By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: Secret Chamber–Your character discovers a secret room in his or her home. Write the story.
Violet Evans leaned against the wall of her father’s den and rubbed little circles over her eyes with the heels of her hands. The only thing that had surprised her more than her parents’ death was the fact that they’d bought this fixer-upper so late into their retirement. Her dad downloaded DIY videos from YouTube; her mother checked out books from the library on old houses. Cancer for one and a broken heart for the other had snatched both of them away before they could make much progress on their resources.
“In here, Lily,” Violet called to her twin sister, pulling her hands away from her face.
Lily came and stood in the doorframe, her big blue eyes framed by suspiciously blonde bangs. Violet hadn’t attacked her grays as viciously as Lily had.
“I don’t know, Vi, can we really do this in a weekend?”
Violet shrugged. “If we can’t then we just have to come back. The lawyer said everything was pretty straightforward in the will. We just have to make a decision about the house.”
“I still don’t get why they’d want it in the first place,” Lily said, coming forward and joining Violet on the floor.
Violet looked around at the old paneling of the walls. “Maybe they saw something we didn’t.”
“Maybe…I just…I don’t know, it’s hard enough that they’re gone. But now we have to deal with all of this too, and I don’t…I don’t know, Vi, this doesn’t feel like it’s a part of them. I mean, it’s easy to tell they loved this place, but it doesn’t feel like it’s a part of us and them.”
“I know,” Violet said. The weight of her grief forced her head to drop back against the wall. A hollow thunk echoed behind her.
Lily frowned. “What was that?”
Lily got up and leaned over Violet. Violet turned and watched as Lily knocked on the wall. The hollow echoes continued to ring back in their direction.
“This is weird,” Lily said. She kept knocking on the wall, moving away from Violet and rapping with her knuckles in a horizontal direction.
“Do you think there’s something behind here?” Lily asked.
Violet began knocking on the wall from her sitting position. Echoes continued to sound. She opened her mouth to respond to Lily when she knocked in one spot and her fist went straight through the wall.
“Oh my god, Lil, you won’t—”
Just then a long seam formed in the wall. Violet looked at Lily, and she knew Lily’s shocked expression matched her own. After hesitating for a moment, Violet pressed on the wall and a large section swung away from her without a noise.
“Vi, I don’t know about this,” Lily said.
A light turned on automatically, illuminating a large room. In the middle of the room sat a coffee table, and a recliner against one wall invited them with its cozy microfiber fabric in the color of chocolate. Violet stuck her head inside and craned her head one way and then the other.
“It looks harmless enough,” Violet said after several moments. “Look, there’s even an AC vent on up the ceiling. Can’t be too bad.”
They brought their father’s rolling desk chair to prop open the secret door and went inside the room. As they entered Violet could see the length of the room ran the length of the house. A laptop sat on the coffee table, plugged in to an outlet behind the recliner.
“Maybe Dad found this place and wanted it for his Sudoku matches,” Lily suggested.
Violet exchanged a grin with her. Their father had discovered the puzzle several years earlier, and once Violet had shown him the online version—and that he could play against other people across the globe—he’d spent countless hours in his retirement matching wits with other enthusiasts.
“Kind of a man cave, right?” Violet said. She went to the recliner and sat down. Booting up the computer, she wriggled in the oversized chair. “Pretty comfortable, actually.”
“Move over,” Lily commanded, and Violet made room for her. They waited together as the laptop hummed and whirred. After several moments it went straight to the home screen without bothering to ask for a password.
Someone had left a word processing program running the last time the computer had been used. The girls began reading the document that opened in front of them.
“I’m so tired. I’m old and I’m tired. I really don’t want people to know what we’ve done. But now that Leonard is at the end…I don’t know, it just feels like the right thing to do. As much as it scares me, I have to tell someone about the double life we’ve led. God help me, I know the girls will never forgive me if they read this, but the guilt is too much and I’m tired. When we were young, breaking the law seemed like fun. It was almost a game. Leonard and I used to spend hours planning our crimes (and I have to be honest with myself, that’s what they were.) But now…now it feels like we could have spent that time doing something else. Something that would have benefited someone other than us.”
Violet’s pulse began to pick up, and she pulled back from the computer.
“I don’t know if I want to read anymore, Lil,” she said. “If Mom had this thing in here, it’s obvious she was hiding it.”
Lily covered her mouth with her hand for a few moments then pulled it away. “Vi, maybe…maybe Mom left this here on purpose. Maybe…maybe she needed help.”
Violet looked long and hard into her sister’s eyes. She thought about her father’s last days and how her mother’s grief had overtaken her. Was it just grief that had burdened her, though, or was it also remorse?
She nodded and they kept reading.