"Reckon she'll show?"
"I hope not."
"That...doesn't answer the question."
Cherry smiled a thin smile. She was standing with Raymond outside the main entrance to the airport, searching the bustling throng of people for a hint of Sylvia's arrival. Even dressed in her neat-casual shirt/skirt combo, complete with heels and Raymond's protective presence, she felt naked standing in such plain sight in the middle of the promenade. She was as safe as she'd ever be, but a lifetime of hugging the wall had instilled in her an unconscious urge to run for cover. She wished they could just go inside and be on their way. "She'll show. She loves you, doesn't she?"
Her roommate looked genuinely concerned, knowing that it was his relationship if she didn't. "Supposedly. I hope you're right."
"That makes one of us."
Raymond grimaced. "You know, this is as much for your benefit as it is for hers. If she gets the hint this week, your life is going to be much easier."
"And if she doesn't show up now, my life is much easier much sooner."
He couldn’t deny that. "Well, yeah, but you have to look - "
Cherry pointed. "There."
He followed her outstretched finger to see a sullen Amazon trudging out of the car park and across the drop-off lane. She had the hood of her jacket up to ward off the early morning chill, and she’d replaced her normal glasses with prescription sunnies to ward off the non-existent glare in typical Sylvia fashion, but there was no mistaking the smattering of golden curls or upturned nose. As they watched, she clearly noticed their presence, and altered her course to navigate to them. Her lips were pursed, as if she'd just bit into a lemon.
Raymond's face brightened.
The early-morning sunshine bathed the departure hall in a vibrant, welcoming aura that would have been pleasant in other circumstances. As it was, Cherry could only bring herself to feel nervous and out of place. Since arriving, all she had seen were over-sized facilities and lots and lots and lots of legs, and she reflected that this was surely a place that would chill the blood of even the ballsiest little. Smartly dressed giants went about doing whatever it was that smartly dressed giants did at 7am on a Monday morning, many lugging along a briefcase or holding formal conversations on expensive-looking phones. There were a handful of littles around, but they were far and few between in comparison, scurrying about and looking over their shoulder all the while. A suit wasn't nearly enough protection to fight off a determined giant, after all. Cherry was well aware of that fact.
Scheming in the kitchen was one thing. Seeing the first stage of that scheming realised was quite another, and in light of what they were scheming, the reality was sobering. She was little more than an ant beneath the feet of these well-dressed giants, and seeing it so plainly was an unsubtle reminder that breaking the status quo was a dangerous thing to do.
They sat off to the side of the terminal with their backs to the wall, too exhausted to really do anything but watch the planes take off with their thundering groans. A 7.45am flight for a late-morning start had sounded good in theory, but that theory had forgot to mention the 5am wakeup. It had been with an enormous amount of reluctance that Cherry had rolled over and mashed her alarm clock that morning, far too willing to heed the loving whispers of her bed and succumb to its warm embrace. It had been an uphill battle all morning, and she knew she wasn't alone. Raymond looked as bleary eyed now as he had two and a half hours ago. Cherry didn’t doubt that for a second that had he been alone, he’d have already pulled the drawstring of his hoodie and slept right there in the terminal.
Sylvia, on the other hand, simply sulked. If she was tired, she did a great job of hiding it, because any expression beyond abject misery was evidently beyond her. Raymond had gone to her place Sunday morning to press the issue of Cherry’s sister, and although he'd succeeded in getting a grudging agreement, that was all it was; grudging. Sylvia was there to keep her relationship intact, and that was as far as her interest extended. It was obvious to Cherry that the giantess was going to kick and scream all the way to the bitter end, but Raymond was having none of it. He was insistent that the two women at least try and settle their differences. Cherry doubted her chances.
Still, there was no harm in trying, and there was no time like the present. Grumbling on the inside, Cherry spoke up. It was the first word the three had shared in a good half hour. "I'm dying for a drink. Want me to get you guys one while I'm at it?"
Raymond grunted something that was presumably a negative, too concerned with admiring the back of his eyelids as he lay back in his seat. Sylvia didn't acknowledge her at all.
She resisted the urge to physically slap the giantess till she got a please and thank you. "Sylvia? Coke? Water?" Battery acid?
"No? How about a Fanta? Sprite?"
"I can - "
The giantess twisted to glare at her.
Sigh. "As you command, Your Highness."
Rolling her eyes and wondering why she'd even bothered, Cherry grabbed her purse and slipped off the edge of her seat, closing her eyes to offset the sudden rush of vertigo as she fell. She wasn't particularly comfortable with the idea of navigating the kiosk by herself, but she had seen a few vending machines tucked away in nooks and crannies on the way in. She might have to jump to hit the buttons near the top, but as undignified as that may be, it was out of sight. No point attracting any attention to the unattended little if she could avoid it.
With that, she set off on her way through the throng of leather shoes and silken pants that lined each corridor of legs, pushing the thought of pissing on Sylvia's rug back to the part of her mind reserved for dreams and fantasies.
