Well, this was exciting......
I walked over to a chair and sank into it while Mommy went to the desk to get our tickets for the next flight. I'm not sure I like planes. They make my ears hurt.
My eyes closed as I waited for the scent that would tell me my mom was coming back for me. Instead of lavender, though, I smelled chocolate. "Want some?"
I blinked at the boy next to me. He looked about a year or two younger than me, and his gap-toothed grin was more gum than teeth. His mouth was ringed with chocolate, and he held out more of the stuff in a hand. "S'okay," he said. "Momma gives me the stuff all the time."
"Yeah?" I took the bit he handed to me and bit into it. "Where d'ya put it?" The kid was thinner than me.
He shrugged. "Momma says I burn it off on account'a I'm all the time runnin' an' climbin' an' such. Name's Micky." He stuck out a chocolate-stained hand.
I couldn't help but grin. I shook his hand. "Bobby," I said. I pulled out my kerchief and wiped his face, getting most of the chocolate off. "But I don' really like it. Been thinkin' bout goin' by my middle name."
"Kay, I'll call ya Mike then!" His grin was infectious; even if it did cause his small eyes to squint up and look like they were gonna disappear whenever he grinned.
I put my kerchief back in my pocket and sat back in my chair. "Where ya headin'?"
"No place!" he chirped. "Momma brought me here t'pick up my dad. He's comin' home t'day."
I nodded. "We're here tryin' t'get away from my dad," I told him softly. "He doesn't like Mommy or me too much."
"Aw, that's too bad!" Micky sighed. "Well, I like ya!"
"That's good t'know," I laughed. A slight squabble caught my attention. A well-dressed woman was juggling packages, purses -- and a blond-headed boy who looked just a bit older than me. "Need some help?" I called to the boy.
"Yeah, please?" he called back.
Micky and I made our way to the boy's side and he let go of his mother's hand. Together, we moved behind a huge plant and watched as she walked off, muttering to herself about how well-behaved he was all of a sudden....
The boy laughed and held out a hand. "Hi, I'm Peter."
"I'm Micky!" my friend told him. "This's Bobby, but we call him Mike cuz he likes it better!"
Peter nodded. "Where are you going?"
"Me an' Mommy are headin' back t'Texas soon as she can get our new tickets. She just got the one here to LA cause she said it'd be easy to vanish here." I frowned. "Whatever that means...."
"I live here!" Micky grinned. "We're here t'meet Daddy, he's comin' home t'day!"
Peter nodded. "The same reason we're here," he said. "Father's coming home from the war."
Boy, he used big words. He must be smart. "What's a war?" I asked.
"I'm not sure," Peter said, his eyebrows drawing together as he frowned. "But it sure makes Mother cry a lot."
I didn't know what to say to that. As it turned out, I didn't have to say anything. We had company join us right then. A small, round woman walked up to the ticket desk. She sat down the baby she'd been holding and started to look through her purse. The baby saw us and crawled over as fast as he could. "Hi!" he said brightly. "I'm Davy!"
"Hi!" Peter grinned at him. "I'm Peter, this is Micky, and this is Bobby, but everyone calls him Mike."
"How come they don't call you Bobby?" Davy asked me.
I grinned. Before I could tell him I hated the name, Micky chimed in. "Cause he's a mean little boy!"
"Micky!" Peter and I chorused.
Micky ignored us and asked Davy, "Where're you heading?"
"We're movin' 'way!" Davy said, his lower lip sticking out in a pout. "Mum and Da can't 'ford t'live here 'nymore so we're movin' in wif my Grans!"
"Where do they live?" Peter asked.
"Not sure," Davy said. "Never met 'em. Mum says they're in somewhere called Angel-Land."
"Angel-Land?" I frowned. "I've never heard of that. Only Angel-Land I know of is Heaven."
Micky brightened. "Maybe you're movin' here! Momma calls LA the City of Angels sometimes!"
"Yeah!" I said. "That'd be great!"
"I wish we were," Peter sighed. "We live a long ways away -- we came here to surprise Father."
"And we're headin' back to Texas soon," I sighed.
We sat in silence for a few minutes as we all realised we were going to be separated before we really got to know each other. It felt.... awful.
"I'll wait for you guys," Micky said out of the blue. At our "Huh?"s, he smiled. "Here. I'll wait for ya. We met here; we'll be t'gether 'gain."
"He's right," Peter said. "I don't know how I know, but I know he's right."
Davy nodded so hard he sat right down on his diapered rear. "T'gevv'r!" he said. "All o'us!"
I felt it too. Almost like.... we were meant to meet. To be together. I didn't speak -- couldn't speak -- but I lay my hands on Peter's shoulder and Davy's tiny one. Davy and Peter each lay their hands on Micky's shoulders.
