Back in the airport terminal. One bag and one kid dragged over to the check-in desk. Repeat. As I finished dragging the last bag, an airline agent with a snowy beard approached me.
‘You know,’ he said, ‘you could check-in over there.’
I followed his pointing finger to the wheelchair sign. Swallow. Nothing like joining the parents of disabled children club. It’s the club that nobody wants to join.
I looked at Delphine. She was standing in her stubborn pose.
‘I can’t convince her to take a wheelchair,’ I said.
‘You could tell her it’s a race-cart,’ he replied.
I shrugged. ‘That’s true.’
Ten minutes later, we’d finished checking in. Lulu and I were flanking Delphine. Delphine’s heavy rucksack sat untouched on the floor. I pointed over to the already long line of people waiting at security. ‘‘It’ll be fun, Delph. And we won’t have to wait.’
Delphine’s eyebrow twitched like a wiry antenna as she clocked the queue. ‘We won’t?’
I smiled. I’d got her. ‘Nope.’
So, here’s the thing. When you join the most unpopular club in the world, something strange happens. You also end up meeting pretty great people that I’m fairly sure you wouldn’t meet otherwise. Sure, I might be fooling myself but I’m sticking. Case in point; Alicio. After we checked in with wheelchair assistance, he took charge of Delphine’s wheelchair. I discovered that there can be a lot of dignity in the simple act of pushing a wheelchair. And Alicio was good.
We went through the security like celebrities. Then the body scan. ‘Does she have to take off her splint?’ I asked the security lady.
The security lady bent down to examine Delphine’s leg. ‘No, I don’t think so. But I’ll have to block her in.’
With this, she erected a ‘fence’ to stop other people going in and out of the body scanner. She got one of her hand-held detectors and ran in up and down Delphine. I watched for a moment and then went to re-pack all the devices into our bags. Two laptops, two kindles, two iPads.. it was embarrassing really.
Once I turned my attention to Delphine again, she was through the body scan check and still sitting in the wheelchair. Except now she was weeping silently.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked, bending down to her.
She shook her head. ‘Nothing.’
‘Did you hurt yourself?’
She shook her head again. Her bottom lip trembled. ‘No.’
I looked up. The security lady was just taking down her ‘fence’ screen.
‘Did you get scared?’
Two tears ran down each cheek. ‘No.’
Alicio was waiting at a slight distance, watching us with the same gentle expression on his face. He waited for us to put our bags back and took charge of the wheelchair again. We walked alongside him to the gate.
‘You’ll drop us off there?’ I asked. We were early for our flight, still over an hour before we had to board.
He nodded. ‘And either myself or one of my colleagues will take you to the plane.’
‘Wow, thanks Alicio.’
His eyes twinkled. ‘No problem’
He dropped us off right under a big TV screen where skiers in the Winter Olympics were jetting furiously down white slopes. The gate was already half full of people waiting for the flight to Trinidad. As soon as Alicio left, Delphine jumped up from the wheelchair and loped off through the gate at maximum speed.
‘Let’s go, Lulu! To the shops.’
Lulu looked at me. And ran after her.