The day before our thirteenth birthday, Aunt Vega pulled me aside. “Come follow me,” she said, “I have something to show you.”
As we neared our destination I realised I must be in trouble. The only thing at the end of this corridor was the study, and it was strictly off limits.
But that hadn’t stopped us from trying to break in.
We had been so careful. Gem and Alistair had kept watch while I went in with the lockpick. Why had I agreed to being the lockpicker? Because I lost that fishing bet. Damn my ten fingered clumsiness! Why would they even want my butterfingers to be the ones picking the lock?
No one had seen us. Or at least, that’s what they told me. How did Aunt Vega find out?
We hadn’t even succeeded.
“Aunt Vega, we-”
I broke off in surprise as Aunt Vega pulled out a key from her pocket and began to open the study door. “Shh. Come in,” she said.
I nervously looked around. The hall was empty. Before someone came to ask us what we were doing, I quickly crossed the door threshold.
Aunt Vega immediately locked the door behind us. “Your mother never comes in here. Still, best to keep our voices down. I’d rather not hear that woman’s screeching, not today, lest I get another headache.”
I had never seen the inside of this room before, not even through the window. The curtains were always closed. It was an impressive room, all oak and mahogany, but I knew the true value of the room lay in the fact that it was my father who had sat behind the writing desk, on the leather upholstered chair, reading the hand-bound books.
“I thought Mother had the only key.”
“She likes to pretend so.
“Hush. First listen. When this house was rebuilt, everything in the attic was moved to the basement.”
“But we don’t have a basement.”
“That you know of.” She knelt onto the floor next to the desk and, with almost child-like enthusiasm, pulled the corner of the rug aside to reveal a trapdoor. Together we lifted the heavy panel to reveal stairs, uneven and steep, stretching down into darkness.
“Come,” she said again, her voice a conspiratorial whisper, as she began to descend.
A thrill rushed to my head and for a second I was dizzy. I had never seen Aunt Vega this enlivened before, and it felt like we were two children, playing at a game.
I reached the bottom with a flurry of dust. A lamp flickered into life.
If the room above was order, this was chaos.
The books, so many books, were piled haphazardly on the ground. Loose stacks of paper littered the spaces between them. I could imagine a mind, one like my own, moving through this room too fast in its quest for knowledge and leaving a trail of papers in its wake.
At the far end there was a desk, nowhere near as grand as the one upstairs. The vines of a plant, its hunger for surfaces insatiable, covered the back wall and everything with the misfortune of touching it.
“What is all this?” I sounded oddly breathless, and it wasn’t because of the dust.
“These are all the things they worked on. Your father, and before that, my mother, and some are even from my grandfather. This is Taurus’ real study. Not that one upstairs.” She ran a hand along a shelf by the wall, her fingers leaving a clear trail of revealed wood beneath the grime. “It’s quite neglected, as you can see. It didn’t feel right for me to come down here. But if you are willing to take responsibility and keep it secret, I will give you the key. After all, you are the heir. This room should be yours.”
My heart was pounding, louder and louder, in my ears, my cheeks, my fingertips. “But what about Gem?”
She hesitated. “He will have his share,” she said carefully, “but he will never be an alchemist. He will never be the heir. That is all you.”
The things I had, the things I loved, I knew I was expected to share if I was asked. But this place, three times the span of my own room and messy to the brim, was all mine. Just mine.
I tried not to let the selfishness show on my face, but it was hard to hide. I glanced furtively over at Aunt Vega. She was smiling. In her approval, I relaxed my face into a wide grin.
When I think back to it, I think hers was a sad smile. I wonder if, were I a little older and wiser, I would have noticed the sorrow behind her eyes.
I wonder if it would have made a difference.
Late chapter, because I am lazy and write slow. Also, this turned out longer than I thought it would. Also also, I got a new laptop so I am doing a gigantic mod purge. New year new me baby. Hoping everyone’s year so far is treating them well!
2 thoughts on “4.6 The Study”
Happy new year and new computer! And did you hear that Got7 won’t be resigning with JYP? Talk about new baby!
This chapter is so full of beginnings, and it’s awesome that Deneb doesn’t have to share them!
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Oh wow! Will the be going somewhere else? I hope so! JYP loses another one.
This chapter is the end of the child days, next chapter will be the first teen chapter, so beginnings all around!