Here we are. Keri said as she ushered her niece Anna down the aisle of the airplane. She nodded to the gentleman sitting by the window. He looked at her expressionless and returned to his reading.
“Sit down honey and make sure that you say excuse me if you should bump into the nice gentleman.” Anna looked into his blue eyes and smiled. She settled in beside him and promptly focused her attention to her iPod. Keri put her bag in the luggage compartment and sat down. She smiled at the gentleman glaring at her niece.
“How are you? I am Keri. This is Anna.”
He nodded at her and returned to the file of papers in front of him.
“Anna honey, do you need to use the restroom before we ascend?”
The two stood and walked to the back of the plane to the restroom. They emerged shortly after and Keri saw a flight attendant talking with her row buddy. As she got closer she heard the conversation.
“I would really prefer to be on a row with no children. I have very important work to do and I do not want to be disturbed by someone’s child.” Keri moved Anna behind her listening for the flight attendant’s response.
“Sir, I am sorry for your dilemma, but we are unable to control which of our customers pay for what seats and as you can see we have a full flight. I am sure that the child to whom you are referring will be no trouble at all, but if a problem should occur feel free to talk with the parent. If the situation is still not resolved let one of us know and we will try to help the two of you reach a solution.”
By this time the flight attendant noticed that I was standing there and she nodded to me. The gentleman turned around and also noticed me. He shifted his focus back to the flight attendant and thanked her.
The flight attendant walked past and put her left hand on my shoulder. “Good luck.”
I took a few deep breaths before moving us to our seats. I wanted to say something to this gentleman, but I decided it would be best not to create a scene in front of Anna, so I smiled instead. “I hope you have a wonderful flight and that you accomplish the work that you desire.”
His forced ‘thank you’ did not deter me from smiling at him. I checked Anna to make sure that she was okay with her earphones and then I retrieved my book from my purse. I rested my head on the seat and began reading. The pilot soon announced our departure and I focused my attention to the routine of the flight attendants, then closed my eyes and silently prayed for a smooth takeoff and safe journey. I resumed my reading as the plane leveled off. The flight attendant came around to take our drink orders and wouldn’t you know it our row buddy, ‘Mr. Blue Eyes’, spilled his drink on Anna.
“I am so sorry.” He said embarrassed by his earlier rudeness and he being the one to display child-like clumsiness.
Anna looked at him and replied. “That’s okay. I spill drinks on my Auntie all the time. I guess it was my turn.”
Keri chuckled at Anna’s wit and the gentleman couldn’t help but smile at Anna’s response. The flight attendant from earlier came over with extra napkins. She looked at Anna and smiled, “It seems like you should have asked for a different person to sit by.”
Anna gladly took the napkins and offered a reply. “Oh, it’s okay. Sometimes accidents bring people together.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself. I will check on you three in a bit.” She whisked away.
Mr. Blue eyes fixed his eyes on Anna. He could not hide his surprise at the young girl’s answer. What was she about nine or ten? How would she know about such things? Keri looked up from helping Anna dry the wet spot on her skirt. She smiled at the look of shock on his face.
“She has great insight.”
He gave her a look as to “I’ll say”. Keri resumed her Auntie duties.
“I think that will be okay. Does it feel wet on your leg?”
“Not much. It’s okay.”
“You can have my apple juice, since you spilled yours.”
The man looked at her again. “Thank you for offering, but I wasn’t…”
“He wasn’t that thirsty honey. That is probably why he spilled his drink on you.”
He gave Keri a puzzled look and when Anna looked back at him. She moved her eyes to Anna and then back at him. Recognizing that he should not make reference to the alcoholic drink in the presence of this young impressionable mind, he adjusted his original response.
“I wasn’t that thirsty, besides I am sure that the nice attendant will be more than happy to bring me more drink, um juice, drink and juice.”
Anna laughed at his last remark. “That’s silly, Mister. You are funny.”
“Hysterical.” He agreed dryly.
Anna put her earphones back in her ear. The stranger looked at Keri who had been watching him during his interaction with Anna. She glanced at Anna once more and resumed her reading. The flight was quick and they were soon in New York. Keri collected her niece and their belongings, told the man to have a great evening and they headed down the aisle.
He wasn’t sure why he could not take his eyes off of them, but the stranger watched them walk down the aisle and into the airport. He watched them gather their suitcases at the baggage claim and head toward the exit doors. He gathered his luggage and walked in the opposite direction toward the garage. He secured his bags in the trunk and headed down the spiral exit outside of the airport to head home.
But he could not get the woman and girl out of his mind. Get a hold of yourself Mark. You don’t even know these people. Forget them. But he couldn’t. Something about them had stirred something in him. He shook his head trying to get a hold of himself.
He couldn’t, so he took the drive around to the other side of the airport to see where they were or if they were even still there. He looked out of the window noticing the raindrops that were beginning to descend. He looked among the crowds of people waiting for hotel shuttles and taxis, but he did not see Keri or Anna.
He continued to drive and spotted them at the bus stop. Now what are they doing out there? Against his better judgment, he pulled over to find out. He grabbed his trench coat from the rear seat, put his emergency blinkers on and headed toward them. Keri saw the car come to a stop and watched the man get out. He had his head down to combat the rain, but she knew it was him.
He reached her and Anna and looked at them if not knowing what to say. So Keri helped him. “Can we help you with something?”
He looked at her. “I was about to ask you the same thing.”
“We are waiting to get to our hotel. The bus should be here in about twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes? In this rain?”
“We are under the shelter and besides the rain won’t hurt us.”
“Are you trying to imply that I will?”
Keri smiled at the offense dripping through his words. “No, I wasn’t implying that at all. I was just saying that it is okay with us that it’s raining. We are okay.”
