“Do you have your coat?” Isaac asked. “And your toothbrush?”
Charlie rolled his eyes. “You already asked that.”
“I think I’m worrying too loudly. I didn’t hear you before. What did you say the last time I asked?”
“I have them. Mom gave me a list to pack with, you know. I have everything I need. Are you checking that Mom remembered to pack everything, too?” Charlie folded his arms across his chest and raised his chin.
Isaac smiled. “I asked her too, but she said to stop asking and check on you.”
“You can tell her I’m just fine.” Charlie patted his suitcase.
“If you need help with anything…” Isaac paused in the doorway.
“I think Mom is calling you,” Charlie said. Isaac laughed.
All too soon, Marianne and Charlie had the car all packed and they were driving away. Isaac waved even after they turned the corner. Finally he dropped his hand with a sigh.
“Home alone?” Miss Marta was leaning on the top of her back gate.
“They’re visiting Marianne’s Aunt Doris for a week.” Isaac walked across the front lawn.
Miss Marta nodded. “And you have work and couldn’t go with them.”
Miss Marta stepped through the gate and wiped her hands on her apron. “Why don’t you come on in for a cup of cocoa? You look like you aren’t ready to go home to an empty house. I feel that way sometimes when my grandson goes home after a visit. I think it’s the contrast that does it. Most of the time I’m fine.”
Isaac followed her inside as she chattered. Already he was feeling a little better. Miss Marta reminded him of his grandmother. She radiated that same feeling of ancient wisdom and watchful care.
The hot cocoa tasted nearly the same, too. “Does your cocoa have mint in it?”
“Lavender. It’s calming.” She sat in the chair next to the couch, clutching her own mug.
Isaac looked around. There were photographs everywhere. Most of them seemed to be taken in places far, far away. “Did you visit all of these places?”
“Oh yes. When I was younger, I did a lot of traveling. There were so many interesting places to see.”
Shifting his mug to one hand, he picked up a small picture from an end table. He blinked, squinted, and looked again. It was a colorful marketplace, with a number of stalls selling things like cloth and fruit. In the background, it looked like there was a dragon peeking out from under a tablecloth. “Is that really a dragon?”
Miss Marta leaned forward. Isaac turned the picture around and held it out so that she could see it better. She smiled and leaned back in her chair. “It looks like one, doesn’t it? I don’t really remember. I do remember someone was selling books at that market, and I bought as many as I could carry home.”
“It is difficult to fit everything into your luggage.” Isaac set the picture down and sipped his cocoa.
Miss Marta smiled. “I had my ways to make it work.”
“Perhaps. Or maybe I just sent everything to myself through the mail.” She grinned a little wider.
Isaac smiled too. Ancient wisdom, watchful care, and a sense of humor. Just like his grandmother. He settled back into his chair. He said, “Tell me more about your travels,” just like he used to say to his grandmother, “Tell me a story.”
And Miss Marta did. And Isaac didn’t feel quite so lonely. That evening, Charlie and Marianne called to tell him they arrived safely.
“And we stopped for lunch on the way. Did you do anything fun?” Charlie asked.
“I visited Miss Marta. She gave me cocoa and told me about the pictures in her living room.”
“I guess that could be fun,” Charlie said.
“I’m glad you’re not sad.”
“Me too.” Isaac smiled at the phone, even though Charlie couldn’t see it.
“When we get home, I’ll send her a thank you card,” Charlie said. And even though he was home alone, Isaac decided this day was one of his top ten favorite days ever.