We stood there like that for a long time, feeling the warmth of something flow through us. It was a very long time before any of us had the words to describe it.
Brotherly love. At that moment, the four of us were bound together.
All too soon, the moment was over. There was a small commotion by one of the desks, where people were coming in from a just-arrived plane. We all turned to look, and found ourselves looking up at a man dressed in a khaki uniform.
He lay down his duffel bag and crouched to our level. "Well, hello there!" he chuckled. His voice was deep and gravelly, but somehow we knew he wasn't a bad man. He picked up Davy and Micky -- the two littlest ones -- and balanced them on his knees. "I bet you're those kids they're raisin' such a ruckus over there about."
I looked at Peter, who looked back at me. Uh-oh.
"Mind catchin' hold'a your blond friend's hand there, son?" the man asked as he stood up. He perched Micky on his shoulders and lifted his duffel with one hand. Davy was held securely in the same arm. I looked at Peter again, and took his hand in mine. My other one was taken by the man's free hand. "All right then, soldiers...let's march."
As we neared the desk, a woman I didn't recognise, followed by a man in uniform, ran over. Micky squealed and held out his hands. The woman lifted him from our new friend's shoulders, and the man with her shook the hand that let mine go for the occasion. "Thank you, Lieutenant," the new man said with a smile. "We were missing him."
"Not a problem, Captain," our friend said and took my hand again. "Now let me get the rest of these rugrats back to their nests, and I'll consider myself well-paid."
Micky waved at us. "Buh-bye!" he chirped. "I'll 'member! I'll save y'a place!"
"We'll hold you to that!" Peter laughed as we walked away.
"Buh-bye!" Davy waved.
"Bye, Micky!" I shot over my shoulder. I missed him already.
We took a few more steps, and the well-dressed woman walked over. She angrily scolded Peter for 'running off'. When she turned to our friend to thank him for his help, Peter looked at me and rolled his eyes.
I couldn't help but laugh. Peter was smart -- he'd outsmart this lady many, many times. I had a good feeling about him.
She took Peter's arm and jerked him away from me, snapping at him the whole time. He waved at us as he was drug away. "Later!" he called to us and raised his free hand --- the big and ring fingers touching his palm, the other three sticking straight out. I copied it back to him and saw Davy try to.
Peter's deeply dimpled smile stayed with me long after he was gone.
"Awww...." our friend suddenly said. I looked up and saw him smile tenderly at Davy, who was curling tiredly into his shoulder. His thumb had moved to his mouth and his large brown eyes were drooping. "You're bout worn out, poor thing. Where's your mama, huh?"
"Over at the ticket counter," a deep voice said. I looked up into the smiling face of a man who wasn't even as tall as Mommy! He smiled and rested a hand on my head for a second before grinning at my friend. "But his dad's right here."
".....da....." Davy said sleepily as he reached for his father. His dad nuzzled the top of his head for a moment, and then shook my friend's hand. Davy blinked muzzily down at me. ".....'ll be back," he said with a grin. "....four need me...."
"Without you we're only three," I agreed. "Get some rest and have fun in Angel-land, wherever that is."
".....settled in England, I'll make sure you're repaid, sir," Davy's father said.
My friend laughed. "Don't worry about it. Seeing him with his family's good enough for me."
"Bobby!" I winced at the name. Mommy was suddenly there, on her knees, hugging me tight. The lavender perfume she always wore was like a second comforting hug. Then she broke the embrace and stood, facing my friend. "Thank you, Lieutenant....uh..."
"Babbitt, ma'am." He shook Mommy's hand and doffed his hat politely. "Henry Babbitt. And it was my pleasure. I've got a little one about this one's age -- what is he, two? Three?"
"Nearly three," Mommy said. "I wish I could reward you for --"
My friend held up a hand. "Don't worry about it." He crouched down again and rumpled my hair. "You be good for your momma, okay, little soldier?" I nodded and he smiled, setting his hat on my head. "That's my big boy." He stood up then and picked up his duffle one last time. "Ma'am."
I watched him go. "Mithtah!" I cried out, wincing at the trouble with Big-Speech I still had. He turned back, and I stood proud and straight. I brought my hand to my forehead in a salute and felt it touch the new hat I wore.
A smile crossed my friend's face and he snapped to attention. He returned the salute and broke it with a tender wink.
I was still grinning when Mommy carried me onto the plane that would take us to our new home in Dallas. I held my friend's hat tight on my head and thought of my three other friends. I just knew in my heart and soul I'd see them all again one day.
And this time, there'd be no bye-byes.
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