Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Lock (03/06/06)
TITLE: The Master Key
By Della Loredo
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(James 4:2, NAS)
My hand trembled as I rang the doorbell. Calm down, I chided myself. It's not like this is your first assignment!
A butler opened the large door. "Good day, madam."
"Hello," I replied. "My name is Ima Shai. I'm with The Times."
"Yes, madam. Mr. Amor is expecting you. Do come in."
He took my coat and overnight bag, then showed me into the elegant sitting room, where several others were already waiting. I scanned the group, but saw none of the socially elite that I had expected for such an occasion. Rather, these seemed to be just "regular" folk; in fact, one man – apparently a mechanic – still had hints of grease on his calloused hands.
"Thank you all so much for coming to my little birthday bash," our host gushed as he entered the room. "We will have such fun this weekend!" He produced some keys and passed out one to each of us. "These are master keys," he told us. "Please feel free to explore my home and use any of the facilities that interest you."
We were shown to our rooms, each of which had been outfitted to suit the needs of its occupant. In mine, I found a telephone, computer, and fax machine, as well as a fresh loaf of bread, a bowl of fruit and nuts, and a hot pot of my favorite tea.
Once settled in my room, I began to explore the mansion. Glass doors with ornate brass locks opened into room after wonderful room. Being hungry, I headed first toward some delicious smells that led me to the banquet room. I could see all kinds of food, including many of my favorites, on the long table inside. I reached into my pocket and fingered the cool metal key, wondering if I should use it to enter the room. At last I decided that Mr. Amor meant only for the "real" guests to use their keys. I was, after all, just there to report on the weekend's events; surely Mr. Amor had not intended to spend his luxuries on me. There was food provided in my room – that would suffice.
I wandered on to find the library. It was a huge room, but the plush rug, leather easy chairs, and mahogany desk gave it a warm, inviting charm. It seemed to have miles of bookshelves, each heavy with fascinating titles. I could almost smell those old books, hear the crinkle of their pages turning in my hand, and feel the coziness of those leather chairs. I love libraries. I longed to use the key to unlock the door and enter. But no, I decided – every hand that touches those books leaves oils that damage them. Surely they were not meant for me to peruse.
Other locked glass doors opened into rooms where guests enjoyed different activities including swimming, badminton, fencing, chess, painting, and even quilting. I could see that each room was outfitted for its particular activity with the best equipment and with an instructor for those wishing to try something new. At the end of one hallway, I found a door that led into the barn. Inside, I saw a groom saddling a fine Arabian for the mechanic. I almost opened that door. After all, if the mechanic could use his key… But no – I was only a reporter. I was there to report on the activities, not to enjoy them.
Several times Mr. Amor, who participated in the various activities with his guests, saw me from inside a room and smiled. He would hold up a key and mime the motions of opening a lock, then point to me. It was kind of him to pretend that he wanted me to join in, but I knew what I was really there for.
When the weekend was over, I returned the key to Mr. Amor. "Thank you so much for your hospitality," I said. "You're a most gracious host. It was clear that your guests had a wonderful time."
"But I'm so sorry you didn't use your key!" he exclaimed.
"Oh, I got all I needed," I assured him. "I have plenty of material for my article."
"But I had wanted to give you so much more," he replied. Then, sadly, he closed the door.
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