A Show, Don't Tell Entry
She found life boring. In fact, Ruby felt it had become an anchor that was tied about her waist, and needed to be dragged everywhere. Traffic was snarled in the gray rainy day, and with the light fading in the city, it was a sea of taillights. She knew the commute would be even worse than usual.
Ruby touched her forehead to the steering wheel and sighed. "Story of my pathetic life."
What had started out as a wonderful job years back had become stale. That, however, didn't mean the bills would quit coming if she moved on, and searching for new employment was more troublesome that worthwhile. Ruby looked up and into the review mirror at her face. She didn't like the look of age that had crept in, the wrinkles and strands of gray hair replacing the auburn. She had never been vain about her looks, and not being of means, didn't visit salons and such. It seemed like her destiny to grow old alone, with no man in her life, and no prospects. The only reason she remembered the last relationship was that it started out with flowers, jewelry, and nice dinners, but ended horribly. He was handsome, but ugly on the inside. He was suave and charming, but would make Ruby call him at certain times, not let her see friends, and talked her into thinking she was worthless. It scarred her inside, and even thinking of trying to date made her shudder. She knew she was feeling sorry for herself, but she had always wanted more out of life.
While she sat idling in the rush hour, a misnomer by any standards, the phone rings, Ruby answers, and her life forever changes. She looked at the unknown number, probably another stupid robocall, but decided to answer anyway.
"Hello Ruby. The traffic is bad, isn't it?" The voice was silky smooth but without a hint of accent.
"Pretty bad." She reliped and craned her neck to try and see in adjacent cars. "Who is this?"
"Just a friend," Came the reply.
Ruby had few friends that even knew her number, and all but a couple were women. "I don't recognize your voice."
"No, you wouldn't." There was a long pause. Ruby couldn't even hear breathing.
"So, what can I do for you..." She was hoping for a name, but it wasn't forthcoming.
"Well, if you'd like to have some fun, we can play a game!" The voice finally had some animation.
"I'm a little too old for games." As the words left her lips, there was a hint of butterflies in her tummy.
"Oh, never be too old for games." He chided with a smile in his voice. "How about just some choice?"
"Choices. Right. Because that's clearly what I'm so good at doing." She thought of the drudgery life had become.
"You sell yourself short. Play along! None of your choices are dangerous, but the correct ones may be great!"
"Uh huh." She feigned disinterest, but found she was a little excited. "So what are these choices?"
"Well, the first is very simple. When you finally get to the next light, go right, left or straight."
The phone went dead. Ruby thought about the call as she inched forward. It was probably just a prank, but after sitting in this traffic wallowing in despair, she decided to play. Random. It just seemed so random. Straight would be the easiest, as she was in the center lane, so that was the safe choice. Then it struck her.
"He said 'correct' and that's the same a right!" She said aloud.
The signal flashed when she put it on, hoping some kind driver would let her in, but that was no use. She finally got to the light, which had gone amber to red, and she tried to get the attention of the driver next to her. He was either oblivious or ignoring her, so she made a very unusual decision not at all like her. As the cross street traffic stopped, and just before the light went to green, she accelerated hard and pulled the wheel to the right, cutting off the driver. Horns blared, tires squealed, but she was gone before hearing any curses. She was exhilarated! She finally slowed to a normal speed when the cell phone ringtone, some ditzy 80's music, went off again. Ruby picked up without checking the number.
"Well well! I was hoping I'd get to ring you again!" The voice said. It now sounded friendly to her.
"Well, it looked like you going to go straight at first. That was quite a maneuver!"
"So you're watching me?" She said with a bit of distaste. "And what if I had gone straight?"
"Well, sure, I had to know to call or not. Had you gone straight, you'd have just gone home."
"And left? What would happen then?" She asked.
"We'll never know, Ruby." He relied. "But, in four blocks, park. Three stores will be open. The choice is yours!"
He was gone again. Ruby splashed through the rain filled potholes, and aside from stopping for some cross traffic headed out of the city, she made the four blocks in short order. As she parked, she saw three stores still open across the street, Hammond's Dress Shoppe, Denard Fine Jewelry, and McShane's Package Liquor. This time there wasn't a clear choice, or so she thought at first. Was anything unusual said during that quick call? It could just be up to luck, or it didn't seem like it with the last clue. Then it dawned as bright as a new day.
"He didn't say call me gain, he said ring me again! Who says that?!" She said aloud.
Ruby open the car door with a groan from the hinges that no oil would cure. It seemed everything in life either needed to be replaced or repaired, and oh how nice it would be to do it. Without even covering her head, she crossed the street to stand under the awning.
"Well, here goes nothing!" She opened the door and walked inside to see a lone smiling clerk.
"Hello," The young shapely blond woman said, "May I help you?"
"Well, I... I don't know."
"Are you Ruby, by chance?"
"I am, yes. How would you know?!" She was taken aback with surprise.
