At 6 am, Ginny was awoken by the smell of pancakes.
She went downstairs and found Miriam in the kitchen, cooking.
"Oh, good. You're up! I was wondering when to start making these," she said, pointing to the pancakes," but I figured you could always reheat them."
"Thanks. Mir, are you sure you've slept enough? I mean, talk about a time difference," Ginny said, taking a bit of the pancake Miriam had served fir her.
"Yeah, sure, of course!"
"Are you sure-"
"I'll sleep when I'm dead."
Richard came into the kitchen after a few minutes.
"You Americans really like pancakes, don't you?" he said, preparing himself a cup of tea.
"We sure do. Traditional American cuisine. Mighty fine as well," Miriam said, and put a plate with pancakes in front of Richard.
"I wholeheartedly agree," Richard said with a smile.
They ate in silence for a while.
"I have to go to work a bit early. Have a nice trip, and say hi to Mari for me, would you?" he said, tying his tie.
Ginny nodded. "We'll see you in the evening."
Miriam waved. Richard nodded, grabbed his keys, and went out the door.
Ginny turned towards Miriam, and they began laughing again.
"So, was Mari like a guru to your aunt?" Miriam said, taking a bite of her pancake.
"Something like it, I suppose."
"D'you think she'll like me?"
"Yeah. But she likes everyone, so."
"Ha. Ha. Ha."
Miriam was quiet for a moment.
"Are you sure your friends won't mind me coming along?"
"Of course not. One thing's for sure, Ellis will definitely love you."
"That's good to know."
They finished breakfast and watched some TV.
Around 7:30 they went to get ready. At 8, there was a knock on the door.
"Who is it?"
"Maybe I should just stay here?"
"Not a chance."
Ginny opened the door. Oliver was standing there, finishing a cigarette.
The smiled, leaned in and kissed her. She let him into the house.
Miriam stood there and waved.
"Oh... Good morning," Oliver said, extending his hand, "You must be Miriam."
Miriam looked at him, then at Ginny.
"I am, yeah. How did you know?"
"Ginny's told me about you."
"Has she, now? Well, ain't that lovely..."
Ginny and Miriam got their jackets, and they went out.
They spent the walk there easily conversing over various things. Oliver was as polite as ever, taking interest in what Miriam was saying, which made the whole thing much easier. The tougher nut would be Keith, thought Ginny.
They got to the station around 8:30. They sat in a cafe and drank coffee, and Oliver had tea.
Keith and Ellis arrived a few minutes before 9.
"Keith, Ellis, this is my friend Miriam. She's coming along, if that's ok wit you," Ginny said.
Naturally, Ellis was ok with it.
"Of course. We can use some more girl power! I'm Ellis, by the way!"
"Mir, hi. Lovely to meet you!"
"Thanks! You as well!"
Keith extended his hand as well, and smiled, "Keith Dobson, perhaps you've heard of me."
"Of course I have," Miriam said, shaking his hand.
"Pleasure to have you with us on our fine journey," he said. He put his hand around Ellis.
"Ok, what now?" he said, looking around.
"We should buy the tickets," Oliver said, looking towards the ticket booth.
"Ok. Can you guys do that, I have to go to the toilet?" Miriam said, handing Ginny her money.
Ginny was going to protest about the money, but Miriam beat her to it.
"Absolutely out of the question," she said, and hurried toward the toilets.
"Right. We'll buy the tickets, you guys wait here," Ginny said, and went to the booths with Oliver.
"Are you okay with Miriam coming along?" she asked, somewhat dreading the answer.
"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" Oliver looked at her, surprised.
"I don't know. I mean, you all don't even know her, and I just brought her along."
"Well, she's your friend. And she seems really nice, so I don't see the problem. Besides, she probably knows all about us, so we won't have to have long conversations about our lives," he said, smiling.
"Yeah, right," Ginny said, stood on tiptoe, and kissed his neck, "Let's just get started."
They bought the tickets. All five of them then went to buy some water, snacks, food and coffee (Keith), and boarded their train.
"We'll be there in about 4 hours," Oliver said. They all sat down.
At first, it seemed a bit tense, but then everyone relaxed and started talking.
Ellis and Miriam were talking about how excited they were about this, and Keith would occasionally drop in a remark, and then continued reading his manga.
"New edition," he said, noticing Ginny was looking at him.
Oliver was also reading book, and his hand was around Ginny's shoulders. She twined their fingers, sometimes joining Miriam and Ellis in their conversation.
After some time they all did different things. Miriam was writing in her journal, and very often she'd look out the window. Ellis was napping on Keith's shoulder.
Four hours later, they found themselves in Edinburgh.
"Right. Ok, listen up," Ginny said, opening the map of Edinburgh, "I suggest we go to Mari's house now, and later do something until we have to go back."
