No Return Ticket
The radio played a Frank Sinatra song, an almost fatalistic sounding number. The woman hummed along as she gazed in her mirror. She gently applied powder, using a large tapered brush, across her neck, grimacing as she did. Shades of purple still peeked through. She pursed her lips and added another layer of powder. A suitcase laid on the bed. Its contents included some dresses, tightly packed, the entire contents of her jewelry box, tangled pearls and diamonds, dumped in atop the dresses, and beside it, a Canadian passport.
She exited her bedroom and found her children waiting in the kitchen, suitcases packed, just as she instructed. She smiled and patted her son’s head.
“Why do we have to leave?” her daughter murmured.
“I’ll tell you someday,” the woman replied, squeezing her daughter’s hand.
The woman had eventually concluded a scarf was the only option. She smiled brightly at the customs agent who examined her passport at the airport. It was a smile that had helped her and hurt her over the years.
“We’re visiting my mother,” she explained.
The customs agent looked her up and down, approvingly. Finally, he stamped her passport and her children’s American ones. They walked down the long airport stretch. A husband, newly reunited, embraced his wife and kissed her on the cheek. The woman looked away and touched the back of her head out of habit. She located their gate, C17, Philadelphia to Montreal. People were already boarding when they arrived. They found three seats together, her little girl by the window. The child stared out in awe as they took off. The woman smiled, not her smile meant for others, but rather one meant for nobody at all. Relief echoed through the woman’s body once she saw they were in the sky, above the clouds, unreachable.