‘Do you think you can fix it?’ Taïga is worried. She was watching TV earlier this morning and suddenly it broke down. Mrs. Brown immediately called the repair technician against Granny’s protests about it being the weekend and thus more expensive, as she doesn’t want to miss out on Ellen or, God forbid, Oprah.
‘Honestly? Err… It might take a while, though.’ The repair technician circles the TV with a frown.
‘How long is a while?’
‘What? Err… I might need to order some components and I’m not sure they are still available, so…’ He takes out a de-gaussing cable of his bag and moves it in circular motions in front of the TV screen.
‘Are you doing magic?’
‘Magic? I’m de-magnetizing the TV.’
‘Oh…’ Taïga watches the technician take out his tools and start losing the screws of the TV-set.
‘Maybe it’s the antenna?’ she suggests
The technician stares at Taïga. There’s not a chance in Hell he’ll get up onto the Cove’s roof. Especially after this morning’s heavy rain. ‘No. It’s not.’
‘I once stayed at a motel with my mom, and the TV would go all flimmery, but then the owner fixed the antenna and we could watch TV again.’
‘I told you it’s not the antenna.’
‘Anyways. It was one of those huge white satellite disks, and the owner swore a lot.’
‘I said, it’s not the antenna.’
‘I’m glad you’re not swearing, Mr…’ She looks at the technician, waiting for him to answer.
‘Mr. Geekowitch, you see Granny hates swearing and she even rubbed my mouth with soap when I said the F word.’
‘The F word, huh.’
Taïga nods solemnly. ‘But she uses the Goddess a lot, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing…’
Mr. Geekowitch continues unscrewing the front panel, trying to shut out the little girl’s rambling. ‘That’s what I thought,’ he mutters, scrutinizing the inside of the old television.
‘Is it bad?’
He glances at the annoying little girl. ‘Very. You must have done something really bad to fry it like this,’ he says, shaking his head.
‘I swear I was just watching. I didn’t touch anything, except the on/off button.’
The technician just grumbles an answer.
‘Maybe I turned the TV a little…’
‘Turned it? Why?’
‘It was easier to turn it than to push the armchair. Have you tried to move one of these? She gestures towards the heavy piece of furniture and the technician shrugs.
‘It’s incredibly heavy, and would have scraped the floor. Mrs. Brown spends a lot of time polishing the parquet and she would not appreciate it if I moved around furniture and-’
‘Taïga! Derek is here!’ Mrs. Brown calls from downstairs, and Taïga starts out of the room. ‘I’m sorry I can’t stay, Mr. Geekowitch. I have to run!’
It’s with a sigh of relief the technician watches Taïga scurry out of the room. Now he’ll just twist the coaxial cable a little…
The old TV screen focuses and comes alive, and he steps away a few feet. He has spent far too much time trying to find the problem with the TV when it was just a question of adjusting the cable because of the nosy girl’s questions. He could always charge the two old ladies with the time it has taken him, and the distance out here into the forest… But it will hardly cover the expenses. No. He’ll take the TV with him, and charge some major reparations…
Taïga and Derek never get time to play outside as the rain starts pouring down again when they set foot on the porch. They watch Mr. Geekowitch load the heavy old TV wrapped in a blanket into his truck and set off in a roar of exhaust fumes and slush.
‘At least it wasn’t Aliens,’ Derek says.
‘Our TV went all flummery back in Bridgeport, and it was aliens…’
Taïga’s face falls and she stares at him.
‘Aliens? Tell me! Are you sure it’s not aliens now?’ She peeks towards the roof.
Mrs. Brown comes rushing. ‘Oh my God! The linen!’ In dismay she watches the muddy stains on the bed linen hung over the railing to air. ‘Could you help me get those inside?’ She takes the duvets and precedes the kids laden with pillows.
‘Wait for me here, and take off your shoes.’ She disappears down to the basement and the laundry room.
Derek closes the door behind him. ‘Geez. Your pillows are all flat,’ Derek points out.
‘They are not.’
‘Just look at them. All the feathers are in a corner.’
‘It’s not feathers, stupid. It’s down-’
‘Don’t call me stupid!’
‘-and they’re not in a corner. You just fluff the pillow, like this.’ Taïga shakes her pillow in front of Derek’s face.
