chapter six

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My family had a very special skill.

It was called "overpacking to the maximum and somehow staying under the suitcase weight limit."

The queen of overpacking was, by not much surprise, my mother.

I don't know why I didn't catch onto the fact that we were going on vacation when days before Christmas, she already had an assortment of clothes and supplies ready. Packing to her was an art form, not an unavoidable duty.

I wasn't as much of an overpacker as the rest of my family, but the fact that the trip was going to be two weeks long was starting to make me become one.

"Aha, 49.9 pounds," my dad stated with pure pride as he struggled to lift the hefty suitcase off the scale at the airport. "One more sock, and we would've had to reorganize our stuff in public."

"So it'd be that hard to remove a sock," Ben deadpanned, making me chuckle lightly. Dad almost began to debate with Ben, before he realized how pointless that would be and rolled his giant suitcase to the bag check-in. We followed behind him with the rest of our luggage, which was probably enough for two months in a foreign country.

It was a good thing the airline didn't charge extra for bags.

"Ben, Ben," I began, shaking his arm. His sleepy olive eyes widened, and he snapped his head my way. "We're leaving. You're holding up the line." He merely nodded and slung his backpack further up his shoulder as we wrapped up at the counter and headed in the direction of security.

Ben had been a little off all morning. I didn't blame him when he found it hard to get up out of bed at five in the morning, but it'd been an hour since then and he still seemed loopy and exhausted. It was as if his mind was already in Florida and I was left lugging around his six-foot-two body.

While it was only six in the morning, the lines were already brutal. Ella whined to us that she was bored every few seconds until Leila caved after fifteen minutes and handed her daughter her iPhone. Leila was a new-age healthy parent who didn't believe in technology for young children and cooked mostly grass-like vegan meals for her family. I went vegan for around a year, and I knew that it was very possible to live under that lifestyle with actually palatable food, but Leila didn't quite get the memo.

Then again, she had a killer body even after having had a kid, so I was secretly taking notes on her recipes for the future.

"Why did I wear these heels," Leila grumbled as we pulled off our shoes at security, finally beating the line. She was wearing nude suede ankle boots with a tall heel that nearly sent her flying backwards when she finally yanked them off. She placed them gently in the bin, but it was of no use since Eric carelessly threw his Adidas sneakers on top of her shoes.

I was the first to pass through the metal detector and observed the rest of my family as I laced up my black converse. As Ben walked through like a zombie, the alarm began to ring. He held his hands up—as if that would do anything—and a TSA agent immediately walked up to him.

"I'm innocent, I swear," he pleaded, and I slapped my hand over my forehead. Why is he like this? The worker, a short woman with a bun, pulled so tight her eyes creased, merely stared at him, unamused.

It didn't take long for the phone Ben left in his pocket to be revealed as the culprit.

His cheeks were slightly tinted pink as he walked towards me. I only smirked as he put his shoes back on and grabbed his backpack from the bin, ready to head to our gate.

That was my favorite part of airports—not the long security lines and disgruntled workers—but walking around, peering into the shops and then glancing at other people sitting by their gates, wondering where they were about to go. Maybe they were going on vacation too and couldn't wait to leave the confines of their small town. Or maybe the reason for their flight was something far less idyllic, like leaving to see a sick relative or move away from home forever.

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