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Linate Airport was shrouded in clouds as the plane began its final descent. The weather had been poor since we left Heathrow, the seat belt signs remaining on for the whole flight. I’d hoped for a glimpse of the Alps, snow-covered and majestic, as we passed over them. Instead I’d seen only heavy rain and heard fierce rumbles of thunder that buffeted the small plane. I wasn’t a nervous flyer, unlike the woman in the seat across the aisle, who’d clearly been terrified by every shudder and jolt, however minor. Still, I would be glad when we were on solid ground once more.
Travelling light is the sensible choice, I thought, hefting my backpack onto my shoulders as the cabin doors were opened, allowing us to disembark. It saved time waiting for my luggage to emerge on one of the carousels in the chaotic baggage reclaim area. Time I could instead spend catching up with Charlie. This would be the first occasion we’d been together since she moved to Milan to study, and I was looking forward to finding out how she was enjoying her new life.
Clearing passport control without any hold-ups, I walked through to the arrivals hall. People waited on the other side of low metal barriers, scanning every new face as it emerged. Some were liveried chauffeurs, clutching handwritten signs bearing the name of the passenger they’d come to collect. Others were clearly waiting for family or friends. I looked for Charlie’s familiar, freckled features in the crowd and failed to spot her.
I made a slow circuit of the area, checking to make sure Charlie wasn’t in any of the shops or killing time over a coffee in the landside caf