The girl shivered as she sat on the carpeted floor. The floor of the airport was hard and uncomfortable and she was cold. She glanced around at the people who rushed past or came and sat in the rows of seats within arms’ distance of where she sat.
In her one hand the girl held tightly to a boarding pass and passport while her other hand was empty. Her clothing was thin and worn, giving her little warmth in the chilly airport. She turned her head and glanced out the window at the planes as they taxied up and down the runway in the dark. It was the middle of the night and the girl was tired, as well as hungry. She could barely keep her eyes open, despite her growling stomach. But she wouldn’t allow herself to fall asleep for fear of missing her flight. The girl was immensely lonely. Not a week ago her aunt had given her the ticket for the flight and now she shivered in an airport, waiting to take a trip to somewhere entirely new.
The girl’s aunt was quite poor, barely able to support herself, let alone her young niece. So she had saved, for years, a large enough amount to purchase a passport and plane ticket to send the girl to live with her grandparents in another country. It was a place foreign to the girl, but hopefully a better place for her to grow up, with more opportunity. As she sat on the airport floor now, though, the girl felt very alone and anxious.
A man rushed past to reach his flight’s gate. He was late to his boarding and worried that he might miss his departure entirely. It had been a pleasant vacation he had just recently enjoyed; a satisfying reprieve from work, but all too soon he’d be back to his old grindstone. As he hurried along, he spied the girl curled up on the floor. Her frightened and lonely face seemed to leap at him from the crowd of faces in the airport. The sight latched onto his brain, remaining there, unwavering, even as he hurried past and to his gate. His heart throbbed as the sight pricked him with pity. His legs stopped moving and he turned and looked back at her. She was alone. She looked cold and tired. She was probably hungry. He stepped towards her, approaching slowly. He stooped low.
“Are you flying alone?” he asked her.
She startled. Her mind was thrust from her faraway thoughts and back into the present. The girl glanced about, making sure the man was speaking to her, but his brown eyes were focused on her. She nodded and he smiled.
“You look cold,” he told her. He rose and glanced around quickly and said, “I’ll be right back.” Then he walked away briskly and headed for the nearest gift shop. He stepped inside and grabbed a bright-red sweatshirt, pausing only long enough to check the size on the tag. He smiled nervously at the woman behind the counter as he paid for the piece of apparel. Then he hurried back out of the shop, absentmindedly leaving the receipt behind. He flipped through his wallet and pulled out several large bills which he shoved into the sweatshirt’s large muff-pocket. Then he hurried back to where the girl was curled up.
“Here,” he said kindly, handing her the sweatshirt. “That ought to keep you a little warmer.”
The girl sat up and pulled the sweatshirt over her head. She slid her arms into the warm sleeves and hugged the warm fleece. She lifted her eyes and smiled at the man. “Thank you,” she breathed and he nodded. She wanted to ask him why he’d bought it for her. But he rose quickly.
“I need to catch my flight,” he told her, glancing at his watch and looking worried. “Have a nice flight, and good luck,” he told her before hurrying off towards his gate.
“Last call for flight 121,” the lady at the boarding ramp said into the loud-speaker. She scanned the crowds, hoping to catch a glance of someone hurrying to her gate. She spied a man making his way towards her in a mad flurry. As he approached the counter he thrust his ticket in her direction.
“I’m not too late for the boarding, am I?” he asked between gasps for air.
She smiled and scanned his ticket before handing it back to him. “Nope,” she said with a chuckle, “you’re just in time.”