Blessed Be the Merciful

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 22

I'm already very excited about the Romanian boy, Sorin. But that will, I hope, be a different kind of caring and loving in the highest sense of the word. I can 'read' Leon's letter behind the actual words, and he's telling me something. We now have an annoying delay until we hear more from him.

'We need his telephone number Jamie. That address. It's the hospital in Bucharest isn't it?'

'Yes, presumably.'

'Well then? They must have directory enquiries. It's no good you going all weak at the knees Jamie. I know what you're like. We have to be practical. This boy is depending on us.'

Quite. He is.

Six weeks later. I'm as nervous as the proverbial kitten. Henry's working this week and not up in Town, so I came to Heathrow Airport alone via the London Underground system. An hour and a quarter later, I'm standing in the Arrivals Hall looking up at the board. Flight number BA619, Otopeni to LHR, and it's on time. According to Leon's message left on our answerphone, on mute, in the middle of last night, Sorin will be on this flight. It has been incredibly short notice. We had the British Government Home Office go-ahead two days ago after lots of 'phone calls and paperwork. On the whole they were pretty helpful, backed up by the wonderful Quentin at the British Consulate back in Bucharest. Anyway, he's almost here. I tried to imagine how he must be feeling, this Sorin boy. We just have to be strong for him. The whole project depends on Henry's sponsorship of Sorin, a solemn undertaking to provide a stable home and schooling. Sorin can stay for six months, and then they will review. Incredibly, one of the local secondary schools has graciously granted Sorin an audience in two days time. I'm wondering how he will interview, standing in front of suited teachers used to posh kids from wealthy backgrounds, or maybe not? Today is a Sunday, so we have two more days after that, or rather I have, to prepare Sorin for a big moment in his life. I have no idea how much English he has, or any other skills, so, in short, I'm not too hopeful.

It's hard to work out which flight is emerging through customs and then along the walk to freedom, to be met by a crowd of taxi drivers holding up boards with names written on them. All I know is that Sorin has no luggage, no possessions, but just the clothes he stands up in. He must be terrified, poor boy. He will be recognizable by a pair of bright orange shorts, according to Leon, and if I get close enough, an identity card on the end of a blue lanyard. He has a child's satchel, school style, worn leather, with two straps over his shoulders. That's it.

Since the departure of one large crowd of travellers has cleared, the place is suddenly quiet and relatively empty. I'm panicking slightly. Then in the distance a small patch of orange appears in the distance. It just has to be him. As the diminutive figure approaches, my heart races. It is him. It must be.

The boy in the orange shorts is standing no more than ten yards from me. I'm behind the barrier preventing me from moving forward. There are people waiting either side of me. I don't shout out his name. I say it quietly once, and then when he doesn't react, again a little louder. My heart is racing. For a third time a say his name…..Sorin…….louder still. This time the sound of my voice has travelled far enough. The boy's head turns towards me. I see his eyes for the first time and the prickling in my own eyes begins. The boy's eyes are dark and bright like black pearls as they stare in disbelief at me. He doesn't move. I say his name again. Sorin?

I hold out my hands, palms open in the universal gesture of welcome. The boy, open mouthed, moves forward towards me. The prickling in my eyes has stopped, soothed by slowly emerging tears of relief. Just a few steps now before I can enclose his shoulders in my arms.

So this is where this story ends, and another surely begins.

We stay like this for a minute, his warm body against mine, trembling, separated still by the cold steel bars of the barrier. I feel for his hands and find them both. I know I have to find words, unrehearsed, not thought about, possibly the wrong words, perhaps the right words……….

'Sorin. Shall we go home?'

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