‘Really? I know a better way!’ He slaps his pillow playfully at her. It doesn’t take long before they giggling are having a pillow fight.
Granny can take it just about two minutes. She slams her book shut waiting for a reaction, but they don’t even hear her. Seething, she turns in her arm chair and starts bawling them out at the same moment as Mrs. Brown comes rushing, waving her duster menacingly. Finally the kids stop.
Mrs. Brown takes the pillows. ‘Just find something calm to do while I finish dusting. And take off your muddy boots, Taïga.’
‘All right, Mrs. B.’
They watch her disappear upstairs.
‘So what shall we do? Play pretend?’ Taïga suggests.
‘Again?’ Derek is not into the whole dress up thing. ‘I can show you a new app on my iPad, if you want.’
‘Sure! Have you downloaded any new books?’
‘Yeah. I’ll show you. You can even keep it for the weekend if you like. Maybe your grams will buy you a tablet if she sees that you can read books on it.’
‘It’s worth a try…’
Taïga sheds her rubber boots and sets off towards the winter garden with Derek in tow.
‘Hey! Why don’t we go to your room?’ he asks, catching up with her. ‘I’ve shown you mine – ours,’ he corrects as he’s sharing his room with Teddy.
Taïga hesitates. Her room is more of an extended dressing than a real room and she’s afraid of his reaction to the size. But she doesn’t really have an excuse so she nods. ‘OK. But only if you tell me a scary story!’
‘You and your scary stories.’ Derek grins at her. ‘But OK. Deal.’
Granny’s rumbling stomach reminds her that it’s soon time to have dinner. Sighing she puts away her book, glaring at the glasses in the brand new case. Another day has passed without her using them. Ha!
She shuffles out into the kitchen to see what Mrs. Brown is preparing.
‘It smells good. What are we having for dinner?’
‘I’m making Taïga’s favorite – homemade Hot Pockets with cheese and pepperoni.’
‘I don’t like Hot Pockets,’ Granny says grumpily. ‘Where is the wretched girl, by the way?’
‘I don’t know. I saw them passing in the hall quite a while ago.’
‘Them?’ Suddenly Granny remembers that Derek must still be here.
Mrs. Brown mixes the salad angrily. ‘I wish you would stop calling her that.’
‘Calling her what?’
‘Oh. Did I say that?’ Granny mumbles absentmindedly, setting off in search of the two kids. They have been way too silent…
‘… and this was hers. I gave it to her when she was a baby and she always had it with her.’ Derek looks at the tiny teddy bear in his hands. It is pink and holding an even tinier red heart in its arms. ‘Now I’m the one carrying it around in my backpack.’ He smiles sadly.
They have spent the last hour discussing comfortably installed on Taïga’s bed. Derek and Teddy have often visited the Cove, but it’s the first time Taïga has let one of them into her sanctuary. She quickly puts the blue wand in a drawer before Derek has a chance to see it, but he’s too awed by the original Disney posters on the wall to notice. And he hasn’t mentioned the size at all.
‘So why didn’t she take it with her when she left?’
‘I don’t know. It’s been bugging me too.’ He holds out the little bear for Taïga to have a closer look. It is smooth and fits her hand perfectly. It’s with regret she hands it back to Derek.
He seems unusually affected and she doesn’t really know what to say, so she changes the subject. ‘What about the scary story you promised?’
‘Yeah. Right.’ He gropes around in his backpack and fishes out a huge lamp torch.
‘Wow. Do you always carry around stuff like that?’
‘Nope. I needed it if we were playing outside this afternoon.’ He scrambles down off her bed and switches off the light. Taïga doesn’t move. Her well known little room suddenly feels scary and her eyes strain to see through the complete darkness. The tiny colored windows normally don’t let much light in, and with the rainstorm she can hardly distinguish them at all. She yelps and scrambles back when the mattress suddenly moves and a horrible face appears above her.
Derek is standing on the bed, his face lit up from under by the lamp torch. With a low, raspy voice he starts on his tale about the red eyed monster under the bed…
Suddenly the door is thrown up.
‘What on Earth are you doing in the dark!’ Granny hisses, making Derek lose his grip on the lamp which falls clattering to the floor spinning.
Granny fumbles for the light switch and the room is basking in bleak light, making the two kids blink. They both jump off the bed and Derek switches off the spinning lamp torch with fumbling fingers.
