Oswin always carried the box in his bag. When we were not travelling from one place to another, he kept it near him – always within eyesight.
I noticed for the first time at a mutual friends’ party and asked him about it; I thought he was trying to make some kind of philosophical statement. It seemed like something he would do.
“Nah, it’s just something I picked up recently.”
Then he wouldn’t talk about it any more. Time went on and the box remained. I started to wonder what was in it, why he guarded it, and why he never talked about it or opened it. The idea of the box began to grow in my mind and I began to think about it constantly. It was like a small rock in my shoe that I couldn’t seem to find and wore a blister it the back of my mind.
Did it include old family photos and he kept it with him to remember someone who had passed? Were his most treasured possessions inside and, if so, what were they? Books? Letters? Money? – was he hiding his life savings? Or, did he keep some dark secret hidden within a makeshift casket? Plans to take over the world? A tremendous mountain of debt? Family secrets going generations back? Was it a box filled with fodder for blackmail?
I waited for moments when he might leave it behind, but there were none. I asked cautiously to no avail, and then I began to interrogate more eagerly. That backfired and, angered, he refused to talk to me for several days, waiting until I apologized and promised not to mention it again.
Knowing that it was none of my business and that my nosiness was ridiculous I became frustrated with myself. But the box was a thorn in my side and my anger with myself turned to Oswin. I began to make a plan to peek in the box because it wouldn’t really matter… right? First the key, then the box.
My luck turned a few weeks later. While sitting in class, I noticed that Oswin had nodded off due to the exhaustion that comes with late-night papers. His box had fallen slightly out of his backpack and was laying on the floor.
The only thing that made sense was to slide down in my seat so that my head barely looked over the top of the table, and I stretched my leg toward the box. The tip of my shoe touched the box! I pulled it nearer and then dropped to the floor under my desk, ignoring the glances of the other students around me. I pulled a pair of scissors from my bag and slid over to Oswin’s seat where I reached up to clip the golden key from his wrist.
Come back next Monday to find out the rest! 😀