General Fiction posted September 10, 2020 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 4... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Heading to the airport.

A chapter in the book Par Angusta Ad Augusta

Chapter 3

by teols2016

A law professor gets a family and a bookstore owner offers advice.
Previously in "Par Angusta Ad Augusta":

After his brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car accident overseas, Jefferson Thomas and his guide dog head to Germany to collect his young nieces and nephew, who will come to live with him in Manhattan.

At 6:30 the next morning, Jefferson met Cassandra outside his hotel. She drove him back to her house, where Darren and Tiffany were already getting Abigail, Taylor, and Matthew out of bed. None of the kids were happy about this early wake-up call, but they grudgingly went along with it.

They ate some breakfast while the adults finished packing their things. Each child had two large duffel bags for the trip along with one backpack as their carry-on item. By 8:00, the luggage was stuffed into every available space of Darren's Audi station wagon. Cassandra, Tiffany, Taylor, and Matthew rode in Cassandra's Gulf while Darren, Jefferson, Presley, and Abigail rode with the bags.

"How can she do that?" Abigail asked, peering over the luggage next to her on the backseat to watch Presley curl up in the wheel well by Jefferson's feet. Unlike her siblings, she seemed interested in this trip.

"She learned how to do it," Jefferson explained as Darren began driving. "They taught her that at guide dog school so she could ride in anyone's car."

Abigail seemed momentarily captivated by this information. but soon, her attention was taken over by the passing scenery. She remained silent for the rest of the ride, watching everything fly past the car with great interest. She seemed to find someone to wave at every time they stopped at a red light.

* * *

The ride to the airport wasn't long. It lasted maybe twenty minutes. But that was enough time for Taylor to decide she didn't want to go any further. She sat in the Gulf, refusing to get out despite Jefferson's pleas.

"I don't want to go!" she wailed. "I want to stay here. I want my mom and dad!"

Everyone had feared she would make that exact statement. Thankfully, no one was around to hear it. Jefferson and Cassandra didn't have to explain how they weren't trying to abduct this child. They could instead focus on convincing Taylor to come along.

"Come on," Abigail said before anyone else could speak. "It'll be fun. We're gonna see New York."

"You're so stupid!" Taylor snapped. "We're not gonna see it. We're gonna live there. We're never coming back."

She crossed her arms in defiance and turned to look out the Gulf's far window, facing away from everyone.

Abigail had seemed to have been aware of this fact but had chosen to forget it for the time being. That time seemed to be evaporating.

"Come with me," Darren encouraged, taking her over to where Tiffany was lifting bags onto luggage carts. Matthew stood by one cart, watching the airplanes fly by overhead. Cassandra and Jefferson, the latter now understanding why they were here so early for a flight scheduled to depart at 12:30, stayed with Taylor.

"I want my mom and dad," The girl whined. "I wanna go home."

Jefferson was not yet sure of how to deal with this, so he let Cassandra take the lead.

"Sweetie," the woman said, bending down to stick her head in through the open car door. "You're going to go to a new home with your uncle Jefferson. Remember how we talked about this?"

Taylor squeezed her eyes shut and tightened her crossed arms against her chest.

"All right," Cassandra said, shrugging her shoulders. "If that's the way you feel, we have to go and get on the plane. You'll have to stay here all alone."

She straightened up and turned towards Jefferson.

"Let's go," she said in an authoritative tone, taking his arm.

"Wait," Jefferson said, startled. "We're not gonna leave her here by herself, are we?"

At that moment, the fact she wasn't properly leading him away from the Gulf couldn't reach the forefront of his mind. The thought of just abandoning Taylor seemed ludicrous.

"Yep," Cassandra replied. "That's what she wants."

Jefferson opened his mouth to object.

"Come on," Cassandra insisted, taking his arm again before he had a chance to speak.

They kept walking towards the others, Jefferson wondering how this was supposed to help the situation. For one thing, a seven-year-old was being left alone in an unlocked car.

A few seconds later, a voice called, "Wait for me!"

