On the Friday of Xmas, we waited for more than 24 hours to leave the country. While others flew to destinations as far away as Auckland, Mluleki and us just left our home town of Orkney.
We had worked incredibly hard to save enough money to keep our long-anticipated holiday together. In the few hours before we were to embark on the flight, it was clear we had one last disappointment to bear.
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Having shared an empty seat with Mluleki, I caught the attention of a fellow passenger on my way back to the gate and approached her.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, “but there is just no ticket available on our flight. You can fly by a wheelchair and meet us at the Edinburgh airport.”
She said: “Oh, I’ll take you. Why don’t you come with me.”
“OK, we’ll go with you.”
On the way back to the parking lot, as we passed the sleeping taxi driver who’d been waiting all night for us, she asked me if I’d be nervous. The words came out of my mouth without hesitation, “No, I’m fine.”
Without thinking, she smiled.
Their flight was delayed by two hours
We arrived in Edinburgh well after midnight. This, Mluleki said, was probably the luckiest hour of her life. And true, we had lost out on a bit of sleep, but we slept well and got through the night on a bus to the airport where we were then ushered through security like royalty.
And as in a fairy tale, in the morning the reunion was complete.
More tickets were on offer but Mluleki’s nan insisted that we only take one. In the circumstances, my flight was the only one she was choosing.
As we entered the airport, we passed in front of the endless expanse of people waiting to board planes. The same people, in the same clothes, who we had last seen literally only a few hours before. But they were so tired, so grumpy and so thankful to have made it on the plane.
When we arrived at the terminal, hundreds of young people had gathered at the plane entrance. It was a small children’s gathering. Hundreds of toddlers of all ages waved at us like we were members of a pop band. Everyone had been waiting for two hours to meet us. Mluleki gave me a big hug and told me: “We are always going to be together. You don’t have to worry.”