tilly with the others: part 8

Tilly gave the microphone volume setting one last tweak, then shut down the computer. She sighed. Enough fretting over getting ready for the job interview already. Time for tea.

She filled the kettle, turned it on, put a biscuit on the saucer beside the teacup, and frowned at her living room while she waited for the water to boil.

The living room furniture had been easy enough to arrange. The apartment was reasonably close in layout to the first place she and Marcus had rented in Canada, although that building had been about ten years older than the one she lived in now. The couch sat under the big picture window, near the doorway to the kitchen. She'd divided the dining room area from the living room by making a "wall" of the armchair and the two end-tables. The radio/CD player Owen had bought her for her old kitchen a few birthdays ago sat on one end-table. She'd sold the big TV set, and had only kept the little one she'd had in the kitchen, but in the apartment that had gone in the bedroom. She liked to get ready for bed early and watch the news while sipping on cocoa.

Her books weren't out of their box yet. Her books weren't out of their box and this time, there would be no work contacts or new Canadian friends coming over who might see them, no basement to hide them in, no worrying Owen might start to read one when he was too young to understand.

Tilly smiled. The books had been packed for over forty years. It would be like Yule presents.

She dropped a teabag into the cup and poured the boiling water over it, then got out the kitchen shears. May as well just open it and see what hasn't gone moldy.

It turned out she didn't need the shears after all. The packing tape cracked off as soon as she picked at one end. The box had always had about a centimetre gap at the top, and years of having other heavy boxes piled on top of it in the basement back at the top had squashed it, leaving it slightly mushroom-topped.

Old cardboard always smelled the same, like it was already most of the way to returning to the soil it had come from. Tilly always thought it smelled like oak too, although she doubted anything as nice as oak was used for a cardboard box.

She paused to read the label on the top. Bea's writing. She had kept the box for Tilly until there was a fixed address in Canada to send it to. Tilly shook her head, remembering the small fortune it had cost to ship such a heavy box through the post back then.

She could e-mail Bea after she finished putting away the books. They would both get a kick out of rediscovering the books. Bea had been there when Tilly had acquired many of them.

The box flaps had stuck together. Tilly prised them apart and pushed them down, away from the opening.

There was a layer of newspaper on top — she couldn't remember, but probably it had enough volume to fill the box to the top once — and there was one book lying on top of it.

Tilly pressed a hand to her mouth. She'd thought she'd lost it years ago, but apparently the box had been opened once, just once. Owen would have been just turning three when she'd got it. He'd helped her hide it.

She'd been walking up University Avenue with Owen in his stroller, and some students had blocked her way. Owen was asleep and she wanted to get home before he woke up again. When she'd tried to get by, one man had started to lecture her about how she was part of the Establishment. She couldn't remember exactly what she had said, but she did remember he was surprised she even knew who Abbie Hoffman was. The man had waved a copy of Steal This Book in her face, and she had just said, "All right," snatched it from him, and tucked it under Owen's head before he could do anything. The other students started laughing at their blowhard friend, who was apparently not so anti-Establishment that he would touch someone else's sleeping baby.

Owen had always liked the granola recipe from that book. She wondered if he had any idea where it had come from.

The rest of the books were from her own university days, mostly in Dutch, but many in English. Textbooks, but also books on transcendental meditation, the influence of space aliens on ancient cultures... a little bit of science fiction too. She couldn't really remember The Man in the High Castle, but she and Marcus had read it together and both liked it. That had been another odd discovery. It might have been one of the books those American tourists they befriended had left behind.

Tilly wondered what the local second-hand shops would make of her box. Even back in the day about half her collection had been hard-to-find books. She'd bought a few in lucky finds in markets, but other ones had been given to her. Many of the ones that would have been the coolest to be seen with around 1967 she had stolen during house parties. She wondered if their old owners still missed them.

She wondered if they could picture the little blonde woman from those parties unpacking them now, with her tea steeping on the kitchen counter.

In the end, she left out one of the books on space aliens and intradimensional beings and one of the science fiction novels to re-read. At this point they would be something new instead of something from the past.

They might even help with the Others.