Everyone turned to see Taylor had gotten out of the car and was running to catch up, one hand clutching her backpack.

Her plan having worked, Cassandra smiled as she went back to lock up the car. Jefferson released a sigh as Taylor reached him, taking her backpack and placing it on the luggage carts standing next to him.

"Okay," Cassandra said, rejoining the group.

"You weren't really going to leave her behind, were you?" Jefferson asked under his breath as they began walking again.

"No," Cassandra admitted. "Sometimes, you have to bluff with kids. It works, but sometimes they may call it."

Jefferson nodded. He still had a lot to learn. He wondered what Cassandra would have done if Taylor had called this bluff.

"Nice response by the way," Cassandra said. "Played very well, despite you having no clue what I was up to."

"My performance felt very genuine," Jefferson replied. "You have quite the poker face. You ever do any gambling?"

"I grew up in Vegas. I worked as a blackjack dealer during my senior year of college and throughout graduate school."

Jefferson nodded.

With everything set, the group headed across the parking lot towards the terminal building. While Taylor wanted to walk, Abigail, who had seemingly forgotten the earlier confrontation with her sister, was fascinated by the luggage carts.

"Can I ride it?" she asked.

Darren Obligingly set her on top of one of the large duffel bags, where she seemed to act like a lookout in a ship's crow's nest. Matthew was riding in the basket of the other cart, which Cassandra and her daughter took turns pushing.

Jefferson thought the group must have been a sight as they entered the terminal and got in line at the check-in desk. Abigail was busy trying to see everything at once while Taylor was keeping her eyes fixed on the three adults, wondering exactly what would happen next. Matthew was playing with his fingers.

Thankfully, Presley found them all very interesting, making it easy to keep her mind on the group so she'd follow them through the terminal. It also made getting through the ribbon-line maze easier as these sort of things didn't go well with guide dogs, the latter not seeing the ribbons and consequently assuming that there was no guideline to follow. This sort of thing had caused problems before at places like Jefferson's bank, where Presley would simply walk him right into the ribbons because she saw it as a quicker and easier way than what everyone else was doing. Unlike this airport, she'd gotten used to their procedure at the bank and no longer made this mistake. But, she did not know this airport.

Though the line was long, it moved pretty steadily. Soon, the group was up. Cassandra stepped aside and Jefferson took the lead with the check-in agent.

"Four for the 12:30 flight to JFK," he said after confirming the woman spoke English. He slid the tickets across the counter.

Since the kids were not traveling with a parent, it quickly got a little confusing, but eventually, Jefferson and Cassandra managed to quietly explain the situation while Darren and Tiffany kept the kids occupied. After reviewing the notarized documents, the agent finally checked the six pieces of luggage and handed over the group's boarding passes. Thankfully, Presley's presence didn't cause a problem, as there had been times when people didn't understand that guide dogs were allowed a lot more access than regular dogs, including being allowed to fly in the cabin of an airplane instead of underneath despite their size.

"Do you have any health records for the dog?" the agent asked.

Jefferson produced these, along with documentation affirming Presley's status as a certified guide dog. Everything was soon in order.

"I'll take a gate pass to accompany them," Cassandra said, presenting her driver's license.

With that and the group's boarding passes in hand and the large duffel bags checked and heading for the plane's underbelly, it was time for Darren and Tiffany to say "good-bye." The three kids all hugged the pair

"Say 'thank you'," Jefferson encouraged, thinking the phrase wasn't enough.

miraculously, the kids all repeated the words. Jefferson thanked Darren and Tiffany as well.

"Next time you're in New York, look me up," he said to Darren. "Then the beers are on me."

Darren smiled and promised to hold him to that. Jefferson thanked Tiffany and wished her well. She gave him her condolences and left with her father, turning back to wave to the three kids one last time.

"Do we have to walk now?" Abigail asked, eyeing the spot where the two luggage carts had stood before an airline employee took them away.

"Yep," Jefferson said, handing his niece her backpack, "and you have to carry this."

Abigail made a face.

"He can't see you do that," Cassandra reminded her. "Don't bother."