"Sounds good," Keith said, and they all agreed.
Despite the map, it was still difficult for Ginny and Keith to remember the way to the house. They wondered around for a while, and finally managed to find Mari's house.
They went up to the door, and knocked. Nobody answered for about a minute, then they heard footsteps from inside the house, and, a moment later, Mari was standing in front of them.
"Well what a surprise! Ginny, m' dear," Mari said, giving Ginny a kiss, "And your lovely crew," she added, kissing everyone. She pinched Keith and Oliver's cheeks, and then turned to Miriam. "Dearie, I don't believe I've met you! What's your name, love?"
"Miriam. It's a pleasure to meet you!" Miriam said.
"The pleasure is entirely mine, love. It's nice to meet another one of Ginny's friends. Come on in come on in! Kettle's just boiled."
They went inside. They walls were still as colorful as before. Mari led them into what appeared to be the living room. They sat on the two sofas that were there. Ginny, Ellis and Miriam went to the kitchen with Mari to help out with the tea.
"Now, tell me. What brings you here again?" Mari said, after they'd returned to the living room with the tea and chocolates.
Everyone was quiet for a moment. Then Ginny spoke.
"I have something for you. Aunt Peg has left something for you."
Mari didn't seem shocked. There was a little hint of surprise. She raised one eyebrow. "Oh? You didn't have to some all the way here to give it to me, love. I'm sure you could've sent it to me."
"I have to give it to you in person. She wanted it," Ginny said, reaching into her bag.
She found the envelope and handed it to Mari.
Mari took it gently, and looked at it for a moment. Her forehead wrinkled. She thought about something.
"I've been losing friends and loved ones for as long as I can remember," she said, "So I knew how to deal with losing a friend like Peg. But it was still hard. 'Cos she was such a glowing person, really. She had that something about her, something addictive." She paused for a moment. "She drew people in."
"She did," Ginny said quietly. She felt Oliver's hand gently brush her shoulder.
"Such a beautiful, beautiful girl," Mari said and smiled.
Ginny felt Miriam's hand on hers for a moment.
"I guess I better open it, right?" Mari said, and opened it.
She took out the paintings and the letter. She carefully viewed each one.
"Will you look at that? That is beautiful. Lovely, lovely, lovely."
Mari looked at the paintings for a while. Keith, Ellis, Oliver and Miriam gave Ginny and Mari some privacy.
"Oh, look, a letter. Let's see. Have you read it, love?" Mari asked Ginny.
"No. No, I haven't." Ginny said. She'd only read bits of the ones for Christoph, Kostas and Laura, because she knew nothing about them, and hoped the letter might explain something. Aunt Peg had left her the post-its, but curiosity triumphed for a moment. Ginny wanted to know who the people aunt Peg never told her about were.
"I'm sure Peg wouldn't have minded. You can read it with me, if you'd like."
"I don't know...I mean..." Ginny began.
"It's alright, dearie. I won't force you."
"I don't think I should. It's your letter, after all."
Mari smiled. "Sure thing, love."
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Mari read her letter, and Ginny quietly sipped her tea.
Then Mari sighed, wiping a tear from her eye. "She always said such wonderful things about me, I hardly think I deserved even half of them. But, that's Peg for you."
Ginny smiled. Mari had some more tea.
Ginny finished her tea. "I'm sorry if we've interrupted anything. I forgot to ask."
Mari smiled. "Nothing special, love. I was just up on the attic, painting away. I do that sometimes, when the weather is nice. I have a lovely view of the city."
"That's nice. How is... Chloe?" Ginny said, remembering Mari's protégé.
"Oh, Chloe's grand! She's preparing her first exhibition in a gallery a few streets away. Opens up in a few days."
"I'm sorry we won't be here to see it."
"It is a pity, yes. You'd have liked her paintings."
"Maybe next time?"
"Sure thing, dearie." Mari said, and then paused for a moment. "Where are you off to next?"
Ginny looked at her, surprised. "What?"
Mari smiled. "You haven't read the letter. It's a good-bye letter. And I'm fairly certain I wasn't her only close friend." Mari said.
"Read the letter, love. You'll see it too. I dare say it's quite obvious."
Ginny nodded and smiled. She thought for a moment.
"We're off to Paris."
Mari smiled, and then went outside to talk a bit with 'the crew'.
Ginny thought for another moment, and then picked up the letter.
She read it in two minutes. It was written in aunt Peg's neat handwriting. She was quite a neat person, which you wouldn't guess from her lifestyle.
It wasn't very long, one full page. It was very Peg-like. She said lovely things about Mari. Ginny read it, and realized it was, in fact, a good-bye letter. This journey was the last thing she was ever going to do for her aunt. Because, as much as aunt Peg loved a cliché, she always knew when to stop it. And sending Ginny on a never-ending journey with the help of blue envelopes was too much. Ginny knew these envelopes were not for her. They were for aunt Peg and her friends. And Ginny was going to do this last 'adventure' for aunt Peg.
