She slipped the first one off her key ring on her last day of work.
“I guess I won’t need this anymore?” she said as she placed it on the granite countertop and slid the brass monstrosity across the surface to her employer.
“That’s so sad,” her boss stated mildly, looking down at the key kissing the countertop in front of her, but quickly too distracted to pick it up and pocket it somewhere safer.
She guess the key would be lost before the end of the day, forgotten or stolen, and shoved into a toy box for the children to fight over later.
To her landlord, she enclosed both her square deadbolt and green door key in a white envelope she’d asked someone to steal from their work supply closet. Her roommate dropped hers, in inverted colors ying-yang to hers, in the envelope too and they both scratched out their forwarding addresses on the front with an old pen, just in case.
“This is stupid,” they both seemed to be thinking as they stood huddled by their front door, unable to re-enter their recently polished apartment. “Why are we doing this?” echoed silently.
They dropped the envelope in their landlord’s mailbox and stood around joking with each other for as long as they could manage before finally the lingering sadness became unbearable and they both got into their separate cars to drive away in different directions.
“I dropped by to say goodbye.” She was already on their couch waiting for her friends when they got home from work.
“I feel like we’ve done this a few times already. You sure you won’t be back anytime soon? You keep leaving and then we find you here all over again.”
“Pretty sure,” she replied, hopping off the couch and grabbing her set of keys on the way out the door. “Oh, I almost forgot–” she stopped halfway out the door and started to pry apart her key ring, sliding the colorful–decorated like a puppy–one off and setting it on their kitchen table. “Won’t need this anymore.”
“Wish you hadn’t done that,” they protested as she edged towards the door. “Now it feels so final.”
“I’ll walk out now then, if you don’t mind. I don’t want to prolong this longer than necessary and I have to get back to work.”
“No worries. I’ll be gone in the next ten minutes anyway. Just need to take my bags down to the car.”
They kissed briefly goodbye and he set off down the hall. They both tried their hardest not to watch the other leave, but she stuck her head out the door and watched him go anyway.
It took her two trips to get her suitcases from the past month to her car. She still had his keys, but it seemed oddly irrelevant now. She tried to shove them under the door, but the crack was too small. She tried to put them on the top of the doorframe, but the ledge was too thin. She had to unlock the door and put the building keys inside.
She balanced bags filled with dirty laundry and books. A soda fell to the floor with an unsettling fizz. She locked the door again and forced the plain, silver key as far as it would go under the door.
“For some reason, I’ve lost my mailbox key, do you have one still?” her father asked.
She looked at her now-dismal key ring. Where once there had been an eccentric collection, now only a small metal family of three remained, and a cheap bottle opener she’d gotten at a street fair.
“Here, sure. Do you want the spare?” she started to pry the key ring apart again to remove the gold mother-child combo, but he stopped her.
“Why don’t you just give me the whole set?” he asked, holding out a large calloused hand to her. “We’ll need the car key too.”
“Oh, yeah. That makes sense,” she muttered, and reluctantly placed her last possessions–two gold, one small, one big, and a gnarly black car key–in his hand, shaking a bit as she dropped them in his weathered palm, the remaining keys jingling. She didn’t quite know what to do with her empty hands. “Guess I don’t need any of them anymore.”
“Here,” he said watching her. After a quiet moment he slid the rings apart and looped the cheap plastic off the ring. “Why don’t you keep the bottle opener?”