I looked out of the window again, we seemed to be barely moving, vapour trails crossed the clear blue sky around us as we skimmed along above the cotton wool clouds somewhere above the Atlantic. I shut out the general hubbub around me and returned my maudlin thoughts to Mum back in England. Mum. I closed my eyes and pictured her at home with Dad coping with things as though the big C had never come into our lives. I know what Dad promised, that he'd get us home if or should I say when the time comes but I can't help thinking that I'll never see Mum again.
I turned thoughts to my memories of Mum; it's surprising what springs to mind. The one memory which sprang into mind took place years ago, well I think I was about eight. We'd been on holiday, Devon I think and I remember it being really hot, I was wearing shorts and sandals anyway. To cut a long story short we ended up walking quite a distance to get back to our old camper, one of those old Ford things, and anyway the heavens opened and we got drenched. I just remember Mum making up some sort of game to encourage her two wet and disgruntled kids, by the time we got back all four of us were involved in a puddle jumping competition! I smiled to myself as I pictured Mum's smile and laughter when Dad ended up on his backside.
Then there was my tenth birthday party. My birthday's in February yeah? Well that's still winter in England and over the years it has invariably snowed around my birthday. So anyway, the party was going to be on the Sunday before my birthday for some reason, all my mates were coming, we were all going bowling in Mansfield. Can you believe it? What did it do but start snowing that morning, not just a bit but really heavy, the upshot was that my birthday party had to be cancelled. I was devastated; I had a really cool afternoon all planned and then nothing. I was heartbroken, I was just totally pissed and I started storming round the house being a general pain in the arse. So what did Mum do? Somehow she put together some food, managed to organise my guests and we had an impromptu sledging session over at the church. Afterwards we had hot soup and pizza, and from the depths of despair I ended up having a great day. The irony was that a thaw set in overnight and there was barely a trace of white stuff left the following morning.
“You okay Drew?” my thoughts were disturbed by Miss Cowlishaw's voice.
“Er yes Miss.”
“She'll be okay Drew, she's tough is your Mum.”
“How did you know?”
“The look on your face. Thinking of happier times eh?”
“Yeah. Why Miss?”
She slid into the vacant seat next to me – Mad was off on walkabout.
“I don't know Drew.”
“She's never hurt anyone and she's hardly ever sick.”
“I haven't any answers Drew, nothing I say can make it go away. But I do know how you feel, my Mum had cancer.”
“No she's still around, they caught it early and were able to operate straight away…”
“I think Mum's is really advanced, there is a chance though isn't there? That they're wrong, that she's not gonna die in a few weeks?”
It was as much a desperate clutching at straws as opposed to a real belief that the doctors were wrong.
“You keep believing that and think positive. It won't do your Mum any good if you and Juliette are miserable, she needs all the help she can get right now.”
“We shouldn't be here, we should be at home with her.”
“You're here because your Mum wanted you to be here. Your Mum wants you to have this experience, she'll be happier knowing you're having a good time than having you mope around at home.”
“But nothing Drew. She needs you all to be positive right now.”
“I s'pose you're right Miss.”
“I'm gonna have to check on everyone else now but remember, if you need to talk you can come to either me or Mr Pilling anytime okay?”
She levered herself out of the seat.
“Does everyone else know? About Mum I mean.”
“Not unless you or Jules have said anything, Mr Pilling and I won't unless you want us to.”
“I'll leave you to it for now eh?”
“Looks like Maddy's on her way back, remember, anytime okay.”
I managed a brief smile by way of reply and she left to call on the others in our party. Oh yeah, for some reason the airline gave us seats all over economy class, me and Mad here, some are over on the far side and Jules is right at the back. Maybe they didn't want a load of excited kids all sat together?
I closed my eyes in a pretence of sleep as I saw Mad approaching from her stroll; I didn't feel like talking right now. The ploy worked and Mad let me be, my thoughts drifted off and rather than Mum, my mind played over today's trip so far.
The coach ride to Manchester was terrible. Well let's rephrase that, the journey itself was okay but both Jules and me were not as excited as the rest, or at least most of the others. To be fair, the fact I spent most of the trip sniffling on Mad's shoulder didn't get the usual catcalls that my peers usually distribute. I'm sure something had been said but to be honest I couldn't have cared anyway.
If you've been keeping up, you'll know that I'm not a stranger to flying but going to the States was going to prove a bit more hassle! We arrived at Manchester airport what I thought was well early and Mr Pilling organized us with luggage trolleys for the hike that was to follow.
Thankfully I regained some composure but you still would be hard pressed to call me happy. Our little procession wound its way inside to the main concourse and after some slight confusion we arrived at the check in desks. Luckily we were quite early, the desk for our flight had only just opened. Talk about chaos - Miss C and Mr P somehow got us organized and the long suffering book in clerk was still smiling by the time all twelve of us had deposited our bags.
"Okay, who's for breakfast?" Mr Pilling enquired.
