Mother and Jules were in the dining room with Aunt Guinevere, cleaning candlesticks for some reason I couldn’t quite fathom since they were all pristine. I was standing in the room next to the room that’s always locked.
The room was a square with pale yellow walls, white curtains with pale rose-colored daisies embroidered on them, and a pale rose carpet. Cardboard boxes lined the left side in two rows. They were full of Aunt Guinevere’s books from when she was a teenager. The four bookshelves had been taken down the day before by Jules.
I quietly left the room and went to the locked door. I placed a hand on the doorknob and turned it. It was still locked. I glanced down the hallway and heard Mother, Jules, and Aunt Guinevere walking up the stairs. Jules was complaining about the two bookshelves Aunt Guinevere had asked him to take down and put back up in her bedroom.
I moved to the back door, unlocked it, and went outside. I walked through the wildflower garden to the fountain and looked to the locked room’s window. It’s covered by lavender curtains with large, yellow daisies on them. And I can’t get over there to pry open the window, although it’s probably locked, because the wildflowers separates me from the window.
“Miriam?” Aunt Guinevere’s voice called.
I quickly turned and hurried back to the corridor. Aunt Guinevere was standing at the entrance to the corridor when I entered from the back door. Aunt Guinevere really doesn’t look her age. She looked about fifty when she was really almost seventy. Her brown hair was streaked with gray and her dark eyes were large and luminous.
“Yes, Aunt Guinevere?”
“Are the books all packed up?”
“Yes. I just went outside for some air.”
Aunt Guinevere nodded sympathetically. She fingered the key on the rose colored ribbon around her neck as she spoke. “Those books are really dusty, I know.”
“They are old,” I said.
Aunt Guinevere smiled. “Jules is complaining about the bookcases.”
“Well, he’s already taken down, what, six or seven?”
“He just took down the ninth.”
“It would help if you wouldn’t move them all over the house.”
I walked towards her and took her slender hands in my own. She looked at me curiously.
“Is something wrong, Miriam?” she asked.
I smiled and shook my head. “Why do you keep the last door on the right locked?”
Aunt Guinevere looked stunned. I had never asked the question before even though it had weighed heavily on my mind ever since Mother, Jules, and I had moved in after Dad and Uncle Geoffrey died.
“Why do you ask?” Aunt Guinevere asked, her tone dismissive.
“Just wondering, Auntie. You know I love mysteries,” I said with a soft laugh.
“Yes, I do know, Miriam,” Aunt Guinevere said quietly.
“How long has the door been locked?”
Aunt Guinevere smiled. “Since the year before you were born, Miriam,” she said softly.
“Is it a special room?”
“Indeed it is. Not even Geoffrey went into it after…” she trailed off and looked away.
“After what?” I prompted gently.
Aunt Guinevere turned her head back to me and smiled again. “After it was locked.”
“It would be best if you don’t ask any more questions, Miriam.”
“I’m sorry, Aunt Guinevere,” I said, releasing her hands.
Aunt Guinevere wrapped her fingers around the old fashioned key and stared off into space for a moment.
“Do you still miss Uncle Geoffrey?”
“Every day, Miriam, every day,” Aunt Guinevere whispered.
Then she turned and headed into the den, where Mother was cleaning the surface of Uncle Geoffrey’s old secretary. Jules was walking down the stairs. He turned to me and grinned. My younger brother looked like a dusty mess. His dark blond hair was disheveled, but his blue eyes, so much like Dad’s, sparkled.
“What happened to you?” I called to him.
“Aunt Guinevere,” he grumbled, his grin fading.
Jules and I love Guinevere as much as we love Mother. But neither of us can ignore Aunt Guinevere’s strange doings. She enjoyed moving her furniture around and her gardens were her pride and joy. She treated them as though they were her children. Aunt Guinevere and Uncle Geoffrey had always wanted children, but couldn’t have any and both refused to adopt a child.
“What now?” I asked warily.
“More bookcases,” he said grimly, pausing on the next to last step. He leaned against the banister. “And she has many more left.”
“Those are in the library. I doubt she’ll have you take those down, too.”
Jules shrugged. “You never know with Aunt Guinevere.”
I nodded. “True. You know, I think Aunt Guinevere gets pretty lonely after we leave. I know she still has Mom here and they get along great, but she always has a far away look in her eyes.”
“I know. Do you have any idea what’s behind that locked door?”
Jules shook his head and stepped down. I still had to look up. He was half a foot taller. “Aunt Guinevere won’t talk about it.”
“She seems really sad about it.”
“Yeah. But it’s her business, Miriam.”
“Well, I’ve got to go help take down those giant paintings in the den. Aunt Guinevere just decided she wants them in the library.”
“I’ll go with you.”
When Jules and I reached the den, Aunt Guinevere had a task for me. She wanted me to take the pictures from the corridor and hang them in the den.
So, I headed back to the corridor and took down a picture of sunflowers in a wreath of morning glories in a pale rose frame.
I glanced over at the locked door. I just had to find out what was behind that door!