tilly with the others: part 46

The GO bus arrived more or less on time, and Tilly found a window seat. The coach was emptier than for the trip out, but that was fine by her. She noticed that her helper in the brown leather jacket was nowhere to be seen. Maybe she had returned to Toronto right away after all.

Tilly watched the scenery, her plastic bag of leftovers sitting beside her. She wished she'd had enough time to get a magazine before the bus left, and smiled. Thinking of reading magazines on buses always reminded her of that Simon & Garfunkel song about America.

The ride itself was uneventful, but as the bus corkscrewed down the exit ramp to the Union Station terminal, it occurred to Tilly that Toronto really was a profoundly ugly city. Not that Brampton was any nicer. The emphasis was on using up the land, rather than living in it. She didn't approve.

She hoped the Others weren't basing their conclusions of an entire planet on just where she had lived.

When it came time to disembark she caught two young women making nasty remarks about her and her plastic bag. She dropped the whole thing in the nearest trash can and decided to "forget" the Tupperware until Beth gave up asking about it.

Tilly decided she needed some fresh air after sitting around retirement apartments and coaches all day, so she walked as far as King and Spadina and then caught the streetcar up to her apartment building. She sighed as she flashed her pass card at the detector by the door, and made her way to the stairwell.

"Do you know anything about a dust mite extermination?" Tilly stopped and turned. The question had come from a young man she'd seen around the building. He seemed to be an actual human, unlike most of the other people in the area.

"Laundry," said Tilly. "And make sure you wash your pillows. That's the best way to deal with them."

The young man looked uncomfortable. "What about.... static electricity? Like a static electricity, um, I don't know, charger or something."

Tilly shook her head. "Haven't heard of that one. Something new on the market, maybe?"

The young man brightened a little. "Yeah. They said it was new. Must be it."

Tilly smiled and nodded, turning to enter the stairwell. At least he hadn't asked her how to do laundry. Just after she'd moved in she'd heard two students debating how to know when water was boiling so they could cook spaghetti.

The eight floors felt like forever, not because she was tired, but because, for once, she was hungry. She wished she'd thought to nip in to that vegetarian diner before climbing all those stairs. All right, there had been Beth's leftovers, but... Tilly shivered. She liked kale, but the way Beth had made it was just wrong.

She double-checked the floor number painted on the door was the right one, and sighed as she shoved the heavy metal handle. The corridor was empty. It usually was, but things seemed overly quiet somehow.

Tilly fumbled in her purse for her keys, fished them out, and worked the locks on the door. They felt loose, like the keys weren't pushing the bolts back. She paused, reconsidered, then opened the door anyways.

The woman in the brown leather jacket and the man in the boiler suit stared at her from their places in the living room.

"Hurry," said the woman, "and lock the door behind you."

Tilly did as she was told, pressing her lips together. When the door was locked behind her she marched to the nearest armchair and flopped into it.

"We can explain," said the man in the boiler suit.

Tilly looked from him to the woman in the leather jacket. "Do they not have privacy on your home planet?"

"Of course," said the woman. "We're breaking protocol just by being here."

The man in the boiler suit looked sheepish. "But you have to understand —"

"Oh, there's a lot I'd like to understand," said Tilly.

"There are occupied hostiles inhabiting the floor of this building," said the woman. "One of them almost cornered us. We only came in here to hide, until we could figure out how to escape."

"This has to end," said Tilly. "I never volunteered to be your damn guinea pig." She gave each of them a glare. "I want this finished with."