Mary prayed as she flew out. She prayed as travelling Arabs pray, her hands open on her lap, her eyes closed. The familiar scents of AvTur, spilled coffee, and dust, settled her mind more. She prayed, but it took more than a quick prayer to ease her anxiety, her guilt. The longing clung like onion scent.
“Well, she’ll just be replaced with someone with identical training…” the looks throw Millsy back to a childhood of confusion. He’s four and doesn’t know why his Mum is crying – any possible friends are dumbdumbs. He’s 10 and making a robot alone under the school slide. He’s 15, watching classmates fall tortuously “in love”. He’s 24, curious about intimacy but hating the effort of getting to know someone. His pudgy baby hands are wiping his mother’s tears, struggling to be understood. He remembers to translate his team’s facials. “Bird’s awesome, yeah!”
“It’s good to see you, darling! You’re so brown!”
“Ugh. Mum. Don’t.”
“No but you are. Look at you! Come and have a cuppa.” Bird thrust hands in her pockets, still unsure what to do with them. “Biscuit? I got hobnobs. You like hobnobs.”
“That’s your other daughter.” Bird muttered, but she took two anyway. “Thanks, Mum.”
Before, he’d done phys because it was his job. Running didn’t make him more likely to survive a UXO but it was good under fire and he had his fitness tests. Now he was behind a desk, phys was his choice. But the spirit of Invictus got into his blood, and suddenly he was an athlete, with medals. He’d always landed on his feet. Foot. Whatever.