The Secrets of the Universe
by Kat Otis
The god gave his keys to my brother, but I knew it was a mistake. Keys are a woman's domain.
My first key belonged to my dowry chest. Mother gave it to me when I was but five years old, promising to help me fill it with everything I would need when I was grown and married. It is a beautiful chest, intricately carved and carefully painted with scenes of the gods. Someday, it will be carried through the city streets in my wedding procession and everyone will wonder about the riches it holds.
The richly embroidered linens would not surprise anyone, but the geometry books might.
When Piero met the god in our palazzo's chapel, the god spoke to him thusly: "I give you the keys of my kingdom, and with them the power to bind and loosen."
Piero fumbled and nearly dropped the shining keys--one silver, one gold. "But what am I to do with them?"
The god did not answer, for the god was already gone.
My second key belonged to our kitchen pantry. When I was ten, Mother informed me that every merchant's wife must know how to cook before she could properly supervise her servants. I was an attentive student and soon mastered the art of creating fancifully shaped breads and sweet subtleties. As a consequence, I swiftly became Piero's favorite sister.
Neither my brother nor the cook saw fit to mention my more alchemical kitchen experiments to Mother.
After the god departed, I stepped out from behind the latticework cancellarii where I had been hiding. Piero turned to look at me, a mix of relief and fear on his face. "What now, Contessina?"
I held out my hand and, after a moment of hesitation, he dropped the keys onto my palm.
My third key belonged to the palazzo's garden. Now that I was fifteen, Mother explained, I could no longer venture out into the city for fear of damaging my reputation. The garden would be my consolation for the few months it took to arrange my betrothal and marriage. I spent many long summer days lounging in the garden, thinking about the men who showered me with love letters and expensive gifts from afar.
They promised me the heavens, but none of them thought to give me a perspective glass so I could truly see the stars.
Piero's shoulders relaxed, as if a great weight had been lifted from them. "Shall we go back to the salon? Your betrothed and his kin might be here by now."
"Soon." There was a keyhole in the chapel door, though I had never known it to be locked. The silver key fit it perfectly. I turned the key and locked the door, its bolt shooting home with a loud scraping and ringing clank. The bolt was silent when I turned the key the other way.