Navigating her way through a world sized for someone three times her height was always an intimidating task, but Cherry had little trouble finding the machine she'd remembered from before. It was down a short, nondescript hallway off the main artery that fed into the terminal, and after a minute or two of weaving her way through the hustle and bustle she emerged into the relative calm of that very same hallway. It was a cold, clinical locale, and a cursory glance revealed three doors on the right, the signs upon them revealing that they lead to the men's, women's and family restroom respectively. The machine was down the far end beside a sizeable pot plant holding an equally sizeable fern. For a moment, Cherry wondered how such a large plant could survive in the shadows of this hallway, but on closer inspection she realised it was fake. Plastic.
The coin slot was thankfully set in the lower half of the contraption, and she'd be able to insert her change if she jumped. Vending machines were her go-to option when it came to buying snacks and refreshments when out of the house, simply because of the lack of social interaction with the taller folk of the world, and she knew that not all of them were so easily accessible for someone of her stature. Pleased, she examined her choices, decided on a can of Coke, and began to rummage through her purse for her wallet. It was a whopping five bucks by itself, but she hadn't been expecting anything less. Highway robbery was the norm in places such as Hearth Airport.
She was fully crouched and ready for her first leap north when the family restroom opened behind her. Before she could comprehend what that foreboded for her, a shadow had fallen over her, and then the shadow was talking.
"Do you need a hand, sweetie?"
Startled, Cherry span around to look her antagonist in the eye, forcing a polite smile on her face as she did so. Standing before her was a plump, middle-aged giantess with a tidy bun of hair and rosy cheeks, smiling down at her the way one might observe a puppy at the pet store. Even taken alone, it was a terrifying sight to behold, but it was the woman’s companion that truly turned Cherry's blood cold. The individual holding the giantess' hand was barely a third of his companion's size, and he was furiously suckling away on a pacifier clenched between two cheeks even redder than his mothers'. He was wearing blue overalls over a Thomas the Tank Engine undershirt, and judging by his bulging waistline, he clearly hadn't been spared the indignity of diapers either. He looked every bit the typical Amazonian child, and if it wasn't for the rippling biceps and blatant embarrassment, he might have even convinced Cherry that he wasn't a little.
That could be me, she thought to herself, aghast.
Then, that is Dawn.
He couldn't look her in the eye. He simply sucked his pacifier and resolutely examined the ground, and Cherry realised that he must have been ‘adopted’ only recently. Most littles had a tendency to lose their sense of modesty pretty soon after being stolen away. It was really the only way to cope with the perpetual humiliation.
"What's your name, sweetie?" The lady unhanded her mortified companion and squatted down to Cherry's height, smiling reassuringly all the while. Even squatting she was still a full head taller than the nervous little, who was currently willing a hole to open in the ground beneath her and swallow her whole. Reassuring? This woman couldn't pull off reassuring if her life depended on it. "I'm Lisa, and this is lil' Mattie."
She beamed at her 'son.' "Say hello to the sweet girl, Mattie!"
He mumbled something unintelligible, shifting uncomfortably on the spot.
Lisa frowned nudged her ‘son’s’ ribs. "I said, say hello to the - "
"Hello," he muttered, looking everywhere but at Cherry's face. It wasn't possible, but he managed to turn even redder.
Christ, what had she got herself into? "I'm Cherry," she said as evenly as she could, fighting the urge to panic. She couldn't show fear, fear was a bad, bad thing. Fear to an Amazon was like blood to a shark. The lady would think she'd wet herself, or that she was shy, or some other contrived nonsense that would lead her straight into a crib with the little boy opposite. "Nice to meet you, but I don't need a hand, thank you. I can get it."
The giantess looked up at the vending machine. "Are you sure?" One of her eyebrows had disappeared into her hairline. "That's a long way up for such a little girl."
"I'm not a little girl," Cherry sighed, shaking her head. "Now, if you don't mind - "
"Nonsense, it won't take a second. Here, let me."
Before she could protest, Lisa had calmly plucked Cherry's purse from her hands, ignoring the surprised yelp that went with it. "What were you after, dear? Water?"
She tried to snatch her purse back, but she was batted away as easily as one might wave off a buzzing bee. Real fear began to blossom inside her as she realised how powerless she truly was. "What are you doing? Give it back!"
She was promptly ignored, as was her subsequent pleases, and finally all she could do was fall mute and watch helplessly as Lisa ransacked her purse. Her wallet suffered the same treatment a moment later, and then the taller woman was up and punching in the vending machine's buttons on Cherry's behalf. The trio watched quietly as the machine rotated its innards to push the bottle forward till it fell.
It wasn't the Coke she'd been after.
Keep calm, girl. You'll only make it worse for yourself if you lose it.
Cherry took a deep breath. "Thank you," she said reluctantly, taking the bottle of water as it was handed to her. As demeaning as it was, this arrangement was admittedly easier than the leaping and hitting she would have had to have done by herself. It wasn't so bad. Maybe if she lied to herself enough she'd even believe it.
"You're welcome, Cherry," Lisa beamed, patting the top of her head affectionately. Cherry squirmed away, pouting. "Cherry. That's such a sweet name, isn't it? Cherry."