‘You have some explanation to give me, young man! What are you doing in my granddaughter’s room with the lights turned off?’ She stares at Derek who stammering starts on an excuse.
‘I’m so sorry, Mrs. Grey. I was just-’
Granny waves it off. ‘Nevermind. I don’t want to know! I don’t want you to set foot in this house again. Do you hear me?’
Derek nods, his ears flushing red.
‘But he was only telling a ghost story, Gran-’
‘And you, young lady, are grounded until Christmas!’
Taïga’s chin falls. ‘Christmas? But that’s was-’
‘We’ll talk about this in private, Taïga. I’m sure your mother didn’t encourage this kind of behavior. Now, you-’ she fixes her cold grey eyes on Derek again. ‘OUT.’
With a last look at Taïga, he slips past the furious old lady. Granny doesn’t say anything before his footsteps have vanished down the stairs and the front door has clicked shut behind him.
‘The dinner is ready,’ she says coldly, turning on her heels. ‘And put on your slippers.’
Taïga has dinner with Granny and Mrs. Brown as she has every night of the week. As usual Granny doesn’t say much. As a matter of fact she doesn’t say anything, and she just glares at the appetizing food in front of her. Mrs. Brown has made French fries on the side as a treat for Taïga, together with the large mixed salad and the hot pockets.
‘Hot pockets,’ Granny mumbles, fiddling with her cutlery. The salad looks good, though, and she loves French fries. But Mrs. Brown said they were for Taïga. Taïga here and Taïga there. Mrs. Brown knows that she loves French fries too, and this is her home after all. So why can’t she just reach out and grab some? Because then Mrs. Brown will get started on her favorite subject – eating healthily. She throws a malevolent glance at her housekeeper who doesn’t notice. Busy listening to her granddaughter.
‘Hmpff.’ Granny rolls her eyes. Mrs. Brown doesn’t even cook anymore, she’s just baking and serving things Taïga likes… Hot pockets, indeed. She has got too much influence on the girl. Letting her run around the house, wreaking havoc with those Vargas’ boys. Better if she went to their place. Or not. At least here they can keep an eye on the wretched girl. Best would be if she didn’t bring any kids here at all. She glances at her granddaughter. She doesn’t even dress like a girl. Who has bought her that ugly tomboy outfit? No, she should have girls coming over. Maybe the ballet group would be a good idea…
Her bad mood doesn’t influence Mrs. Brown and Taïga who are used to the old lady’s grumpy behavior and ignore her.
The little girl is talking about her day, when Granny suddenly pushes away her plate with an irritated gesture.
‘Exactly what, Granny?’
Granny stares at her grandchild. She can’t really explain why she said that without hurting her feelings. ‘Err… I was just thinking we should go straight to the library and talk about your ballet classes.’
‘But you haven’t eaten anything?’ Mrs. Brown points out.
Granny snorts, finally grabbing some salad.
‘I made lemon cake… with custard.’
Granny freezes, her fork halfway to her mouth. ‘After dessert, of course…’
Granny is an ingrained technophobe and doesn’t even have a cellphone – even if she’s been thinking about it since the incident with the burglar the other night. All the other kids at Taïga’s school have sophisticated cells and tablets, but Taïga doesn’t know how to ask Granny for something as expensive. Derek has let her borrow his iPad over the weekend, just so she can show Granny the magic of new technologies.
‘Granny, you should have one. There are games and the Internet.’
Granny doesn’t look up from her book, ‘Uh-huh… Too complicated…’
‘But there are also lots of books! Look, I’m reading “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” and Derek didn’t even have to go to the bookstore to buy it.’
‘Don’t you like going to the bookstore?’
‘You know I love the bookstore, Granny. That’s not the point.’
‘What’s the point then?’
‘It’s… You could have lots of lots of books-’
‘I already have.’
‘Not that you can carry with you everywhere!’
‘Everywhere? Why should I want to carry around a whole library?’ Granny glances briefly at Taïga, ‘I don’t go far from my library anyway. So no thank you, I prefer a real book!’
‘But it’s the same, Granny.’
‘I prefer real paper books… Now, stop bothering me, please.’
They both continue reading in silence for a while. But something is troubling Taïga.
