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. In an impatient rhythm, she tapped her foot against the floor.
Where is he?
Since Thursdays were almost a universal doctor’s day off, the trip had been scheduled for today. He knew the flight number and the time of arrival. The plane had been on schedule.
She groaned. The simple baby run had become anything but easy.
The loudspeaker crackled. “Would passenger Nora Harte pick up one of the courtesy phones?”
When the words blared a second time, with a start, Nora realized the message was for her. Yeah, right. She stared at the three suitcases, one diaper bag and the pair of car seats. She’d need 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 Dallas airport. Nora crouched and stroked the baby’s cheek. “It’s only a minor delay. We’ll be out of here soon.” At least, she hoped they would.
The strident voice issued the command again. “How?’ she asked. The logistics of the move defeated her. She couldn’t abandon the babies or 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 luggage cart solved the problem. “Sky cap, over here.” She used the voice that had parted crowds on busy New York City sidewalks. The one she hadn’t used since she’d moved upstate.
“Take these bags and the infants.”
“Don’t load babies on the cart, ma’am.”
“Sorry. I know that. I meant the infant seats. I have to answer the phone.”
“Excuse me.” His expression projected the idea she had flipped.
Maybe she had -- last week when she’d agreed to deliver the babies to their guardian. “The page. Nora Harte. That’s me.”
He pointed to the far wall. “Courtesy phone’s over there.”
“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 with the infants, meet their guardian and be on her way.
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? Even 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 that they’d raised in protest of being air-borne. Or of juggling two infants who wanted a bottle at the same time. 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. Ms. Harte was to proceed to the car rental desk to pick up a car and the directions to the doctor’s house in Prairie, Texas.
She gritted her teeth. This deviation from her agenda added another problem she should have expected. Why had she believed anything about this trip would work?
Drops of frustration splattered her thoughts. 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 girl. “Please, honey, no more tears.”
She groaned. Now she sounded like a commercial, but life had no easy solutions like those found in ad campaigns.
The sky cap halted in front of a counter. “Want me to wait?”
“Yes, please. At least 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. So eager he forgot to come. “They’re not...I’m not...” She closed her mouth. She was just the courier on this baby run, but there was no need to explain that to a stranger.
She stooped and dried 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 the one who’d made her dream of forever.
She gave her name, driver’s license and credit card to the clerk. In return, she received the keys to a four door sedan and a detailed set of directions.
Prairie, here we come.
She prayed Dr. McKay would be waiting. The delay had added hours to her trip to her parents’ house. Her plans called for her to be in Santa Fe by tomorrow evening.
The skycap 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 baggage had been stowed in the trunk and the infant seats in place, Nora looked at her watch. Before starting the trip, the twins had to be changed and fed. She found the nearest rest room.
She picked up Molly, changed and cuddled the little girl for a few minutes. Then she did the same with Tod.
Adorable, sweet, lovable. 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 fed them and pushed them to the car.
She studied the map. Seems like a straight shot west and a little south, she thought. Maybe this leg of the trip would work. She backed out of the parking space.
“Babies, we’re on our way.