The plane was crowded. As the passengers boarded, the flight attendant announced that every seat would be required, that people should stow all their belongings in the overhead bins or under the seats in front of them. May Taylor made sure her and Kylie's bags were out of the way, that Kylie knew she had to stay in her place and not bother the businessman in the aisle seat.
Takeoff was smooth, and the plane climbed through thin gray clouds into the brilliant blue. Until this year, May hadn't flown much -- she had never had much reason. But Kylie's doctor in Boston had recommended that Kylie take part in a study at Twigg University in Toronto, with a group of psychologists focusing on clairvoyance and personality disorders.
May and Kylie lived with May's great-aunt in an old farmhouse on the Connecticut shoreline. May loved her daughter more than anything, but as she looked around the plane, she couldn't help noticing all the couples. The white-haired couple sharing the newspaper; the young professionals in his-and-her suits, talking on cell phones; two parents with their teenaged kids across the aisle.
May stared at the parents for a few minutes, wondering how it would feel to have someone to share the care of Kylie with: to travel with, laugh with, worry with. She watched the woman bend toward her husband, her hair brushing his shoulder as she whispered in his ear. His lips turned up in a wide smile, and he bowed his head, nodding in agreement.
May suddenly felt as if she'd swallowed a fishbone, and she quickly looked down. She had a sheaf of papers from Dr. Ben Whitpen at the Twigg University Department of Psychology to read, reports and observations and recommendations, all pertaining to Kylie. Upon landing at Logan, she would take them to Kylie's doctor on Barkman Street. After that, the long drive home to Connecticut lay ahead. She stared at the letterhead, at the confusing and worrisome words swimming together, and the ache in her throat grew worse.
"Mom?" Kylie asked.
Thinking Kylie meant the passenger sitting next to her, May immediately leaned close to Kylie's ear. When Kylie got involved with people, they sometimes got upset. And May could tell by the man's expensive suit, his heavy gold watch, and the fancy briefcase he'd placed in front of Kylie instead of his own seat, that he was one of the ones who might get upset.
"The man's working," May whispered. "Don't bother him."
"No," Kylie whispered back, shaking her head. "In the special compartment -- really big men. Are they giants?"
May and Kylie were in the first row, but Kylie was staring through the half-open curtain separating economy and business class. Kylie was right: Several huge guys were sitting up there, talking to a semicircle of pretty female flight attendants. Their strength was apparent in the size of their chests and arms, the breadth of their shoulders. Some of them had logos on the sleeves of their shirts, and May figured they belonged to some team or other. The women were laughing, one of them saying she loved hockey and could she have an autograph. May, knowing nothing about hockey, turned her attention back to Kylie.
"They're just men," May said. "Not giants."
"Big, though," Kylie said.
"Yes," May said. "Big." She thought of the word "big," of how it could mean so many things. Kylie's father was big -- over six feet tall. He was a lawyer in Boston, in one of the prestigious firms with offices in a skyscraper overlooking the harbor -- a big attorney. He had seemed to love May until she told him she was pregnant, and then he had told her he was married to someone else -- a big problem. He sent her money every month, enough to feed and clothe Kylie -- but he didn't want to know their daughter. That made him small.
Copyright © 2001 by Luanne Rice
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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