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Tears built in Gwenevereâ€™s eyes as she gave her youngest daughter a tight embrace. Her lip quivered slightly, not that Kristy could see since Gwen had her head over her daughterâ€™s shoulder. A new wave of sadness threatened to engulf Gwen, but she fought it. Her responsible daughters were more than capable of surviving without their mom. They would be safe.
"Mom, you can let go now," Kristy said.
Gwen slowly lowered her arms and stepped back. "Iâ€™m sorry, honey, but I wonâ€™t see you forâ€”"
"Five weeks, Mom. Youâ€™ll only be gone a little over a month and Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll talk at least once a week."
"Well, I for one hope you call every other day so weâ€™ll know youâ€™re safe," said Krystal, her eldest daughter. "Now give me a hug." She opened her arms wide.
Gwen gave her a bear hug and kissed the side of her head. She loved her daughters and she would miss them greatly. But they were both in college, working and living on their own. Kristy was sharing an apartment with two friends for the second year in a row. Krystal was rooming with her boyfriend and had one year of college left. By all accounts, her girls were grown and doing well. Gwen had taken good care of them, the best a single parent could. Sheâ€™d helped them adjust to their adult responsibilities, then when the time had come they didnâ€™t need her anymore, she had started planning to fulfil one of her dreams.
"Watch over your sister for me," Gwen said.
"Weâ€™ll be fine, Mom. Donâ€™t worry." Krystal grabbed her hand and squeezed it. "Have fun on your trip. You deserve it."
Gwenevere smiled at her precious daughter. Maybe deserve wasnâ€™t the right word, but sheâ€™d certainly earned it. Sheâ€™d worked two jobs for seven years and saved as much as she could for her daughters and for her own retirement. Rarely did she take leave time from work unless her children had appointments or practices to attend. For extra spending money, she wrote articles for various magazines. But she didnâ€™t spend the funds. She saved the majority of what she earned in a separate account. Not only was her rainy day fund healthy, her vacation time was too. Finding herself alone, free from her motherly duties and with the means to travel, sheâ€™d researched then booked a trip. Sheâ€™d spend five weeks exploring Europe this time, come home for a few months, then leave for another six weeks later in the Spring. Her countless hours of work were going to finally pay off.
A woman on the intercom announced the number of the London flight. Boarding would start in fifteen minutes.
"Thatâ€™s your flight, Mom." Kristy grabbed Gwenâ€™s carry-on and purse sitting on the floor near Gwenâ€™s leg. Her arms strained as she lifted the bag. "Jeez, Mom, what have you got in here?"
Gwen slid the strap of her purse over her arm quickly before she took her bag. "Well, in case the airline loses my luggage, I brought an extra change of clothes and some beauty supplies. I thought I might need a pair of flat shoes, so I packed them too. Then my camera and notebook are in there. I also brought my Kindle to keep me busy during the long flight. There are a few odds and ends too."
Her youngest daughter chuckled. "Theyâ€™re not going to lose your bag, Mom."
"Iâ€™m not taking any chances. I donâ€™t want to be overseas without a clean pair of underwear and clothes."
Kristy grinned while shaking her head, then pecked Gwen on the cheek.
"Youâ€™d better get going," Krystal said with a smile that hinted at sadness.
Lips pressed together, Gwen nodded. "Iâ€™ll call you after I settle in at the hotel."
"Love you, Mom," Kristy said, then her eldest daughter repeated the same words.
Gwen inhaled a deep breath as she turned away from her daughters. The temptation to cry pressed upon her heart. Sheâ€™d never been away from her girls for such a long time. Could she handle being an ocean apart from them for five weeks?
Her slight melancholy disappeared as she headed for the line at the security checkpoint. She would have five weeks as a free woman. Free to roam, explore and see the world instead of watching the History and Discovery channels. Yes, this single, forty-four year old wanted to live and enjoy life before she grew too old or became a grandmother.
After one of the security guards quickly scanned her ticket, she headed for one of the conveyor belts. She placed her bags sideways in the grey trays, then lifted one foot at a time behind her. The two-inch heels slipped off with ease and she smiled, glad sheâ€™d selected them and worn a black skirt and cream-coloured blouse. She wanted to stay cool and comfortable during the flight, especially since it was such a long one. Having removed her shoes, she set them in a third container and scooted it forward.