The Prayer Book

“Is this yours?” 

Five fingers first appeared. Next a hand.

Holding what? A notebook? A leather-bound notebook? Perhaps it’s a small purse? Or perhaps a pocketbook? 

A prayer book. I leaned across my luggage trolley for a closer look. The Way of the Pilgrim: A Devotional Journey. I read. Oh no. 

“Is that yours?” the finder repeated.

A waif. With the classic pixie face. And eyes, kind eyes that knew everything about you. 

“No, I’m not interest…” I began. 

“Thank you for finding this.  It must have fallen out when I was going through my bag. I thought I had lost it forever.”  

A voice off to my right. I looked. Another trolley. Unlike mine however it was empty.

I looked across at its pilot. Sensible shoes, street clothes, a veil. A nun. Her smile was radiance itself. It sparkled off her glasses as she looked at me. 

“I’m in a hurr…”, I began.

The nymph handed over the prayerbook. As she did so, its pages fluttered. Spidery looped old-fashioned writing on each page, I noticed. More like a diary. 

“Paging passenger Mr som-e-thing winter,” the loudspeakers above us boomed. “Please make yourself known to the check-in counter. Paging Mr sim-ee-on winter, please make yourself known to the check-in counter……Oh, it’s you.”

We laughed. “Mr Winter has found his spring, it seems,” intoned the nun.

She looked at her wrist. “I have a great-niece to catch,” she said. She rolled off towards the arrivals lounge travellator.

“Where are you flying to?” I asked the tree-fairy.

“Singapore,” A small smile. “I’m Leila. And you are?” 

“Elisabeth.” We had reached the last labyrinth: a block maze of passengers and luggage fenced in by ribbons on poles. I docked myself into the first row. My phone buzzed. I opened my handbag and pulled it out. 

“Where are you?” the text announced. Always organised, always on time, always in touch. Jemima and I were a perfect match : opposites in every way. 

I texted her back, “Check in queue.” 

“At departure lounge. You’ll be late.”

Panicker. I started to type, “P..a..n.” 

“No need,“ Leila said, “Your flight’s been delayed.”

I spun twice, saw the departure board. No change. 

“Flight 941 has been delayed.” Less embarrassed this time. 

The little dryad was right.

I stared. “Are we on the same flight? Did they get in touch with you?” 

One, two, then three shakes of the head. A nod. She knew. 

I stayed silent after that. I watched the people in front of me.

When will they be called? How long does each person take? How long will it take to get to me? And why would I own a prayer book? 

Leila looked at me. Another nod. She knew.

She spoke. “You’ll find the words he wrote to her that lead you back to him.”

“How did you…?” I began.

By then she had disappeared.

But in her prayer book I found his words. She knew.

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