by Charlotte Pence | June 9, 2015
He and his father had the same name, so it wasn’t really necessary for him to cross out the name on the luggage tag and re-write his own, but still, he felt as if he should. He was searching through his briefcase for a pen, so he didn’t notice the little girl standing next to him until she made a small peeping noise, and he turned to see her wait-ing there. He looked around the crowded airport terminal, expecting to see a family close by, but she was alone. He found a pen in his suit jacket and pulled it out. He hesitated and turned back to her. She looked about five years old and was wearing a pink princess dress that had a brown stain down the front of it. Her hands held the edges of the skirt delicately, as if she were about to curtsy an introduction.
He put the pen back in his pocket without writing on the tag and knelt down to her level. He found it difficult to come up with something to say and decided to offer a small wave instead.
This produced a large smile on her face, and she lunged forward to embrace him in a hug. An older couple sitting in a nearby café gushed over the gesture, and he smiled at them politely, still glancing around for a family.
She pulled back from him, her mouth still spread in a grin and asked, “Where are your parents?”
He glanced around awkwardly and gave a small laugh, aware of the couple still watching him.
She shook her head back and forth, smiling. “Do you need help?”
He stood up and asked her if she was alone. She responded by twirling around, her dress billowing at the edges.
She giggled and asked, “Where’s your Mommy and Daddy?”
With that, she turned away from him and started skipping down the length of the terminal. He grabbed his bag and followed her, nodding politely to the couple at the table, the woman still watching the little girl with her hands clasped, the man having moved on to the sports section.
He called after her, pushing past a tourist family in Mickey Mouse hats, but she didn’t slow down.
She was a pink blur in the crowd, and he waded through to where she had stopped and was sitting on one of the chairs at the gate, swinging her legs back and forth, smiling at him.
He sat down in the seat next to her and put his bag on the floor. He turned to face her, rubbing his shoulder absently.
She looked up at him and laughed. “What’s your name, little girl?”
He had spotted the illuminated blue “i” of the information desk and told her he would be right back. He stood up and walked towards it, glancing back every few seconds to make sure his bag and the child were where he had left them.
He approached the desk and smiled at the woman sitting in the stool behind it. She was in her mid-forties, wearing peach-coloured lipstick her daughter had picked out, but to which she had not quite grown accustomed. She was checking her reflection in the computer screen when he walked up.
“How can I help?” she asked.
He pointed over to where the girl was sitting and started to tell the woman about his encounter.
The woman leaned over the desk and waved. “Oh, she is sweet. Takes after you, doesn’t she?”
He shook his head and clarified for the woman that the girl was not his, but rather belonged to another, most likely very worried, adult.
She interrupted him. “Is that your bag, sir?”
He turned to where the woman was pointing and saw the girl sitting on her knees in the chair, leaning down and unzipping his suitcase.
He jogged over to her and grabbed the suitcase away. Before he could scold her, she deepened her voice dramatically and said, “Please don’t touch that.”
He zipped up the suitcase, tucking the papers and memorabilia that had started to spill out the edges.
She hopped off the chair and grabbed his hand. He picked up his bag as she led him over to the large glass window that marked the airport gate. A plane was rolling to-wards them and people started getting their things together in the waiting area. He glanced at the girl, her face pressed up to the glass, eyes wide at the impressive machine. He smiled and watched as the people outside directed the plane into position. The girl let go of his hand and sat cross-legged on the ground. He noticed then that she was wearing white tennis shoes, and he sat down next to her, his own sneakers peaking out under his suit trousers. She put her elbows on her knees, leaned her chin on her hands and kept star-ing outside.
He spoke. “My parents aren’t here.”
“Where are they?”
“They both died.”
“I don’t think so.”
He turned to her and chuckled. “No, they did. I know it.”
“Why are there snow globes in your bag?”
He glanced at the black leather suitcase. It had been left to him, along with his share of the estate. But he hadn’t wanted any of the property; he told his siblings to divide it among themselves.
“They were a gift.”
“From your parents?”
“My dad. When I was little, he got them for me when he travelled.”
“He left them behind for me – and the suitcase – after he died.”
Anderson looked at her, surprised. “What?”
“Anderson Finkley. I can read. Your bag tag says that. Anderson Finkley.”
“Oh. Right.” He glanced down at the tag again. “He went to ninety-seven countries when he was alive.”
“He’s still alive.”
“No, he’s – ”
Anderson wasn’t sure if this was an area he should be exploring with the little girl.
“And there aren’t ninety-seven countries. That’s too many.”
“Actually, there are one hundred and ninety-four countries.”
“Really?” She looked up at him.
“It’s all politics, really—” He broke off and looked back at the planes.
“Which is your favourite?” she asked.
Anderson could feel her looking up at him when he answered.
“The one from Paris. It has Notre Dame in it.”
“So, do you want to tell me what your name is?”
“I don’t have one. Some people don’t have names.”
“Okay. Well, does your Mommy have a name? Your Daddy maybe?”
She didn’t answer.
He glanced at the suitcase and then back at her. “Do you want to see my snow globes again?”
She looked up, waited a moment to see if he was serious, then nodded. He pushed the suitcase over to where she sat and she unzipped it. She didn’t take out any of the snow globes, but rather gazed into the open bag as if it were a magical box now glowing with light from some unknown source within.
“They aren’t dead,” she said quietly.
“My parents. They don’t have any snow globes and they aren’t dead and they haven’t been to a lot of countries.”
He heard a voice behind him say, “Here they are!”
The woman with the lipstick from the information desk was standing behind him next to a younger, blonde woman who was holding a little boy.
“Eleanor!” The woman set the boy on the ground and rushed towards the girl, pulling her into a hug. She rolled her eyes in exasperation, but held onto her child tightly. Finally, she stood up, still holding Eleanor’s hand, and thanked Anderson.
“I am so sorry,” she said, and turned to her daughter. “We’re trying to work on not going off without telling Mommy, aren’t we?”
The woman thanked him again and picked up the little boy. Eleanor waved to Anderson as they walked away. He heard a voice announce his flight was boarding as he watched the family turn the corner and move out of sight. He glanced out the window at all of the planes taking off and landing. He imagined what Notre Dame looked like, all covered in snow. He wondered whether or not someone would make a snow globe of something that did not look magical when it was witnessed in real life. He thought that it was fairly unlikely that someone would do that.