They headed for the security checkpoint, which fascinated Abigail. She intended to run back and forth through the metal detector but was quickly stopped by Cassandra.

"You go through once and stay on the other side," she reminded the little girl. "Come on. You've done this before."

As Jefferson knew from experience, the metal in Presley's guide dog harness set off the metal detector when she walked through it and the two of them had to be taken aside and patted down. This was standard procedure and he found relief in the German authorities' consistency with the process. Thankfully, Cassandra was around to take charge of Abigail, Taylor, and Matthew, leaving Jefferson to briefly wonder how he'd handle this situation in the future.

Cassandra led the kids to get their bags as they came out of the x-ray machine while Jefferson followed a security official. The pat down procedure was identical to the one he went through in the U.S., including right before yesterday's flight to Berlin. His hands were checked for chemical residue and he was then cleared to rejoin the others.

By the time Jefferson was done, the group had their bags and jackets again and all he had to do was grab his overnight bag and briefcase.

After they left the security checkpoint, all three kids complained about being hungry. This wasn't surprising since breakfast hadn't been that substantial. The group found a McDonald's and headed there, with Abigail constantly repeating she wanted a hamburger with no pickles.

"Surprisingly, that's the only topping she's opposed to," Cassandra whispered as they entered.

After putting the kids into a booth, Jefferson and Cassandra went to get three kids' meals, two with hamburgers for the girls and one with chicken nuggets for Matthew. Jefferson also got a burger and fries for himself while Cassandra got a salad.

"Does my burger have pickles in it?" Abigail asked as soon as they returned with the food. "I don't like pickles."

"I'll just check on that," Cassandra said after handing the much less picky Taylor her food and drink. "You can eat these fries while you wait."

She handed Abigail the French fries from her meal and, while the girl was distracted, quickly unwrapped her burger, removed the pickles, and re-wrapped it.

"Here you go," she said, handing Abigail the burger. While the girl inspected it herself for any signs of the pickles, she quietly explained to Jefferson what she had done.

"You just have to remember to destroy the evidence," she finished.

Jefferson heard a crunching sound, surmising she was eating the pickles herself.

"You are deceitful," he commented while Abigail dug into her burger, satisfied the "evil pickles" had been vanquished.

"I learned with my own daughter," Cassandra explained. "It's just a phase. She'll grow out of it soon enough."

"What was it with your daughter?"

"The worst was lettuce. Now, she's almost a vegetarian. Like I said, it's just a phase."

This was good news in Jefferson's mind.

Just then, Taylor, who had been quietly eating until now and hadn't been paying attention to anything else, spoke.

"Are you coming to New York with us, Mrs. Kingman?" she queried.

"No," Cassandra replied, speaking slowly and pausing to choose her words. "I'm just gonna make sure that you all get on your plane safely. But your uncle will take good care of you, I promise."

Taylor nodded and returned to her food. Jefferson wondered if she would get upset again like earlier in the car. He could hear other people around and prayed there wouldn't be a scene. But for now, Taylor seemed to be okay.

Then Matthew asked, "What's New Fork?"

"That's New York, dummy," Taylor shot back. "Not New Fork."

"Taylor," Cassandra admonished. "Be nice to your little brother."

Taylor stayed quiet as she continued to eat.

"What is it?" Matthew asked, ignoring his food. He was apparently undeterred by his sister's put-down.

Cassandra nudged Jefferson with her elbow so he would take this. He lived there. She didn't.

"It's a big city where I live," Jefferson explained. "That's where we're gonna go. There are all kinds of things there ... stores, museums, theaters ..."

He stopped, suddenly wondering how much of this would interest a four-year-old, or even a pair of seven-year-olds for that matter.

"Are there parks?" Matthew asked.

"Yes," Jefferson said. "There's actually a really big one near where I live. It's got a zoo and everything."

"Does it have swings?"

"Yes, I know it does."

This seemed to satisfy Matthew.

"It's amazing what'll make a kid happy," Cassandra commented under her breath. Jefferson chuckled.

