Molly Malone was the smartest, funniest, most beautiful girl that I’d ever met.
She was my every dream rolled into one – if I could have designed a woman, I couldn’t have done better than Molly. She had blonde hair that flowed down her back in a ramrod-straight waterfall. When I ran my fingers through it, the light reflected every shade of blonde known to man. She had huge blue eyes, so bright they might as well have been alive in their own right. She was tall, full-figured, graceful, and light.
The best part is that she was mine.
I first met Molly in my sophomore year at college. We shared a philosophy class together – I pretended to like it just to impress her. As soon as we graduated, I asked her to marry me, and she said yes without hesitation.
We were married June of the next year. I work in finance and have a pretty well-paying job, so we were able to afford rent on a nice little townhouse, with painted shutters and a fence, the whole nine yards. It made Molly happy. It made me happy.
For five short years, this was our life.
There was one thing about Molly that I didn’t understand.
Molly didn’t much care for ink or piercings, but she did have one tattoo. A small one, and it was almost never visible. It was on her back, just a few inches below her neck. A tiny keyhole, no embellishments, no nothing.
I always wondered about it.
The first time I asked was a few weeks after we’d been dating. Molly usually wore high-collared shirts or scarves, so I hadn’t noticed it until that point. When I asked her why she got that tattoo, she seemed a little startled. Then her demeanor softened and she smiled at me.
“I’ll tell you about it one day. Just not today.”
Since we’d only just started dating, I decided not to push it – after all, she would tell me when she was ready. In fact, I mostly forgot about it. It wasn’t until I proposed to her that I dared ask again.
After she said yes, she’d practically jumped into my arms. I whispered my question into her ear as I swung her around under the lights of New York City. She stiffened a little as she pulled back to look at me.
“One day. I promise, one day I’ll tell you. Just not today.”
As the wedding drew near, my curiosity deepened. I decided that I would learn the truth on our wedding night.
As she pulled me to the bed that we would share, a little shy but excited all the same, I asked the question one more time.
This time, her eyes became a little wet, as though on the verge of spilling tears. She sighed and fit herself within my arms, pressing close to me as though for comfort.
“I know that you must be so curious. And now that we’re husband and wife, there should be no secrets between us. But, please, trust me now as you have trusted me these past few years. If you love me, then believe me: one day I’ll tell you. Just not today.”
From that moment on, I resolved never to ask again. I realized that it wasn’t important, one stupid little tattoo. I would wait for her to tell me of her own volition, and the results would be infinitely more satisfying.
I conveyed my love to her with my silence, and we basked in happiness.
Just before our five-year anniversary, the relative stability of our life began to tremble when, one night, I touched Molly’s tattoo for the very first time.
We were lying in bed, and she’d already drifted off to sleep – she always fell asleep before me, but she compensated for it by getting up ridiculously early every morning. As I held her in my arms, enjoying the comfort of her soft warmth, my fingers trailed their way down past her neck.
I was surprised when I felt a hole situated between her shoulder blades. Alarm rang through my body and I almost roused her from sleep, until my fingers trailed along the edges and I realized…
It was the tattoo.
That was when I understood that it wasn’t a tattoo at all. Molly had an actual keyhole in her back.
For three weeks, I didn’t say a word to Molly about my discovery. After all, she had promised to tell me when she was ready, and I trusted her.
But that didn’t stop me from… exploring.
Every night when she fell asleep, I would touch the hard edges of the keyhole, mapping the mystery with my fingers. I began paying more attention to her routine when she was awake. I noticed, for the first time, the way she made sure she was always awake before I was, even on the days she had off from work. I also noticed that she went to bed exactly fourteen hours after she woke up, each and every day, with absolutely no deviation.
My curiosity grew, and my patience began to wane.
One night after Molly was in bed, I committed the ultimate offence. In the darkness of our bedroom, I began to go through her things.
It was wrong of me, and I know that now – believe me, I do. But, at the time, I just… had to understand. Something was going on with my wife, and it was time for me to find out what.
