Layovers are a Hassle
I hurry through the massive food court, focusing on the coffee shop ahead of me, rather than the dozen or so different scents forcing their way into my nose. The sweetness of sugary glaze you can almost taste on the back of your tongue; the thick, salty, warmth in the air from the multitude of fryers; the weird, cold smell that accompanies cheap sandwich meat… I march through them all to order my drink and then sink into a plush armchair in the far corner.
My fingers curl automatically around the small blue and green orb dangling from a silver chain around my neck. I lean back, take a deep breath, cross my short legs, and sigh. Four hours. There are now four hours to burn in Heathrow, one of England’s largest airports.
Miss Belle is a mess. The poor woman’s been working for weeks with no break. She set up my assignment in record time. When the congresswoman called, we only had a week to get things together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be placed on this assignment. It’s one of the more important ones I’ve done lately, and I get to see Nathan again. It’s been a long time.
I haven’t seen him since my old life.
The barista brings me a small Americano. I flash her a smile and take a sip before pulling out my little black book.
I need to call Chang and have him set up the room. The Park Hyatt isn’t my favorite hotel in Tokyo (it’s a little far from any of the national gardens for my taste), but the Auto Manufacturing Leaders conference takes place there this week. It makes sense that the CFO of the second most productive car manufacturing company in the United States is staying in the same hotel.
The phone rings once, twice, three times. I glance at the round silver watch on my wrist and realize it’s three in the morning in Tokyo. I wince and go to hang up when a sleepy voice barks, “Who the fuck is this?” in Japanese.
“I’m so sorry, Chang,” I respond in the same language. “I didn’t realize what time it is there. It’s Lacey.”
His tone immediately changes, and it’s clear he’s woken up at hearing my name. It’s been that way since high school. Men try to be charming around me.
“Lacey!” Heavily accented English this time. “How wonderful to hear from you. What can I do for you?”
“I’m headed out your way for some business. I planned on getting there four hours before my appointment, but I got stuck with a delay and won’t be leaving London for a while.”
I hear the grin in his voice. He didn’t know I was heading to Tokyo. Miss Belle must have been serious about cutting him out after the last Japan trip.
“What can I do to help? You know I’d do anything to help one of Miss Belle’s girls.”
I let out a silent chuckle. Miss Belle is the only one allowed to call us “girls.” I’m fairly sure it’s one of the reasons for the cutting out. “I need you to set up my staging room. I’ll email you the details. It’s a normal set up, but no video this time. Just audio and emergency equipment. Do you still have my bag?”
“Of course!” There is a shuffle on the other end of the phone. “I’ll have it all taken care of before you arrive. I’ll be waiting for your email.”
“Thanks, Chang. I owe you one.”
“Yes.” His tone goes dry. “Perhaps you will speak to Miss Belle on my behalf? I notice I do not get a call from her as often as I used to.”
This time my chuckle is loud. “I’ll see what I can do. And I’ll call you when I fly in.”
“Thank you, Lacey. It is always wonderful to hear from you.”
I hang up and set down my phone. I sip my Americano and gaze around the bustling airport. A row of fluffy teddy bears with Britain’s flag line the edge of the coffee counter. Twin little boys keep pulling one down while their mother (I assume) exasperatedly tries to order a drink.
Men in suits, women in heels, and tourists with their camera phones clicking away furiously pass me in a sea of faces.
Miss Belle always says I sit too still. She says I have too much patience. She and I were in line at Starbucks, and the people in front of us took about five minutes ordering. By our turn, she was cursing under her breath and stamping her foot hard enough to break a heel.
My gran always said we need to have patience and understanding for those around us. She taught my foster siblings and me the meaning of a deep breath and the value of a calm mind. Those lessons helped a lot after she died. I learned to be still, at peace when fire raged around me.
It’s not a lesson any sixteen-year-old should have to learn. But it was Amanda or me, and she was only ten. I told Miss Belle when she found me, I knew what I was doing. I’d have done it again.
I shake my head and focus on something else. Gran passed a long time ago, but it still burns to remember she is gone.
I buy a New York Times from the barista, offering a smile to the twins as I sit back down. Their mother glares.
It’s probably the shirt. Or the pants. Or the belly ring. Or the whole combination. I used to mind when people looked at me that way. Now it barely grabs my attention.
I settle back into my chair and flip open the paper. I should do some research on Nathan’s security team, and on the other guests at this week’s event, but I’ll have time for that on the flight. Now, to catch up on current events. Another chuckle escapes my lips. If the paper knew half the current events I know about, a lot more people would be reading it.