She folded the letter and left it on the table in the living room.
She went outside. Mari, Ellis and Keith were sitting in the garden, talking about something. Oliver and Miriam were near the door, talking as well. Oliver managed to restrain himself from smoking.
They noticed her coming out.
"It was lovely having you all here, " Mari said, "I'd offer you to stay for lunch, but, from what I gather, you're going to do a bit of sight-seeing. And you should. Edinburgh is beautiful."
They all said goodbye.
"Be sure to visit sometimes." Mari said, kissing Ginny's cheek.
"I will. We will." Ginny said, smiling.
They waved one more to Mari, and made their way down the street, towards the city.
"I, for one, am starving. Let's eat!" Keith said, rushing to a restaurant.
They ate, then spent the next few hours walking around Edinburgh. It really was beautiful. They joked, talked, laughed. Miriam fit in nicely as well, which was a relief to Ginny.
When it was almost 8 o'clock, they made their way toward the train station. They boarded the train. Ellis, Keith and Miriam fell asleep.
"Thanks for coming along." Ginny said to Oliver.
"My pleasure. I've only been to Edinburgh one before." Oliver said, putting his arm around Ginny.
"Hey, me too. It's a small world." She said with a smile.
Oliver laughed. They spent the rest of the journey back to London talking, occasionally falling asleep.
When they finally returned, it was well after midnight. Ellis and Keith took a cab home.
"Call us tomorrow, so we can plan!" Ellis said, before getting into the cab.
"Nighty-night, lads." Keith said, and got in.
Ginny looked at Oliver. "Do you want to spend the night in our house? It's a bit late to go to Guildford."
"Will you have room for me?" Oliver asked.
"I'm sure we have."
"I can sleep on the couch." Oliver said.
"Then it's settled." Ginny smiled.
The three of them took a cab. Miriam fell asleep again.
When they got home, she crawled in and waved goodnight.
"She must be knackered. The time difference is hell." Oliver said.
"Yeah. She hardly slept last night, so she must be really tired."
Oliver looked at the couch.
"Will it be alright?" Ginny asked.
"Of course." Oliver smiled.
"I'll get you some sheets."
Ginny went to get the sheets, and Oliver went to the bathroom. She also got him a t-shirt to sleep in, since it was warm inside.
She was just about to knock on the door of the bathroom, when Oliver opened it, standing only in his underwear. Ginny blushed and gave him the t-shirt. He took it and mumbled 'thank you'. There was a faint blush on his cheeks as well.
"I'll see you tomorrow, then?" Ginny asked, sitting on the sofa next to Oliver.
"I think so. Maybe I'll make it to the station in time for the early train."
"Have you got work tomorrow?"
"No, it's Saturday. I don' work on weekends."
"Do you want to stay here? Since we'll have to do some planning for the rest of the trip," Ginny said, then blushed again, "I mean, you don' have to. If you want to."
"I'd like that." Oliver said.
He leaned towards Ginny and kissed her. She wrapped her arm around his neck and shoulders, feeling the strong muscles there. He gently put his arm around her waist. They kissed for a few moments, and then broke apart, because they'd seem to have forgotten to breathe.
"Goodnight." Ginny said, getting up.
"You're just leaving me here?" Oliver said, a tone of flirt in his voice.
"I'll see you tomorrow. Sweet dreams." Ginny said, and kissed Oliver's cheek.
Well, I'm sure you know by now. I'm dying. I feel quite calm about it, to tell you the truth. I've accepted it, and now I'm...I'm waiting. I'm waiting to die. I have to tell you, it's a lot less scary than it sounds. I suppose the trick is to know when you are really close. Because, dear Mari, I am. It won't be long.
Oh lord, this sounds so sad, doesn't it? Urgh, I didn't want to make this one about me. It's for you. Because I'm far too weak to ever visit you again. Which makes me sad. Hence why the letter is sad as well.
But I might as well use these last few lines of paper to say good-bye. I've never been good at that. You should see what I've got for Ginny, my niece. You know her already. I'm sure she's already done all I've asked of her. You'll like her. She is, quite simply, amazing.
Wow, I am running out of space. But you know me, Mari. Never been big on good-byes. I feel like I've already said this. Oh, I'm too tired and too sick to check. Sorry.
Anyway, thank you. For your guidance, your patience, your support, your friendship, and your respect, which I hope and pray I've earned; and for those ridiculously good pies you used to bake for me. Bake one for Ginny one day, will you? When she asks you to.
This is it, Mari..
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you so so much. I couldn't have done it without you. And I mean it. Thank you. Thank you.
All my loving,