I think everyone was feeling the munchies coming on so we all descended on the first cafeteria we came to. I was still not firing on all cylinders but I 'forced' a 'full English' down my neck!
Before the check in everyone was a bit tense but by the time we joined the queue for immigration and security even I was more relaxed. Not that the gun-toting policemen contributed much to that state. Hmm, that's one thing we'll have to get used to, policemen with guns.
We all had a bit of a fright when Julia, one of the seniors, was hauled to one side and her bag emptied by the security people. Seems that her nail scissors were a lethal weapon, which were confiscated, thankfully she joined the rest of us in the departure lounge.
We had over an hour to kill before our flight was due to be called so we had time for some window shopping before Bernie produced a pack of cards and a sort of Pontoon tournament got underway.
"All passengers for BMI flight 613 non stop to Washington please proceed to gate 6."
"Come on kids, that's us!" Miss C called over.
"Ten o'clock already?" Rhod enquired.
"Ten past actually," Miss C replied, "they're a bit late calling the flight."
We gathered our belongings and joined the crowds heading for the last pre flight hurdle.
"All passengers for BMI flight 613 non stop to Washington please proceed to gate 6."
The announcement repeated again as we shuffled towards the desk, boarding cards in hand. I started to get a bit wound up as the queue seemed to move infuriatingly slowly but eventually I reached the front and quickly joined my grinning friends for the walk down the tunnel to the plane.
"Row 26, seat A next to the window" the stewardess smiled checking my boarding stub.
I trailed Maddy on board and we soon joined the meleé for locker space before settling into our seats. I settled my stuff around me, CD player, the New Year copy of the Comic, a new Pratchett novel and a bag of toffees. With the long flight ahead of us I didn't intend to become bored!
# +++++++ #
I was jerked awake by the sound of the intercom.
‘Bong! Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, we hope you've had a pleasant flight with us today. We will shortly be starting our final approach into Washington where local time is just coming up to three pm. The weather is currently clear and sunny with an air temperature of one degree Celsius or thirty-four Fahrenheit. So wrap up warm! Thank you for flying British Midland, we hope you will join us again soon.'
The announcement ended and the seatbelt light came on.
“Come on Drew, time to get with it” Mad enthused.
In truth Mad had more stuff spread around the seats than me, a fact I didn't think was politic to mention. One degree, that's colder than it was at home! Brrrr.
"Welcome to Dulles International Airport Washington DC where the local time is ten past three..."
Forty minutes later we were queuing at immigration, finally in ‘The Land of the Free' – what a misnomer! Dulles airport certainly lived up to its name, dull. Apart from the rather odd bus things that carried us from the plane to the main terminal it was just your standard airport. On the other hand, I couldn't help thinking that all the security we had to go through was a case of stable doors and bolting horses.
We had collected our bags; mercifully mine hadn't gone astray this time before walking for what seemed like miles to join the queue of new arrivals to the USA. It was a bit intimidating with all the armed guards around and the officials' humourless attitude was frightening. Eventually we emerged from officialdom and into the echoing expanse of the arrivals hall.
I don't know what I expected really, so okay everyone was talking funny but most of the adverts and signs could have come straight from Manchester with us!
“People!” Mr Pilling called our attention, “do not wander off, I need to make a phone call then we'll go find our transport okay.”
“Yes sir” several voices replied.
I sat on my case and watched the airport traffic go by.
“You okay Drew” Miss C asked.
“Not that different to any other airport eh?”
“I guess not.”
“Still thinking about your Mum?”
“Moping won't help you know. She needs you and Jules to be positive for her, she's probably wondering why she insisted you came. Tell you what, why don't you give her a call while we wait for Mr Pilling, use my phone, do speed dial seven, I put all of your numbers in.”
“Thanks Miss” I took the phone.
I hit seven and after what seemed like forever I could hear it ringing.
“Hello, Bond residence.”
“Dad it's me!”
“Drew? Where are you?”
“We just got to Washington.”
“You okay son?”
“I guess. Is Mum there?”
“She's asleep right now, its been a long day for us here you know.”
“I never thought, it's only just after four here.”
“That's okay Drew. Look she's okay at the moment, a bit tired that's all. Try not to worry. This call must be costing you a fortune.”
“I'm on Miss Cowlishaw's mobile.”
“That's good of her, look I'll tell your Mum you called when she wakes up, now enjoy yourselves. Give Jules my love. I'll give you a call at the Walters tomorrow, about tea time where you are okay, now don't fret.”
“I'll try. Bye Dad.”
He broke the connection and I switched the phone off. Dad sounded, I dunno a bit weird. I guess it's difficult for him too, first Mum leaving and now the cancer, Dad suddenly became less indestructible to me with that realisation.
“Everything okay Drew?”
“She was asleep Miss.”
“Well that's good eh?”
“I s'pose.”“Come on, I can see Mr Pilling on his way back.”
Maddy Bell 13.03.05 © 2005
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