Mark mentally corrected himself. “Okay. Well, let me, um, let me take you to your hotel.”
Keri eyed him for a long while. In his estimation. She chuckled on the inside recognizing that the silence was creating a tension that was making him uncomfortable. He stood looking like a school boy who had just asked a girl for his first date.
“The silence is uncomfortable, huh?” She finally responded
“Yes.” He said nervously.
“Feeling guilty about those unwarranted comments you made earlier, huh?”
“A little bit, yes.”
“Hmm. We will accept your offer anyway.” Keri gathered their bags and led Anna toward the car. He grabbed her suitcase just as she leaned in and whispered to him, “You have a great heart and that is why you are helping us. Not your guilt.”
He stopped and looked at her, but she continued walking toward his car. She stopped Anna at the back door and proceeded to the trunk. Once he reached the back he popped it open and grabbed the large bag from her shoulder. He extended his arm for her to go to the car and he secured Keri and Anna inside. He went to the back of the trunk to put their bags in, climbed in and turned on the heat.
He nodded in reply. He looked at Anna to make sure she was in her seatbelt and began to pull away from the curb. Keri watched him maneuver the car out of the airport campus. He glanced at her. “Keri and Anna my name is Mark Jensen. Where to?”
When Keri told her the name of the hotel he glanced at her sideways.
“You two are not staying in that hotel.” He said more of a statement than question.
“What’s wrong with it?” He glanced at her again and checked on Anna in the rearview mirror. He quietly whispered, “It is a den of prostitution and drug addicts.”
“Are you sure?”
“I have been in New York most of my life. I’m sure.”
Keri winced and turned her face to the window. She prayed for God to give them a peaceful and safe refuge. She watched the endless rows of buildings as they went by. This hotel was the only hotel she was able to afford for a week’s time.
Maybe after her meeting tomorrow she could find better accommodations for her and Anna, but for now it would have to do. She continued to pray as the car pulled into the hotel parking lot. Keri unhooked her seatbelt and asked Anna to do the same. She stepped out of the car and closed the door. Mark followed her and when she started to open Anna’s door he stopped her.
“Please, wait.” Keri looked at Anna and smiled before she met Mark at the back of the car where he waited.
“Look, I don’t know you, but I do not feel comfortable leaving you here.”
“Mark, thank you for your concern, but this hotel will have to do.”
“Why? We have plenty of other hotels. Hotels that are safe for a lady and a child.” Keri smiled at his last statement despite herself.
“I am sure there are, but this is the one that my money can afford for a week’s time. We are a family of prayer, so I believe we will be okay.” Even as Keri made this last statement she was not so sure. She felt in the pit of her stomach that she should take heed to what Mark was saying, but her money would not let her go to another hotel.
Mark ran his hand through his thick, black hair and rested his body on the trunk. He let out a sigh, still not convinced that he could in good conscience leave them there. Keri wanted to tell him to please remove their bags, but she felt a wait, within her, so she waited. He turned back and gave her a hard look.
“I know you don’t know me, but I have a nice place that you and Anna are welcomed to crash at. It is a three bedroom with plenty of space. My room is down the hall and separate from the other two, so our living arrangements would not be close.” Man, you did not just offer this lady your pad. What is wrong with you? He shook away the thought.
Keri looked at Mark with that same look she gave him at the airport sizing him up. She glanced at Anna who was bopping her head to the music. She looked at the hotel. It was not the worst hotel that she had ever seen, but it certainly was not the best. God what should I do? Are we in danger here? Is Mark your plan for us? Are we your plan for him? Keri looked back at Mark who she realized was monitoring her every move.
“Why are you offering this to us?”
Mark shrugged. “Like you said, ‘I have a great heart.’” Keri looked at him as if waiting for more. He shifted his body under her scrutiny. Man, she doesn’t let up, does she? But he was unwilling to admit to her the main reason for his offer. He could not get the two of them out of his head. The same reason why he came looking for them in the first place and then offering them a ride and now shelter. His personal shelter. He should have just offered to help her pay for a better hotel, but he suspected that they were tourists and did not want them to be taken advantage of while they were there. At least the lie was better than admitting the truth.
“Do you have a record?”
He stared at her as if not comprehending her question. “Come again?”
“Are you a murderer, pedophile, rapist, criminal? Do you have a record?”
He looked at her in disbelief. “Um, no, no, I am none of the above and I have no criminal record or otherwise. You may find a speeding ticket or two on my record, but other than that I am criminal free.” He wiped at the sweat starting to form on his forehead. He wasn’t expecting this line of questioning when he offered them his home.
He didn’t even consider what a stupid offer it might be considering she had a child and a girl at that. He wasn’t that kind of man, having two sisters that he loved dearly and would beat the crap out of any man who would try to do them harm. “I have two sisters and I know how to treat a woman… and a young girl, for that matter with care and respect. My parents taught me well.”
Keri could see that as her mind perused to the happenings that she witnessed while they waited for their flight. But she wasn’t sure about his indifference on the plane toward them. She mentally shrugged. Either way, she felt okay with him in her heart and spirit, but felt a tug to call her friends to receive their assessment.
“I need to make a phone call”.
Keri grabbed her phone from her purse and called her friends Jason & Selena White. She explained the situation to them and what she was sensing about it. Jason asked to speak with Mark who took the phone and introduced himself. Keri heard his response to the inevitable string of questions she knew her friends would ask. She heard Mark complete the line of questioning with his full name, address, and phone number before he handed the phone back to her. After a few more moments of conversation, she hung up the phone and looked up at him.
“May I see your driver’s license?” Mark retrieved his wallet and handed her his ID. She snapped a picture of it with her cell phone and handed it back at him. “We will again accept your offer.”
He put his license away, “Good, let’s go.”
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