This is a work of fiction.
The sounds aren’t getting any louder or closer.
My phone is somewhere on the floor in the dark, and I don’t want to take the chance of getting up and trying to find it.
Time passes, but I have no idea how much.
I lie awake, unwilling to take the chance of falling asleep and being startled if there is something wrong.
I pass the time by thinking about what the quadruplets and I did in this windowless living room in their basement after dinner.
First, they showed me their record player, and then they let me pick a record.
They wouldn’t let me operate the record player.
Purple was the best dancer. Blue and Yellow were very good and always danced together. Red and I danced separately, and none of the quadruplets asked me to dance with them, nor did I ask them to dance with me.
I think I was trying to dance myself into the ground, fearing that I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I was even sort of not tired.
I collapsed on the couch, Red gave me a couple of blankets and a pillow, and that’s all I remember.
Thudda chugga chugga whoosh.
I lie awake for what seems like forever.
Suddenly, a light in the kitchen comes on.
I can now see my phone.
I get up, pick it up, sit down, and unlock it.
It’s 6:00 a.m.
I realize I don’t have anybody’s number.
I bought the phone the day before I came here, thinking it was time I had one.
It’s an iPhone, but I know very little about how to use it. Maybe I’ll ask Red.
Or maye I won’t.
I know Amanda’s number by heart. Maybe I’ll call her. She’ll know.
But it’s too early right now.
That’s their mom’s name, or at least, I think it is.
The lady I know runs a craft studio next door.
Aunt Bev used to buy things from her before I “outgrew” girl things like dresses and just wanted to buy my clothes.
I don’t know her husband’s name or what he does, but I’ve seen him.
Aunt Bev certainly would have known these things, but everything I wish I’d asked her can no longer be asked.
I play around with my phone until I find out how to search the Internet.
I feel uneasy, as if Aunt Bev might tap me on the shoulder and say, “Just what do you think you’re doing?”
But of course, she won’t.
I type in the name Grace O’Brien.
She has an online store.
I tap on About.
This store is run by Grace and Peter O’Brien. Grace runs the in-person store, and Peter makes sure our website stays up and running 24/7/365!
Together, we can bring you almost any handcrafted item made from fabric or wood.
Is there something not listed here?
Send us an e-mail and we’d be happy to discuss your project and provide you with a detailed quote.
If you’d prefer a face-to-face chat, please call, e-mail, or surprise us with a visit!
I tap on the word “e-mail.”
A new message screen pops up.
I tap the correct box and type.
Dear Mrs. O’Brien,
My name is Alexis Freemont, but you probably know my aunt Bev best. Unfortunately, she passed away recently, and in her memory, I’d like to order the kind of dress she used to have made for me.
I jump, and my fingers slide gracelessly across the screen.
I look up and see Red standing there.
She’s wearing a different red shirt today.
“Oh, yes, good morning. I was just writing an e-mail.”
“I know. I can see your screen. Don’t mention us in your message.”
“Oh, is she not your mom?”
“Yes, she’s our mom. We don’t want outsiders to know she has children.”
“Oh, er, okay. So um, can you explain more, please?”
“Yes. If you go to her store, don’t mention us. If you call or e-mail her, don’t mention us. If you want coffee and go upstairs for some, you can mention us in our own house, but not anywhere else outside our house. Do you understand?”
“Good. Do you want breakfast?”
“Yes, but I have a question. What was that sound I kept hearing last night?”
“Sort of like chugga thudda chugga whoosh.”
“Oh, that was probably the printer. We’re so used to it, we don’t notice it anymore.”
“Yes. What do you want for breakfast?”
“Coffee, eggs, bacon, and toast.”
“You might as well forget e-mailing Mom and just go upstairs. She’s awake.”
“I’ll do that. Is there anything I shouldn’t talk about with her?”
“What time should I come back down here?”
“Let me check.”
She takes out a phone and taps the screen.
While she’s doing that, I cancel the e-mail I was writing.
I lock my phone and put it in my pocket.
“At about ten, but the exact timing isn’t important.”
She folows me as I go into the kitchen and open the door leading to the stairs.
“Close it behind you,” she says.
Mrs. O’Brien is in the kitchen, cracking eggs into a frying pan.
“Good morning,” she says.
“Um, hi. Good morning. Um, do you remember my aunt Bev?”
“Of course I do. I was so sad to hear she passed away.”
She stops cracking eggs and looks at me.
“I’m very sorry about not coming to the service. After what happened, I won’t set foot in a church.”
“Oh, um, er, what happened? Or is that none of my business?”
“The church where we used to live said that my children were doing magic, and were therefore evil.”
“Oh no. I’m sorry to hear that.”
She nods in acknowledgement.
“I was going to send a card but then the kids asked me to mail a letter to you, so I figured I’d give you my condolences in person.”
“Thank you. What should I call you?”
“Grace is fine. My dear husband is Peter. He’s at work.”
She smiles at me.
“You’re the first person ever to visit this house. Please allow me to make you a large breakfast.”
“Thank you. Could you make me a dress to remember Aunt Bev by?”
“I sure can! I’d better watch these eggs. Would you prefer to wait until we’re eating?”
“Sure, that’s a good idea. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“No thank you. This won’t take long, and we’ll soon be discussing your dress. Do you prefer coffee or tea? I’m guessing the kids sent you up here to get some caffeine inside you.”
A few minutes later, she brings plates and cups to the table.
Everything is delicious, and it’s such a relief to be in the company of somebody with good social skills.
“Do you have a design in mind for your dress?” Grace asks.
“Yes. Very frilly with tons of lace and lots of wooden beads.”
We spend a happy fifteen minutes eating and discussing my dress.
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