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 the other day…’
‘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 looks eagerly at her grandmother. ‘You know his dad, he’s always been interested in astronomy. His mom says 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!’
‘Anyway,’ Granny corrects.
‘Anyway, it all started with the TV. In the middle of the night, it suddenly went all flimmery downstairs. It woke M. Vargas up and he tried to fix it, but he couldn’t. 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 on the roof…’
‘… because he got abducted by aliens. Right in front of their house!’
‘Really? Just like that?’
‘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 fat!’
Granny’s lips twitch, ‘So that’s when he put on weight?’
‘Not exactly. I think he eats far too many donuts… 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!?!’
Taïga plunges on, ‘Just a week or so later, the baby popped out.’
‘That was fast. 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…’ She 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. But Derek said it was green.’
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.’
‘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 snow 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.’
‘Anyway, 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.’
‘Oh, heavens. Could she walk and talk like we do?’
‘I think so, Derek didn’t say. Granny-’ she frowns at her Grandmother, ‘-you ask too many questions.’
‘And maybe you don’t ask enough of them.’
Taïga doesn’t understand what Granny means, so she continues. ‘Well. A couple of weeks later she sparkled again, and 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…’
Taïga ponders the food question before continuing, ‘Whatever… One night she disappeared.’
‘Yeah, they woke up in the morning, and she was gone. Derek thinks her alien family came for her…’
‘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 catches up with her grandmother already halfway up the stairs. ‘But wouldn’t it be exciting if there were spaceships and such?’
Granny rolls her eyes, sighing. Her granddaughter is an obstinate little one…
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