tilly with the others: part 32

Tilly forced herself to kick off her shoes and hang up her coat before she flopped onto the couch. Eight floors, eight industrial, no-one-uses-them floors of stairs all vaguely smelling of dog piss, and she'd already spent the day on her feet at the art gallery. It felt like the bones of her feet had pressed through the flesh and were only just covered by skin.

She scrunched her toes and gave a little yelp as a new jolt of pain jumped from her left foot and up her leg. Now that she was horizontal on the couch, she realised she was feeling a bit peckish. The heavy breakfast at the vegetarian diner seemed a long time ago. She decided to make herself a cheese and pickle sandwich when she could bear being upright again.

The phone rang, and although she desperately wanted to ignore it, she knew it could only be Pizza Tela asking if she would swap shifts with someone, or Owen. Probably Owen. And Owen would get panicky if he found out she wasn't home at seven-thirty in the evening.

As if people her age never attended concerts or went to films.

Tilly made herself sit up grabbed the phone, and then immediately lay down again, saying "hallo" into the phone at the same time.

"Ma? You sound out of breath."

"I took the stairs for exercise. I'm going to have to work up to it."

"Ma! You're like twelve stories up or something!"

"Eight. Besides, I grew up having to go up and down the stairs every time I wanted to move to a different room. Remember your uncle's house when we went to visit?"

Tilly heard Owen exhale into the phone. She waited.

"Beth wanted to know if you wanted to come to dinner this Saturday."

"So long as I'm not working... let me check, hang on." Tilly made a point of putting her phone on mute — since Owen and Beth always said it was impolite not to, yet never did it themselves — and hobbled over to her purse to retrieve her pocket calendar. She flipped through it as she made her way back to the phone.

"Hallo?" she said, turning the mute button off. "I'm not working this Saturday. What do you want me to bring?"

"Oh, don't worry about that. Um... is it all right if I pick you up from Kipling?"

Excellent. She wouldn't have to worry about him on the elevators. "Why don't I take the GO bus to Brampton? You could pick me up from the centre... I mean downtown. I mean Four Corners!" Brampton didn't have a centre — it was just an amorphous suburban blob with an old farmer's town at one end, renamed Four Corners because of its one and only major intersection.

"If it's not any trouble..."

"Oh Owen, it's one subway to Union Station for me! Easy. I'll look up the schedule on-line."

"Um, okay — meet in the Tim Horton's at eleven?"

"See you there. Are you sure you don't want me to bring anything?"

But of course, that was the one thing Owen was sure about, so the conversation ended soon after that.

For once in her life, Tilly just set the phone on the end-table without replacing it in its cradle. Really, she thought to herself, she should go to bed.

The last thing she thought before she fell asleep was that she shouldn't let herself fall asleep on the couch.