Finding a job wasn’t difficult. We both managed to snag a position working the evening shift at a local coffee/tea shop. The manager had been overly excited when we brought in our applications, it should have been our tip off that something was up. We were too focused on getting money to care where it came from, so we took the jobs immediately. During our training period, we worked the afternoon shift, where things were busy and the place was a bustling hot spot of activity. Our first night shift rolled around, and we suddenly knew why there had been openings. The place was dead. Deader than dead. That first night, we probably had all of five customers over a five hour shift. Boring, dull and soul draining-ly slow. A five hour shift normally chugs along pretty nicely, but when you spend a good 55 minutes of each hour watching the door or the clock, time dragged.
Being one year ahead in school and one year ahead in math, meant I was the better candidate for register duty. Math had always been my stronger suit, so that didn’t bother me much. If only I’d had customers to ring up. We spent more time cleaning, dusting, eliminating the tiniest marks of grime from every surface, than we ever did doing our actual trained positions. When we did finally get a customer, we were so overly excited that we practically hopped in their pocket. There was one advantage to being cashier though. Whenever manning a register, it is not a good idea to walk away, so anything that had to be done outside the main room was up to Tilly.
Bathroom duty, not to say I didn’t feel for her, I did. I was just so glad it wasn’t me. I think the mid afternoon person just left it for her to do, since no one would be around in the evening to mess it up, why not let the night person handle the mess. Practically every night Tilly came into work to find both bathrooms in shambles. Puddles on the floor, more dirt and gunk in the sink than should be possible in a days time. Poor girl, I would give her a hug every night and thank her time and time again for pushing through to help with our goal. If anyone tried to say their sister was the best sister in the world, I had inexplicable proof they were wrong.
Working our tails off four nights a week and one weekend day a month, we were slowly working the way to our final goal. Putting away almost all of our earnings from each check, our little bank was getting fuller and fuller by the month.
By the time Tilly’s 18th birthday rolled around, we had more than we had originally planned for, plus a bit more from the family for extra spending cash. Her bank weighed four times more than it had originally, and we were so excited that didn’t even know where to begin. Plane tickets and accommodation were first on our list, but after that we honestly had no clue. We decided to just go where ever the wind would take us. It was basically a wild goose chase any ways, so we could decide all the particulars once we touched down. Two weeks after Tilly’s birthday we were booked on flight 2709-f heading skyward for Pâte Sucrée France!
The month following our booking flew by much quicker than anticipated. I just knew it would drag on kind the way our long nights at work had, but I was wrong. It seemed to happen almost over night, and then boom, we were packing our things and preparing for our departure. Butterflies swirled in my stomach as I packed my minuscule amount of clothing and other small “must haves” into my suit case. This was the moment we had been planning for. We were finally off to find my destiny. Or our destiny. Or what ever it was we were looking for. Almost everything was packed, when I remembered one final item that needed to go with. I scooped up the folder containing the journal entries and our clues, from the desk drawer in the living room, and set them neatly on top of my clothes, before zipping everything safely inside my luggage.
Once we had everything loaded into the car, we said some goodbyes before heading to the airport. Mostly everyone was planning on piling into the car, to accompany us, but there was one who wouldn’t being making the trip that day. Grammy was not in the best of spirits those last few days before our departure. She had been tired and sluggish and barely came out of her room. We all knew she was getting up there in age, but not many wanted to admit the fact she might planning on making her own departure.
I found her in their bedroom upstairs. She hugged me closely and I squeezed back with a firm hold. I had made no illusions that might I not see her when I got back and neither did she. “So this might be goodbye my angel.”
“I know Grammy.”
“I love you. Have a wonderful trip, you hear?”
I couldn’t let her go, I knew I was going to collapse on the ground crying the moment I released her. I tried not to think about it, I had way too much on my mind, to worry myself with things I had no control over. So instead I held her for a moment longer, before kissing her cheek.
“Safe travels.” She smiled.
There was a similar scene once we go to the airport. Everyone was hugging or crying or hugging and crying in those last few moments before we were to walk through the security gate, leaving family on the other side. I won’t lie, it was pretty tough on us both. We had never been away from the house longer than a day or two and even when we did, it was only across town to someones house. This was a huge step out of my comfort zone, but I was ready. I needed to know what was there and this was the only way we were going to find out.
