tilly with the others: part 12

Tilly read Emily's note over again, then marched down the hall and placed it under her VOIP headset on the computer desk. She used the washroom, returned to the living room, and stood, thinking.

Emily was ten. All the e-mail web sites like Kmail always asked you to confirm that you were over thirteen before opening an account — otherwise you had to link it to a parent's account. Tilly couldn't remember if that was an American law, a Canadian one, or an American law the Canadian government had decided to go along with, but she knew it was very unlikely either Beth or Owen knew Emily had her own e-mail address. Most likely her little sister didn't know about it either, even though Emily had asked if Tilly had an e-mail address while Mercedes was within earshot.

On the other hand, e-mail addresses had a way of getting found. Ten-year-olds might not know how to clean up their browser history after themselves — or they might leave it so clean that Beth or Owen might get suspicious.

Tilly shook her head and walked over to her computer desk. She powered on the machine and sat down.

I have something important to tell you.

Just because it was important to a ten-year-old didn't mean it was actually important, Tilly thought to herself. Or maybe Emily just put that in the message to ensure that Tilly wrote her.

Or maybe something was wrong.

Tilly opened her e-mail, added Emily to her contacts list, and composed a message:

Hallo Emily:

It was lovely to see you and Mercedes again. I hope you had a good time at the Spaghetti Factory.

I found your note with your e-mail address on it. Now you have my e-mail. Maybe you can tell me how school is going.

Love,

Oma

There, now if Owen or Beth found it, it was just a nice note from grandmother, but if Emily really did have something important to tell her Oma in private, she could.

A thousand stories from the grocery-checkout tabloid headlines flashed through Tilly's head. She shut the computer down, grabbed the book she had chosen to re-read, and sank into the nearest armchair.

She glanced at her clock radio/CD player. Owen and the girls wouldn't even be at Yorkdale station yet to pick up the car.

Nothing to do but read the book.

The title was We Came from Outer Space: A Study of the Human Extraterrestrial, and Tilly had bought it at a bookshop on Queen St. in... 1968, if the copyright was a good guide. It sounded right. She couldn't distinctly remember buying it, but she did remember being annoyed with a shop clerk while she was heavily pregnant. It had been difficult to waddle out of the shop and try to maintain a dignified air.

The weather, she reflected, had probably been a lot like today's. You could feel the heat rising from the asphalt and concrete as you walked along outside in the sunshine. But if you could catch the breeze coming off the lake, you could feel the coolness, the water.

She flipped the pages until she reached the preface, and read.