‘Derek told me something…’
‘Did he now?’
‘Yes. About his sister.’
‘Has he got a sister? Hmm… I thought-’
‘Yes, he has! Or no… Well, it’s complicated.’
Granny marks the page and closes her book, ‘Now you’ve raised my curiosity, young lady.’
Taïga shuts off the iPad and looks eagerly at her grandmother. ‘You know his dad? He’s always been interested in astronomy. His mom says that when he’s not in the basement inventing new gadgets, he’s got his eyes on the stars.’
‘I don’t know him that well, they just moved in from Falls Harbor I think…’
‘Well, he had one of those stargazing thingy’s-’
‘Yeah, a telescope.’
‘Like the one you got for Christmas?’
‘I guess so, but I think his was much bigger! He could watch not only the moon and the planets, but also the stars.’
‘He even discovered one that he named Lilith1 after Derek’s mom. Romantic, huh? Teddy told me all about it. He was in their bedroom, admiring his dad’s statue of R2D2 when his dad started shouting outside, all worked up about his discovery.’
‘Anyway,’ Granny corrects.
‘Anyway, it all started with the TV. In the middle of the night, it suddenly went all flimmery downstairs.’
‘It woke Mr. Vargas up, and he went downstairs to see what was up. He probably thought it was a B&E.’
‘That was very courageous of him, and not a little foolhardy. Why didn’t he call the police?’
‘I don’t know, Granny. Maybe because their TV was old and he recognized the sound. Well. He tried the usual stuff to repair it, but it didn’t work.’
‘He couldn’t even turn the dang thing off.’
‘So he thought of, like getting up on the roof, adjust the antenna and such.’
Taïga pauses dramatically. ‘But he never got as far as up onto the roof…’
‘… because he got abducted by aliens. Right in front of their house!’
‘Really? Just like that?’ Granny asks drily.
‘Yeah! A spaceship with a kind of laser sucked him up from the ground!’
Granny sighs. This Vargas boy is something else. And she who thought her granddaughter was the one with a vivid imagination. ‘And then what? It left? With M. Vargas on board?’
‘But I talked to him yesterday when he called to ask me to send Derek home.’
‘Well, the aliens didn’t keep him. They sent him back, and boy was he big!’
Granny’s lips twitch, ‘So that’s when he put on weight?’
‘Not exactly. I think he eats far too many donuts and ice-cream…’ She looks thoughtful.
‘This was another kind of fat.’ She pauses before adding theatrically, ‘He was pregnant! With an alien baby!’
Granny’s eyes widen in mock surprise. ‘Ohmygod!?! Pregnant!?!’
‘Uh-huh. But nobody believed him. Not even Mrs. Vargas.’
‘I know you don’t believe it either. But he proved she was wrong.’
‘And how did he do that?’
‘With the TV, of course. As soon as he got close to the television, it became flimmery – just like when the Aliens abducted him.’
‘And even if Mrs. Vargas didn’t believe he was pregnant, she really started to think something else was wrong with him. That he had become radioactive or something…’
‘Where would Mr.Vargas have been exposed to radiation? In his workshop?’ Granny inquires with slight contempt.
‘I dunno, Granny. He acted like he was ill – complaining about stomachaches, backaches, headaches. He also fainted from time to time, and she wanted him to do a head scan to see if he was having seizures.’
‘She also started bugging him to lose weight, but that was of course, impossible. He didn’t seem tolerate his usual junk food, but only ate green stuff. Raw. Salad, peas, green beans. He threw up every so often, and she was really worried, but he refused to see a doctor.’
‘Anyways, he gave up trying to convince her about his condition…’
‘‘Anyway. So he stopped talking about the pregnancy nonsense?’
‘Yeah. And he became even more of a loner, spending all his time indoors, down in the basement. Always wearing his blue pajamas and an old sweater, getting bigger for each day.’
‘But Derek believed him. And Teddy. Derek says he listened to the baby in his dad’s stomach, and it was kicking pretty badly in there. So he was pregnant, all right.’
Taïga plunges on, ‘Just about a fortnight or so later, he went into labor. It was right before Christmas break, and Derek and Teddy were at school so they missed the whole thing.’
