A woman sidled next to him and, sweating, hefted a large, floral carryall over her shoulder. She looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there. A kindred spirit.
David leaned across to her. "A good flight?"
The woman replied only with a pasted smile to shut down the conversation. David was used to that smile. Sharon had perfected it in the past few months.
The carousel shuddered once, and David swung back to the gaps in the heavy rubber flaps. Vague shapes moved between them, and the sound of brakes slipped out, a curling finger of enticement to his impatience.
The carousel moved at an arthritic, glacial speed. A baggage sticker—stuck to the belt for all eternity—moved past him on a mesmerizing crawl and bent around a corner out of sight. Still his baggage remained a prisoner in the bowels of the airport.
Gillian's phone beeped with a text, and in an instant she became an observer in her own life.
I'm walking in. Will be there in a minute to carry your bag.
Becky, always the protective older sister. A superhero who loved the cape.
A squeal burst over her shoulder, and she turned to see a young woman throw herself into the arms of a young man carrying a huge bouquet.
I wish Rick would meet me like that.
Her phone rang in her hand, and Becky's voice somehow sounded in her ear before she even answered the call. "Gilly, I'm at baggage claim. Where are you?"
Her big sister teetered on her tiptoes three carousels away, searching the crowded baggage area. Then she waved in recognition and rushed over, shoving her way through the throng.
"I'm so happy you made it." Becky held Gillian by the shoulders. "Let me see you."
Gillian didn't want to be seen. Her gaze hit the floor as she once again stood in the shadow of her sister—a tall frame wrapped in a pencil dress, perfection from styled blond hair to painted toenails poking through Dolce & Gabbana open-toed shoes. She squirmed under the inspection, acutely aware of hair that was the victim of a predawn start, makeup still in her suitcase, and under her eyes, bags that wouldn't have been out of place on the carousel.
"How are you?" Becky enveloped Gillian in a powerful hug. "A silly question to ask. I know you had a great flight. I've got to drop off my designs for the floral arrangements for our rehearsal dinner, so I'll drop you home and then do that. I've booked Marcellinas for lunch so we can catch up. It's been awhile. Anyway, much turbulence? You got to the airport okay?"
As always, Becky jumped from topic to topic like a Jeopardy contestant on an espresso bender. She disengaged with a jolt.
"Anyway, it's terrific to have you here. I'm so thrilled you could come. It's been too long, and it will be a great week, and we're all so excited about Jessica's wedding. She is the first grandchild to get married."
So it began. Five days of Becky not only gushing like a fire hose about her life, but also about how much better she was at life than Gillian was.
"Where's your bag, then?" Becky looked over the heads crowding the carousel. Through a heady waft of Chanel, Gillian focused on a hot-pink button on Becky's shoulder, which was at Gillian's eye level: "Mother of the Bride. This is my day too."
Her big sister elbowed her way through the crowd, shoving aside a young man in a hoodie, and then perching, vulture-like, over the carousel.
It was going to be a long few days.