The air was stagnant, ripe with the scent of neglect and dust hanging in the hazy light. Boxes were stacked ubiquitously, many leaning haphazardly with only a wall or neighboring stack keeping them upright. The magnitude of the job ahead loomed threateningly as Boo stepped further into the murk.
Ugh, she thought, blinking rapidly and holding a hand near her nose to keep from being overwhelmed. What the fuck? She closed her eyes and massaged her forehead with two fingers. Above the front door the ancient bell gave an apathetic ting as reinforcements waltzed in.
With her long skirt creating strange markings as she sashayed her way inside, Lizbeth called out melodiously. “Boadicea! Where are you, love?”
Boo sighed heavily, but managed to smile as she turned around. Why her parents had burdened her with the name Boadicea still mystified her. They had thought it delightfully clever, as she had been conceived during their honeymoon trek across Europe. It didn’t seem fair, as her younger brother was christened with the perfectly ordinary moniker Rusty, but his name came with a mortifying back story (thirteen years separated their births and they had loved letting everyone in on the joke), so they both bore their indignities with wicked eye rolls and a permanent blush.
“Back here Auntie Beth,” she replied, knowing her aunt hated being called Beth almost as much as Boo hated being called Boadicea.
On her right came an inaudible swish, followed by a muffled thud and a noisy clang as a nearby tower of boxes came down, spilling its contents across the solid floor. Boo wound her way toward the commotion. Lizbeth was on the floor, surrounded by brass knick-knacks as they rolled about.
“Oof,” she huffed, trying to bunch up her skirt so she could stand. Boo offered her hand, which was accepted gratefully. Lizbeth’s first priority upon standing was brushing futilely at the sullied fabric covering her back end. “This place is a death trap.”
Paling imperceptibly, Boo bit her lower lip as she examined the floor. Lizbeth did not seem to notice she had jammed her foot squarely in her mouth as she continued to examine her backside. The antiques shop had been her parent’s livelihood and passion, but it had also been where they perished, dying as they had lived – together and inexplicably. It had taken her months to gather the courage to step foot inside the storehouse – their legacy passed down.
“Confound it!” Lizbeth’s exclamation broke through her somber reverie. “Oh fiddlesticks. My skirt is torn.” She looked around, trying to find what it had caught on. Behind her a rusty hinge poked out from underneath an old rug. She placed her hands on her hips, poking tentatively at the frayed edge with the toe of her shoe.
Boo knelt down to take a closer look. “What the fuck?” she wondered aloud as she rolled the corner of the rug back. “It’s a trapdoor.”
“Language,” her aunt chided.
Ignoring her, Boo asked, “Aren’t we standing on the foundation? I don’t remember anything about a subbasement.”
Rummaging around in the fallen boxes, Lizbeth gave a distracted hmm sound.
“Lizabeth!” Boo practically shouted.
She jumped back guiltily, like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Boo resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “What?” her aunt squealed indignantly.
Frustrated, Boo threw her hands up, then pointed at the spot where the door was uncovered. “Did you know about this?”
Following her finger, Lizbeth’s face morphed into confusion. “There’s a door there.”
“No shit,” Boo said. Before her aunt could reprimand her language again, she held up a finger and continued. “I thought this was all there was to the store,” waving her hands to indicate their surroundings.
Lizbeth just shrugged and returned to her digging.
Boo spoke barely above a whisper. “I wonder what’s down there.”
She brushed back the remainder of the mat to reveal the handle and pulled. With a screech, the rusty hinge gave up its hold grudgingly. A yawning dark hole plunged unfathomable beneath her. After a quick walk back to her car, she came back with her emergency halogen flashlight. The bright bulb scarcely penetrated the gloom. The top of a staircase emerged in the shaft amidst the shadow.
Guess I’ll find out, she thought. Boo began her descent.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The Secrets They Kept ©Robin Allen 2016
All rights reserved. This story, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including recording, photocopying, offset, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author, except by reviewers who may quote brief passages to be printed in a magazine or newspaper.