tilly with the others: part 9

Tilly was about two-thirds of the way through putting away her books when the phone rang. She'd been sitting on the floor for so long that her knees didn't want to work when she started to get up, and she swore under her breath at herself. The swearing came out in Dutch, which made her shake her head; whoever was on the phone, she'd probably need to use English with them. Sometimes she didn't switch over to the required language right away if she was already thinking in the other one.

She reached the phone halfway through the third ring. "Ma, my friends aren't bilingual!" she said in an imitation of Owen-aged-twelve that was accurate enough he would have cringed to hear it. She picked up the phone.


"Ma! It's me. I'm glad I caught you at home."

Tilly decided to ignore the last part. "I was just thinking of you," she said. There, she'd gotten her own back and he'd never even know. "How are you? How are the girls?"

"We're all fine... listen, I'm going to come down and visit you with the girls two Saturdays from today. The twelfth. I thought we could see your new place and take them to the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch. Does that sound good?"

"That's the restaurant we used to go to for your birthday, isn't it? Is it still there?"

"Yeah, a guy at work just took his kids there... so that's good? We'll get there around, I don't know, say ten, and then we can walk around a bit and then get on the subway?"

Tilly thought. "That should be good. Even if I'm working by then, if I have a shift it won't start until four."

"Where are you working?" Owen said the question quietly, and it sounded like he had cupped his hand over the receiver, but still Tilly could hear Beth in the background saying, "Work? What does she need to work for? Ask her what happened to the house money!"

"If I get the job, I'll be working from home. I still have to go through the second interview."

"So, like, what, data entry, or doing somebody's accounting..."

Tilly held the phone away from her mouth long enough to take a deep breath. "Taking phone orders for pizza delivery."

"Ma!" In the background, Beth was asking Owen if rent was a problem.

"It's just to keep myself occupied. For pity's sakes, Owen! Please tell Beth to stop panicking. I don't need the money. It's just for fun."

"But Ma...."

"Do it now. I'll wait."

Tilly heard the phone get set down on something. In the background she could hear the TV set, playing what sounded like a cartoon. Owen's and Beth's voices drifted away from the phone.

She rolled her eyes. She had been there when they had bought their house phones, minding the girls while Beth and Owen debated price versus features in the big box electronic store. Both of them had insisted on having a hold/mute button.

The phone made clunking noises. "Oma?"

"Emily! Is that you?"

"Yeah. Mercedes is with me. Are we still coming to visit you?"

"Ya, on the twelfth your dad says! We're going to go have lunch at the Italian place we used to take him to when he was your age."

"Yeah, he keeps saying."

"Do they really have a streetcar inside the building?" That was Mercedes.

"An old one. They have lots of things in there. You'll have to wait and see."

"Oma," said Emily, "do you have an e-mail address?"

"The same one I've had for a while now. Why?"

But Emily set the phone down with a clatter. Tilly could hear her telling Mercedes to pretend they'd been watching TV the whole time.

"You still there, Ma?"

"I'm still here. I've been trying to figure out what's on TV."

"Oh, I dunno, the girls are watching it. So, ten o'clock, your place... what's the buzz code?"

Tilly closed her eyes. "It's on a slip of paper, I have it in my purse, hang on..." She tried to step around the box of books to get to the front hall.

"Never mind. I'll just call you on my cell phone and you can tell us then. See you on the twelfth."

"See you. Bye-bye." She heard the phone click and returned hers to its cradle.

A visit to look forward to, two weeks to get things ready, and it didn't even sound like Beth was coming. Interesting. All in all, it could be a pleasant visit. Besides, after this box of books was done with, she'd be entirely unpacked and...

Two weeks was a long time, really. Long enough for Beth to change her mind, if she was actually not going to visit in the first place, which was hardly guaranteed.

Tilly frowned at the bookcase. If it were just Owen and the girls she wouldn't worry, but Beth would have something to say about the old books being out. Especially since over half the ones in English were classics of the sixties counterculture.

She turned her head to the kitchen. And if Beth did come, she'd have to do something about the stash of tinfoil, too. Owen would never dream of going through her cupboards — not unless she asked him to get her something from a top shelf while he was there, and all the tinfoil was in the cupboards under the counter. But Beth would find an excuse to see how she had organised things.

This was going to take some planning.