"Allie! Macy!" I heard Tim, Allison's stepdad, calling up to us. "Meet up at the terminal!" We gathered our belongings and disembarked, Allison squealing the whole way, and me too weary and anxious to join in.
In the terminal, we stepped out of the stream of passing travelers and waited. I watched for the Keanes (mostly by looking out for Allison's brother Pete, who was like eleven feet tall) while Allison boy-shopped and did a happy little dance. I feared she might faint from the excitement. Guiltily, I realized I'd welcome the peace.
"Most of these people probably aren't even Irish." I was trying my best to keep my discouraging comments to myself, but once in a while, one just escaped. "Doesn't this airline fly out of like Newark?"
Allison stuck out her tongue. A passing infant, in the arms of his mother rushing past, grabbed a handful of my hair and I gasped and quickly freed it. Allison chuckled and lamented that she hadn't had her camera out. I forced a weak smile to demonstrate my (waning) good nature.
Looking for Allison's family helped calm me and took my mind off my early-onset homesickness. They seemed to take forever getting off the plane. "There's your mom," I said at last, waving. The Keanes jogged toward us and we pushed through the busy airport together, Pete lagging behind, still waking up.
Allison must have pointed out a hundred guys between the arrival gate and Customs, and continued as we approached the staircase that led to the baggage claim. I thought I had tuned her out entirely when I heard her inhale sharply behind me. "Look, Macy," she breathed, much more serious than before. "Right there. He's the one. Isn't he perfect?"
I rolled my eyes, but followed her awestruck gaze. At the top of the stairs stood a boy with curly brown hair (he wasn't even a redhead!) that hung in his eyes, his angular jaw offset by the white collar of his button-down shirt. He might have been a year or two older than us, and he was alone, leaning on the railing and gazing into the distance like a catalog model. And not the Target catalog, either.
Even I had to admit she had picked a winner.
"Yeah, not bad." I took one more look. "But, dude. He's probably like in college."
"I don't care," she beamed, still staring. "In Europe, I'm totally an adult."
I laughed, partly out of shock, and shook my head. I was pretty sure she meant it. Allison was stunning, all crazy strawberry curls, loud laughter and long legs. Even in her slouchy school sweatshirt and battered flip-flops, she looked super cute, and she sort of knew it. If any dorky 16-year-old could turn the head of some hot older guy in the airport, my money would probably be on Allison.
"What are you going to do?" I teased, pushing past some confused tourists who had stopped dead in the middle of foot traffic. "Throw yourself down the stairs in front of him?" Allison laughed and kicked the back of my shoe.
I had a rolling carry-on I needed to wrangle for a second, so I let Allison pass in front of me at the foot of the stairs. The handsome boy was still standing near the top. Even from this distance, his face was magnetic and interesting. I caught myself staring and was glad Allison didn't see. She always made fun of me big time when she thought I liked a guy, but then again, in this particular case she'd probably never have noticed anyway.
I glanced up again. He looked at his watch, then pulled a folded card out of his jacket, opened it, and held it out to face the approaching travelers. The letters were written in thick, neat marker strokes.
Allison froze in disbelief, causing a momentary panic on the stairs. Pete bumped into me from behind and let out a surprised yelp. As I pushed Allison up the last couple of steps, Tim waved to the handsome sign-holding boy, and the Keanes and I made our way over to meet our guide.