I waited in line to board. They took the usuals, first, elderly or others needing assistance, then families to get situated with their equipment and kids, first class and business people, then the rest of us, herded through the jetway like cattle to market. I didn’t like the analogy, but we trundled along in just that way.
I boarded, giving a pleasant smile to the brunette flight attendant, Amanda, who welcomed me aboard, but then bent her ear back to the elderly woman she stood next to in the row.
“. . . my granddaughter used to help me crochet. She would untangle the knots in the yarn when my cat got into the skeins. I would teach her how to count rows and make the stiches using the hooks. It was so fun seeing her trying to use the needles in her little hands.” She choked up on the needles to illustrate by only holding them with her first two fingers. “I had to get her a smaller set to use.”
“How fun,” Amanda replied. “How old is she, now?”
The woman’s face darkened with just a tiny frown and downcast eyes, and her hands suddenly gripped the crochet needles very tightly. “She—she passed away. She was six. She would have been nine this year.”
“I’m so sorry,” Amanda said.
“She was so young,” the old woman began again, her voice much softer, and I missed out on what else she said as the line in front of me moved and the man behind me ‘accidentally’ nudged me forward.
I moved up again, and spied a mother trying to juggle A baby carrier, a little girl around five or so, and a boy around seven. There was no father to help her out, and she looked frazzled already, telling the boy to sit in the seat instead of jumping up and down on it.
I checked the seat she was in, then checked my ticket. We were in the same row. I glanced over to the other side of the aisle to see a woman already in the window seat with her laptop out, typing away. The middle seat was still empty, and I had the aisle, except there was a boy in my seat. He sat quietly kicking his legs idly, but without hitting the seat in front. I checked the ticket again, and saw that I had the right seat.
When I approached the boy hopped out and looked up at me. Around nine years old, maybe a little younger—it was hard to tell with kids—he had sandy hair and a smile for me. Without saying a word, he hugged my leg, and then started pushing his way through line of people boarding. I watched him go, people making way for him to pass by without realizing what they were doing.
“Matthew,” Nikki said softly, but concern and curiosity on her face. “Was that the same boy that we encountered last year?”
“Yeah. This was the year after I first encountered him. It only hit me later that I recognized him, but same kid.”
“Well then, this will be an interesting story after all.”
I shrugged. “Depends on what you call interesting. There was no danger or anything, not like with the last one. No demons, no singing. The biggest danger was probably the gingerbread men.”
“Danger from gingerbread men? Now I am intrigued. Do go on.”