"Are you absolutely sure, Lacey? Your brother is going to kill me when he finds out I knew about this.." Your sister in-law and trusted friend, Kirby Paxton, fusses with the delicate fabric of the silken lilac scarf you wear loosely around your neck as you go over the details of your boarding pass one last time..
You're definitely at the right gate.. Flight 656 to Stryzakstan..
The crackling announcement over the airport intercom rings out signaling that your flight has begun boarding.. You swat her hands away, and take her shoulders, forcing her to look in your eye.. Her rich chocolate brown eyes crinkled in concern..
You peer down to her gorgeous son, your sweet little nephew, Axle, he looks back up at you, grinning from beneath a mop of sandy blond hair, his bright blue eyes peek out from behind her knee, his tiny hands clinging to her leg, having grown so quickly over the last few years..
You smile.. "That's exactly why I have to go.. You know I love Hunter.. but he can be a little overbearing.. He thinks he knows what's best for everyone around him.. and sometimes.." You close your eyes and sigh, tamping back down your frustration..
It's not Kirby's fault your brother is a difficult man to deal with.. You don't know how she tolerates his bossy behaviour, the woman is a literal saint..
Though if you were honest with yourself, you actually envy their relationship.. Just a little.. You don't think Hunter would ever approve of any guy, who you took a liking to.. Not that you are ready for that anyway.. No, you have important things to do..
Your therapist, internationally renowned psychologist Hadley Harper, has advised you focus on yourself.. So that is exactly what you are going to do.. Starting with this once in a lifetime opportunity.. "Sometimes, I feel like I'm being suffocated, Kirby.. This posting is an opportunity for me to complete a significant amount of my required residency.. Besides, you know that working for Doctors Without Borders has always been my dream.. I can't pass this up.."
She chews her lip nervously.. "I know.. It's just--"
You smile, pulling her in for a hug.. "I appreciate that you care so much, KP, I do.. But really, I'll be fine.. Hadley thinks I'm ready.. I feel ready.. And you know that Iris is the one who put me in contact with Doctor Sarif.. if she trusts him, you know he's been seriously vetted.."
Your brother's boss, and the woman who Kirby occasionally works for, Iris Santiago, is the CEO of the private security firm known as Spectre, and she is surely a tough woman to please.. She was the one who had helped you achieve a place on a Doctors Without Borders medical team, working with peacekeepers to bring care to some of the most in need people in the Middle East, headed up by decorated military medic, Dr Sanjake Sarif.
Your sister-in-law nods slowly, huffing out a dissatisfied breath.. "Yes.. Totally, you're right.. Okay.."
She bends down, lifting little Axle to her hip, he smiles an adorable dimpled smile, reaching out to you with his little wriggling fingers.. "Buh-biii antieeee Layceee! I lubb youuu!"
You take his tiny hand and kiss it.. "Buh-biii babyyyy Axleeee! I love you toooo!" He giggles and bounces in Kirby's arms at your silly tone.. You absolutely love children, always have.. And Axle is no exception..
Before your life went off the rails it had always been a part of your plan to finish your medical degree, get married and build a family of your own..
But now.. Well, you're not so sure how it could work..
So much damage has been done to you.. You're not sure how to come back from it.. That's why you have to go on this trip.. You need to prove to yourself you aren't too broken to chase your dreams.. If you do that.. Maybe the rest will follow..
Or maybe you're just a naive little fool.. Either way.. You have to find out..
The final boarding call crackles over the speaker and you straighten up, giving Kirby a quick kiss on the cheek, bending to sling your heavy pack over your shoulder.. "That's me, I gotta go.. I love you guys!"
Her arm shoots out grabbing you.. "Lacey, wait--" She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small torn off corner of paper, with an eleven digit number written in that neat, old timey script of hers.. "If anything goes wrong.. Or you find yourself in trouble, I want you to find a phone and call this number.. I need you to memorise it on the plane.. Do you understand?"
You know that where your going is not exactly the safest part of the world.. But you will have military escorts on your detail and will only be acting in a peacekeeping capacity, trying to help.. Not attacking anybody!
She's so serious, you can't help but take note of her words.. You nod..
"I'm serious Lacey.. Anything goes wrong at all, you call it.. Immediately.. Can you remember that?"
You nod again.. Tucking the paper into your jeans pocket and giving her a reassuring smile.. You have no idea what you could possibly need this for.. Or what it even does.. But you don't want her to worry.. "Yeah, I can remember.. I got it.. Everything is going to be fine Kirby, I promise.. Now I really have to go!"
The worry never leaves Kirby's beautiful face as you make your way to the gate, waving a final goodbye before making your way on board.. Already beginning to question your every decision that led you to this moment..
Can you really do this?..