Dad gave me his old laptop before I left. Clymene loaded it up with tunes. Mom cried, reaching up from the bed to hug me. Dad and Cly drove me to the airport, Dad lecturing the whole way about what and what not to do, but the words, not one of them, seemed to stick.
Because I was eleven and traveling alone, they made me wear a plastic pouch around my neck with my ticket and passport and paperwork shoved inside. I got to be escorted on and off the plane by my own stew. Go geek girl. I’m usually happy on flights. But usually I’m with Clymene and some doofy grad student, school just out, vacation starting, flying off to join Dad at a dig site in some exotic place, a whole summer of adventure ahead.
But this time I was being shipped off, mid-year, into exile. All the little French families, sitting around me on the jet, seemed so happy, kids talking in French to French mom’s and French stews in their pretty pale blue uniforms, hair perfect, scarves perfect, everything about them French and perfect, handing out magazines and snacks and ear phones. One came up and offered me a coloring book and Crayons.
I worried about Lucia the whole way over and also about how I didn’t care if my Mom cried when I left. Served her right. I was so dried up inside. It wasn’t like me at all. Half way through the flight we could look down through the clouds and see icebergs, little things bobbing in the vast blue. No way our plane is going to crash, I thought. Just my luck.
Aunt Mill––dressed in the same kind of trim suit as the stews, only hers was darker––was right at the exit from Charles de Gaulle customs to greet me. She spoke to the Air France people in fluent French as they signed my paper work. She’s just a few years older than my mom and looked a lot like her, though with darker hair and much thinner. She had a cane but didn’t really use it, except when she’d go up and down stairs. She practically smothered me to death with her first hug.
Transfer of prisoner complete, we headed out to find a cab, me dragging Big Bertha, my monster suitcase. That’s when I saw the shark. It was a poster in a round advertising column that slowly circled round, lit up from inside, the shark life-size. It was just an ad for a TV show or something, I don’t even know, but it made me flash on the shark on Moken Island, the one that tried to eat me. Tears jumped into my eyes and I started to shake, like I did on the island after I got away from Mr. Shark. I completely freaked. Aunt Mill didn’t notice. She was saying something about how she thought I would love it here and what great adventures I was going to have. I just nodded and kept walking, trying as hard as I could to keep my shaky legs going forward, one after the other, so I wouldn’t fall flat on my face.