‘Mr. Vargas was working on one of his inventions, when suddenly his back started aching horribly. He’d had kidney stones a few years ago, and the pain was similar, so he knew he had to get to hospital. He screamed for help, and Mrs. Vargas came bursting in. He tried to tell her what was happening, but the pain was too intense.’
‘I guess that’s when they both understood something else was happening.’
Granny raises her eyebrows inquiringly.
‘His water broke…’
‘… and then the baby popped out.’
‘That was fast. A two week pregnancy and a speedy delivery. What did they say at the hospital?’
‘I don’t think he went there. Derek didn’t say… But, Granny. It was an alien baby. It did probably just “pop” out. With sparkles and such.’
‘Probably…’ Her grandmother adds under her breath, ‘Like a fairy birth.’
‘A fairy birth? Of course! There must be lots of sparkles at a fairy birth. Have you seen a fairy, Granny?’
‘Ahem… Not exactly. So what did it look like?’
‘Like most baby’s do. Except it was green. At least Derek said so. Or murky-ish. Definitely not human, but kinda cute in an alien way.’
Granny gasps. ‘Like E.T.?’
‘A little green ugly fellow from space in a movie your mom used to love.’ Granny frowns. ‘But was he really green? Or brownish? Never mind.’
‘I don’t think she was ugly. She didn’t look like us – she had large black eyes and pointy ears. Mr. Vargas was fascinated by his alien child, and he kept her by his side at all times he even bathed her in his workshop! He never let her out of his sight and kept her in the basement. I think he was afraid of what would happen to her if somebody found out.’
‘I bet the news and the army would have had a field day,’ Granny mutters. ‘What did they call it?’
‘They named her Alya, because it was a girl.’
‘Humpff… So aliens can be boys or girls?’
‘Granny… Of course they can. Now do you want to hear the rest of the story or not?’
Granny doesn’t, but she nods nevertheless for her granddaughter to continue.
‘One morning there were a lot of inexplicable footsteps in the frost around the house. M. Vargas said it was alien footsteps and that they probably had come from planet Nibiru to make sure Alya was all right.’
‘Alien footsteps? How did he know?’
‘Err… I guess they were not sneaker prints.’
‘There were even footprints on the roof, and after that night, the TV started to emit randomly. Very strange… Derek said his dad thought Alya tried to communicate through the TV with them.’
‘Yeah – the aliens, the Vargas’…’
‘Anyway, Alya slept in their laundry basket. Nothing permanent, just over the holidays, and they would buy a real baby bed.
But Alya grew fast, much faster than normal kids. There was a lot of sparkling around her and suddenly she wasn’t a baby anymore, but a toddler. And it was only right after Christmas.’
‘Oh, heavens. Could she walk and talk like we do?’
‘I think so, Derek didn’t say. She could fly, though. Or kinda float in the air. Mr. Vargas saw it with his own eyes the day she was born!’
‘And Derek said that she communicated inside his dad’s head, whatever that means. When Mr. Vargas discussed with her, she only sat there and looked sad. That’s when Derek decided he wanted to cheer her up a little… Granny-’ she frowns at her Grandmother, ‘-you ask too many questions.’
‘And maybe you don’t ask enough.’
Taïga doesn’t understand what Granny means, so a little confused she continues. ‘Well. I suppose she could walk, because she escaped from the basement a couple of times. It was kind of Derek’s fault.’
‘He wanted to see her smile so he brought her to the living room to watch a little television with him, but as soon as she approached it went wild. It sparkled so intensely it short-circuited.’
‘But Derek thought it was a good thing, even if he got time out for bringing Alya upstairs.’
‘Why was it a good thing?’
‘They had to buy a new TV – Derek and Teddy couldn’t play with their new X-box on the old one. ’
‘Oh. I see.’
‘And guess what? While Derek was being bawled out, Alya went outside. Derek saw her through the window!’
‘But Mr. Vargas dashed out and brought her right back inside before the neighbors had a chance to spot her. That’s when the TV caught fire.’
‘Poor little girl, being locked up in a basement.’
‘Yeah. She probably just wanted to watch the stars.’
‘Like E.T. who wanted home.’
‘Yeah. Did E.T. get back? And did he have superpowers like Alya?’
‘What kind of superpowers?’
‘Alien stuff – unlocking doors with your mind and stuff.’
‘You can’t unlock doors with your mind.’
