Lorelei was having a heart attack. She was pretty sure she was having a heart attack or an aneurysm or possibly a stroke. Something life threatening, anyway. Her heart pounded and her legs shook as pain shot up her side and into her chest. She collapsed to her knees in the wet sand, cursing her recent weight gain and her sweet tooth and most importantly her decision to start exercising. Running was highly overrated and she figured it was more likely to kill her than diabetes or clogged arteries at the moment. At least no one else had been around to see her humiliation. The empty beach stretched out before her, ringed by large rocks and uninhabited aside from the crabs and the birds. She felt confident her secret would remain safe with them. This was her special place, her own personal stretch of the Maine coastline where she went whenever she needed solitude and silence. She spent as many hours as she could walking the beach, idly scanning for pretty shells and sea glass, or curled up on a large rock that she had discovered provided a perfectly contoured place for her to sit and think.
As her heart rate slowed and she took deep breaths of the salty ocean air, she reminded herself why she was collapsed prone and sweaty on the beach in the first place. She had been so busy lately, between moving back to Bar Harbor and opening her very own bakery that she barely had time to sleep, let alone worry about things like diet and exercise. She had always carried a little extra weight, but sometime in the past few months a little had turned into quite a lot. Lorelei had been so focused on refining her menu and perfecting her recipes she hadn’t noticed that all the taste testing and late night carry out and heavily-doctored coffees had caught up with her. It hadn’t been until she lay sprawled on her bed this morning, exhausted from trying valiantly to wriggle into her biggest pair of jeans, that she hadn’t been able to ignore the extra pounds anymore. Which had led to her failed attempts at running on the beach.
Lorelei let out an irritated huff as she brushed back the strands of hair that had escaped from her messy ponytail. No matter what she did, her unruly curls refused to stay where she put them. She thought once more of just chopping off all of her shoulder-length blond hair. She had wanted it long enough to tie back, but now that it had grown out she was seriously considering shaving her head. No one wanted to find hair in their baked goods, so some days it seemed like the best option. Maybe a nice pixie cut, she mused, closing her eyes. She willed her body to relax completely and threw out her arms. She was dead.
Pain lanced through her right hand as it hit something hard and she bolted upright, shaking out her hand to ease her throbbing knuckles. Glancing over, she saw a plank of driftwood, mostly covered in sand. Curious, she shifted to her knees and crawled toward the wood. She had quite a few pieces of driftwood furniture in her house and as any good beachcomber knew, the rule of the sea was mostly finders keepers.
As she began brushing off the rest of the sand, she realized that it wasn’t a plank at all, but a chest. Excitement filled Lorelei’s veins as she took in her discovery. She had spent years walking this beach as a teenager, collecting mostly sea glass and pretty shells and interesting pieces of driftwood. Once she found an intact glass bottle, worn to a shine and empty. It still sat on her bedside table and she liked to think of it as full of potential and history. This find, however, was something else entirely. As she finally dug it completely free of the sand, her breath caught in her throat. The chest wasn’t overly large, but its ornately decorated surface made Lorelei think of the old bedtime stories her father read her about pirate hoards and buried treasure. The dark wood was worn smooth with age and constant exposure to the sand and beautiful pearls and sea glass studded its sides. The chest itself appeared to be a work of art, and she lifted a trembling hand to open the lid, eager to discover its secrets. It was locked.
Of course, Lorelei thought to herself.
She examined the mechanism, trying to see if she could jiggle it open. The metal was strangely free of rust for something that looked so old, and it seemed as if it would open in a heartbeat, if only she had a key. She half-heartedly searched the nearby area, but Lorelei knew that anyone who went to the trouble of burying something in the middle of nowhere wouldn’t be so careless as to leave the key lying around close by.
Taking the discovery as a sign that her workout had come to an end, she rose to her feet and hefted the trunk. It felt heavier than it looked, but it also clearly lacked the weight it would have if filled to the top with Spanish doubloons and loose gems.
So much for pirate treasure, she thought.
She felt a twinge of disappointment from her inner child, but the beauty of the chest itself more than made up for it. She could probably get quite a bit of money for it on eBay, however, she was already thinking of places she could best display it in her small apartment. Checking her watch, she realized that she would have just enough time to walk home and shower before she needed to arrive back at the bakery for her afternoon shift. She sighed and shifted the trunk in her arms, grateful that even if she was a bit overweight, she was still strong from lifting sacks of sugar and flour and shifting inventory in her little shop. Smiling to herself, she set off for home.