Shifting uncomfortably, the little woman shrugged. "It is," was her careful retort. Not overly chuffed at the compliment, not overly disinterested. Playing it cool. "Now, if you'll excuse me - "
Two things happened in the exact moment she tried to slip around the giantess' considerable girth.
One, the giantess in question stepped in front of Cherry, effectively cutting her off.
Two, the 'little' boy beside her, previously more or less mute and unable to do anything but pretend he was elsewhere, quite literally spat the dummy and began to bawl.
"Mummy!" he shrieked at the top of his lungs the moment the pacifier had cleared his lips. Both women flinched at his abrupt change in demeanour, watching the plastic lump bounce away towards the pot plant. Fat tears began to leak down his cheeks as he stared up at his mother with wide eyes. "All. Messy!"
Lisa's brows met. "But I just changed you," she said, exasperated. "Already, Mattie?"
He nodded, his blush deepening even further as his thumb crept into his mouth to replace the nipple he'd just ejected. It seemed to calm him down, for as soon as the digit vanished his shrieks dissolved to little more than controlled sniffles. "Sorry mummy," he mumbled around it. "Have the runs."
He looked right at Cherry as he spoke, seemingly making a point to emphasise the last phrase. Stunned that someone no different herself could act in such a demeaning way, Cherry stared straight back, humiliated on his behalf. What kind of messed up world would allow this to happen to a grown man?
Lisa sighed, shaking her head and giving Cherry a sideways look. "I'm so sorry," she said abashedly. She reached towards her adopted son. "I just changed his messy bum, would you - "
And then he ran.
One minute he was there, playing the part of the wounded puppy, and then suddenly the door to the women's bathroom was flapping wildly back and forth as if hit by a wrecking ball. His mother watched, stunned, as her 'son' fled like the hounds of hell were on his heels. "Mattie!" she called out, shocked. She took an unconscious step after him before remembering she had her prey cornered.
It was too late, though. Cherry had got the point the moment he vanished.
She had the runs, too.
Raymond and Sylvia were waiting impatiently by the terminal gate when she finally re-appeared, huffing and puffing and looking nervously over her shoulder all the while. The enormous departure hall was borderline empty, and with some alarm Cherry realised she'd almost missed her flight. They were going to be among the last to board because of her run in.
Had she waited even half a second longer, the spanking heroic lil' Mattie was undoubtedly in for would have been for nothing. She'd felt those enormous fingers brush the back of her shoulder as she fled, she knew how close she'd come. Sure, she could have fallen back on the "my daddy's waiting for me!" line, but there was no guarantee she'd buy it with Raymond so far from sight. That whole spiel really relied on visual contact, because most Amazon's weren't going into an 'adoption' expecting it to be a breeze. Lies and resistance were to be expected.
Even if she had bought it, Cherry figured she'd rather die than be paraded about like a little kid in front of Sylvia.
"Where the hell have you been?" Sylvia growled as Cherry came into sight. She stood with her hands on her hips, glaring down at the luckiest little in the world. Without waiting for an answer, she turned her judgement onto Raymond. "When are you going to get it through your thick head that she can't be trusted to act like a big girl, huh? This is -"
Not interested in the histrionics, Cherry threw the water bottle up to the ranting Amazon. Surprised but not slow, Sylvia reflexively snatched it out of the air. Her eyes narrowed.
"I thought I told you - "
"I don't care what you told me. Consider it a gift," Cherry retorted, out of breath but still perfectly capable of adding the right inflection of sarcasm to her voice. "From the good-for-nothing little to you, out of the goodness that doesn’t exist in the good-for-nothing little's heart."
Raymond jumped in before Sylvia could snap back. ""Where have you been?" he asked, physically stepping in front of his girlfriend. He didn't seem to care in the slightest that his friend had almost made them miss their flight. "What happened?"
Like she was about to say a word with Sylvia looking on. Cherry shrugged as nonchalantly as she could manage after having just cheated babyhood. "I'll tell you later" she said smoothly. "Don't we have a flight to catch? Why are we standing out here?"
She didn't tell them later.
Beaming winningly up at Sylvia as she did so, Cherry marched straight past the towering couple and through the gate, filled with a renewed impatience to rescue her sister. She didn't know if it was Sylvia's casual antagonism or simply having seen the results of a meddling giants' parenting up close, but suddenly all she could think about was Dawn and the state she was undoubtedly in at that very moment. She was nothing short of appalled at the treatment she'd just seen her saviour suffer through. Here she was, mature and grown up as a little could be, but there were littles out there who couldn't boast the same. It infuriated her.
Well, she was going to change that. If she could save even just one little from Lil’ Mattie’s fate, she'd sleep easier knowing she'd made a difference. Fuck Sylvia, and fuck Lisa, and fuck all the giants who thought they could do what they wanted with her and other littles.
She'd show them.
She'd show them all.
To be continued in Chapter 4: Reconnaissance
To be continued in Chapter 4: Reconnaissance