After the third ring the phone was answered.
‘ Bryston, three triple four double seven five, The Orchards, June Smith speaking.’
‘Oh, hello, Michael. How are you sweetheart?’
‘Er…fine, gran,’ Michael replied. ‘Gran?’
‘What is The Orchards?’
Aunty Apple chuckled. ‘Well, you know how some people like to name their houses? They call them silly names like Sea View or Mountain Way or some such and they are nowhere near the sea and the closest mountain is probably on the other side of the country. Or even in another country.’
‘Yes, Gran, but….’
‘So I thought it would be fun to name my house The Orchards,’ Aunty Apple continued apparently unaware of Michael’s attempt to interrupt her.
‘But wouldn’t you be just like those other silly people?’ Michael asked, wondering if his gran was going a bit dolally. Perhaps she wasn’t aware of the black crocodile skin book after all?
‘I said the names were silly. I didn’t say the people were.’
‘Yes, but … you haven’t got an orchard so why call your house The Orchards?’
‘Oh, haven’t I now?’ Aunty Apple said, and Michael could sense that on the other end of the phone his gran was smiling. ‘Why don’t you catch the bus and come over? Oh, and you’ll be wanting to ask me about the book as well, I expect, so you best bring it with. See you later.’
The line went click as the call was ended. Michael was left holding the phone with a bemused expression on his face. Then he put the phone back on its cradle and said aloud, ‘What orchard?’
‘Pardon?’ his mother asked as she passed him in the hall on her way to fetch her coat from the small cloakroom next to the front door.
‘Has Aunty…gran, I mean, got an orchard?’
‘Orchard? You mean as in apples trees?’
‘Um…I guess,’ Michael replied, shrugging.
‘Well, there’s the allotment. When your granddad was alive he grew all sorts of vegetables, but there’s no trees, and certainly no fruit trees. I don’t think your gran uses it much anymore, even though there’s still goodness knows how many years left on the lease.’