Streams of people eddied around Nora Harte, the pile of luggage and the double stroller. She scanned the faces of the crowd. A babble of voices filled the air.
Where was he?
He knew the flight number and the time of arrival. The plane had landed on time. Since Thursdays were almost a universal doctor's day off, the trip had been scheduled for today.
She groaned. This simple baby run had become anything but easy.
The loudspeaker crackled. "Would passenger Nora Harte pick up one of the courtesy phones?" She looked around.
The second time the words blared, with a start, Nora realized the message was for her. "Yeah, right." She stared at the four suitcases, two diaper bags, and the pair of car seats. She'd need a multitude of
minutes and the arms of an octopus to fulfill the request. What had kept Dr. McKay from the meet?
One of the twins puckered his mouth and added his screams to the cacophony in the baggage claim area of the
airport. Nora crouched and stroked the
baby's cheek. "We'll be out of here
soon, honey." At least, she thought
they would. "It's just a short
The strident voice issued the command again. "How?" she asked. The logistics of the move defeated her. She couldn't abandon the twins and the luggage to search for a phone. She'd been deputized to deliver Molly and Tod Jamison to their guardian and she took this duty seriously.
The sight of a man in a gray uniform pushing an empty baggage cart solved the problem. "Sky cap, over here." She used the voice that had parted crowds on busy
sidewalks. The one she hadn't used since
she had moved upstate. "Take these
bags and the infants."
"Don't load babies on the cart, ma'am."
"I know that. I meant the infant seats. I have to answer the phone."
"Excuse me." He stared and his expression projected the idea he thought she'd flipped.
Maybe she had. "The page. Nora Harte. That's me."
He nodded and pointed to the far wall. "It's over there. The blue phone."
"Thanks." Nora gripped the stroller handle. She pushed through the crowd like a subway rider aiming for the last seat. The noise level made her wonder if she'd be able to hear the message.
An easy trip, she thought. A way to add to her dream house account. Just fly to
Dallas and deliver the
babies to their guardian.
So far nothing about the trip had been a snap. Why had she thought her experience as a nurse would make the mission a breeze? A three month tour of duty in a busy city hospital nursery hadn't prepared her for the reality of caring for twins.
She hadn't counted on the surround-sound screams the twins had raised in protest of being airborne. Or of juggling two infants in the compact airplane bathroom. Not finding their guardian at the airport had been the final episode in her nightmare of the week.
She lifted the courtesy phone receiver. "Nora Harte speaking. I believe you have a message for me."
The voice on the other end of the line explained that Dr. McKay had been unavoidably detained. Nora was to proceed to the car rental desk to pick up a car and the directions to the doctor's house in Prairie,
She gritted her teeth. The deviation from her agenda added another problem she should have expected. Why had she believed anything about this trip would work?
A touch of anger rose. If Dr. McKay had attended his foster sister's funeral, this disaster would have been avoided. He could have taken custody and faced the journey from hell on his own.
She waved to the sky cap. "Where's the car rental desk?"
"This way, ma'am."
He pushed the cart with the finesse of an obstacle course champion. Nora threaded the stroller through the gaps he opened. Tod's cries changed to gurgles. Molly's began.
Nora patted the infant. "Please, honey, no more tears."
She groaned. Now she sounded like a commercial, but life had no easy solutions like the ones found in an ad campaign.
The sky cap halted in front of a counter. "Want me to wait?"
Nora nodded. "Until I learn where to find the car."
He grinned. "You sure have cute babies and they sure favor you, what with that yellow hair and them big blue eyes. Their daddy sure must be proud of them. Bet he can't wait to see you all."
Right, Nora thought. "They're not -- I'm not --" She closed her mouth. She was only a courier on this baby run but there was no need to explain this to a stranger.
She stooped and wiped Molly's tears. In coloring, the babies did resemble her. What if -- An ache of longing filled her chest. She shook her head. Not these babies. Someday, she'd find a man who wanted the same things she did -- a family, a home, roots. As yet, she hadn't found a man who made her heart rate accelerate or one who brought dreams of forever.
She gave her name, driver's license and credit card to the clerk behind the counter and received the keys to a four door sedan and a detailed set of directions. Prairie, here we come. Dr. McKay had better be waiting. Her plans called for her to be in
Santa Fe by tomorrow.
The sky cap pushed the baggage cart outside. Nora and the twins followed. A breath of hot air seared her lungs. In
New York, the
temperature had been in the seventies.
Here, it must be near ninety.
Once the luggage had been stowed in the trunk and the car seats in place, Nora looked at her watch. Before starting the trip, the twins needed to be changed and fed. She pushed the stroller inside and found the nearest rest room.
She picked up Molly, changed and cradled the little girl. Then she did the same with Tod.
Adorable, sweet, loveable. She sighed. She couldn't let these babies steal her heart. In two hours, she'd be in Prairie and on her way out of their lives. She pushed them to the door.
Thirty minutes later, Nora strapped the twins in their seats. She studied the map. Seems like a straight shot south and west, she thought. Maybe something about this trip would go right. She backed out of the parking space. "Babies, we're on our way."