Nick was home from his junior semester of college for winter break— out of the balmy, short-sleeves- and-sweater weather into the goose-down, wool coat bluster of the northeast. He was reminded of what he was in for when his flight was almost canceled. His mother wouldn’t be the one picking him up from the airport, not if it was as bad as everyone indicated.
He gathered his things from the motorized baggage line and waited in the lounge. The view of outside through the large picture windows said it all. Large flakes falling like disinherited angels, piling in heaps wherever the runway techs could dump them. Despite it being close to the holidays, there weren’t many people in the airport lobby. With no one to talk to, not even an old lady with her sack of Christmas cookies for her grandchildren, Nick analyzed the itinerary monitor, the data, the colors of the data, the speed at which information was refreshed. Lines were crossing out flight after flight, a new one every minute or so. Nick hoped his whole holiday break wouldn’t be this snowy.
Just when he was moving his attention towards sighting pictures and patterns in the flurry of snow on the other side of the window, Nick’s his cell phone rang.
“Nicky?” “Yeah, Mom. I’m here in the airport.” “I can’t pick you up and your father is stuck at work. I’m sending someone to pick you up. Her name is Xenia.” Xenia? That wasn’t that the name of the infamous city in Tornado Alley? “She should be there any time now.”
There was a tremor in Mrs. Hahn’s voice. Nick figured she saw the red strip go across the T. V. screen as they spoke and wondered if they had enough bread and milk. He was surprised she didn’t ask him to pick some up on his way home.
Just as he flipped his cell phone closed, he looked up to see a tall black woman, very dark, with long legs and a medium blue skirt next to him. He sat up in the curve-back seat.
“You must be Nicholas?” she said, looking down at him.
“Xenia?” he replied, looking up.
“Yes,” the woman replied blandly. “You spoke with your mother?” she asked. She was gripping a small carryon case with wheels and a long handle. She had well-manicured nails, covered with a soft red polish. Her fingers were slim, the palms of her hand a light salmon color.
Nick hoisted the arm of the knapsack over his shoulder and stood up. This woman wasn’t so tall after all. Nick was about the same height as she was. She was thin, with a long neck. The airline uniform made her shoulders appear abnormally broad, but it also accentuated the curve of her hips. As they walked along the corridors of the airport, Nick trailed behind her, watching the way her ass moved under the jacket and skirt.
“I live next door to your parents,” she spoke as they walked along to destination unknown, not bothering to look over her shoulder at him. He trailed two feet behind her carryon that quivered and jumped as the wheels traversed bumps and fissures in the flooring. ” I moved in about three months ago….I think it was just after you left for college.” They turned a corner and Xenia suddenly stopped, pulling out her cell phone. “Funny,” she said, looking him over as she dialed numbers on her phone, “They talked about you like you were twelve years old.”
Nicholas felt twelve years old, from the moment the woman walked up to him. She was striking. Her hair was short, dark and shiny and her lips, painted the same red as her fingernails, were full with a slight pout, but she had an air about her that was somewhat intimidating, a bit cold. It wasn’t just the uniform. Her whole manner made him afraid to speak.
“Stan…., yes, it’s me,” she said, the phone and her hand looking like one sleek appendage. She had an incredible amount of grace, in her movements and her voice. She looked Nick up and down, as if assessing a piece of property. Nick was a handsome young man, not overtly so, but he had good features— light brown hair that wasn’t too thin (a little longish for her liking), and lazy but attentive green eyes set at a soft slope underneath perfectly curved, neatly bushy eyebrows. He was slouching as he stood waiting for her which annoyed her. “I have him here. Would you like to speak with him?”
Nick moved a little closer, but Xenia, with her the arm of her free hand down at her side, held her hand out, spreading her long fingers, to ward him off.
There was a long pause in Xenia’s part of the conversation. She folded her arms and tapped her fingers on the inside of her elbow.
“We can pick you up,” Nick heard her say. “Unless you want to stay there all night,” she added with a bit of contempt. There was another brief pause before Xenia hung the phone up and turned to Nicholas. “I guess we’re just going to head home,” she said matter-of-factly, and they made their way to the parking garage.
Who was this woman, Nick wondered to himself, as he threw his knapsack in the backseat and sat down in her car. She seemed pretty familiar with his family, and he’d never heard anyone talk to his father with the tone of voice she used– a kind of apathetic certainty that sent a chill up Nick’s spine. How did she get away with it?
Nothing was said between them the whole drive home. It was rather treacherous, with the wind making the view from the windshield a complete sheet of white, splattering snow on the window at the passenger’s side so that Nick could see nothing but his breath on it.
He looked over at Xenia. She was scowling, whispering expletives underneath her breath as the car moved reluctantly forward. Even with her dismay, her face didn’t appear to have a wrinkle. Her high cheekbones, like teardrops turned on their sides, faded into the sides of her dark brown face. Her eyelashes were curled around tight, making them look blacker than black, accenting the line of her eyes.
When they got to Nick’s house, his mother’s car wasn’t in the driveway. She either went out to get bread and milk—and obsession with his mother whenever there was a snow storm—or to pick up his father. He was a bit unnerved that she wouldn’t brave the storm for her son, but she would for groceries.
“No one’s home at your house,” Xenia said dryly.
“Nope. That’s okay,” Nick replied. He clutched the band of his knapsack tighter, readying himself for a quick exit, but she glided into the driveway next door without stopping at his.
“No need to go into an empty house, is there?” she asked, as the garage-door opener lifted the wide metal door and she pulled the car inside. ” I don’t want to be alone in this weather anyway. I’m not used to this snow-thing,” she added.