They finished their meal in relative silence until Abigail and Taylor got into an argument about the issue of pickles. They were quickly separated and Taylor walked with Cassandra while Abigail followed with Jefferson and Matthew.

They reached the flight gate and figured they still had plenty of time before they were to board. At Matthew's insistence, they found some seats by the large windows so he could watch the planes come and go outside. Soon enough, he was excitedly telling Jefferson about his plans to become a pilot when he grew up. He was no longer shy around his uncle.

Abigail had now become quiet and withdrawn again. She and Taylor were just watching as a flight at a neighboring gate let its passengers off and took on new ones.

When Matthew had run out of things to tell Jefferson about airplanes and the pilots who flew them, the latter decided to check his e-mail for the first time since arriving in Germany. He had left work rather suddenly so he was sure that, despite the widespread knowledge about the cause for this sudden departure, there'd be things he'd have to deal with. He pulled his laptop out of his bag and turned it on. As he waited for the desktop to come up, he pulled a pair of earphones out of his jacket pocket and stuck one in his ear while sticking the plug into the computer's jack. When everything was set, he began typing. Using the hotkeys long-since engrained in his memory, he located a wireless connection in the airport and pulled up his e-mail account. Since the screen reader software didn't function with a mouse or touchpad, he used various keyboard commands to supplement this.

Sure enough, there were plenty of new messages in his inbox. Most were from colleagues and students offering their condolences. His boss wanted to know if there was anything Jefferson needed and when he would be back in New York. A few e-mails were from students who had questions about a reading assignment he'd left for them, at least two being quite apologetic for bringing this up now. One of them was from Eric, confirming the details for Jefferson's flight.

As Jefferson wrote replies to the most important messages, Abigail noticed his other earphone dangling by his elbow. Interested, she grabbed it and held it up to her ear, wondering what he was listening to. Jefferson felt her tugging at it and looked over at where he knew she was sitting.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"What are you listening to?" Abigail queried, still holding on to the earphone. "What's that voice?"

"It's a program on my computer. It reads stuff on the screen to me because I can't see it."

Interested, Abigail leaned over the armrest between them to see the laptop's screen for herself. However, her limited reading skills caught up with her and she was soon stumped by the e-mail's legal language. Nevertheless interested, she began punching keys on the keyboard, adding random letters to the reply Jefferson had been working on.

"Is it reading that?" she asked eagerly.

"Yeah," Jefferson replied while Cassandra chuckled. "It's reading the letters."

Satisfied, Abigail sat back in her own seat and watched as Jefferson finished his e-mail and sent it out. Deciding the department chair didn't need to see Abigail's amendment to his message, Jefferson had quietly deleted this.

"Uncle Jeff?" Taylor asked. "Why are you blind?"

Jefferson paused, wondering how to explain this. The question had never really come up during his phone conversations with the kids.

"Well," he said, thinking carefully, "I was born blind. A part of my eyes didn't grow the right way, so I can't see."

"Was Daddy born blind?" Abigail asked, interested again.

"No, your daddy was lucky. He could see just fine."

The twins seemed satisfied with this explanation and the subject was dropped. Matthew, who hadn't heard a word, was still content with staring out at all the airplanes. He tried to count them but, between his early counting skills and the planes constantly moving around, he gave up after a few minutes.

* * *

Around 11:15, a voice over the PA system said, "Paging Jefferson Thomas. Jefferson Thomas ... please report to the nearest Delta Airlines counter."

Jefferson was sure he knew what this was about. Leaving the kids to stay with Cassandra, he made his way over to the gate agent's counter. Though she had heard the page, the woman working there had no clue what it was about. So she called her supervisor, who in turn connected her to another supervisor, who then requested to speak to Jefferson.

"Mr. Thomas," the man said. "I just wanted to confirm that you are having two caskets transported on your flight, correct?"

"Yes," Jefferson said in a low voice so people around him couldn't hear. "they're the bodies of my brother and sister-in-law."