‘You can unlock doors with your wand, Granny.’
‘Right. But I am a witch.’
‘OK, that makes sense. But how do you explain what happened the night after? Listen. Mr. Vargas was very tired after the birth and slept very deeply. Now he woke up because he was freezing, finding it was all dark outside, and the door to the terrace was open.’
‘When he got up to close it, he saw something really awful through the window.’ She waits for Granny’s reaction.
‘An Alien invasion?’
‘No. It was just Alya. She was balancing on one of the rail posts, reaching for the stars, only wearing diapers and a T-shirt.’
‘Mr. Vargas rushed outside before she could fall down and break her neck, and he brought her down to his workshop, deciding that from now on, he’d spend the nights on the couch there.’
‘I bet Mrs. Vargas liked that idea.’
‘Oh, no. She was furious and wanted to tell the authorities about Alya.’
‘But even though Mr. Vargas started sleeping on the couch every night, Alya still managed to vanish regularly. He always found her on the terrace, perched on the railing and reaching for the stars. Mr. Vargas couldn’t sleep anymore. He was afraid all the time of what would happen if she ran away. Or worse. If she fell.’
‘On the night of the full moon, something happened.’
‘Did she fall?’
‘No. But when he carried her inside, she started convulsing, growing maddeningly fast. And suddenly she was a child my age!’
Granny rolls her eyes, but Taïga is too excited to notice her grandmother’s skepticism.
‘She grew so fast she got ill and threw up everywhere – green slimy stuff that ate through the floor and-’ She stops. ‘OK. But it could have eaten through the floor. She was an alien after all, right?’
When Granny still doesn’t say anything, she sighs and continues. ‘Maybe it was just the food…’
‘Like in food poisoning?’
Taïga nods. ‘Maybe her stomach wasn’t made for pancakes and stuff and she needed alien food… Like she couldn’t wear human clothes. It gave her really bad rashes.’
‘So you mean she wandered around naked?’ Granny shakes her head.
‘Yup.’ She sighs. ‘She was probably dying. Derek told me she became weaker and weaker, and her skin greyer and greyer. They had to let her sleep in Mr. and Mrs. Vargas’s bed, and the parents took turns attending to her. Mrs. Vargas wanted to take her to the hospital, but Mr. Vargas refused, saying that he didn’t want his daughter to end up like a laboratory rat. Whatever that means. Maybe the air wasn’t right for her? Too much oxygen maybe?’
‘Or too much pollution,’ Granny adds.’
Taïga ponders the air question before continuing, ‘Whatever… One night she disappeared.’
‘Yeah, they woke up in the morning, and she was gone. Teddy had slept on the sofa and hadn’t seen or heard anything!’
‘Derek thinks her alien family came for her. He’s just sorry he didn’t get to see their spaceship…’
‘Think? They’re not sure? What if she got kidnapped!?!’
‘She didn’t… she left a letter to them.’
‘What did it say?’
‘Granny! How could they know? They don’t read alien script!’
Granny can’t keep a straight face anymore. ‘This was a good story,’ she chuckles. ‘But don’t go around telling it.’
‘Of course not. Derek said it was a secret. I shouldn’t even be telling you!’
‘I’m glad you did, dear.’ She looks seriously at her granddaughter. ‘But I don’t think you should play with Derek so much. He’s got a bad influence on you.’
‘Taïga, he’s older than you and apparently he’s got a lot of imagination. You do know there are no such things as aliens and green babies, don’t you? And most important – men cannot – I repeat, not – get pregnant.’ She rises from her armchair. ‘It’s time to go to bed.’
Taïga doesn’t say anything for a few seconds. She believes Derek… She hurries after her grandmother, catching up with her already halfway up the stairs.
‘But wouldn’t it be exciting if there were spaceships and such? Imagine what it would look like – spaceships surrounding your house and evil aliens with laser guns!’
Granny rolls her eyes, sighing. Her granddaughter is an obstinate little one… ‘I’ll show you something far more exciting tonight, if only you stop talking about aliens for a while.’
Taïga hurries brushing her teeth and jumps into bed, eagerly waiting for her grandmother to start on the exciting story. Granny turns off the lights, only leaving the bedside lamp. Ominously she picks up the ugly little doll from Taïga’s nightstand.
