“Mum, look! Quickly!”
I smiled, and turned towards Gary. About a month ago we had gone to the park, and he had tried his hand at fishing for the first time. The information hut handed out fishing rods for a fiver to use all day, but I had a feeling I’d be buying him his own rod soon enough. I hadn’t expected him to be so taken by it, but he was and seemed to enjoy himself.
If it meant that he had a hobby he could pursue outside, I wouldn’t complain. Fishing wasn’t the most expensive hobby as long as you invested in a good fishing rod, and I could use the fish he caught for dinner. We both won.
“Has he caught anything big yet?” Grandma asked, and I shook my head.
As if to prove my point his rod yanked him forward, and Gary nearly fell over his own feet. He caught himself just in time, sighed, and pouted.
Grandpa Milan chuckled. “One day. I’m surprised he’s caught anything at all with the equipment they let you borrow here.”
“You fish?” I’d never pictured him with a fishing rod, wellies and one of those hats all fishermen seemed to wear. He fit perfectly into a science lab, or into a library, but I couldn’t imagine him reeling in a tuna.
He shrugged. “I used to. I know enough to know that the rods here aren’t brilliant.”
Grandma snorted. “What did you expect for a fiver a day?”
I smiled, and leaned back a little. Since my birthday two months ago we had gone out together more often. Willow Creak had a beautiful park, and all four of us could enjoy ourselves here. Work was busier than ever since Chief Chau gave me the most demanding cases, and I didn’t get much time to myself. This was lovely, and Gary loved to spend time outside with us.
“Say, Grandpa, I’ve been thinking.”
The universe being a living being of some kind was still a little too much for me to comprehend, but there was one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about. I had thought a lot about what Grandpa Milan had told me on my birthday – about Gary possibly being able to live happily ever after with the one he loved – and I always arrived at the same question.
“About what you said to me, that the universe is adjusting itself.”
He nodded. “Go ahead.”
“You said you saved Grandma so that we could change the world for the better. That without us, the world had a bleak future and that somehow my family can change all that.”
Again, he nodded. “That’s right.”
“I know we can’t be too involved with anyone outside our family because we weren’t supposed to be here. Because I’m not supposed to exist, my interfering would change the course of someone else’s life, even if only in a small way. Correct?”
His eyes narrowed when he nodded again, trying to figure out what I was getting at.
“If our family is meant to change the world in some huge way, wouldn’t we have to interfere in the lives of other people? How can we stay away from everyone else if we’re meant to affect the world in this big fashion?”
“That’s an excellent question!” Grandma said. “I’ve wondered that very same thing many times.”
Grandpa Milan looked surprised. “You did? Why didn’t you say anything?”
She shrugged. “Because, for better or for worse, I’m here now. My books are already out there, and have been for years. I may have been using a pen name for a while now to avoid suspicion, but they are still my books.”
I nodded, relieved that I wasn’t the only one who had noticed the contradiction. “So, even if you never meet your readers yourself, you have still affected their lives. You being here has touched the lives of thousands of people.” Grandma blushed and waved it off, but she was being modest. She had a massive fan base, and I knew I was right. How could we change the course of the world’s future without interacting with people? It didn’t make sense that we were supposed to alter the future in this huge life-changing way but not talk to people if it wasn’t necessary. It just didn’t work.
“Huh.” Grandpa Milan looked genuinely taken aback. “I hadn’t considered that.”
Grandma gave me a proud smile, and winked. “I can see who Gary got his smarts from.”
I blushed. I had no idea what I was talking about. At best it was a theory, but I knew I was right. It didn’t make sense any other way, and if what Grandpa Milan had told me about the universe getting used to us, then the universe knew it, too. Apparently.
Grandpa Milan borrowed a fishing rod, and joined Gary. Grandma and I laid back on the grass, and enjoyed the sunshine.
“See that one there?”
I nodded. I’d never taken Grandma for someone who saw shapes in clouds, but of course it made sense. She was a writer; naturally she had a creative side.
“It looks like a daffodil, don’t you think?”
I smiled. “That’s very specific.”
Grandma traced the outline of the flower for me, but I still couldn’t see it. “Well, that’s because it is. It couldn’t be a rose – there! It’s definitely a daffodil.”
I smiled happily and closed my eyes. “I’m glad you and Grandpa Milan moved here. Gary loves you both a lot.”
“I’m glad too, sweetheart. Living as long as I have isn’t always easy, but seeing my great-grandchild grow up makes it worthwhile. How many grandmas can say that?”
I chuckled. “Not many.”
For a moment we relaxed next to each other in a comfortable silence. When Grandma spoke again I realised I had nearly fallen asleep.
“Milan loves that you call him Grandpa. I don’t think he ever expected to be a part of our family. It means a lot to him.”
“Doesn’t he have a family? Outside us, I mean?” I was ashamed that I’d never thought about it. I was so used to calling him Grandpa that it hadn’t occurred to me.
Grandma shook her head. “His parents lived in Bridgeport, but they died many years ago. He never married, and he has no children of his own. We’re all he has.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t imagine us without him.”
Grandma rolled onto her side, and smiled at me. “Me neither, sweetheart.”
The strangeness of it all struck me. My grandma was over a hundred years old but looked younger than I did. Her own child – my mum – had died of a proud old age, and still she looked younger than me. Grandpa Milan was only a part of our family because he had made a deal with a spirit – who now kept him alive and young – and had resurrected Grandma. The only reason I was here was because of an odd, supernatural exception.
We were a strange little family, but I wouldn’t have changed any of it.
And with that, Sophia’s gen is officially over! I’ll take a few weeks to plot Gary’s story, and then he’ll take over very soon 😉