"They have arrived and we will make sure they are loaded when your plane arrives. On behalf of Delta Airlines, I offer our condolences for your loss."

"Thank you," Jefferson said and the call ended there. He looked at the gate agent, who still seemed to be clueless as to what was going on. Lucky him.

"While I'm here, I'd like to get a pre-boarding pass for me and my family," he said.

"How many of you are there?" the agent asked.

"Four plus the dog," Jefferson told her.

"Sir, you can only take one person with you when you pre-board."

"The people with me are four and seven years old," Jefferson said, pointing back in the direction of Cassandra and the kids. "You really think it'd be a good idea for me to leave any of them behind?"

The man didn't argue further and instead handed over the necessary pre-boarding cards.

About half an hour after Jefferson had rejoined the others, their plane arrived and it's passengers began coming out. Cassandra decided now would be a good time to start saying "good-bye."

"You're gonna go with your uncle now," she told them. "You take care of yourselves."

She hugged each of them in turn.

"I'll stay just a few minutes more," she said. "But then you guys have to get on the plane."

She helped them gather up their things and they all walked over to where the pre-boarders were to wait. For this flight, Jefferson and the kids were the only ones in that group.

Matthew, who had originally not wanted to give up his spot where he could see the many, many planes, was now excited about getting to actually go on one. Taylor was silent and even Abigail seemed a little withdrawn as the impending trip came closer.

"We just have a few more passengers coming out," The gate agent said. "you can board after that. Would you like some assistance down the jet bridge?"

"No thanks," Jefferson replied. "Just show me to the door and we'll be fine."

"Okay. It'll be just a few more minutes."

"Then this is our cue for the last good-bye," Cassandra said. She hugged each of the kids one more time, wishing them well.

"You listen to your uncle from here on out," she told them. "He's in charge now."

The three kids nodded. Cassandra took Jefferson aside

"You're in charge now," she said. "You ready?"

"I have no idea," Jefferson admitted.

"You have my number if you need any tips."

Jefferson nodded. He'd entered it in his phone before leaving New York.

"Good luck," Cassandra said, shaking his hand as her voice trembled a bit.

"Thank you," Jefferson replied. "For everything."

"Take care."

"Come on Uncle Jeff," Abigail called. "They said that we can get on."

"That's your cue," Cassandra said. Jefferson nodded and headed back towards the kids. He scooped up his overnight bag, which he'd tasked Matthew with watching, and herded them together.

"Boarding passes please," the gate agent said and Jefferson handed them over. The agent put them through the scanner one at a time and handed him the stubs of each of them.

"You're all set," he said. "Have a good flight. The doors are straight ahead of you."

"Thank you," Jefferson said as he directed the kids and Presley through the doors into the jet bridge.

"Bye you guys!" Cassandra called after the group as she watched them walk down the tunnel. "Take care!"

"Bye!" the kids chorused back, turning to wave one last time. Jefferson, whose hands were full, was only able to look back and give her a nod. The group then disappeared around a bend in the tunnel.

"Good luck," Cassandra whispered.

Greetings again. I used my own experience of moving across the Atlantic when I was seven for parts of this chapter. My experience was a happier one as my parents were (and are) still alive and I was excited about this adventure.

I have rearranged this story a bit. It is now thirty-eight chapters (instead of the original forty-two.)

Cast of characters:

Jefferson Thomas: a blind NYU law professor.

Presley: Jefferson's guide dog.

Abigail and Taylor Thomas: seven-year-old twin daughters of Stanley and Margaret Thomas. Nieces of Jefferson Thomas.

Matthew: four-year-old son of Stanley and Margaret Thomas. Nephew of Jefferson Thomas.

Stanley "Stan" Thomas: Jefferson's brother. Killed in a car accident in Berlin.

Margaret "Maggie" Thomas: Stan's wife. Killed in a car accident overseas.

Cassandra Kingman: a colleague of Stanley Thomas's in Berlin.

Darren Kingman: Cassandra's husband.

Tiffany Kingman: Cassandra's teenage daughter.

Feedback is absolutely welcome. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Enjoy.
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