I looked at Grandma, not quite believing my ears.
"What did you say?"
Grandma sighed. "I asked if Kitty has tried to contact you yet," she repeated yet again, in the same matter-of-fact tone as she had used to pose the question. "They do, you know."
"Who?" I did not understand.
"The dearly departed, if you will," she looked slightly amused. "It is quite common. If you know what to look for. And aren't afraid of the contact, of course."
It's OK, I thought to myself. Just Grandma having a temporary fit of weirdness. Or perhaps she's trying to cheer me up. My Grandma, the medium. Next she'll be donning a turban and calling herself Velma the Mystic or something.
Her cell phone rang and she took it out of her pocket, checking who was calling. That was just as good as answering, as I could not resist touching the letter tucked under the waist of my jeans. The message from Kitty.
"It's your dad... Hello, Mike! Yes, not long now. In fact, I met Dana on the road on the way to your house. OK, yes, we'll be right there."
She slid the phone back in her pocket. She never had a handbag, just sometimes her ratty old back pack, but mostly she carried all the necessary stuff in her pockets. ("What doesn't fit in my pockets, I can do without. I've always thought handbags get in the way of action." She never specified what she meant by "action".)
"Well, the chef is about to make his famous pasta, and would like us to be there when he bears it to the table. Let's get going."
I sat quietly next to Grandma while she drove us home. She did not say anything more on the subject of Kitty contacting me. She was like that, never pushing her opinions on others, or continuing a discussion if she noticed the subject made someone feel uncomfortable. My puzzled expression must have convinced her to drop it.
The pasta was delicious, as always. Dad really knew his way around a kitchen. He had been a professional in the hospitality business for many years before we'd come to live in this peaceful rural idyll on the border between England and Wales, where he now focussed on consultancy and teaching. When he was young, he'd worked his way through university in many different kitchens, happy to start at the lowest level every time, because as he always said, you learned more that way. It was a great opportunity to study different cultures - European, Asian, African - he immersed himself in it all. He did most of the cooking at home, leaving only baking to my mother, who happened to love it. I helped them both, and hoped I would learn both their skills - it was like having a private restaurant, living with them.
When I was very small and Dad was building his career, we'd lived in different places - Italy, Greece, Korea and America. I had been so young I didn't really remember very much about any of them other than the States. Dad, who was American, had met Mom in England years earlier while he was a student travelling around - she and Grandma were originally from a Kentish farming family and now that we were back in a rural area she felt really at home there with her church activities and so on. I loved it too. Apart from anything else, there was a real sense of antiquity and mystery about where we lived and I had become fascinated by history and archaeology. Grandma, though, had kicked back at living the rural life at some point and gone off for adventures.
Mom had made a delicious strawberry cake for coffee, and we discussed ordinary things while we ate. Kitty's death was not one of the subjects. After the pasta and cake everyone was so full, we practically rolled to the living room and almost dozed off on chairs and sofas. For a while Dad pretended to be reading a magazine, but his eyelids kept on drooping lower and lower, until his head bobbed to the side and he began to snore lightly, all cosy in his favorite armchair.
It was tempting to join my slumbering family, but I did not want to sleep, so I forced myself out of the depths of the comfortable armchair, and went to my room. Exercise, I thought. Work off this meal. My thought was to get the binoculars and go observe nature in the forest so that I could get some quiet time after what had turned out to be a demanding day. I reached for the binocular case on top of my bookshelf. The strap must have been jammed between two books and when I pulled a bit harder than I'd intended, one of them fell on my toes. That was the only explanation for it.
"Shit! Shit shitshit!" I hissed to myself and jumped on one leg holding the toes of the other. "Damn book!" Surprising how much something as relatively light as a book could hurt when it fell that far.
I heard a chuckle from the doorway. Grandma was standing there, leaning against the doorframe, laughing quietly.
"Well, excuse me if I don't share the joke. My toe feels as if it's broken!" I managed to get out.
"Sorry, dear. I wasn't laughing at your pain. I was laughing at Kitty."
"You... what?" I forgot my throbbing toes and stared at Grandma. I was still standing on one leg like a flamingo.
"You just met one of the ways they communicate with us."
"The dead." She leaned on the doorframe. "The dearly departed, deceased, passed away, perished. You know."
I just started to say "Look, Grandma - " but didn't get any further.
"What are you talking about?" Mom shouted from the living room. She had the most acute hearing, if someone was talking about "suspect things". Much like me. It's like being in a room full of people, everyone talking at the same time. You can't tell what each individual says, but if they mention your name, you hear it immediately.
"Angels!" Grandma shouted over her shoulder. "Books about angels!"
There was no answer to that. Mom could not really object to angels, even though they were a metaphysical subject, therefore "suspect." Metaphysics was something she could not tolerate. But angels were mentioned at church, which she frequented. So even though she did not quite believe in angels, they were acceptable in her social circles.
"Well, maybe it's best we don't talk about these things in front of your mother. She feels very uncomfortable when anyone talks about death. She is so scared of it. No point in trying to change her opinion, until she is ready for it." Grandma's voice was low, as if we were conspiring together.
I wasn't sure what Grandma meant with the "until she is ready for it" part, and did not ask.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish