The Call Of The City – Episode 08

Juliet and Grace in New York Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

The doors pinged open, and Grace followed her aunt from the lift into her apartment, a small but elegantly decorated home with long, narrow windows overlooking Central Park.

Grace took in the dove-grey sofas, the glass coffee table with a neat stack of photography books and the silk drapes.

Everything was so different from the worn comfort of home, the overstuffed sofas, the scarred wood of the kitchen table.

She felt a pang of homesickness she didn’t expect, because this was an adventure and she was only going to be gone for a couple of days.

Still, in this moment, aching with tiredness and realising how much of a stranger her aunt really was, she missed all the familiar comforts of home.

She longed for her mother to be the one standing by the kettle, smiling at her and telling her to sit down as she fetched home-made shortbread from the old, dented tin.

“Tea,” Juliet announced, heading into the small kitchen to fill up a sleek, modern-looking kettle of shiny chrome.

“I think I’ll call Mum first,” Grace called. “If that’s OK. She’ll be worried.”

“Will she?” Again with that oddly repressive tone. “Yes, I suspect she will. Of course you must ring her. You can have a chat while I put the kettle on to boil.”

Meg snatched up the phone as it began ringing. It was near midnight and she’d been sitting in the kitchen, trying not to worry, for the last two hours.


“Mum!” Her daughter’s voice sounded wonderfully close, even all those thousands of miles away.

Meg closed her eyes, offering a silent prayer of thanks for Grace’s safety.

“You arrived all right, then?” she asked as cheerfully as she could. “All in one piece.”

“Yes, I’m fine. Exhausted, but fine.”

Meg detected a wobble in her younger daughter’s normally upbeat tone.

“How is Juliet?” she asked, trying to sound natural. “She found you all right, I take it.”

“Yes, right away. We took a cab to her apartment. That’s where I am now.”

“Ah. Right.”

Meg knew the address of her sister’s apartment – West Seventy-Eighth Street, overlooking Central Park.

She’d never been there, but had addressed Christmas cards faithfully for over 20 years.

“It’s so strange,” Grace began, and then trailed off.

“What’s strange?”

“Being here. And being with Aunt Juliet. I realised how little I know her, which is obvious of course, but now that I’m here . . .

“I’m just tired, I suppose, and everything seems odd. I mean, New York City!”

“Yes, it must be amazing. I’m sure things will seem less strange in the morning.”

Although perhaps they wouldn’t. Meg doubted she knew her own sister any better than Grace did.

“Get some sleep,” she advised. “You’ll feel better when you’re rested, and you want to be fresh for your audition.”

She fought to keep her voice sounding normal and cheerful. This was an exciting time for Grace.

“Yes, I am shattered. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. Isn’t that what Dad says?”

“Yes, when he’s rushing.”

Meg smiled, glad Grace’s head hadn’t been turned by the glitz and glamour of New York City . . . yet.

But she had just arrived.

Tomorrow, when Juliet showed her the sights, when she had her audition – Grace might feel very differently then.

“Do you want to talk to Aunt Juliet?” Grace asked, sounding hesitant.

“Is she there? I mean right there, waiting?”

“She’s just in the kitchen, boiling the kettle, but –”

“No, it’s fine.”

Meg couldn’t remember the last time she’d talked to Juliet on the telephone. It had been years, at least.

“Let her be. I’m sure we’ll have a catch-up later.”

Although she couldn’t imagine that now, or even ever. Their few phone conversations were stilted and formal, with them both glad to end it.

“Go to sleep, darling, and ring me when you’ve had the audition. I can’t wait to hear all about it.”

Meg hung up the phone, blinking back tears she knew were silly. Grace was nineteen, ready to fly the nest, as she should be.

This was the normal course of things.

To be continued…

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.