“Be safe, Ate (big sister) and send us some chocolates!” and they were all standing there – my parents, my siblings, cousins and friends, waving me goodbye in the busy Manila International Airport. It was buzzing with activity; people were coming and going, full of excitement and anticipation, the voice on the public address system announcing that flight 112 is now boarding at gate 10 or calling for someone to go to the nearest courtesy phone. My heart skipped a beat and with a heavy sigh and trepidation, I looked back one last time before I proceeded to the check-in counter. I was 22, armed with a degree in Chemistry, enthusiastic to see what’s on the other side of the world, eager to find some adventure – my very own Wonderland.
How was it possible that she ended up here? She was so careful, followed the rules and took no risks whatsoever.
Pauline was looking forward to her holiday to Istanbul with her friend Janina. They seldom see each other and this holiday was planned for a long time. Janina booked her flight from Manchester and agreed to fly to London first so she could spend some time with Pauline before their flight to Istanbul. While they were packing their bags, Janina suggested they mix their stuff and bags in case some bags were lost or delayed, they’ve got at least some clothes from the other bag. Pauline agreed and packed their stuff.
At Istanbul airport, Pauline was surprised when the Customs asked her to open her suitcase. They checked it and took out Janina’s jewellery box. They asked her a lot of questions and she said it wasn’t hers, it’s her friend’s. They found some drugs hidden in it. By that time, Janina was nowhere to be found. And Pauline was arrested for a crime she didn’t commit. How could she ended up in Istanbul prison? What kind of a friend was Janina? How could she ever get out of this nightmare?
She was about to board the plane, close to tears and confused. He had brought her to the airport and the goodbye was not easy. They were only friends, but it felt like so much more. She knew what she felt for him but she also knew it would not be possible. He had only just lost his wife 10 months ago and was still grieving. Although there was some kind of chemistry between them, it could just not be. Probably she made it all up. But what if there was more? What if there was love? Would it be possible? She would never find out if she would set foot on the plane which was due to take her back to the other side of this planet.
They met at a dance. It was for the monarch’s reception of all expats working in Bangkok. Jessamine was wearing a cream gown with orange bow at the waist. She looked tantalisingly beautiful. That was the first time George saw her. He was wearing a dark blue suit with his grandfather’s pocket watch inside his vest. They danced and talked most of the night and found a lot of things in common. They went to the garden and enjoyed the fragrant flowers, quite oblivious to the rest of the party.
They met two days after for a coffee and became friends. They enjoyed each other’s company. Jessamine works at the British Consulate and was posted in Bangkok for 6 months. George has his own business there. His wife died 10 months ago and was still grieving. But then, Jessamine was falling for George. She had to pinch herself to remind herself that what she was feeling might not be the same for him. She was culpable for letting herself fall for him. She closed her eyes, applied some pressure to the eyeballs that produced phosphenes. Such luminous image. She knew then that she had to let him take his time to grieve. Perhaps one day…
It was the day of the travel. All suitcases were packed. “Passports, tickets, money,” Dad double checked everything. He had a list of things to do before leaving the house – lock the doors, unplug everything, leave keys to the neighbour. He ticked them as he went through them. Off they drove to the airport. They parked their car in the long-term parking lot.
The queue was long, people were coming and going. “Mum, I’ve got to go to the loo,” said Jamie. Dad took him there so they lost their place. This checking in proved to be so stressful!