“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The words boomed out even over the hubbub of the crowded airport. Nancy instinctively ducked her head and pulled Bobby closer to her side. He won’t dare to hit us here, she told herself. Not with all these people watching. I just have to make sure we get on that plane. She didn’t answer or look up, but she was intensely aware of his fists clenched at his side as he stood in front of her spot on the crowded bench. She concentrated on those fists hovering at eye level in front of her face, the red gold hairs curled on the back of his hands, as Bobby’s little body trembled against her side.
She watched as Rob opened his big hands and rubbed them up and down on his pants legs. He dropped down, squatting in front of her. “Babe, look at me! Just come on back home and we’ll work it out. Okay?” The boom was gone. He was using the soft, gentle tone she no longer trusted. She didn’t answer.
“You can’t make it by yourself. You know that, don’t you? I pay the rent. I buy the groceries. Do you want Bobby to go hungry, like he did last time?”
Nancy quaked in the face of his low voiced threat, but the airport speakers saved her: “Boarding For Flight 216 To Los Angeles.”
All around people stood up and began gathering their bags. A young soldier who had been sitting across from Nancy thumped his duffle bag down beside Rob.
“Scuse me, Buddy, but you’re blocking the aisle.”
Rob reluctantly got to his feet and backed away. As soon as he did, Nancy jumped up and started toward the security gate, pulling Bobby along as fast as his short legs could run. The soldier stayed close and an older couple who had been sitting nearby stepped in behind them protectively. Nancy still heard Rob’s final shout.
“Nancy, I have friends in Los Angeles. I’ll find you.”
The flight was blessedly quiet and peaceful. The airline didn’t pass out snacks like they used to, but Nancy was prepared. She fed Bobby saltine crackers saved from their airport lunch and less than an hour into the flight he fell asleep with his head on her lap.
Bobby was still asleep when they landed. Nancy hung her little bag over her shoulder and hoisted him into her arms. The three year old was heavy, but she made her way through the crowds without any trouble to the connecting flight booked in her new name.
She knew she wouldn’t like Los Angeles any better than New York, but there was a live-in hotel job waiting for her in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. She and Bobby would like it there just fine.