you’ve been with me through everything, but I don’t want you here for this. I’m an old man, and there is a lot you are yet to learn. I know you have many questions, and I know you’ve been searching for years for answers, but the truth is, I have all of your answers, I’ve just been keeping them from you. I needed to wait until you were mature enough to think rationally and logically without letting emotion cloud your judgement.
‘In the house, there is a book in the library that is unlike the others. Inside is a key to a deposit box. All the details are there, but you need to go now and find your truths. It’s my parting gift for you, you need to find your happiness and you need to find closure. Please go now. My time has come and you do not need to mourn me. I’ll always be watching over you.’
Daniel sat there holding Aaron’s hand, struggling to control his emotions; tears streaming down his face, ‘Aaron, you can’t go yet, not yet, just a little bit longer, I can’t be without you, you’re all I’ve known. You’re the only family I have left… I love you so much!’.
‘Daniel, we’ve had an incredible life together, and I’ve raised you like you were my own son. I know if Margaret were still alive, she’d be so proud of the man you’ve grown up to be. Strong, determined, polite, caring, and respectful. Everything that she was. She may not have been your mother, but you are so much like her, but now you need to let go. You need to close this chapter of your life, and look back with nothing but smiles and fond memories. I’ve lived my life. I’ve loved, I’ve lost. I’ve been to war and survived. I’ve raised a child, and survived. I’ve done more than most men could do in their lifetime, and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. But it’s time for me to go. I just don’t want you be here to see me pass. Please… Just go.’
Alan squeezed Daniel’s hand one last time, as Daniel burst into tears by his bedside. ‘I’m so proud of you Daniel. So, so proud. I love you so very much.’
‘I love you too, Alan. I’ll always think of you.’
Daniel stood up and wiping the tears from his cheeks, he leant over and kissed Alan on the forehead, and stepped back to have one last glance at the man who had raised him as his own, now laying there on the hospital bed with tubes coming out from all over his body. He loved Alan like a father, and often referred to him as his father. He gently placed Alan’s hand on the bed, took one last look, turned and walked out of the hospital room.
Daniel struggled to walk through the corridors of the hospital, fighting the urge to quickly turn and run back to Alan’s bedside. He walked through the car park to his car, fumbling his keys to unlock the driver-side door. He climbed into the drivers seat and slammed the door shut, and broke down in tears. He felt so guilty for leaving. He felt guilty for leaving Alan. He should be there. He should be by his side for his last moments in this life. But he also wanted to honour Alan’s wishes, which is what was more important, so he knew he had to go. He just didn’t realise it was going to be so hard. For the next twenty minutes he just sat there crying uncontrollably, confused and surprised at how much this was deeply affecting him.
Daniel finally managed to calm himself, and looked around his passenger seat for a bottle of water. He took a mouthful of the warm water, wondering just how long that bottle had been sitting in the car, because that water did not taste fresh at all, and started laughing because he remembered when Alan did the exact same thing, and went to spit the water out of the window, but the window was still up, and the water went everywhere. He drove out of the car park with a smile on his face, and then remembered what Alan had said earlier about the key and the safety deposit box and finding answers. Instead of heading home, he was halfway to Alan’s house, before he actually realised where he was.
Daniel walked through the front door, pausing momentarily to look around. In the silence, he began to realise that Alan would never be returning home, and at some point, Daniel would have to start taking care of Alan’s affairs; the funeral, the will, not to mention all his other affairs such as the house and his belongings. But he couldn’t think about that right now.
He slowly slipped off his workboots, and using his foot, moved them to the side. He paused again, looking down and a pair of Alan’s old, ratty, mud-covered dress shoes. They’d been sitting there for the past 2 weeks, covered in mud from the day the plumber broke the water main and flooded the front yard. He remembered how Alan was so angry, but Daniel had arrived home from work, and jumped into the mud to help both Alan and the plumber fix the problem, and then invited the plumber to stay for dinner and have a laugh about it.
Daniel stepped off the tiled entrance and onto the soft, plush pile of the carpet in the sitting room. Knowing he still wasn’t mentally ready to be here, he walked into the living room, and stood opposite the bookshelf. As a kid, Daniel always called this room the library, because the bookshelves stretched across the entire length of the room, and went from the floor to the ceiling. Daniel always liked to tell people that he had a library at home, as though it gave him some kind of ‘status’, but now it was just shelves of memories.
‘In the house, there is a book in the library that is unlike the others…’ Daniel remembered what Alan had said; talking about the safety deposit box, and finding answers to questions he had. Daniel took a couple of steps closer to the dusty shelves, and began to look at the spines of the books. He couldn’t work out what Alan had been referring to, because they all seemed to be actual books. Randomly pulling a few books off the shelf, he opened them up, revealing nothing but pages and pages of text. No keys.
Daniel paused for a moment, taking a step back, and looking at the collection of books. There may have been over 600 dust-covered spines in front of him, and he knew he’d have to check every single one of them. He exhaled loudly, walking off to find Alan’s small stepladder, and then methodically worked his way from one end to the other.
A couple of hours had passed, and Daniel was still checking books, until he removed one book. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. he opened the cover, revealing a velvet insert, with a small satin tab. He pulled the tab, lifting the black velvet covert plate and gasped when he saw what was underneath.