The Call Of The City – Episode 46

Allison Hay © Meg joins her sister and daughter in New York Illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

Meg hitched her bag up on her shoulder as she scanned the crowds milling in the Arrivals hall of New York’s JFK Airport.

After eight hours in the air she felt dazed, her eyes gritty, her body aching.

It had been two weeks since Juliet had called, begging her to come to New York and be with her during her brain surgery.

How could she have said anything but yes? Her sister needed her.

Despite 30 years of virtual silence, even hostility, between them, Meg would be there for Juliet when she was asked.

Yet, now she was here, she felt nervous as well as exhausted. What would they say to each other?


Grace’s voice made Meg start forward in relief. Grace wove her way through the crowds to launch herself at her mother.

“I’m so happy to see you!”

“Oh, love, me, too. It feels like an age.”

“Five months, almost.” Grace stepped back. “I didn’t realise how much I missed you until I saw you,” she said shakily, dashing tears from her eyes.

“You didn’t have to come to the airport,” Meg told her. “I could take a taxi.”

“I wanted to see you. And I know how overwhelming it is to arrive in this city. This is one of the busiest airports in the world.”

“It feels it,” Meg answered, surveying the crowds and listening to all the languages being spoken. “It feels like the centre of the universe.”

“Most New Yorkers would agree with that.” Grace laughed. “Let’s find a cab. I’ll take your suitcase.”

Meg watched as her daughter strode ahead, confident.

Five months was a long time, and already Meg could see that Grace had changed during her time in New York. She seemed older, more sophisticated.

“How is your aunt?” Meg asked as they went outside.

The sun was dazzling, the sky a hard, bright blue, and the air held an autumnal crispness.

“She’s coping, I think,” Grace said, flagging down a taxi. “She doesn’t talk that much about it. I think she likes to present a stoic front to me.”

“Yes, I can imagine.”

A malignant brain tumour was a terrifying diagnosis.

“The trouble is,” Grace continued when they were in a taxi and speeding towards Manhattan, “I don’t know if she has anyone she can talk to.”

“Surely she has friends?”

Grace shrugged.

“Yes, but… I don’t mean to be unkind, but they all seem a bit superficial. I’m not sure Aunt Juliet talks to any of them about what really matters.”

Was that why Juliet had called Meg? Because there was no-one else?

“Anyway, how’s Dad? I’ve been so worried.”

“He’s doing well. He’s been home for a couple of weeks now.

“He potters in the garden, although there’s not much to do at this time of year. Still, it’s nice to see him get outside.”

Meg had been heartened by how positive Andrew seemed. It had almost made her question their decision to sell the house.

But then she’d see how easily he tired, or get a bill or an estimate for a repair they couldn’t afford, and would be reminded that they were doing the right thing. It was just hard.

“How are you, Grace?” she asked. “I feel as if I haven’t talked to you properly in ages, with everything else that’s been going on. How is school? Are you enjoying it?”

“Yes, I really am.” Grace spoke a little too quickly.

Meg sensed something below her cheerful words.

“Lessons, tutorials and things like that going well?” she asked after a moment.

“Yes. It’s hard…” Grace trailed off.

“Love, what is it? Has something happened?”

“No. I’m being stupid.” Grace shook her head. “It’s just there was this audition for a solo in a concert and I tried out and didn’t get it.”

“There will be more opportunities,” Meg offered hesitantly. “You’re just starting out, after all.”

“I know. It’s just that my best friend got picked.” Grace gave a self-conscious laugh. “Which makes me sound incredibly petty because, of course, I’m thrilled for him. But it’s changed things between us.”

Him? A best friend? Meg absorbed all Grace had said – and what she hadn’t.

It was obvious from her unhappy expression that she cared about this lad.

“Have you tried talking to him? What’s his name?”

“Lewis, and no, I haven’t, because there’s never been an opportunity, and I feel like I’d sound jealous.

“I don’t mind him getting the solo, honestly. I just don’t want things to be weird.” She sighed. “Does that make sense?”

“Yes, of course,” Meg said with a commiserating smile.

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.