Suggested by: S. Rose LeClaire (Aka "VelvetFaeling" on DeviantArt)
-A Name: "Brighton, Sarah, Lilly"
-A Time: "Valentine's Day"
-A Place: "Suburban home"
-An Object: "A Gift"
-Title: "After All"
("Soul Mates" Part 4)
"Ahh, that's good."
Sarah Brighton wriggled and kicked her foot as his fingers traced her ticklish arch. "Just keep rubbing the toes, smarty-pants," she told him.
Her husband obliged, his strong hands massaging the balls of her feet.
"Ohh, man! You have no idea how good this feels," she sighed. "After the day I had!"
He grinned at her. "Lemme guess, another field trip day?"
Sarah shook her head. "No, even weirder—and I was on my feet the whole time in those gawdawful pumps." She scowled at the offending shoes laying on the floor.
"Why did you wear them, then?"
"Ugh! The pitfalls of ladyhood." She let her head flop back against the cushion.
"Mommy!" The family cat, a calico named Shade, bounded into the room. Close on her tail trotted a young girl in a pink tee shirt. The curly bow holding her hair bounced as she curled up on the couch next to Sarah.
"Well, if it isn't my Lilly-belle!" Sarah crooned, stroking her daughter's light-brown hair. "Why aren't you in bed, munchkin?"
Lilly twiddled the pink, heart-shaped fairy wand she'd gotten just the other week for Valentine's Day. "Daddy and I talked to Poppa Paul and Nanna Betty!"
"Oh yeah, your folks called," Tyler said. "It seems Paul is having another exhibit on Friday and wanted to know if you can be there."
Sarah nodded, "I think that would be fine. I'll check with Larry and see if it would be okay to get someone to fill in for me that day."
"Hey, it's not every day that the daughter of NewYork's own P. R. Williamson gets to attend her father's exhibits; after all the hard work you’ve put in at the museum, how could he refuse?"
Sarah rolled her eyes. "He's turned me down before."
It wasn’t easy being the daughter of a famous artist—and the fact that she never cared to follow in his footsteps only made it harder. The progeny of a world-class artist demeaning herself to the level of tour guide at an art museum? A lowly fate indeed! But what her hands lacked her eye could see. She had a knack for “reading” paintings and arranging pieces in an exhibit hall at just the right positions—and the hours let her have time at home with her family. She looked down at Lilly, who was busy waving the wand just beyond the reach of Shade. She didn’t need to paint; love was her art—and this was the beginning of her masterpiece.
"Okay, time's up, Lilly!"
"I'm just not tired!" whined the little girl.
"Well, mommy is," Sarah gave her a little push. "And it's after your bedtime, missy!"
"Aww, please, mama?"
Sarah sat up. "Nope; bed."
Tyler stood and took his daughter's hand. "Come on, I'll tuck you in," he said.
"I wanna stay up! I'm in second grade!"
"Second graders need sleep," Sarah responded as Ty swung Lilly up into his arms. "You'll thank me when you're older," Sarah grinned and blew a kiss, which Lilly obligingly "caught" and pressed against her cheek.
Alone in the silence, Sarah mused over the strange day she'd had. In all the years working at the Museum of Fine Art, they had never received an endowment quite like this one. Absently, she replaced the lid on the box of Valentine's chocolates and brought it back into the kitchen.
Without warning, strong arms wrapped around her waist and she felt someone burying his face in her curly red hair.
"Eep! Tyler!" Sarah turned in his arms and snuggled against his chest. She sighed, and all the troubles melted away.
His chin rested on the top of her head. "Wanna talk about your weird day now?" He offered.
"Yeah." Sarah walked with him back to the couch.
"So what happened?" He asked.
Sarah huffed. "It wasn't weird, it was just dumb! So this package arrives from, I dunno, somewhere in the UK—"
"Really? Why ship it here?"
"Pssh! How should I know? Anyway, it's supposed to be a gift from some eccentric billionaire or something, and there are these three antiques in there, already cased up and everything, along with—I kid you not—a small novel of care and display instructions." She indicated the thickness of the pamphlet with her fingers.
Tyler snorted, "You're kidding! Display instructions? What were they, Crown Jewels or something?"
Sarah shook her head. "No—well, there was this crown, and a sword, and a necklace thing, but they were all really old and kind of tarnished." She sighed and leaned back on the couch. "So they came with their own plaques and everything, and they had to be displayed at a certain height and they could not be within a certain range of any windows and doors—"
"I know! And they couldn't be displayed together, and there are like a dozen parameters for when we can display them—like if there hasn't been a break-in for six weeks or something, which kind of makes sense, but still! They all had these funky names, like the Collar of Cuimhne, and the Diadem of Baetha Sìoraì, and the Sword of Láidreacht—but nothing that says who any of these people were, or why they have things named after them."
Tyler nodded pensively. "You're right, that is a little strange."
Sarah ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head. "Whatever, I'm done thinking about that right now." She stood and tugged on Tyler's hand. "Come to bed?"
He smiled and joined her. "Right behind you."
(Six months later, in August)
A young man, an old woman, and a small pixie sat around the little kitchen table, staring at the weathered letter.
"The one who wants it doesn't need it," Kenneth read. "That must be me, because I want the collar, but I don't need it for myself."
"Allyra need, but she no want," Nakoma pointed to the next line.
Kenneth snorted. "No, I don't imagine she would, if she knew we were doing this—at least, not the way she is now," he frowned.
"So how do we figure out who has it?" Agnes said. "It's not as if we can just look for scenarios of people miraculously recovering their memories—"
Kenneth nodded, "Right, because the riddle says that the one who has it can't use it."
The question remained: who could it be? In what sort of scenario would a person unwittingly own an ancient Celtic necklace without using it?