The Call Of The City – Episode 11

Juliet and Grace in New York Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

“Aunt Juliet?” Grace appeared in the kitchen, startling Juliet out of her thoughts.

“Grace! Did you sleep well? You look refreshed.”

Grace smiled, dipping her head the same way Meg used to, so her wavy hair slid in front of her eyes.

“Yes, I did. I was absolutely shattered but I feel better now.”

“Good, good. Come have some breakfast.”

Juliet went to make tea and toast. It was easier, somehow, to talk to Grace while her back was turned, her hands occupied.

“I don’t know whether you need to rehearse or something like that today, but I thought perhaps we could take in a few sights, if you like. Of course, if you’d rather not . . .”

She trailed off, more uncertain about this simple invitation than she’d been about anything in a while.

She felt so hesitant, so apologetic, and she didn’t know how much Grace knew about her and Meg.

“I’d love that, Aunt Juliet,” Grace said shyly. “I really would. What sights were you thinking of?”

“Whatever you like.”

“I wouldn’t know where to begin. What is on your must-see list for visitors?”

Juliet paused, her lips pursed. She didn’t have many, or any, visitors.

She’d lived in this city for 30 years, worked her way up to be editor of a high-end interior decorating magazine and had a big handful of acquaintances and casual friends.

But she’d always remained a solitary person. A lonely person, she realised with a jolt.

It hadn’t bothered her until now.

“Why don’t we go to the Cooper Hewitt museum?” she suggested. “It’s not top of the usual sightseeing list, but it has some beautiful modern pieces and it is right around the corner from the Met.”

“Sounds perfect,” Grace said with a smile.

Half an hour later they were on their way, walking across the frost-touched park towards the east side of the city.

“What made you come to New York all the way from North Yorkshire?” Grace asked after they’d been walking for a few minutes, enjoying the crystalline sunshine as their breath made frosty puffs of air.

“I always wanted to live in a city,” Juliet answered after a moment.

She wanted to be honest, but she also felt the need to be careful.

“I had friends in New York – friends of friends, really, but they said I could stay. So when I was nineteen I made the leap.”

“It must have been scary.”

“Yes, it was.”

Juliet was silent for a moment, remembering not just the tension-filled days with Meg before she left, but the days, weeks and even months afterwards, when she’d felt both defiant and adrift, half-wishing she hadn’t left, knowing she could never go back.

“It was challenging at first. But eventually I made my way up.”

“How? You were my age, Aunt Juliet. I can’t imagine moving to this city without knowing anyone.”

“And yet you might – at least, the one person you would know is me.” Juliet smiled at her, an affection for her niece unfurling inside her.

Grace might look so much like Meg, but in this moment, with her eyes shining with excitement, she reminded Juliet of herself, on the cusp of an adventure, frightened yet determined, with so much ahead of her.

“If you do get a place at Juilliard,” she said impulsively, “you must think of my home as your own.

“You’d . . . you’d be welcome to live with me, if you wanted to.

“I expect you’d want to live in a flat with other students, but the offer is always open.”

Grace blinked.

“Do you really mean that, Aunt Juliet?”

Juliet paused for a moment to examine her own feelings.

The invitation had been on the spur of the moment, on the cusp of a sudden rush of affection.

But now she nodded, feeling a warmth and new excitement.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, I do.”

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.