So you're standing there at the airport, one suitcase by your left ankle and a carry bag slung over your shoulder. You look around, seeing the faces that just look like regular people, hearing the murmur of a thousand voices all talking in a language you know a grand total of 300 words of.

Written down.

And you're filled with terror. And guilt. And a huge, vast, encompassing excitement.

You know the way. You've been over this route ten thousand times in your mind, on your computer, on paper.

The bus is filled with those same familiar-alien people with normal faces and strange voices, raising and falling in wrong ways. You buy your ticket with the phrases you've memorised, word by word. You sit by the window next to the front door, near the driver, and watch anxiously for the street sign you know will be there.

In your carry bag, along with your hairbrush and your mints and your… you know…stuff… are two books. One was a gift to you. The other will be a gift from you when you arrive.

And you want to arrive now. The anticipation is enormous. Your whole body is zinging and shaking with adrenaline. You want to laugh, or cry, or tell someone, anyone, what a massive, unthinkable step you've taken. Are taking.

But no-one here knows you. Or your language.

Then the bus stops and you leap, startled, out of your seat. You grab your suitcase and whisper "Kiitos" as the driver watches you struggle down the steps. Shedding the last of your old life. Your foot falling on the pavement in the first second of the new.

You walk slowly along the street, thinking about your children.

Tears come into your eyes, and you blink them away - You don't want to look blotched for this meeting.

Then suddenly you're at the foot of the building. THE building. Your whole throat is closed with a salad of emotions. The terror is still there. The guilt is large and grey.

You climb the stairs. Taking the elevator felt wrong. Not filled with enough ritual. Not solemn enough.

Then, irrevocably, you're at the door.

You watch your hand moving to press the bell.

You're so afraid you can hardly stand.

You hear every sound, singly. A squeak as someone pushes a chair back. Seven footfalls. A tiny clank as a hand touches the doorknob.

And the door opens.

You look at each other.

You say, softly, shakily "Hello" and it's a question. Even after all this, it's still a damn question.

And suddenly his smile answers it, answers all your questions and it's worth everything, all the guilt, all the pain, all the fear.

And you go inside.


for the quest