Chapter 6: Libby
The drive to the airport is silent.
Dad’s in the driver’s seat, tapping the steering wheel with his thumbs, and I’m sitting with my hands in my lap, wishing I could find something to say. Anything. But nothing comes.
The radio is turned on Houston’s local station for oldies’ rock n’ roll, and although Dad must’ve heard this same exact song a bajillion times already since it came out, he still taps his fingers on the steering wheel and nods his head to the beat. Me? My heads against the window, a dull ache beginning to form from the car jumping on the road’s bumps and my head smashing into it every five seconds. It’s a better feeling than none, I guess.
When the sign for the airport abruptly comes up, Dad clears his throat and awkwardly turns the volume down to a small whisper. I pick my head up and instinctively turn it all the way off. Dad gives me an estranged look. Oops.
“So, this is it, huh?” he says, his voice hoarse from our lack of conversation.
He clears it again and I nod, my lips pursed from our awkwardness. I don’t know what to say! “Yep.”
“No boys, right?” he asks, his tone serious but his lips split into a smile.
I laugh, actually meaning it. “Dad, when has there ever been a boy? It’s not gonna happen in a place I’ll be for a couple of months.” He shrugs, giving me a side-glance. “Dad!”
He chuckles and I’m reminded of the time when he didn’t have to work all the time and would pick me up from school early just so we could hang out. We would go out for ice cream and I would feign being sick to the employees, or we would just go home and watch movies and laugh all day. “You never know sweetheart. He could be anywhere.”
My brows furrow. “‘He?’”
His cheeks flush a shallow red and I automatically regret asking him. “Y’know,” he coughs. “Uh, ‘the one?’”
I nod in understandment and immediately lean over the console, kissing his stubbly cheek in an attempt to thank him for his embarrassment. “You’re the best, Dad. But you don’t need to worry about me,” I sigh, settling back into my seat and kicking my feet up on the dashboard. “I’ll be a-okay.”
I catch him rolling his eyes in my peripheral vision. “Hey!” I scold, and he laughs while I pitifully hit him in his bicep.
“I-I’m sorry, Lib, I just find it insanely hard to believe that you don’t see how fetching you are.” Once again, his cheeks flush, and mine do too. I sink into my seat.
“Stop trying to make fetch happen, Dad,” I mumble, and he laughs, catching my quote-usage.
“I’m serious, hon. You’re a very beautiful, uh, woman and you’re going to be leaving home for college in three months. It’s going to be like you’re not even ours anymore - you’re the world’s. And then some boy - ah, I mean man - is going to discover your greatness and beauty and then they’re going to be the one taking care of you.” He sighs, taking one hand off the wheel to rub the creases between his eyes. “It’s all just happening so quickly, Lib.” He offers me a half-smile. “You’re growing up so incredibly fast.”
Pursing my lips once again, I shrug, and curse myself for my loss of words. How come I can never express my feelings into words? Tell people how much I appreciate their words and caring? Dad reaches over and squeezes my knee lovingly.
“Now get your feet off my baby.” Laughing, I dramatically roll my eyes and kick my feet off the dashboard and onto the floorboard that’s as clean as my ass. Or, rather, Dad’s ass since I’m sure he cleans it more than I do with his OCD.
Dad pulls over to the airport entrance and I sit up in my seat, feeling all of a sudden not ready. I tell Dad this, feeling obligated to say something with the silence still hanging in between us. He sighs and looks around at the parked cars.
“Libby, you can always cancel the trip,” he says, as if rehearsed. He reaches for my shoulder, but I immediately cower from it, disbelieving everything he’s saying. What? “The tickets are refundable and I can get half of the money back that Liv’s parents and I paid on the hotel room-”
“Dad,” I interrupt. “Hold on.”
His eyes go wide at my words, and I restrain myself from apologizing because I know that I meant what I said. “This is what I want, Dad. I’m scared, not horrified. I’m not backing out of this now or ever. I need this like I need college, alright? I’m sticking to it. I need the experience. Okay?”
My forehead is coated with nervous sweat; this is the most I’ve said against him… ever.
But he nods.
Gets out of the car.
Unloads my bags from the trunk.
Gets back in.
Gives me a side hug.
And then leaves when I get out of the car.
Blinking, I gather my bags and begin my way into the Hobby Center Airport, knowing that I will not be able to talk to Dad until I get back from my trip. Not after this.
These are the only words that come to mind when I peer out the plane’s window and see the bright lights of New York. It’s stunning. Gathering my bag from underneath the seat in front of me, I wait impatiently for the plane to land, watching my fellow flyers slowly pack up their things and clean their little four-hour niche for when they land.
Feeling the plane tilt down, I squirm in my seat and watch as we gradually reach the pavement and make our way to the terminal where we will finally get off and officially be in New York. When the lights flicker on in the plane and we’ve safely landed, I unbuckle my seat-belts and hurry off the plane along with the rest of the cabin, scurrying off to a coffee shop to help wake my system.
It’s two o’clock in the afternoon but I’m exhausted from the flight. Reaching the Starbucks before anyone else on my flight, I order my ushe at the counter and have it in my needy hands within five minutes. New York, I’ve already found out, is fast. The people, the cars, the service.... It’s very refreshing; especially from where I live, where everything is done by lazy people. Oops.
Weaving my way through the small crowd surrounding the luggage carousel, I scrounge for my umpteenth number of bags and pile them all onto my own personal luggage cart, just trying to get out of this stupid, busy airport as soon as possible.
But stepping out into the hustle and bustle of where you need to flag down your own cab, I find that New York itself is busy. Hooray. There’s cabs honking and lights blinking on the roofs, people shouting and whistling, suitcases being tripped over, people being shoved, people fighting over the same cab... I exchange glances with someone beside me, both of us sighing in exasperation. Great.
Finally flagging one down after standing out for at least ten minutes and failing multiple times beforehand, I flee to the trunk and pop it open, stuffing my bags in and shoving myself into the back seat before anyone else can even think about taking it from me.
“Damn,” I sigh, taking my first sip of my lukewarm coffee. Strapping on my seat-belt and relaxing into my seat, I feel the piece of paper in my pocket that will lead me to the adventure of my life.