tilly with the others: part 17

Tilly followed the crowds across Spadina Avenue to the median where the streetcar stops were, a shopping bag full of vegetables and sausages bumping against her leg. That was the problem with going to Kensington Market — it was hard to resist the bargains. She promised herself a couple of sausages and some nice salad for dinner, and tried not to think about all the groceries already sitting in the fridge at home.

Marcus had been in the hospital for six months before he died. She really ought to be used to buying food for one by now. Then again, she reflected, there had been a lot of days where she simply never cooked, because she was at the hospital from early in the morning until after dinner-time. Breakfast had come from the doughnut shop beside the hospital gift shop where she had bought Marcus his newspaper on the days he was awake enough to read. Lunch had been usually from the same place, although a few times she had Marcus's lunch for him so the nurses wouldn't nag him for not eating. Dinner just didn't happen most days.

No wonder I want vegetables, she thought. I've been living on junk food for half a year.

All of this, she realised as she waited for the streetcar, was just procrastinating on deciding how to reply to Emily. Two strange men asking after her by name wasn't that difficult to explain away. The house had only been sold two months ago, after all.

But the door in the sky... how was she going to reassure a ten-year-old about that when the only reason she believed it at all was because a homeless man had told her to watch out for one?

Plausible deniability. It was one of Marcus's favourite phrases, and it popped into her head so strongly in his voice that Tilly startled, earning her suspicious looks from the other people waiting for the streetcar.

"It's an idea," she muttered under her breath in Dutch. She wasn't sure if it was to Marcus or herself, and at the moment she didn't care who was staring at her over it.

The streetcar arrived, already jammed with people, as usual. Tilly pushed herself on with the resigned aggressiveness of a naturalised Torontonian, and manoeuvred to a pole so she could hold herself upright.

By the time they arrived at her stop, there were so many people between her and the door she had to fight her way off. Back home in her apartment, she put the groceries away with exaggerated care, dreading when she would run out of excuses and have to turn on her computer again. Eventually the groceries were put away, the kitchen was wiped down, and she had no choice. She sat down at her computer desk and powered up.

Plausible deniability. All right.

Hallo Emily:
 I hope your friend likes her new neighbourhood. I always thought it was a good place to live. That house is a mirror image of the old house, so if Caitlin's parents have any questions about the plumbing, wiring, or ductwork, tell them to tell you and you can send me an e-mail about it. Some of the plumbing and wiring is a little non-standard, so if they replace a sink or buy a new light fixture, they may find things are not as they expect. It's not dangerous, just odd.
I'm glad you thought about safety when you were talking to those men. There was a mixup with the movers when I was moving out, so I'm sure they were just checking up on that. I don't think there's anything to actually do. The part about the door was strange, but that sounds like the power of suggestion to me. You were thinking about the house and how I just moved, you'd just seen me at my new apartment, which is high up in the sky, and then those things maybe got mixed together for you. I don't mean I think you made it up, because I know you don't do things like that. I just mean that moving and housing were suggested to you, and maybe the way the man gestured was ambiguous. That's all. After all, how could a door floating in the sky be real?
It was very lovely to hear from you. Write me again when you have a chance. I e-mail my old university friends in Holland all the time, and we have a lot of fun writing each other.
Tilly read the e-mail over. All right, she had some idea what the door in the sky could be, and truth be told she was only in touch with two friends from university; everyone else she e-mailed back home was a relative, and writing them was far more of a pain than fun. The vocabulary might be a little past Emily's comfort zone. That was all right. The e-mail passed for plausible deniability. She hit the Send button.

She had thought that once she replied the restlessness and nervousness would go away, but it just felt like it was getting worse. She left the computer on and made herself fix dinner.

The e-mail application made the "new message" chime when she was finishing her salad. Tilly forced herself to finish eating and wash the dishes before she went to look.

She told herself that it might not be Emily. It might be her sister or Marcus's sister being their usual nosy selves. It might be Bea or Dine writing her. Owen forwarded her jokes sometimes.

She walked over to the computer. The e-mail was from Emily, and all it said was:
But Oma, I SAW it.
 Tilly stood and stared at the words, waiting for more, waiting for a reply to form itself and absolve her of trying to explain the unexplainable to her grand-daughter. But computers are not machines prone to miracles, and of course nothing came.

"I can't do any more of this tonight," she said out loud, and shut the computer down. She flopped into her favourite chair and snatched her book off the end-table.