‘Tonight, I will tell you about a religion that comes from far, far away…’
Much later that night, almost midnight, someone trudges muttering up the over snowed path to the Grey Cove.
‘She should clear the path with all that magic of hers. But she’s probably leaving it like this on purpose, trying to keep me out…’ The old woman pauses, her attention drawn by a snowman on the front lawn.
Granny opens the door on her sister before she even has the time take a step towards the hated snow sculpture.
‘Missy! Don’t you dare touch it!’
Missy opens her arms wide. ‘Surprise!’ she yells with a shrill voice, but her older sister doesn’t budge.
‘Not exactly.’ Granny says drily.
‘I should have known. You probably saw me coming in your crystal ball.’
‘The palantìr doesn’t lie… But I was fooled a moment by your disguise.’
Granny looks pointedly at Missy’s ivory coat. Her sister touches it self-consciously, ‘Those long skirts are way too bulky, so I’ve decided to renew my wardrobe. You should do the same… It gives me a classy look, doesn’t it?’
Granny mumbles, ‘Very.’
She steps aside, motioning for Missy to approach. ‘Are you coming in or not? It’s freezing outside.’
‘Right.’ Missy hurries up the steps and stomps the snow off before entering. ‘But I also think this color makes me look fat, so I’ll return it to the shop when I get home again…’
Granny doesn’t say anything, she just acquiesces. The coat looks expensive enough, but she doesn’t approve of her sister abandoning their traditional sweeping skirts.
They settle in the cozy living room which is heated by an old fireplace, and Mrs. Brown brings them hot sweet tea.
Missy holds out her cup, ‘Would you mind bringing some scones, Mrs. B? And that abricot jam of yours, of course. Oh, and some clotted cream.’
Mrs. Brown nods happily, and hurries off to the kitchen. She likes Missy who always have had a healthy appetite, unlike Granny, who more often than not forgets to eat.
‘Oh, but I almost forgot why I’m here.’ Missy clears her throat theatrically and sits up in the old armchair. ‘Ahem… Beware!’ She points an accusing finger. ‘There’s someone upstairs.’
Granny sighs, rolling her eyes. ‘Of course there is. Anybody can figure out I didn’t make that snowman myself.’
Missy glances at her sister. ‘Err… What bad luck! I’ve seen it coming, like a dark cloud spreading over my crystal ball. You must do something, before it’s too late-’
‘You don’t have a crystal ball.’
‘Never mind. Beware anyway!’
Granny looks pointedly at her sister’s glum figure.
‘So what?’ she defends herself. ‘A crystal ball sounds classier than Tarot cards.’
‘Beware of what? Or of who? Why should I do something? What if I don’t want to? And it’s none of your business, she’s my granddaughter, not yours!’
‘Err… I’m talking about your grandson.’
‘Missy, Shasta is long gone. Where to, I don’t know… She left her daughter with me, she doesn’t have a son. And you’re such a pessimist. Nothing will happen.’
‘Granddaughter? But I was so sure the Tarot cards said it was a boy with a heart frosted over… Well. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…’
They stare at each other.
‘And you came all the way from Transylvania to warn me? Don’t you have a telephone anymore?’ Minuit jumps up onto Granny’s knees and settles purring.
‘Err… Of course I have a phone.’ Missy crosses her knees, fiddling with her ivory wool skirt. She glances at her sister, not sure if she should tell her or not about her real business.
Granny stops cuddling Minuit. Distractedly she pats the cat’s silky fur, looking up at her sister who fidgets under the cold, scrutinizing stare.
‘Err… I have some business with the Council and thought I’d pop in.’
‘The Council is here?’ Granny pales. ‘This calls for something stronger than a cup of tea. Mrs. Brown!’
‘Well, I do have time for a glass of Brandy before I have to leave. And maybe another scone… Oh, and would you mind awfully if I stay the night? I don’t think I should leave here to dunk drive.’
‘You drove here?’
‘Yes. But in a very conventional way. Airplane, rented car and so on. No magic at all,’ she adds proudly.
‘But you don’t have a driver’s license?’
Missy taps her chin with her index finger. ‘I might have used just a little… But only to sign the rental papers-’
They both go quiet when Mrs. Brown appears, casually carrying the iconic round Rémy Martin bottle and two snifters…
Part I – End of Chapter 05