After we finally severed that final tie, and Dad was able to drag mom and grandma out of the terminal, Tilly and I got in line for the security checkpoint. It was a hectic scene to say the least. There were people coming and going in all directions. Flight attendants dragging their carry on across the terminal, children hugging their mothers or fathers, begging them not to go, family getting in that last final hug before they no longer had that chance to say goodbye. It was incredibly emotional, even for those of us just watching. I tried to avert my eyes from a husband and wife, as they held onto one another, his service uniform drenched on the left shoulder, I found myself sniffing gently as I turned my head away.
The scene ahead of me however, was a bit more interesting. A young woman and man, with a small child were in a heated debate with the security guard. Insisting she go through the metal detector, but she adamantly refused. Finally after a few colorful words, the man was able to procure some paperwork from one of his bags. It seemed that woman wasn’t a woman at all. She was a robot, and going through the metal detector, could inadvertently cause irreparable damage to her system. The security guard snatched the papers from the mans hand and gave them a quick once over. Realizing that their claims were actually true, he allowed the lady? to pass by the detector and wait on the other side for her party. The hold up took so long that a woman from the other side of the security panel, started pulling us into her line, in hopes they could speed up the processing.
After passing through security, we walked through the terminal gate to wait for our boarding call. Tilly had been quiet from the moment we entered the airport, but I was so busy making notes on my laptop, that I hadn’t really thought much of it. Assuming she was thinking about her own plans, I continued to make use of the free wifi for as long as we had it. The second we were on board however, I realized there was a whole lot more going on with Tilly than excitement.
The boarding call floated across the terminal and poor Tilly almost jumped right out of her skin. She gripped my arm tightly as we dragged our things on board.
“Are you alright?” I asked pushing our things into the overhead compartment.
She just stared at me, eyes wide.
“Till?” I placed a hand on her arm. “What’s the matter, you’ve gone catatonic on me.”
“I don’t think I can do this.” She whispered, leaning in close so the other passengers wouldn’t hear.
“This?” It took a me a moment to piece it all together. “You’re scared? Of flying?”
“You?!” I laughed. It didn’t seem possible. “But you aren’t scared of anything!”
“Well that is where you are wrong. I am scared of this.” She hissed.
I looked around at all the people settling into their seats. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I wrapped her in my arms, and squeezed her gently. “You can do this. We can do this. It won’t be long and we will be landing again. Okay? Nothing is going to happen. Planes fly and land safely hundred times a day.”
I could tell she was still squeamish, but I had managed to get her in her seat and buckled. Now it was up to our pilot to get us there in one piece.
Flying wasn’t scary for me at all. Go figure, can’t talk to girls, or anyone else for that matter, without feeling stupid and awkward, but throw me on a plane and I was like a fish in water. I was able to situate myself in my seat comfortably enough that I drifted off to sleep. I of course made sure Tilly was alright before doing so. She assured me she was, but in hindsight, I don’t think she was as truthful with me as I had previously taken her to be. I was snoozing comfortably, as she was having a mini heart attack every time the plane would jump or dip due to some pretty nasty turbulence. A couple times she dug her nails into my arm, but I was really out, and barely budged from my nap.
It wasn’t until a flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder, that I ever realized something was wrong.
“Excuse me? Hi. You are with a young girl?”
I opened my eyes to find a concerned look plastered on her face. Rubbing my eyes, I nodded slowly. “Yes, my sister. Why?” I looked to the empty seat beside me, and almost hit my head jumping up. “Where is she?” I asked with a bit more urgency.
“She’s fine. I think. Well we don’t know. I do believe she is the one locked in the bathroom, she’s been in there for a good hour now and refuses to come out.”
“Uh oh.” I said, unbuckling my belt. “Where is she?”
“Back there.” The woman pointed to the bathroom at the end of our cabin, and I looked down the long row of seats.
“Okay, I’ll go see if I can talk her out.”
I walked up to the door and pressed my ear against it. I knocked a couple times, but there was no response from inside. “Tilly? Are you in there?”
Dead silence returned my inquiry of concern.
“Look Till I know you are, because the fly attendant told me so. You got to come out, people need this bathroom for bathroom stuff. Please?”
The quiestest muffled voice inched through the cracks. “I don’t feel so good. ” She explained.
Relieved to know she was still alive, I breathed out a deep sigh and tried not to laugh. “It’s okay, just come back to your seat. We have a bag for that sort of thing. You can’t just lock yourself in the bathroom though. So come on.” I tapped on the door again. There was another second or two before the door clicked and she opened it. Revealing a face a strange shade of green, she was definitely air sick.
“I told you.” She grunted, half burp, half I don’t know what.
