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Finally, a second chance.
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Shimmering tarmac filled the window’s view as I felt the roller-coaster drop from sky to terra firma at the Miami International Airport. I’d been practicing my deep breathing as I lost count of how many times we’d circled out over the Atlantic, waiting our permission to land. By the time the plane taxied to the jet bridge, I’d managed to relax my knees and give myself permission to contemplate a future again. Each time, I swore I’d never fly again, and yet, there I was.
I let the others disembark first; it just seemed easier. Reaching into the overhead, I pulled down my Louis Vuitton knock-off carry-on bag. I checked the tag for the fourth time—Harper Filkins—yes, that was me. With wobbly knees, I guided myself toward the exit, grabbing seat backs to steady my drunken sailor gait. How do I get myself into these situations?
I wanted to deny knowing myself as I heard my voice ask the attendant at the door, “Miami, right?” He nodded slowly, eyes wide, as though acknowledging an idiot. I felt the urge to dig in my pocket for a bus token. I’m really losing it. I knew where I was, but it wasn’t sinking in.
The airport terminal was a thick stir-fry of languages and colors. Vivid hair, huge hoop earrings and Hawaiian print shirts swallowed my attention. I moved down the vaguely familiar concourse with the general current of bodies. As hoped, they led me eventually to the luggage carousel. Mine was easy to spot; knock-offs seldom survived the baggage handlers. Sure enough, my new JC Penny pink lace panties were peeking out of the mangled zipper. I quickly grabbed the bag, tucked in my unmentionables and surveyed the crowd to catch who might have seen them. No one seemed interested, and I felt a moment’s disappointment that maybe I’d wasted the last of my available credit on the Penny’s card.
My less-than-ideal financial situation was responsible for my circumstance. The alternative to accepting the nanny position with the Bonhams had been starvation while sleeping in a cardboard box. The adage, “location, location, location,” seemed particularly appropriate, considering my box would have graced downtown Cleveland. I mused that being lost in the Bermuda Triangle had its benefits, when faced with Cleveland.
I had a degree in computer science and had done some freelance programming after college. Then came the job; the one I figured would net me six figures long term. That had all gone to hell when Cleve-Mobile’s CEO, Steve Tabbott, flew off to an island somewhere with the company checkbook in his pocket. He’d made it for almost a month without being caught. When the paychecks began to bounce, people questioned his prolonged vacation. That and when the power was shut off due to non-payment. Laptop batteries only last so long.
Steve and I had become good friends, very good friends. People gave me the stink eye until they realized I was going out the door with them.
I followed daylight and was eventually shoved onto the sidewalk next to the passenger pick-up lane. Scanning the curb, I spotted a limo with its driver wearing a bored expression. He was leaning against the front bumper, ankles crossed and calmly holding a small blackboard with my name on it. I managed a half-hearted wave and headed toward it.
The rear passenger door burst open unexpectedly and a woman with too-black hair popped out, frantically gesturing. “Harper! Harper! Hurry! We’ve already been told to move on!” she shouted, gesturing for me to move faster. I felt like I was reporting for a prison term as I smiled and reached her. “Oh, so glad you’re here! We’ve been driving in circles, haven’t we, Fred?” Fred must have been the driver.
“I know the feeling,” I muttered and the slender arms with bangle bracelets grabbed at me. There was nothing to do but climb in. As hard as I might pray, there was no way the fates would let her be anyone other than my new employer.
“I hope you don’t mind that we picked you up. How lucky we are that you’d just decided to move back to Miami! Imagine the coincidence!”
I could imagine it very easily. Cleve-Mobil had given me the confidence to take a lease on an expensive apartment, max out my credit cards and I was still paying off my degree. That’s when Steve had decided to see the world. Over-extended, I was combing the job boards when I spotted a nanny position in my hometown. The job felt wrong, but the location was comforting and they were financing the whole thing. I talked myself into applying and the result was sitting next to me in a designer sundress, heels that could harpoon a whale and so much perfume that my eyes were watering. I recognized new money when I saw it. They were flashy, loud, and squandered Ben Franklins like salt on popcorn.