Shelle’s bags were packed, her stomach full, and her pockets heavy with the money from the socks.
“Are you sure you don’t want us to drive you to camp, Shelle?” Mrs. Stanley asked.
“I’ve got to do it on my own,” Shelle answered slowly. “I’ll see you in five weeks, okay?”
“My big girl,” Mrs. Stanley murmured.
“And she’s got to grow up,” Mr. Stanley finished her thought.
“I love you,” were Shelle’s last words for five weeks as she hugged and kissed her family and disappeared out the door, treading on American soil for two more miles and then she boarded a bus and was off to the San Diego Airport after telling the driver her destination. She was soon in the airport, clutching her few bags about her. She wore a backpack full of the things she would need or just wanted to bring along. She had plenty of food and water, which would save her money for a little while.
She had only two other bags besides the backpack—a “pull-case” and a small suitcase that contained things like books, clothes, toothbrushes, brushes, etc. She had also bought a book of world maps and the map of England was promptly torn out and was now in her side pocket. She was able to carry all of her luggage and she waited in line to check them in. After that was done, she walked around looking for her flight gate and when she found it, she got a boarding pass and sat down in a chair to wait. Finally her plane was announced as “ready to board” and then she got on and chose a seat by a window. The flight was a long one, non-stop, from San Diego, California to London, England. She put a breathmint in her mouth to stop the pain that she often got in her ears when taking off or landing in a plane. She read books, listened to music and then fell to thinking. She should have told her parents where she was going, she knew. But they might not have let her go and how could she have coped with that? She supposed she could call them as soon as she landed, but that wouldn’t do because then they might board a plane and come after her. So she supposed she’d call them every week as if she was in camp and tell them that she was fine and if she got into any trouble, she’d call them and tell them that she was in England. They’d get mad, of course, but she’d and they’d have to live with that.
Shelle fell asleep and dreamed of James and Lindy. When she woke up, unfamiliar landscape was in sight. The loudspeaker clicked on.
“Hello. This is your captain speaking. We’re approaching London and we’re making our final descent. Thank you for flying Southbest Airlines.”
Shelle made sure she was buckled in and put some breath mints in her mouth. Landing always hurt her ears the most. She pulled out a book and tried very hard to read, but she couldn’t.
“Excuse me,” Shelle said.
“Yes?” the attendant, a lady, answered.
“Could I have a cup of water, please?”
The attendant was back shortly with a plastic cup of water which Shelle drank quickly and greedily and was glad that she hadn’t had to dip into her “water supply” that was in her backpack. She daydreamed and looked out the window. It was now too dark to see the landscape she had seen earlier.
The plane finally landed and Shelle grabbed her backpack and pulled out a black hat, which she yanked onto her jaunty brown head. She made sure that her home-flight tickets were in her pocket and then she got off the plane and walked into a strange airport that she had never seen in her life. And no one was there to greet her. Oh, well, she thought. You knew that. You knew no one would be here, but you don’t know what’ll happen—Shelle hastily walked away from the flight gate and picked up her bags, leaving her negative thoughts behind her.
She went outside and was greeted by one thing at least—a blast of cold air and rain. She immediately ran back inside and went to some chairs. She had expected that there would be some rain, so she had packed a raincoat, which she know donned after putting on a thick coat her father had given her—a “peacoat” from when her father was in Naval boot camp. She walked out again and got on a shuttle-bus—which happened to be what she called a “double-decker.” She stepped onto the little platform and gave the driver her money.
“Well, stop a bit, now, gel,” the driver said, his accent very thick. Shelle loved it.
“Yes, sir,” she returned.
“Yer an American?”
Shelle felt a flash of loyalty to the “stars and stripes” go through her.
“Yes I am, sir,” she replied, chin high.
“Well, since yer only a kid, I’ll accept yer money, but gel,” he lowered his voice to a whisper. “You ought to change yer money into English money—pence and such. I’ll change yer money right now for you.”
“I don’t even know you.”
“I know you don’t, but yer a tourist and just a kid and I feel as though I ought to help you.”
Shelle eyed him warily and sized him up with the intuitive talent she possessed in observing and measuring people. She decided, correctly, that he looked respectable and trustworthy. She gave him all the money she had left—four hundred fifteen dollars and eighty-three cents—and the honest driver gave her the same in “English money” back. Maybe she was being naďve and stupid in trusting him, but her intuition had been right enough times for her to be able to believe it.
“And so where are you headed to?” he asked her.
“Sussex,” she told him.
“H’m,” he replied. “Where in Sussex?”
“Rye,” she quickly supplied. She had read in a magazine that that was the town close to James’s farm—four miles from it.
“What are you going to do there?” he persisted.
“Why do you want to know all this?” she questioned him.
“I’m visiting relatives,” she said. That was partly true. She had Irish blood in her and so did James, so that was one link. Also, Lindy was related to her, though Shelle was only related to James by Lindy’s marriage. But maybe she was related to him more than she knew.
“Ah,” the driver spoke, then asked her to sit down and then he would take her there.
Shelle watched the people around her get off one by one and then she fell asleep. The driver yelled out, “Rye, Sussex!” and it split through her sleep. She woke up, gathered her things, and thanked the bus driver.
It was very late. There were no people in the streets except for herself so she had no one to ask for directions to a hotel. So she walked until she saw a gas station and asked for the closest hotel.
“Wal, you jist go up thut strate you jist came from and arund the co’ner is a small ’otel,” were the directions she received.
She followed them and found herself at a small, but very well kept hotel and went into the lobby. She got a room for thirty-five American dollars and went up to it. She opened the door and saw a clean bed, a thickly curtained and “blinded” window, a small television set (“Colour tellys!” the manager had boasted), and a bathroom off to one side. She bolted the door, put her bags down and took off her shoes, sighing with bliss as her feet touched the thick carpet. She sang as she took a shower and then brushed her teeth, dressed, and went to bed. She fell asleep somewhat uneasily and dreamed of losing all her money and tickets home.