tilly with the others: part 45

"Ma, are you actually going to eat that stuff?"

Tilly pulled at the plastic bag between her feet. "Eventually," she said. "I'm going to freeze it, to be honest with you. I have lots of food at home." She ran a mental inventory of her kitchen pantry and refrigerator. Half a block of cheddar, some orange juice, milk, apples, crackers, biscuits. She was pretty sure the pickle jar wasn't empty yet either. Right, so for someone living on their own, that was lots.

Maybe I should order myself a pizza from work. Try out that employee discount, see if it really exists.

Owen stopped at a red light, and Tilly realised that they were going to go by the funeral home they'd used when Marcus had died. Poor Owen. It was right on a major road. He probably went by it all the time. She should say something.

They should have picked somewhere more off the beaten track.

"This is the same way I go to work every day," said Owen, surprising her.

"But aren't you east of here?"

"I turn left on Queen St."

"Ah."

"Ma."

"Hm?"

"Are you really going to move next to Beth's parents?"

Tilly frowned. "I like the Annex, but the neighbours in my building are... something else. It's hard to find a decent place to rent because of all of the students, and if I bought even a little house it would eat up most of the savings. And then there's the bother of upkeep, and property taxes..."

"But if you move back here... you don't drive."

"I thought you wanted me back here."

"Beth always talks about it, but when we went over and visited... I'd never thought about the practical details before. I don't know how you can do it."

They were past the funeral home now. It would have been on Owen's side of the car. Tilly recognised the gas station and doughnut shop where they had bought bagels for lunch. That was the first day of visitations.

"I guess I'll have to see," she said. Owen said nothing, and Tilly wondered if the pause had been so long that he had forgotten what she was responding to. She watched a plaza slide by her window.

"Ma?"

"Yes Owen."

"Why did you and Dad move here, anyhow?"

"To Canada? You've heard that a million times."

"Yeah, but why Toronto?"

Tilly briefly considered lying, then decided anyone who was a parent themselves should understand. "We were going to Vancouver. Your father had a friend there, needed help with a cherry orchard. The orchard was in a town in the mountains, I forget where exactly, but it was sort of a commune at the time. We got a flight to Montreal, were going to take the Greyhound from there to Vancouver. You know, see the country before we got settled."

Owen shot her a look. "You didn't get very far."

Tilly gave a dry laugh. "Marcus made the poor Greyhound driver stop eight times between Montreal and here, not counting the scheduled stop in Kingston. We pulled into the Bay Street bus terminal over two hours late. The driver made Marcus come with him and explain the situation to the manager."

"What? What did Dad do?"

"Oh nothing. It was me. That was the first day I really had morning sickness. I had no idea I was pregnant until we got on that bus. And then," Tilly made an open gesture with her hands, but stared out the window, not wanting to see Owen's face and have to try to read it. "Obviously I couldn't keep taking bus trips, but flights were horribly expensive back then, so Marcus convinced the bus company to give us a refund and he found a job here. Selling... which was first? Right, selling interior finishes for buildings, marble tile and that sort of thing. The first skyscraper boom was on."

Owen tapped his horn at an SUV that changed lanes without signalling. "That can't be right. That photo of you and him in front of the St. Lawrence river, you're still hippies."

"He made a collect call to your grandfather, got some contacts. The refund from the bus money went to haircuts and a nice outfit for me. When we found out how much it cost to get a tailored suit here, your grandfather mailed over a couple of his own. Canadian men are so short."

"They're still taller than you, Ma. So, what, you called up Opa's contacts and..."

"We got invited to a dinner party. That's why I needed the nice outfit. I had to learn how to walk in heels all over again. I remember we bought a tube of lipstick for me on the way to the party. I'd forgotten I was supposed to wear makeup."

"So much for principles."

"We were expecting you. We had to shift gears quickly. I suppose we could have found a crowd here, worked our way in, but it was easier to fall back on what your father already knew how to do."

Owen changed lanes, making a point of shoulder checking and signalling since the SUV was now behind them. Tilly doubted the other driver would notice.

"So if you hadn't had such bad morning sickness, I would have been born on a communal cherry orchard in BC."

"Pretty much."

"I always thought you were vague about what happened."

Tilly shrugged. "You were, you know, ahead of schedule. The birth control failed. We wanted you, we just weren't quite ready."

"That part I didn't need to know," Owen said, but Tilly saw him grin in the reflection of the windshield.

He offered to park the car and stay with her until the bus came, but she said she didn't want him to deal with parking meters and besides, by the schedule it was less than fifteen minutes. He gave her a quick peck on her temple, and she made him stay bent over while she gave him a kiss back on each cheek.

It was only when Tilly double-checked she knew where her bus ticket was that she realised she'd forgotten her copy of We Came from Outer Space back at the house. She knew exactly where it was, too — beside the chair she was sitting in while she watched Mercedes play her video game. She hoped Emily found the book first.

She caught a glimpse of herself reflected in a storefront, and saw a grey-haired, small woman carrying a plastic bag filled with Tupperware. She hoped the damned bus was on time.