I probably should have left her alone, or brought an airsick bag with me during her retrieval, seeing I did neither, I guess it was mostly my fault when she leaned into me and threw up all over my front. I thought she could at least make back to her seat, but I had severely miscalculated the level of queasiness in her belly. We barely made it four steps away from the bathroom, when blehhhhhhh, her small bag of in flight crackers and juice were all over my shirt. “Oh berry!” I’m sorry Tosca!” She cried, throwing her hand to her face. I looked down at my shirt, a flight attendant was already rushing up to meet us, a wet towel in hand. She helped Tilly back to her seat as I did what I could to clean myself up. I was severely regretting my choice not to bring an extra change of clothes…
So the rest of the flight was a sticky, wet, fun time for Tosca. The smell alone was enough to make me sick, but I managed to make it without chucking on myself. The moment we touched down, I was looking forward to a shower and a change of clothes. Poor Tilly was still mortified and apologized to me, my back, the side of my head, all the way to our hotel. I tried to tell her it was alright, several different times, but she was feeling really bad regardless.
By the time we reached our hotel, the stain had dried, but the smell was still strong. Really strong. We were greeted by a not so friendly concierge at the desk, who was even more off put by the horrendous smell coming from my body.
“Hi, Chiffons checking in?”
The man behind the desk eyed us over the top of his computer, sniffing loudly. I bit my lower lip. “This is the Burgandy hotel?”
“Oui.” Said the man, plugging his nose. Oh boy…
“Sorry, sister was sick on the plane. Had a little accident. Would really love to get our room.” I grinned sheepishly.
The man snorted derisively and then typed a few things up on the keyboard. Apparently there had been a small mix up with booking and the online promotion, namely a 6 was left out of the price, so rooms were going for 17 a night and not the 176 that they were supposed to. It wasn’t until thirty bookings came in at once that they realized what had happened. Needless to say this guy, was not pleased.
There was nothing he could do once the rooms had been paid for, so the hotel lost out on quite a large chunk of money in that short span of time. Big mistake for them, but a total blessing for us. After making sure we knew how displeased he was, he finally handed over our keys. Giving us our room number, we were left to our own devices to get our things up to suite 27. Once we saw the room, we had a better understanding why the gentleman at the desk was so peeved. The room was posh. Everything was down quilted and cushy. The room was a literal steal!
After setting up our things against one wall, I headed straight for the shower. I was getting out of my nasty clothes and no one was going to hold me up a minute longer. “I’m gonna go scald off my first layer of skin.” I teased, stepping into the bathroom.
Tilly rubbed her belly. “I’m starving. I think I am gonna take some of this weird money and go find us something to snack on. Saw a cafe next door, maybe they have take out.”
“Sounds good!” I called through the door, turning on the hot water.
“Alright. I’ll be back soon.”
After flight showers are good. Amazing in fact. I was in there for a half hour or more, just letting the hot water run all over. Soothing my aching muscles and cleaning away the mess. I would have stayed in longer, but I didn’t want to hog all the glorious warmth, and I was pretty sure Tilly would be back with some sort of sustenance any time.
I stepped out of the bathroom, steam wafting all around me. The room though, was empty. I looked out the window, to see if I could see her somewhere on the bottom floor outside. There was no one. Huh…Making sure my towel was securely fastened, I opened the room door. The air was cool by comparison, and my whole body gave a shudder. I scanned the hallway for movement, but there was no sister to be found…
I figured she would be back fairly soon, so I changed into some clean clothes from my case, and settled onto the bed for a small nap. It may have only been a 10 hour flight, but I was exhausted. It took no time at all to slip off into a nap on the comfy down bedding.
My small nap ended up turning into a small sleep. When I woke again, it was already getting dark. I sat up to find the room still empty. I quirked an eyebrow. Where the berry was she? I looked to the clock on the wall. It was well past 7. She had been gone for hours. I started to get a little worried. What if something happened to her? What if she was kidnapped? What else could be keeping her? I had no idea. I waited another half hour before, I decided I better go investigate.
The only place I could think of to look was next door at the cafe she was supposed to going to. People were chatting and laughing on the back patio and one of the guys from the plane was making his way inside. I think a lot more of us were taking advantage of the inns clerical error.
Waiting inside, the man was greeted by a hostess, who obviously spoke only the native french dialect. He tried several times to explain he was waiting for his party, before the woman finally gave up and called one of the other waitresses over. She wasn’t much better and seemed like I was never going to get inside. I looked up the ceiling, pleading for the pair to hurry up. I was starving by that point and decided if I did get in, I was going to eat. No need to starve myself waiting for Tilly to come back. Since things in front were taking so long, I took a moment to run back to the room and grab my laptop. Might as well use the time I had efficiently.
