"Don't crash while I'm doing this," I say as I unbuckle my seat belt.
"O....kay," says David - eyes now glued to the road in front of him. His peripherals have extended to a 6 foot radius around the car.
We're on our way to the airport. Rissa is travelling to Vancouver. BY HERSELF. At 14. And yes, there are kids who travel as unaccompanied minors, all over the world, at much younger ages, but those unaccompanied minors don't have legs up to their armpits and perky boobs. They don't get mistaken for 21. The last time Rissa travelled by train to my parents' place she had a guy in his 30s ask where she went to school. She gave the name of our home town.
Dude says, "I didn't know there was a university there."
Rissa say, "There isn't. It's a public school. I'm in Grade 8."
That's when Dude moved seats, fearing incarceration just by proximity, I'm guessing.
I would have been okay if we could go through security with her - if I could have sat next to her until she boarded the plane. But it's the 21st century, unless you have your own boarding pass, that ain't happening in an airport.
So there I am, climbing into the backseat of the car.
"Needed to be back here, huh?" says Rissa.
"Yes." I wrap my arm around her, trying to absorb her into my side. If we become conjoined before we reach security, they'll have to let me in.
She snuggles into me. We chitchat the rest of the way to Pearson. We sing at the top of our lungs to her airport playlist. By the time we make it to the airport, my stomach has calmed a titch. It'll be okay. She'll be fine.
As my foot steps into the terminal, nausea takes hold. I'm holding Rissa's hand, fake-smiling as we wend our way to the security station. We'd checked-in online - so I didn't have any person behind a desk to say this to: "She's only 14!!! She might look like she's all grown up, but she's ONLY 14!! Don't let any creepers try to feel her up before she's on the plane! LOOK OUT FOR MY BABY!!!"
Instead, we walk past the shops and restaurants towards security. We see the queue barriers and Rissa stops dead. I'm keeping it together. I am KEEPING IT TOGETHER. She turns to me and gives a little smile, but then her bottom lip trembles a bit and she grabs onto me as if I'm a life preserver. I can feel her hiccuping to hold back sobs. I'm done for. I start bawling like a newborn calf.
"It's okay, baby... It's okay baby... It's okay..." I'm smoothing her hair. To David: "What's the cheapest ticket we can buy!?!"
"Heather, you're not helping," says David.
"She started it!"
David pulls me away from from her. "You okay?" he asks Rissa.
"Yeah..." she says, putting her chin up, not meeting his eye. "I'm fine." Then she pats me on the shoulder "Mummy, I'm fine," she says. "See?" She gives me a broad grin. "I'm okay. I'll text you when I get to the gate."
We walk her to the bottom of the security line.
"May I see your boarding pass?" the security guard asks. He checks it over. "Okay, you're all in order. You can line up there."
"SHE'S ONLY 14!!!" I blurt out as she walks away from us.
She's not in yet. There are a few people in front of her. I'm holding David's hand so tightly, I've cut off the circulation. Just as she's reaching the door, one of the female security guards asks to see her boarding pass again. The uniformed officer takes the pass and checks it with the first guy. She returns to Rissa.
"You'll be heading to gate 227. When you get out of security, you'll turn to your left," the officer says. Rissa nods and thanks her. I share a moment of eye contact with the security guard and mouth THANK YOU to her across the queue line. Then Rissa's through the door. I can't see her. I CAN'T SEE HER!!! David moves me further around so that I can at least see the back of her head as she's moving by the conveyor belt. I lose sight again.
"Where is she?!?"
"She's going through the scanner," he says. He's half a foot taller, and can crane his head much further, than I. "She's through. She's putting her shoes back on. She's got her bag now. She's opening it. She's putting her boarding pass into the zippered front... There she is..." He indicates this tall young woman, shoulders back, head up, striding towards her gate.
"You okay?" David asks.
I start to nod my head, but then shake it. My bottom lip starts trembling. My morning coffee threatens to travel back up my esophagus. "I think I might throw up."
"Let's have a bite to eat," he says. "Your blood sugar's probably low. We can wait until she's on the plane."
"Okay," I say. "She didn't wave after she went through security."
"No, she didn't," he says. "She probably couldn't see that far - she didn't have her glasses on."
He's right. She can't see that far without her glasses on. That was why. It wasn't because she didn't need us any more. She just couldn't see us. That was it.
After the waitress takes our order, I rest my head on the table. This is so much worse than her riding from the Downsview subway south across the city, around Union Station to meet us at Wellesley Station when she was 12. She was 1/2 a foot shorter then - she wasn't mistaken for a university student then.
"I need Gravol." I'm up, out of my seat running across to the last-minute shop. Organic Gravol is all they have. Here I wanted something to knock me out - the anti-nauseau equivalent to Xanax - and what was at the shop? Organic, made from dried, crushed ginger, Gravol. "You don't have anything that will put me into a short-term coma??" I buy them anyway. I head back to the restaurant and down one more than the recommended dose, hoping that might do the trick.
David looks down at his phone. He holds it out to me.
I'm at the gate now parental units.
"Do you want to text her back?" he asks.
"Yes!!!" I take the phone, but can't make my fingers work. My organic drugs have yet to take effect, I'm still shaky. "Tell her to fake a seizure if anyone gets close to her."
He rolls his eyes. Texts back "yay."
Boarding now. Love you. MWAH!
Text us as soon as you land.
"That's it," he says. "Off she goes. You okay now?"
"I'm fine," I say. "But she totally started the crying. It wasn't me, you know."
We leave the terminal, heading towards the parking garage. 17 feet away from the terminal, I stop dead.
"You want to make sure the plane leaves the runway?"