I was glad that the hallway light had been left on for me. I had told my great aunt that I had no idea when I’d be arriving, so it would be nice if things were set up for the possibility that I would get there well after sunset. As it was, it was late afternoon. I pulled my keys out of the lock and slipped them back into my coat as I looked around.
The house had been very well cared for by my… what was he again? The grandfather of my great uncle? Or had it been the other way around? He had been the oldest member of my extended family, but I had not seen him since I was very young. My great aunt, whom he had selected to manage his estate, could not explain why he had selected me of all people to receive this house.
The entry hall was wide and open. It reminded me of some of the movies I had seen where at least one of the characters lives in a fancy house, but you know you could never afford it, no matter how dreamy it is. Most of the furnishings were still there; only a few things had been removed to be given to specific inheritors. There was a sturdy coat-rack with a sort of umbrella basket at its base (which still had a couple of umbrellas in it), several tables, some with picture frames on them, and the paintings that hung in ornate frames on the walls.
I had been wondering about wealth lately. I had so little of it, yet some people had so much. It had occurred to me that some people are able to amass nice things over a lifetime, bit by bit. When I looked at their wealth, I imagined how it would be buying it all at once. There was such a difference in those ways of thinking…
I turned to the left and passed through a door– how often do I get to say this?– into the kitchen. The granite counter tops were worn with age but still shone with care. I looked around, found the light switch to turn up the lights, and then found the note on the island counter that my great aunt said I should look for. It had her careful and elegant handwriting on it, and I took several moments to read it over.
She had left me her phone number, and a few others that I could call in case I needed help with the house. There was some basic information about the house, and instructions on a few things. At the end, she had written, “you’ve had a long drive, my dear. I left you some dinner in the refrigerator; eat up, and be sure to get plenty of sleep tonight.”
I chuckled at her last words; how was I supposed to get to sleep when I had a three-story house to explore? She had also asked me to call her when I got in, so I puled my cell phone out of my pocket and slid over to the phone call screen.
“No signal,” I sighed. “I might have to change my plan.”
There was a land-line phone hung on the wall near one of the doors, so I picked it up and dial my great aunt’s number.
“It’s corded,” I said to myself as it rang, “but at least it’s not rotary.”
The line rang several times before she picked up.
“Lydia?” I asked when I heard her voice. “Yeah, it’s me. I’m at the house now… Yeah, I just got in… It’s beautiful! I’m thrilled that he left it to me… No, I haven’t eaten yet. Well, I had some snacks in the car… Yes, I have your note right here. There was a map next to it; I can see the stores right on it.”
Great Aunt Lydia went on asking me questions for a few more minutes, making sure that I was okay, that I had everything I needed. I had plenty of money from selling off the stuff I would no longer need from my apartment, There was enough food in the fridge and pantry for a few days, and then I could shop for the things that I liked when I was more settled in. I didn’t have anything too heavy to carry in from the car, and I was fine being on my own. I have lived in my apartment on my own, after all.
Once she let me off the line, I went back to the island counter. There was a box there; it was wooden, carved ages ago judging by the way it was so smooth and worn. It was large enough to hold a large stack of papers, which was pretty much what I found when I opened the lid. Floor plans, maintenance information, amenities. It looked as though the house had been upgraded as technology developed, so that it had some of the better things available.
I also found information about the power company, the phone account and– thank goodness! They had thought well enough to set up internet and a wi-fi router. Judging by the paperwork, those were new, probably set up just for me. That came as a huge relief. Once I got my computer set up and configured the network, I should be able to at least make wi-fi calls from my cell phone.
The lid of the box also had several clips that held keys. Some were extra house keys, and others were labeled for other things, including the shed and the garage. There were at least two copies of each key, so I pulled out my key chain and began stringing keys onto it. I was nearly done when my elbow bumped the box and I heard something rattling at the bottom of it.
“What’s this?” I asked as I lifted up the stack of papers.
Down at the bottom of the box was another key. It was all on its own at the bottom. I picked it up and looked it over closely. A numeral 7 had been painted on it in black, and when I looked back to the keys on the lid, none of the others had the same label. I even held it up to several of the keys, but none of them had the same cuts as this one.
“You’re a little different, aren’t you?” I said. I took the 7 key and put it onto the ring attached to my angel feather key chain– I have several rings and items on my keys– and headed back out to my car to start bringing things inside.