Copyright© 2004 by Cadis Fly
Sex Story: Chapter 1 - A girl is determined to catch the biggest and best... and not throw it back
It was a hot, muggy June morning in suburban Atlanta. The blond, blue-eyed pixie in pink sneakers, black jeans and a Spice Girls T-shirt walked into the office of Speedy Travel five minutes after it opened.
"I'd like a ticket to Baltimore, please." She beamed at the employees still grouped around the coffee machine. "On American Airlines, please. I like the name.".
John Long, a recent parolee, blinked at the little girl's dazzling smile. He had been a very inept burglar and knew even less about the travel business. John turned to Josephine Harrington, the agency's senior travel coordinator, and asked: "Can a little kid, like, buy an airline ticket?"
"Technically, anyone with the means to pay for it can purchase a ticket. But... " Josephine placed her coffee mug on her desk as she sat down and returned the girl's smile with one of her own. "We'll need to make sure you have your parents' permission."
"My mom says I can do anything if I just set my mind to it."
"I'm sure you can, dear. Still... "
"I went to visit my grandparents last year. All by myself. Now I'm going to Baltimore to visit my dad, 'cause it's Father Day this weekend," she confided. "And you know what?"
"I saved up all my allowance to pay for my ticket."
While Josephine watched in fascination, the self-possessed youngster placed a plastic turtle bowl on her desk. The bowl's occupant stared at Josephine with unblinking interest as the little girl shrugged out of a pink Barbie backpack. Unzipping the backpack, she pawed through a collection of beanie babies, assorted CDs, clean socks, a ribbon-tied package of yellowed letters, and what looked like a month's supply of candy bars before producing a plastic baggie filled with coins and folded bills.
"I was going to buy a summer pass to Wild Waters. I've got almost seventy dollars!"
"Good for you, but I'm afraid seventy dollars won't get you to Baltimore. Not by air, anyway."
"It won't?" She thought about that for a moment then unzippered an inner pocket of the backpack and extracted a gold credit card. "Here's my mom's American "Spress. She saves it for emergencies. This isn't an emergency, exactly, but she won't mind."
"Well, we'll just give her a call and check, okay?"
Known throughout the office as much for her soft heart as for her blue-gray curls and hoydenish use of makeup, Josephine had to steel herself against the appeal in the girl's bright blue eyes.
"Can't you just write me the ticket? I know how to get to the Atlanta Airport by bus. My class took a field trip out there last month."
"I'm sorry. I can't run a ticket against your mother's credit card without her authorization. What's her number?"
The girl's angelic expression got a little mulish around the edges. "She's at work and I'm not 'sponsed to bother her."
Before Josephine could probe further, her diminutive would-be customer dropped the baggie into her backpack. Slinging the pack more than one arm, she wrapped her other around the turtle's bowl. "I can see I'll have to take my business elsewhere," she sniffed, her stub nose tilting.
The glass door swished shut behind her. Defiantly, she marched down the tree-shaded sidewalk.
Josephine watched her progress from the door. Speedy Travel was located in a friendly neighborhood of brick-fronted town houses, small businesses, and trendy restaurants, but the idea of an eight or nine-year-old walking the streets made the elderly ravel agent uneasy.
"Do you think we should call the police and report her as a runaway?"
Still sensitive from his own past encounters with the police, John shook his head emphatically. "The kid ain't done nothing 'cept want to go see her daddy for Father's Day."
"Yes, but... "
"Didn't you get her mother's name off the credit card?"
Josephine nodded. "Yes. It was Joanne, Joanne Malloy."
Easygoing and a one bottle short of a six-pack, John didn't get excited often. Anything that involved persons wearing a badge, however, could work him into a fast sweat. "Call the mother," he urged Josephine. "She and the kid's old man need to get together. They're the ones should handle this, not the cops."
The sun had started to sink behind Baltimore's skyline when a checker cab drew up outside a long stretch of recently renovated row house just off Botany Bay.
"Hear y'are, lady. Jack Vallantie's is the one on the end. Number Fourteen."
"Thanks." Her heart hammering with fear, with hope, with a mother's frantic worry, Joanne Malloy shoved a thick wad of bills at the cabby and grabbed for the door handle.
"Vallantie's a good guy," the talkative driver volunteered as she shouldered open the door. He'd been talking nonstop since he picked Joanne up an hour ago at the Amtrak station. "I see him on TV all the time, ya know. Brought him home after a fund-raiser at the museum. Good tipper."
Already halfway up the brick walkway, Joanne paid little attention to the rambling discourse or the click of a nail-studded tire hitting the cobblestones as the cab pulled away. Her every thought, her entire being, was focused on the door tot the end unit. She had lifted her hand to pound on the polished-oak panel before the significance of the brass numbers tacked below the door's raised panel sank in.
Fourteen. The same number as Jack's race car. Oh, God!
She closed her eyes, fighting the wave of memories she'd kept at bay since the phone call from Speedy Travel this morning... memories she'd refused to let surface, refused to even give shape to during her frenzied search for her daughter Elizabeth at Atlanta's airport, at the bus stations, and finally, at the Amtrak train depot. All Joanne could think of then was the fact that a young girl with a collection of beanie babies had reportedly boarded the high-speed Atlanta-Baltimore Express earlier this morning.
After a frantic call to a neighbor to watch the house in case Elizabeth returned, Joanne had jumped on the next plant to Baltimore and was waiting on the platform when the express pulled into the Amtrak station. To her dismay, the little girl who stepped off the train, her hand tucked securely in her mother's, wasn't Elizabeth.