I remember the day I found the little brass key. A nondescript thing. The box, on the other hand, was made of wood mellowed by time and hands. On the lid an inlaid mother of pearl oval with a circle of ebony at its centre. As a child I thought it was an eye guarding the box.
When my grandmother owned the box it was on her dressing table under the window. She sat at her dressing table every day looking out on to the lawn. I remember Grandfather would mow the lawn after Sunday lunch if the weather was fine. Ram rod green stripes. My grandmother wore a red hat to his funeral. Later, the box moved to my mother’s desk next to her typewriter. The desk had a secret drawer, mother showed me once how to open it. It was on a day my step father was at one of his Lodge meetings. Grandmother wore her red hat to his funeral too.
I held the key in my right hand. The box had sat on my sideboard for two years – winking at me. I left the key in the lock for a whole day, letting the box get used to the feel of the fit. On the second day I turned the key, the lock resisted, then with a soft click, relented. I lifted the lid, hoping the eye was not watching. As a child, I shook the box once and it rattled, my Grandmother scolded me and I went to bed with no supper. I’d imagined contents of precious jewels and gems. Now, I was ready for answers. There had been nothing in the secret drawer. Maybe the all-seeing eye would know the truth – who had been my Father.