‘OK, then. That’s me,’ Henry says to his mother. The woman from the airline company’s ground crew has announced boarding for his flight.
Jane visibly frets and fidgets. Henry is her only son, and at nineteen, she knows he’s old enough to galavant across Europe for the northern hemisphere’s summer, but in her mind’s eye, she still sees him as a fragile young boy. One who used to call for her when night terrors shattered the silent darkness.
‘Mum, come on,’ Henry says good-naturedly. ‘Everything will be fine.’
Jane nods. Twists the rings on her finger. Dabs the tears that moisten her cheeks. She stands, hugs her boy. Holds in a gasping sob—she doesn’t want to embarrass him by falling apart here at the gate.
‘See you in September, Mum.’
‘Henry,’ Jane says quietly. She can tell he’s itching to queue with the others, but this won’t take long. ‘It would be remiss of me to—‘
‘Mum! Of course I’ll be careful. I’ll change my undies. I’ll put on deodorant.’
Despite her concern, Jane giggles. Henry’s always been able to tap into her humour during times of distress. She continues, ‘Good. I’ve taught you well, then. But, Henry, I love you. Stay safe. Please.’
She kisses him on his cheek.
Henry throws his carry-on over his shoulder and pats his mother on the back. ‘Love you too Mum.’
And he leaves her. Joins the queue, with his boarding pass in his right hand. Jane stays until he’s walked through the doors to the air bridge. She makes her way to the car park and finds the spot where she parked her trusty old station wagon. She rests her head on the steering wheel and cries.