Excerpt from Chapter Three of Ask Me if I'm Happy
I’m not hanging on by a thread here… I’ve got to ignore him, keep it together and figure something out. I’m going home today, no matter what.
Her resolve was slipping, though, and she stood and stepped away, still struggling not to become frantic. Part of her wanted to curl up in a corner somewhere and give in to the panic looming over her. Instead, she focused on directing her wobbly legs toward the door, a vague plan forming in the back of her mind: collect the change in her purse, buy a phone card and find a public phone that wouldn’t eat the whole card before she’d made her arrangements with the airline.
It certainly seemed simple enough--on the surface.
“Scusa?” The man followed at a respectful distance now, his voice still low and gentle. “I’m sorry to disturb, but might I offer you some help?”
Oh, just go away.
“I’m fine, please, really.”
He touched her arm from behind and she turned to face him, ready to hurl in his direction the dozens of Italian insults piling up in her mind. When her eyes met his, every last slur drifted away like pollen in the wind. Her throat ached and she swallowed hard, trying to ignore the stinging in her eyes.
“Davvero?” he asked, his tone gentle. “It is obvious that you are having some difficulties.” His fingertips were still light upon her arm, steering her back toward the chairs inside the sala d’attesa, away from the door and the cold outside air.
In amazement, she allowed him to lead her.
Dammit, but he seems so sincere. Why does he have to act so nice?
“I, um… I can’t find my cell phone. I thought I’d thrown it in here, but now I can’t find it and…” She drifted off.
Why am I telling him this?
He nodded his understanding, intently reading her eyes, and she couldn’t look away. Though his eyes were warm and comforting, most of all she found them friendly. She hadn’t seen such open friendliness in a long time.
“Okay. But you are now quite certain you don’t have your mobile?”
“Sì, yes, that’s right.” With a small effort, she looked away. To her surprise, save for a few like herself who had been surprised by the strike, the waiting room was empty.
“Some things are not so difficult, then, to fix, sai?” He reached into his coat pocket and took out his cell phone. “Please, use mine.”
“But you don’t know who I need to call.”
“Your husband, perhaps? Does it matter?”
“Oh, he’s good.”
“Actually,” she began, abashed, “I was thinking more of the airline. I have to change my flight now.”
“Oh. That is a good idea, as well.” He continued to hold the phone out to her. “Ti prego; please, I wish to help.”
Emily took the phone with her left hand so he would see her wedding band. “Grazie mille.”