Gate 65.

"Attention passengers. Boarding to the flight number forty-eight, to Paris has started. Please proceed to the gate number sixty-five and have your boarding passes ready."

The voice was cold and mechanical. It penetrated every corner of the giant hall, entered every ear. Andrea closed her eyes and opened them again. In the large, glass walls of the airport the clouds were black patches on the dark-blue sky. The lights of the city that lay below blinked at Andrea. They were terrestrial stars - yellow and artificial. Andrea blinked back at them. The dusty grey floor under her feet did not change – not even after the two hours that she had spent there.

To her left were two glass doors and a corridor beyond them. Above them, the sign announced in black – GATE 64. To her right, people started to shift and form a line that pointed to the doors with the sign GATE 65. Some of them were speaking French. Andrea strained her ears. She must not get used to the noises of the airport. She must notice every word, every cough, every sound. She must not ignore them. If she did, they would creep into her ears and make her sleep.

Andrea fumbled in her purse and found a pocket mirror. Her eyes didn't change after two hours of sitting there – they were still brown. Her hair was still black and straight and still framed her oval face with its soft features. She dropped the mirror back inside, and took out her documents. Her passport. Her ticket and her boarding pass that said GATE 64. Her letter that said her parent or legal guardian was allowing her to travel by herself to Phoenix, Arizona. Not to Paris. She looked at the people to the right of her with envy. She wished her boarding pass would change and become like theirs. She looked at it again. It still said GATE 64.

Andrea closed her eyes and put her hands on her lap. She remembered how her father had pushed her.

He pushed her, and she fell on her bed. His face was distorted with rage, as if suddenly it was not him, but someone else – someone she didn't recognize. He was yelling, the phone still in his hand, blinking violently with red. Maybe it didn't like that it was used for long distance calls so much. Her father yelled at her because he didn't know what to do. Because he had been lost, just like her. Because he had been sad, just like her. There was only one difference. He could help it, and she couldn't.

"Excuse me, miss?"
Andrea opened her eyes and stared wildly at a middle-aged man with a smiling face. "Is this yours?" He held her purse in his grubby hand. "I found it on the floor."
She took it and thanked him.
Her mother's voice echoed in her head – it had been before father pushed her.

"Andrea, you have to come to Phoenix. You have to live with me now."
"Why?"
"It's… it's hard to explain. Your father loves you. He loves you, but he just finds himself unable to… He loves you, he just doesn't want you to be in his way when… when he… uhh…"
Too many times she said that Andrea's father loved her.
"When he…"
"Brings women home?"
"Andrea, don't be so harsh on him."
She hung up.

She remembered her last summer in Phoenix.

With her mother and her mother's fiancé. How they talked in the kitchen and she lay in bed trying to sleep. The sounds behind the wall at night. Her mother became alien. She was not her mother anymore – she was Darrel's wife-to-be. Her father was not her father anymore – he was a shadow. He needed her. She lived with him. They talked. She never told him about the sounds behind the wall in Phoenix. Until he brought Debbie home. He told her Debbie was a friend from work. Andrea yelled and ran away. He had to search for her and drive her back.

Andrea forced the sounds of the airport out of her ears. Her skin was numb, just like everything inside of her. She had no feelings. She wished she had been afraid, sad, hysterical. But she wasn't. Like a cold Chinese porcelain doll, she was nothing. Not human.

When her father pushed her on her bed, he talked about how miserable he was, and how she never understood him. He said she was selfish. He said she could not understand him, and he was sick of her. He would not tolerate her in his house anymore. Go to your mother so you can hate me together, he said. She wished she hated him. She wished she cried.

Her father had been a shadow, but now he had Debbie to contain him. Her mother was a shining angel beside Darrel.

Andrea sprang up and stood in the line, getting her pass ready, her lips curved. Other people stood behind her. People in front of her gave their boarding passes to the smiling woman in the uniform and disappeared in the corridor behind glass doors. When it was her turn, Andrea's lips started to tremble.
"I'm sorry," said the smiling woman in the uniform "You're in the wrong line. See here, you pass says GATE 64, not 65. Gate sixty-four is-"
"I know," Andrea replied, looking at the confused smiling woman. "Can I go to Paris instead? Please," she repeated, wiping the tear that all of a sudden spilled from her right eye, "May I… May I go to Paris?"
Smiling woman looked at her with a blank expression on her face. Several people in the line chuckled. Others stared.