A stewardess spotted her. She crouched down to ask, “Where are your parents?”
The young girl looked at her with a blank stare, tears streaming down her cheeks, spilling onto her hands clasped tightly in her lap.
In her mind, she screamed, My Papa is dead dead dead!
Instead of speaking, she reached into her jacket and pulled out an envelope which held her ticket and a note. When her grandfather had given it to her, he’d warned her not to lose it, no matter what. She had slept with it the night before.
The stewardess glanced at the note, then pulled out a tissue and gently wiped the tears from the young girl’s eyes.
“Don’t be frightened, plane rides are great fun! Let’s get you checked in.”
The lady said her name was Betty. Betty was tall and svelte, with strawberry blonde hair that was perfectly coiffed. She wore a navy blue blazer and a scarlet red scarf and a pin that looked like tiny wings. Her eyes weren’t exactly blue or green, more like the deep water in a lake meeting the shallows of the shoreline.
Betty held out her hand and the girl latched onto it for dear life! Betty liked to talk, and that was good. The girl wasn’t listening to the words, but she liked the soothing sound of Betty’s voice.
At the gate, Betty bent down and said, “There is where we part ways, kiddo.”
The girl was flooded with a sense of dread. She didn’t want to let go of Betty’s hand. But she bowed her head as she was handed off to another lady dressed exactly the same.
This one’s name was Carla. She was shorter and wider at the hips. He lips were very thin. As she guided the young girl to her seat, she said, “I hope you’re not going to be any trouble.”
The plane was empty. She was alone with a woman who didn’t seem particularly happy about her presence. Her tummy knotted.
People streamed into the cabin of the plane. She didn’t look up. She didn’t want to see their faces or show hers to them. She stared out the window watching raindrops.
A heavy man with slicked black hair sat down beside her. She scooted her bottom over towards the window, creating as much space as she could between the two of them.
Two new stewardesses stood at the front of the aisle, explaining what to do in case of an emergency.
The girl didn’t listen. She didn’t care what happened to her.
The plane began to move slowly at first, then accelerated quickly. When it lifted off the ground, the girl felt like she was in an elevator.
She didn’t like it at all! Bile rose to her throat. She crossed her arms across her tummy, praying, Please don’t let me throw up. I don’t want to be any trouble. I don’t want them to notice me.
The next thing she knew, Carla was shaking her shoulder, exclaiming they had arrived. She felt disoriented, unsure of where she was.
Carla actually smiled. “You were an easy little passenger.”
The girl slid out the small Holly Hobbie suitcase and tucked Henry beneath her arm to hide him from view. Carla reached her hand out, but the girl put her free hand in her coat pocket.
Carla led her through the airport, walking fast. When they stopped, the girl stood on her tippy toes, trying to spot her grandfather.
Maybe her grandfather had forgotten to come for her? she worried. She couldn’t keep herself from weeping silent tears.
Carla took a couple of steps toward an old woman dressed in black. She looked like one of the nuns at the girl’s school.
The girl felt nervous and confused. Who was this woman? Where was her grandfather?
Carla nudged the girl forward.
As soon as their eyes met, the girl felt a knowing. This old woman was her grandmother. The girl struggled to understand how her grandfather had married a nun?
Her face was stern, engraved with deep lines, and a wisp of white hair that showed on her forehead beneath the black scarf covering her head. Her eyes were small and dark. She gave the girl a look from top to bottom. Then she pulled an embroidered handkerchief out of her pocket and said, “Life is hard, child. Dry your eyes.”
The old woman turned abruptly to lead the way through the crowd.
The girl looked back. Carla was already walking away. Betty was gone. Her mother had left her.
She followed the old woman forward.