Chapter 29 - It's Familiar, and Familial

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Richard arrived at the airport alone with a heavy load stored in his chest. Every minute that passed without a word from Mia was sixty seconds of pure misery and remorse.

He was sorry now. It was written in fine print somewhere on his face, but it was there nonetheless, infused in his system. He could hear the voices in his head argue over the damage he had done, and it was rowdy where they were; heaps of doubt and blame spread across valleys that desperately needed to be plowed away.

Incognito was the theme for today. He hoped that a black cap was a good enough cover up, but he had forgotten that he was traveling by air. There was a loophole somewhere, and it was found at the terminal.

"Sir, remove your cap and sunglasses for me, please," the stewardess asked nicely as she stared at a white screen. "And may I see some identification? Your ticket as well."

Richard nodded and revealed his drained face before opening his wallet to present the required documents. As she printed out his boarding pass and checked-in his bag, Richard decided to do his own digging just to relieve the worry that increasingly tormented him.

"Is it possible to find out if one of my mates has checked in yet? We're supposed to be on the same
flight," he said.

"Sure. Surname?"

"Cunningham."

Richard leaned over the counter as if the angle was going to help him view the monitor better. He tapped on the surface impatiently, waiting for her to confirm Mia's attendance.

"Hmm, no. I'm sorry. They haven't checked in yet," she said. "Actually, there aren't any passengers with that name at all. Are you sure it's this flight?"

"Yes, I'm—" He began to stutter as his throat tightened. "I'm sure. Did she cancel?"

The stewardess frowned. "Yes, that's possible. Your friend may have rebooked as well, but I'm not authorized to disclose any specific details."

"I understand. Um..." He stared down at the floor. Streaks of black rubber marked the matte tiles from decades of luggage carts being hauled around by busy travelers. He focused his attention on one before coming to terms with the fact that he was never going to find Mia any time soon. "Thank you."

She smiled at him. "Enjoy your flight, Mr. Madden."

Richard kept his head low as he left the counter, walking slowly toward airport security. He felt like a failure, as if it had been his job to find Mia and bring her back home, just as she had done for him after Kit's wedding.

He decided to sit at a bench near the long line of passengers waiting to be screened. He buried his face into his hands and sighed. Each call he had made to her went straight to voicemail, and every other text he sent only hung out to dry. His gloomy state seemed incurable.

Richard could only wait around indefinitely, which was something he hated; that was, until the last grain of hope rang in his pocket.

Praying that it was Mia returning his call, Richard slipped his phone out of his pocket in one swift motion. He didn't bother to read the caller ID correctly. He simply answered it in a heartsick tone.

"Mia?" he said, pressing the speaker against his ear.

"Mia?" the voice replied. "Are you high again?"

He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Sorry. What do you want, Lauren?"

"Harsh. Now, is that the proper way to greet your baby sister?"

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