"Well, this was left for you." She took a small dark red ribbon wrapped package.
"Thank you. But who left it?"
"Oh, I'm afraid I can't say. Even I don't know what's in it." Ruby took it and nodded, and headed back to the car.
The phone jingled out a tune, just as she was unwrapping the little box.
"Well, hello again!" The voice said. "And good job!"
"It is a key, yes." He replied.
"Do I get to know what it's to?"
"Well, you might. Your next decision is very important. Go to the financial district and find your bank."
"Wait, my bank? I use a local credit union."
"No no. This one will be your bank should you select the right one!"
"There are two dozen! Besides, they're all closed now!" She exclaimed.
"Yes. Knock on the right door, and you'll find out about your key. But you can only knock on one!"
"No clues? Nothing?"
"No, dear, but I have faith in you."
Ruby drove thinking about the conversation. There must be something he said, there had to be... She must have driven the block for half an hour, but all of the darkened institutions looked the same. Big building stretching high in the air to smaller, less fancy types, and even the smaller branches gave her no ideas. It was maddening, and her gut was tightening by the minute. Just about the time she was ready to call it quits and head home she saw it. Key Bank. Could it have been another? Had he left a clue after all?
She tapped timidly on the glass door of the tiny branch, and a light brightened the interior space. A younger gentleman in a tailored suit came smiling to the door and unlocked it. He then stepped aside and held it open for her to enter.
"Ms. Ruby, I presume?" He said.
"Yes... Can you tell me what this is about?"
"In a moment, yes. If I could see your identification and lock box key, please?" He asked.
"Sure, of course."
He checked both, smiled again and said, "Follow me to the vault, please."
"So what is this about?" She asked close on his heels. "Because I have no earthly idea why it's happening."
"Well, I can tell you what, but I have no idea why. I was asked to stay here and keep the vault open."
"Well, we're one of the few banks without a time lock. We can do business after hours."
"And just happen to be a Key Bank?" She said with just a touch of sarcasm.
He looked at her curiously. "I'm not sure what that means, really, but if you put your key in here..."
They opened the safety deposit box, and he left it on a table for just that use. He excused himself, and said he would lock up after she was done with her business. Opening the box and looking inside gave her a shock. First, there were several stacks of $100 bills. Second, there was a ticket for a charter jet. But the oddest thing in the box was her own passport. Finally, at the bottom, there was a small note, hand written in cursive.
I know this must be odd, but
there are times in this life
to make a change. This is your
chance. Take it. You have so
far trusted me, but this is
the biggest leap. There is a
ticket to a private island for
you to use as long as you like,
and lack of money will never
worry you again.
P.S. I'm sorry I had to have
your passport stolen, but I'm
hoping it cures any cold feet.
Ruby had been on the island for over two weeks, and it was marvelous. The sand was a perfect white, the sun had started a nice tan, and she was being treated as if she we're the owner. The food was made by house chefs, and the fish was so fresh it was like none she'd had before. It still seemed to have the flavor of the sea, but not even close to the shellfish that was always available. Ruby also decided it was nice to run on the beach in the mornings, she wanted to get back into shape, even if her twenty year-old body was never coming back. The tiny island was small enough to catch both sundown and sunrise, and both had magical colors that were hard to catch anywhere. The mansion was enormous, and her suite had everything, but the open patois and tropical air really made the room. She only had one issue, and that was no one would tell her why she was there, or who had done it. The staff simply could not, or would not, answer questions. Then one day, just enjoying the day, she saw a figure approaching. A man, in light clothes and carrying his shoes made his way over to her. He was sandy blond, trim, and had a handsome face. She took him for forty or perhaps forty five.
"Hello." He said to her.
"Wow. I remember that voice!" She smiled. "Is this where the dream turns into a nightmare and I'm fed to sharks?"
He laughed in a deep baritone. "Oh, no, nothing so dramatic as that. I just thought I'd visit."
"Well, then it's nice to meet my benefactor."
"Thomas, please. I'm just Thomas."
"Okay, can you explain, Thomas?"
"Explain what, Ruby?"
"Do you always go around changing someone's life so dramatically?"
"Well, I have adjusted a few from time to time." Thomas replied. "I like to think it's just my lot in life."
"Interesting profession!" She laughed.
"It is..." He gazed out over the ocean."
"So do you stay here much?"
"No, very little actually." He replied. "You'll likely end up the same way."
"Well, it's a splendid retreat, but I'd go mad here all the time. I travel quite a bit, as I'm sure you will, too."
"Well, my funds are limited. You don't seem to have that problem."
He chuckled. "No, none of us could spend this fortune if we all tried!"
"Sure, there are others that come and go." He smiled at her. "Talk with them, be aloof, your choice."
He stood to leave. "I have to go, but I'm sure we'll see one another again."
"Thomas? Why the whole game, though?"
"Because what would life be without them?"