Updated: Nov 27, 2021
The immigration officers had seriously done a number on Draco. By the time he left their offices, his pockets were empty. Matilda watched as him and Jeremy scrambled to scrap off some money for that's night's lodging. From making desperate calls to the office to putting their last coins together.
In the end, they failed and she had to use her cash to pay for both their room and her own. Not that Matilda minded, or thought little of the 'big boys'. But for some reason, Jeremy couldn't look at her that night. His disposition was different the next morning, however. Over breakfast, he gave her the look of a naughty five year old boy with his hands in his favorite cookie jar. It was nothing short of baffling and strangely enchanting. What was with him? One minute he was avoiding eye contact, the next he was being all doe-eyed. She didn't know him all that well, but from what she could tell, it looked as though he was trying to flirt with her.
But there wasn't enough time for her to properly dissect Jeremy's behavior, as they quickly crossed the border and drove to a nearby, small airport. Once there, they slowly joined a check-in queue where Matilda had her own shameful run in with authority. You see, being the simple girl that she was, Matilda hardly spent money on the latest fashion. In fact, she took pride in donning t-shirts, jeans and shoes that were sooo last season, and often came across as a hippie - If she was being honest. But as her turn came at check-in and the transport security officer asked her to not only take off her shoes but unpack her rucksack, she was self conscious of the shoe lace tying up the bag, as well as her old and worn clothes. The nosy passengers about her, with their judgmental looks certainly didn't make things easy.
"It's all standard procedure" the officer said, as Matilda's decency was restored and luggage placed back in the bag. But just as she was thanking the heavens the ordeal was over and took a few steps down the line, the security officer asked her to unpack her near empty bottle of camphor cream.
"Why?" Matilda asked.
"We don't allow travelers to bring into the country a certain amount of lotion", the officer replied, straight faced.
What the hell? That made no sense. Matilda couldn't see what security threat lotion posed, and suspected the officer planned on bagging the confiscated good when no one was looking. It was probably a habit of hers. To say the least, unpacking yet again was humiliating and her companions, Jeremy and Draco, were now far down the line with their luggage cleared.
It took her an extra five, cringeworthy, minutes, but she finally made it past security and walked to a lone chair in the waiting room to recover. Jeremy and Draco were sitting with the airport mass at a distance. Unease began to settle in Matilda's stomach. How was she going to get through in a strange country where people were rude enough to almost strip her to her bares? But just then, like a big yet graceful cloud, Jeremy came striding her way.
"Do you want something to eat?", he asked when he got to her chair. Tears almost came to her eyes and she wanted to hug him as she stood.
"Yes", she answered.
Together they walked to a nearby food vend and Jeremy listed what was clearly on display. She didn't mind. It felt good to be by his side. She did expect him, however, to pull out his wallet and ask what she'd be having. That's what guys did for girls they tried flirting with. Wasn't it? But instead, he simply pitched for the vendor and went back to his seat. Leaving her there, alone, to buy her own food.