Alice stared at the two red suitcases travelling around the carousel. She shifted slightly, not wanting towake the baby, whom she’d only just settled. The sound of tiny lips smacking in sleepy satisfaction tugged at her heart.
Two red suitcases that had travelled everywhere with her and Nathaniel following them around the corners of the world. Travelling was in their blood, Nathaniel would explain as they sought work for their next plane ticket. Goat farming in the great plains of Australia, diving schools in the Maldives, olive picking in Italy and buffalo milking in South West England. They had loved their itinerant life together, learning the culture and the local lingo to get by. Making most of an opportunity they weren’t to know would be cut so cruelly short.
She saw the guard standing by the custom gate, shuffling impatiently from one foot to another, trying not to look in her direction. She knew she should make a move, but watching the cases go round and round was hypnotic, creating images of Nathaniel she didn’t want to disappear. His blond hair, the choppy unruly fringe always in his eyes, until one day she’s bought him a hair band. ‘David Beckham wears one’ she’d offered as a reason. His cornflower blue eyes smiling lazily back at her after they’d made love, the contour of his powerful arms which had brought comfort and protection and his lopsided grin framing a cracked front tooth, which had melted her heart.
The guard sauntered over to her. A short cough and a tight smile. ‘Are you waiting for someone?’
Alice shook her head.
‘Your husband maybe?’
Tears pricked at the back of her eyes and she buried her mouth in the soft downy hair on her baby’s head. ‘No,’ she whispered.
The baby stirred, stretching his fat legs, and she cupped her hands around the padded bottom, moving him into the crook of her arm.
The guard smiled. People always smiled at babies.
‘Would you like some help?’ He nodded towards the revolving luggage.
‘No, thank you, but no.’ She didn’t want anyone touching her life with Nathaniel.
She placed the baby in the stroller and secured the straps as the guard wandered off, fingers tapping behind his back.
Her life packed into two cases. A life now without Nathaniel, who hadn’t known about the child the day he looked the wrong way down a busy street before stepping off the kerb and into the path of a bus.
‘Dead at impact,’ the Spanish policeman had told her. ‘Felt nothing.’
The baby gurgled and waved his chubby arms, smiling that lop-sided grin.
Alice smiled weakly. ‘Time to go home, Nathan,’ she croaked as she plucked the cases from their last journey.