The wheels of my brown leather suitcase rolled just behind me, thumping monotonously over the grooves of the tiled floor. I squeezed the handle of my carry-on and stuffed my other hand in my coat pocket fishing for my boarding pass. I glanced at the ticket. Gate 32 A.
I stopped in the middle of the airport and glanced up at the numbered waiting areas surrounding me on either side. A sea of black jackets passed me in routine fashion. Everyone seemed to know where they were going except for me.
Up ahead, I saw a uniformed gentleman walking towards me. The wings on his lapel suggested that he must be a pilot. I took a few steps to the left to intercede his path. “Excuse me? Sir?” I asked, my wild eyes searching his face.
He didn’t respond, he just stopped and looked at me.
“Um. I was wondering if you knew where…” my voice dragged out the last syllable as I looked down towards my boarding pass, my hair falling in front of my face, “Gate 32A is?” I lifted my chin.
He pointed to where he had just come. “Just keep walking. It’s on the right.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it.” I stammered. He gave a nod and continued on his route.
I stood there for a moment, took a deep breath and continued forward. I was almost there—Gate 43 was on my left. As I walked, I thought about the events of the morning. I recalled checking in my bags, getting coffee at one of the vendor carts, the quiet demeanor of my parents, and the sad expression in Connor’s eyes. My father filled the silence with the same advice I had heard over the past few weeks. At some point I stopped listening.
The security checkpoint is where I had to say my goodbyes. I wish they could have sent me off at the gate, but that was impossible. I said my farewells to my parents first who hugged and kissed me on the cheeks. My mom lingered bit longer and choked back tears as she said she would be praying for me. As she pulled away, my eyes began to mist over as I looked at Connor standing precariously to the side. When our eyes met his eyes filled with tears. He sauntered over and took me in his arms. The moment my cheek hit his shoulder, the tears came uninhibited. I had dreaded this moment and had avoided it in my mind at all costs. But now the time was finally here.
“It’s only for six weeks,” I stammered through my tears.
“I’ll be back before you know it.”
“I know.” He pulled me closer, and I could feel his heart pounding.
“I love you.” I sniffed. He pulled back and cupped my face in his hands.
“I love you too, Jennifer. I love you so much. Have a good time. I’ll be here waiting for when you come back.” He attempted a smile for my sake. Then he kissed me.
I shook my head to rid myself of the memory and to ward off the tears pooling in my eyes. If I focused on the way my heart ached, I’d never get to England.
I arrived at Gate 32A only a few minutes prior to boarding. I meandered through the passengers to stand by the window. I gazed out the enormous windows that lined the wall, and stared at the plane that would carry me over the seas and into Cambridge. I sighed and reached into my purse for mint. Instead, I found an envelope tucked neatly away to the side. I slowly pulled it out and slipped my finger under the flap, and lifted out the contents. Tucked in the sleeve was a small token with the letters “USA” etched in the center of a heart. I toyed with it between my fingers and flipped it over. Remember where your heart resides, it said. I love you.
We were supposed to get married this month, and instead I was flying to England to study abroad for the summer. I closed my eyes and cupped the charm in my hand. Tears surfaced and spilled over my cheeks. My parents had demanded I finish school.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I please have your attention. We will now begin boarding passengers on Flight 407 en route to Cambridge England.”
I stuffed the token in my pocket and proceeded to the gate.
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