tilly with the others: part 11

"Huh," said Owen, tapping his cell phone. "Beth called when we were just getting to your apartment, Ma. Must have been in the elevator when it happened."

"Are you going to call her back now?" said Tilly. They were walking with Emily and Mercedes along the Esplanade, heading back to the subway after lunch.

Owen shrugged. "If it was important she would have called again. She probably just wanted to say hi to you."

"Say hi for me when you get home."

"Always do." Owen automatically reached for Mercedes's hand as they crossed the street.

"Are we going to go back to Oma's now?" said Emily.

"I think we should go straight home," said Owen. "It'll cost extra to get off the subway and on again."

"No it won't," said Emily. "You got a day pass. Besides, I have to go to the washroom."

"Why didn't you go at the restaurant?"

"I didn't feel it until we started walking."

"Emily! You're ten."

"Sorry. I shouldn't have had the second glass of Coke."

Owen scanned the street. "Oma and I could buy coffees at that café and you could go there."

"I don't like public washrooms. They're icky."

Mercedes chimed in. "Sometimes she holds it all day at school if the Benton girls have been giving Ginny Siggorski swirlies in the girl's room."

"Do not!"

"Girls giving swirlies," said Owen under his breath. "Okay, we'll make a pit stop at Oma's. Okay, Ma?"

"Fine by me. We can have tea and cookies if you like."

"Cookies! The ones with windmills on them?" That was Mercedes. Tilly caught Emily looking embarrassed.

"I only have shortbread, sorry."

"We just had dessert at the restaurant," said Owen. "Ma, we ought to be getting back."

Tilly shrugged and reached for Emily's hand at the next street crossing. Just as their fingers touched she realised that Emily was too old to have her hand held while crossing the street, but Emily took her hand anyhow and gave it a light squeeze.

"Emily, are you sure you're going to be able to hold it until we get to Oma's?" said Owen. "It's still a long walk, and then we have to take the subway."

Emily looked down and bit her lip. "Yeah," she said. "I just don't think I'll be able to last more subway plus the drive home."

At the subway, Tilly and Owen had a brief debate about which train to use. He wanted to go north and then transfer onto the Bloor line to get to Spadina; she wanted to go south one stop and then head north on the Yonge-University line without transferring. Tilly won out.

Back at the apartment, Emily ran so quickly to the washroom that she didn't bother to take off her shoes or the little Hello Kitty purse she had insisted on toting around all day, even though it only had a tube of lip balm in it.

Mercedes flopped into one of the armchairs and said her feet hurt from the walking. Tilly sat beside her in the other armchair, and Owen stood for a few moments before self-consciously sitting on the couch, legs half-turned to avoid bumping his shins on the coffee table.

"Wow," Mercedes announced. "Emily's bladder must have been ready to burst. She's still peeing."

"Mercedes!" Owen glanced around the living room. "This really is a nice place, Ma."

Tilly smiled. "I like it."

"I guess it's less work to take care of than the house."

"It's plenty of room for one person."

Owen started to say something and then shook his head, giving Mercedes a quick glance.

"What?" said Tilly.

"Is the kitchen too small? I saw a box of tinfoil poking out from underneath the bed."

"Oh that! I did that right after I moved in. Honest Ed's had a sale on, and I bought too much. I forgot that I don't have a basement to put it in anymore. But it's not like it goes bad."

Owen shrugged. "I guess."

"Why, does aluminum on cars get rusty?" They could hear the toilet flushing in the washroom.

"It can. But are you just going to keep it under the bed?"

"Oh no," said Tilly. "I'll just keep moving rolls into the kitchen as I use up the old ones. It will be a good excuse to get some baking done."

Owen wagged a finger at her. "Don't forget you've only got the freezer in the fridge now."

Tilly smiled. "I'll just have to stop getting store-bought cookies for a while."

Emily walked into the living room. "Do you have to go too?" she said to Mercedes.

Mercedes cocked her head to one side. "No," she said. "I can hold it."

"In that case," said Owen, "we should leave." He stood up the same time as Tilly and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Good to see you again, Ma."

Emily and Mercedes gave their good-bye kisses at the door, and they were gone.

Tilly put the chain on the door with a sigh. The apartment seemed quieter now than before the visit. And after all that work Owen had spotted the damn tinfoil anyhow. She couldn't win for trying.

It was tempting to imitate Mercedes and flop into an armchair with one of her old books, but now that Emily had made such a production of it, it occurred to Tilly her own bladder could use emptying.

In the washroom she noticed that the little wooden bird carving she kept on top of the toilet tank was turned the wrong way. Emily must have picked it up to look at it. Tilly repositioned it and noticed a folded piece of paper underneath.

Not recognising it, she pulled it from under the carving's base and was about to throw it out when she saw there was writing on the side hidden by the fold.

She opened the paper and read. Oma: here's my e-mail address. Write me when you find this. I have something important to tell you. EmilyKZ@kmail.com