#tuesdayserial: tilly with the others part 2

Tilly pushed the bureau drawer shut and contemplated the boxes still left on top of the bed. The sun was shining through the open window, and to her surprise she even heard a bird chirping — impressive considering her new apartment was twelve stories up.

She squirmed past the pile of un-tidied clothing to the hallway, then inched sideways past all the boxes there until she reached the living room. That, the kitchen, and the bathroom were all more or less settled. The clock on living room radio told her it was four in the afternoon already. Sleeping on the couch tonight was starting to look like a good idea.

"To heck with it," Tilly said out loud. She found her purse and her keys, grabbed her bundle buggy, and headed outside.

The Annex, she decided as she walked along Bloor Street, had changed completely and yet hadn't changed at all. It still had lots of locally-owned shops and cafes, and it still felt neighbourly. The house in Brampton had never felt like that. Tilly had tried to introduce herself to some of the neighbours when they had moved in, and had never got more than first names and chit-chat about the weather from them. She would get to know people around here. She could tell.

One thing was definitely different from when she and Marcus had lived here, back when she was pregnant with Owen — there were more panhandlers on the streets. The one three metres away from her had a sign that was polite and correctly spelled, and she decided that was reason enough to give him some money when she passed by. She opened her purse and managed to retrieve a loony just in time to drop it in the baseball cap he had set on the ground in front of him.

"They said you were coming back," said the homeless man.

Tilly froze. "Sorry?"

"The Others. They said you'd come back here. It's been a long time, hasn't it? Something like forty years?"

Some homeless people were on the streets because they'd been released from mental hospitals as "outpatients" and then never came back for their medication, Tilly reminded herself. That had been.... three provincial governments ago, maybe four now. It was just a coincidence this poor man's babble was relevant to herself.

"My condolences," the man said. "The Others said your husband passed away recently."

"How can you possibly know about that?" Maybe her building supervisor had gossiped. She'd thought he was overly nosy about her.

"The Others told me," the man said. His tone was calm and pleasant, like they were discussing the highlights of a hockey game. "They asked me to pass along a message from them."

Tilly couldn't help herself. "What message?"

"They want to talk to you. You need to be on the phone a lot, so that they have a chance to use the communication network easily... and you'll need an antennae. One-use antennas are the best." He nodded in the direction of Honest Ed's, sitting at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst as always like a permanent circus sideshow. "I saw there's a sale on this morning."

"Thank you," said Tilly, not sure what else would be appropriate to say.

"Thank you for the donation," said the man, indicating his collection cap.

Honest Ed's was a multi-storied rabbit's warren of linked buildings full of bargain goods. Its famous sign was decorated with hundreds of yellow incandescent bulbs, and it was one of the few shops in the city that still used hand-lettered signs to announce sales and special offers. Tilly entered the first available entrance only to be instantly reminded that one had to visit at least weekly to keep track of where everything was in the place. After a forty-year absence she was completely lost. She pulled her bundle buggy through every level she could find. Most of the household goods and clothing she could ignore, although she couldn't resist getting a new pair of house slippers and some t-shirts. She smiled at the photos on the walls showing Honest Ed with various celebrities, and wondered how many stars the hipsters wandering around on the street outside could recognise.

Tilly reached the kitchen goods section and found the sale that the homeless man had told her about. She filled up her bundle buggy and got some other dry goods she was short on. At the last minute she decided to grab a box of cake mix too. It would be nice to have cake with tea instead of the usual biscuits.

Honest Ed's cashiers are notoriously jaded, but the woman who rang up Tilly's purchases couldn't help herself.

"All this tinfoil and just one box of cake mix?" she said, raising an eyebrow as she replaced the purchased items in Tilly's bundle buggy.

"The tinfoil is on sale," said Tilly, making a point to look the woman in the eye. "Besides, there's a bake sale coming up at my church and I always contribute several dozen cookies."

"Good for you," said the cashier, handing over the change.

When was the last time she had donated to a bake sale, anyhow? It wouldn't have been for a church, that was for sure. She and Marcus hadn't been in a church since the day they got married... well, for the funeral. But that had been Beth's doing, because she took care of all the funeral arrangements while Owen helped her with the legal and banking matters. Tilly smiled to herself, remembering how mortified Beth had been when Tilly thanked the minister for all his help, but explained that she had been an atheist since long before Owen was born. Come to think of it, the minister had taken it far better than Beth had. He said he encountered family situations like theirs all the time.

She looked for the homeless man when she reached the block she had met him on, but there was no sign of him.

Tilly fumbled with her electronic key card at her apartment building's entrance. Another thing she'd have to get used to.

She let herself into the mail room and scanned the bulletin board. It had just been here yesterday when the supervisor was showing her the common areas, it should still be posted... there.

Work at Home
Good Pay, Reasonable Hours
Be a Pizza Tela Order Taker!

Tilly tore off one of the phone number flaps at the bottom of the notice.

It would keep her busy. It couldn't hurt.

Besides, she was stocked up on tinfoil now.