It was a lot easier for the hostess to understand my index finger symbolizing a number one, so she grabbed a menu and took me to an open table near the back. I nodded in gratitude and then took my seat. Opening my laptop, I started plotting out points of interest. Pretty much every garden / flower shop I could find. I still had not a clue what I was looking for, but I knew it had something to do with flowers.
Suddenly a soft voice interrupted me from my concentration, trying to take my order in french. Still focusing on my monitor, I never looked up. “Uhh sorry, I don’t speak french.” I muttered apologetically.
“Oh. You are tourist?” The voice asked.
I finally looked up to find the most beautiful face I had ever seen, smiling back at me. Her porcelain skin almost shining in the dim lighting around us. “I-”
“I’m from Twizzlerbrook.” I stammered. Why was I telling her that?! She gave me a puzzled look. She of course had no clue what I was talking about. That all familiar, awkwardness was taking over me. Closing my laptop, I just looked up and grinned. “Heh.” Idiot…
“Would you like to order?” She asked, lifting a note pad from the pocket in her apron.
“Yes!” I swept up the menu and tried to read. It looked like a mess of letters and nothing more. I opened and closed it a few times, the air brushing against my face. “I- uh, what would you recommend a foreigner like me?”
“Well.” She took the tip of her ink pen and poked it against one of the items on the third line. “This, is great. House eh… favorite.” She explained.
“Okay. I’ll take one of those. Thanks.”
She jotted down a couple of things on the paper and started to walk away. Two steps, she turned back. “Drink? What would you care to drink?”
“Oh! Right! Uh, water is fine.”
Once she had gone back to the kitchen to drop off my order, I opened my laptop again. Trying to yet again get back to my work at hand. A little more difficult with the fact I was now watching the front entry for my sister, and side one for the gorgeous waitress wandering the grounds, I used my high school typing skills to manage all three at once.
When she returned with my food, she set it down on the only open spot of my table. I gave her a small nod, but didn’t go straight for my plate.
“Must be important.” The woman chided.
“I- uh ya. It kind of is.” Deciding this would be the best time to inquire, I looked up to her stunning sapphire eyes. “You haven’t seen a girl? Looks kind of like me. Lavender hair? She came down here this afternoon and I haven’t seen her. She was supposed to be back hours ago.”
The woman thought for a moment, and shook her head. “No, I am sorr-ee I have not seen anyone.”
“Alright. Thanks, it’s my sister. If you see her, tell her she is in big trouble.”
“Do you think she is lost?”
“I’m not sure. We are here trying to find something but she just up and disappears… now I am stuck trying to figure this out alone.”
I could tell she was only taking in about half of what I was saying, but she gave me a smile of affirmation before sitting down. “May I help?”
“Well, you see, I don’t know exactly what I am looking for.” I wanted to slap my hand to my face.
“How will you find it? If you know not what it is?”
“Good question. I am looking for a garden or something. Flowers. See I have these clues and they lead me here, to France.” Her eyes widened a bit. Yeah, it didn’t sound nearly as cohesive as it had at home.
“You came here to find something, you know not where it is?”
“Heh, I guess so.”
“Well you definitely need my help then no?”
My stomach dropped into my shoes. Oh man, traveling around the city with this grogeous creature, I wasn’t sure I would be able to talk, let alone keep up the search. “I— uh,”
“You don’t want my help?”
“NO! It’s not that, I just, I well…” I took a deep breath. “I would love your help. Miss?”
“I am Tulipes.”
“Nice to meet you, eh Tosca?”
“Yes. Nice to meet you too.”
“Do you stay close?”
It took me a moment, to decipher some of the things she was asking under her thick accent. “Yes. I am next door.” I pointed to the wall, forgetting it was there.
“Ah. Well you meet me here tomorrow and we shall look around. Hmm?”
“Sounds good. Maybe my sister will be back by then.”
After I scarffed down my meal, I paid the check and headed for the door. Tulipes quickened her pace to catch me just after I stepped out the front stoop. “Tosca!” She called after me.
“I talked to my friend, eh she said you sister was here, with Valenica.”
“Yes, he works here. Said they left afternoon.”
“I’m sure, she is fine. He is a good man. Kind heart.” She gave me a reassuring touch on my shoulder and I felt as if I would melt under her fingertips.
“See you tomorrow Tosca!”
In seconds passing far too quickly, she headed back inside. I watched as she slowly slinked back through the main door, leaving me with only the sweet smell of her perfume for company.
“See you tomorrow.”