Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived safely at JFK International Airport. We hope you enjoyed your flight. The whole crew wishes you a pleasant stay in New York City."

Maude looked out the porthole window of the Boeing excitedly. She had felt quite calm during the entire trip, although she had come close to snapping at the man sitting next to her. With every jolt the plane gave, the middle-aged man would jump and shriek in a high-pitched voice and did so during the entire eight hours from Paris to New York. It had all been worth it, she thought happily. Besides, if she had lived through sixteen years of Mrs. Ruchet's yelling, she certainly could handle eight hours of a poor man's aerophobia. Barely anyway.

As she got off the plane, Maude wondered what she would say to Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin. She had rehearsed a couple of greeting phrases but felt none would do the trick.

"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Baldwin," she muttered under her breath. "No, no, that won't do. It sounds too polite. Not that I want to appear impolite." She shook her head. "Maybe something like 'How do you do?' That's what our English teacher taught us in eighth grade, but it sounds kind of stuck-up, Queen of England-like. I'm in New York, not Buckingham Palace."

Maude stopped in her tracks.

A few feet from her, a small boy of about ten or eleven with abundant dark curls and an eager grin waved a sign with her name crookedly sprawled over it "MAUD." Behind the boy were Mr. Baldwin and his wife, Victoria, a tall, ebony-skinned woman wearing her hair in an Afro tied in an elegant red scarf, with a kind face and a heartwarming smile. A closer observer might have noticed a hint of sadness in her eyes, that even perhaps she never knew was there, a light veil that only death can weave in the hearts of the best of souls. But Maude wasn't closely observing her and quickly turned her eyes towards the person standing next to her.

Next to her stood her eldest daughter who visibly was trying to calm her excited little brother. Her light brown eyes were calm and appeasing, and her hand gentle. Her long hair was wrapped in a lazy bun making her beauty look effortless.

Next to the calm young woman, her sister, energetically craning her neck looking in the crowd for Maude, seemed very different. She wore her hair in a short stylish haircut, which made her look like a glamorous 1920s actress. She had the assured look of a girl who feels good about herself without having to crush others. Although she was very stylishly dressed in a beautiful brown coat and high-heeled boots, Maude felt she was the sort of person who could look breathtaking in simple worn-out jeans and a t-shirt.

The whole family had come, Maude suddenly realized, a wave of shyness overcoming her.

They, on the other hand weren't shy at all.

Mr. Baldwin started walking towards her and before she knew it, the whole family surrounded Maude, all talking at once, asking how her flight had been, what food she'd eaten, which movies she'd seen, not even giving her time to answer.

"Maude! Maude! I'm Ben. You are Maude aren't you?" asked the boy waving the sign under her nose to make sure she didn't miss it.

"Er, yes, that's me. I think," she answered looking at the sign. "You forgot the E at the end." Great, she thought sarcastically, that's a nice way to greet. I should've stuck with 'How do you do.'

"How do you do?" she blurted out suddenly.

The whole family paused, then burst out laughing.

"Oh, Dad, you were right!" the tall stylish girl exclaimed, laughing genuinely. "Her accent is so sweet. All the boys will go wild over you at school, Maude."

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