I opened her drawer in the bathroom, but found nothing out of the ordinary. I went through her jewelry, her makeup, and still, nothing. Finally, I moved to the bedroom and started for her bedside table.
It was locked.
Molly and I had matching bedside tables, and I knew that mine didn’t have a lock. After a little inspection, I found that Molly had actually added a lock to her own drawer. How had I never seen that before?
The lock wasn’t very secure, truth be told, and it only took me a moment to use one of Molly’s bobby pins to pick it. Holding my breath, I peered inside.
How odd it was to find a drawer full of keys.
It was a strange assortment, with keys of every color – blue, yellow, green, grey – but they were all the same size. And it was obvious where they were meant to go.
I spent a few hours examining those keys, playing with them, wondering about them, until I noticed a few rays of light peaking through the windows.
I don’t know exactly what possessed me at that moment, looking at my wife’s prone body, but I have no excuse for what happened next. I grabbed a blue key and placed it in her keyhole.
I gave it one, two, three turns… and then she began to stir. I threw the key back into the drawer and slammed it shut, hoping she be too suspicious when she realized it was unlocked. I threw myself back into bed, and laid quietly as Molly began to wake up.
That day, Molly was different. She seemed confused, disoriented. Mostly, she was unhappy, as though a pall had fallen over her usual sunny disposition. I caught her rubbing her back a little throughout the day, as though it was the source of her discomfort. That night, she fell asleep a few hours earlier than usual.
That morning, I tried again.
This time, I selected a yellow key. Instead of three turns, I gave it six.
Molly’s sunny disposition was back with a vengeance, although that undercurrent of confusion was still there. She fell asleep exactly fourteen hours after waking up, so I knew that I’d gotten the turns right.
Over the next week, I tried a variety of new keys. As time went on, I could feel Molly’s disposition towards me changing. Her confusion morphed into a slight coldness, as though she felt betrayed by me. It was foolish for me to think that I could keep it a secret from her – from the beginning, she must have known what I was doing. In hindsight, it was so obvious.
But the possibility of her discovering my indiscretion didn’t stop me.
For over a week, my experiment continued.
And then, one day, I discovered the black key.
The first few times I snooped through the key drawer, I didn’t see it.
One night, my hand knocked against the back of the drawer and I felt the wood give just a little. Curious, I pushed harder, harder… until the hidden door to the false back of the drawer gave way.
And out fell that black key.
It was a little more intricate than the others, with beautiful silver engraving along its body. It was so black that it was hard to see in the dark, but the silver glowed in the moonlight as though an enchantment lay in my palm.
Such a beautiful key. I knew I wanted to use it then and there.
As I had done every night before, I wound the key six times. Instead of placing it back in the drawer this time, I kept it in my pocket. It was just so gorgeous.
That day before I left for work, I watched Molly with a sharp gaze. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary – in fact, it seemed as though the black key hadn’t done anything at all. I was a little disappointed about that. I left for work, out of sorts and unhappy, wondering what she had that key for anyway.
Or any of them at all, for that matter.
Thinking back, that was the last happy day of my life, and I wasn’t even able to appreciate it. I was too caught up in my wife’s secret, the one that I had shamelessly pried open to unworthy eyes.
That day, I got off work at five, as usual. I had finally begun feeling just a little bit guilty about everything I’d done over the past week, so I stopped at the flower shop to buy a dozen lilies – her favorite flower. I got home just a half an hour later than usual. Sometimes I wonder if I’d gotten home earlier, if perhaps things would have been different.
I opened the door, stepped through the foyer. I walked into the kitchen, only to see a chair toppled over on the floor.
And Molly hanging by her neck from the ceiling.
She didn’t leave a note. I wonder if perhaps that was her final revenge, to leave so much of her life still shrouded in mystery. I know now that if I had just been patient, if I had shown myself trustworthy, she would have opened up to me.
But I wasn’t trustworthy. I betrayed her, and this was the result.
I know now what the black key was for, the reason it was hidden.
I was the orchestrator of Molly’s death, and there’s no way to get her back.