tilly with the others: part 43

"Here we are," said Judy. She handed Tilly a brochure. On the cover, a beaming grey-haired couple stood with their arms around each other, blocking the entrance of Judy's and Ted's building. Tilly noticed that a large pot of petunias was present in the photo that was missing from real life. She raised her eyebrows, but covered up her initial reaction with a smile.

"Aren't I just like a real estate agent?" said Judy, laughing too loudly for Tilly's comfort. Ted made a joke about "welcome wagons" which Tilly hoped Emily and Mercedes didn't catch.

"So you'd actually think about moving here?" said Owen.

Tilly shrugged. "At the least I can read things over," she said.

"I don't know how you can stand downtown," said Judy. "Some of the people there... it's almost like they've been taken over by space aliens or something."

"It's been lovely to see you again, Judy," said Tilly. She stuffed the brochure in her purse. Emily caught the cue and slipped the magazine she'd been reading back in the stand.

Owen quickly glanced in everyone's coffee cups and stood up. "Ma's got a long bus ride back to Toronto," he said. "And I need to get Beth and the girls home before I take Ma to Four Corners to get on the GO."

"Can't we all see Oma off together?" said Emily.

"The car's too crowded," said Beth, standing also and gathering the coffee cups.

"You'll have to plan to stay overnight at Beth's next time," said Judy. "That way you won't have to rush off. We'd love to spend more time with you."

They all finished off saying their good-byes. Tilly narrowly escaped getting a bear hug from Ted.

On the way back to Owen's and Beth's house, Beth prattled on about how much her parents liked their apartment building and the community in general. Tilly only said enough to show she was listening. Owen, Emily, and Mercedes didn't say a word.

"Oh here," said Beth as they pulled into the driveway. "Wait a second, and I'll give you some leftovers. So you won't have to cook tonight."

"I wasn't going to..." said Tilly, but everyone else was already getting out of the car.

Owen and Beth were on the front porch, one or the other of them unlocking the door. Tilly slid over to the passenger side of the car and pushed open the door that Mercedes had closed but not latched. She set her feet on the asphalt, eased herself upright, and made sure she was holding her purse before she slammed the car door shut. Emily still had the door on the other side open, so the slamming sound was loud.

"Oy! Careful!" called Owen from the porch.

"Sorry," said Tilly, but she expected he couldn't hear her.

"Oma," said Emily.

Tilly looked at her. Emily was standing beside the car, one hand on the door handle.

Emily pointed. "There it is again," she said.

Tilly turned. Emily was pointing up, up over the neighbour's pine tree in the front yard, up over the basketball net of the neighbours beyond. Up over the third house away from where they were standing.

There was a door in the sky.

Tilly startled, not so much at the door itself, but that she recognised it. It was painted the same colour as the door that led to the stairwell on her floor. It even had the same scratches and dents.

It was even about eight stories up.

"Hey, you two," said Beth. "Emily, come inside. Mrs. Zondernaam, I'm going to be a few minutes with the leftovers. You may as well come in."

"What should we do?" said Emily.

"We should go inside, like your mother said," said Tilly. Emily didn't move, eyes fixed on the door.

Tilly stepped around the car and gently took Emily by the shoulders.

"I feel like I've seen it before," said Emily. "Somewhere it's supposed to be."

"Where?" said Tilly, trying to keep her tone light.

"I don't know," said Emily. "School, maybe." Tilly gave her a light push, and the spell broke enough that Emily started for the front porch, although she kept stealing glances up at the sky. Tilly slammed the car door behind her and followed Emily, guiding her into the house.

"What were you two gawking at?" said Beth.

"Joey Anderson launched a model rocket," said Emily. "We were watching for the parachute to come back down, but we couldn't spot it."

Beth made a tsk sound. "It's illegal to launch those where there's houses. He should go to the school football field or the park or something."

"He's been working on that thing for weeks," said Owen. "He was probably just excited to see it work."

Beth shook her head. "People ought to know how to behave." She put a plastic container in a shopping bag. "You got the brochure from my mother, right Mrs. Zondernaam?"

"In my purse," said Tilly. Owen quirked an eyebrow at her when Beth turned to filling another plastic container.

"Model rockets," said Beth. "Aren't you glad we had girls, Owen?"

"Girls can launch rockets too," said Owen. "Girls can be astronauts. Look at Roberta Bondar."

"It's not the same," said Beth, snapping the lid on the second container. "Girls never dream about contacting space aliens."