My first thought upon stepping into the terminal was "There are people everywhere." It seemed true enough. All the school assemblies in which we were crammed together like sardines couldn't quite compare to the queues here. Everywhere I turned, there were more; saying goodbye, checking their boarding passes for the thousandth time, children in various stages of hyperactivity running off. There was so much noise too, so many voices over the loud hum of the air-con and the dull rumble of overhead planes. The general buzz of the place made me feel rather disorientated, confused about what I was doing here. It wasn't until an over-enthusiastic child pushing an empty trolley rammed into my plastic sandal that I became aware that I'd been staring into space.
I crossed the lino quickly, looking out for the others. I checked my watch, which I'd not taken off since my last pe lesson in year 11 since I always wanted to know what time it was. It was 6:45 exactly. Good. I wasn't late. Which was more than could be said for them.
On the other side of the room, I watched the small queue at the vending machine over by the laptop point. I could murder a mars bar. Mum said they were bad for my skin, they'd make my acne worse, but hey, Mum wasn't here, was she? A whole year of freedom and snacking opportunities galore. Yum.
6:46 and 56 seconds. There wasn't time to go to the vending machine. My friends might turn up any minute.
I checked my watch for the third time. 6:47. Only twenty seconds had passed since the last time I'd looked. Where were they? We'd said meet at the self-check in at 6:45 sharp, but once again, I was standing on my own, clutching the handle of my enormous suitcase in one meaty hand. They were late. Why were they always late?
Twenty-four seconds later, I watched the plastic of the airport toilet door open and Melanie and Erica emerge. Melanie seemed to have drunk too much coffee- she was practically bouncing over to me, her ponytail bobbing: Erica on the other hand looked miserable, and she wrinkled her nose as she approached me.
One of these days, they'll look pleased to see me.
"You're late," I said, because I couldn't think of anything else to say. I looked at my watch, ever-eager to be precise. "Three minutes and four seconds late."
"Give it a rest, Ethan," groaned Erica, dropping her rucksack with a theatrical groan. "I'm tired."
"If it's under five minutes, it's not really late," agreed Melanie. "Are you sure about that shirt? You'll boil."
They turned to each other and exchanged a conspiratorial glance. One of those girl things, I supposed, so I pretended to ignore it and turned once again to the airport doors, scanning them for the final member of our group.
Eleven minutes passed.
"Maybe someone should text him?" I suggested, but nobody was listening to me. Melanie was listening to her ipod, mind already past the airport and onto our many adventures. Erica, hugging her rucksack and sitting on her suitcase, appeared to be trying to sneak a quick nap. I laughed to myself and took a picture on my phone. It could be good blackmail material later. This was going to be a good year.