“I know. Just take care of yourself, and be careful. You’re going to be in a lot of strange countries. You have that rape alarm I bought for you?”
“Yes. It’s in my bag.”
“And you won’t walk anywhere alone, especially at night.”
“And if you must take a cab, then check that it’s a city-approved cab.”
“And you’ll check in with me every day?”
“I will. I promise.” I give her another tight squeeze. “Don’t worry.” I pick up my bag from the floor, hanging it on my shoulder. “I’m going to go. Otherwise, I’ll miss check-in.”
“Okay.” She stifles her tears. “Bye, darling. Have a safe flight.”
“I’ll be home for a visit as soon as I can. I love you.”
I start walking backward toward the check-in gate, my chest heavy with emotion.
“I love you, too,” she says, wiping her face with a tissue.
“I’ll text as soon as I land.”
“Okay. I’ll miss you, darling.”
“Miss you, too.”
Then, I turn and walk away. Swiping a tear from my face, I hand my ticket to the guard and go through security.
I think I’d be exhausted after hours in an airport, waiting for my flight, which was delayed, before taking a twelve-hour flight from São Paulo to Luton, and now, it’s one p.m., UK time. My body clock is a little all over the place, but as I drag my suitcase along, pushing through the door into Arrivals, I’m filled with a sense of excitement that’s been building the whole journey here.
I’m thrilled to be back in England, buzzed at the prospect of starting my new job. But most of all, I just can’t wait to see Uncle John. It’s been a while since I last saw him.
I do a quick scan over the horde of people, looking for Uncle John, and then I see him. He’s a hard guy to miss—built like a bear with a head full of salt-and-pepper hair.
He catches sight of me, his face breaking out into a huge smile. He waves a hand. I pick up speed to him as he moves toward me, his arms opening wide for a hug.
I jump into that hug like a little kid.
Uncle John has always had that way of making me feel like I’m ten years old again.
“Hey, kiddo.” Releasing me, he smiles down at me, his eyes showing their age at the corners. Uncle John is in his late forties, but he looks good for it.
“Hey.” I beam.
“How was your flight?” He bends to take my suitcase from me.
We start heading toward the exit.
“I’m just parked in the waiting area, so not far to walk.”
I shiver as the door opens, and a gush of good old English cold air hits me. I wrap my leather biker jacket around me, not that it’s providing much warmth. I’m just glad that I thought ahead and changed in the airplane restroom, out of the shorts and tank that I left Brazil in and into the skinny jeans and T-shirt that I’m now wearing. I’m also glad I freshened up with wet wipes and spray of deodorant. There’s nothing worse than feeling stale after a flight.
I forgot what it’s like to live in England, how chilly it is here in February. I used to be acclimatized to it, but it’s been fourteen years since I was last here.
I was born in England. I lived here until I was ten. After we lost Dad, Mum and I moved to Brazil, her home country.
“I’d offer you my jacket if I were wearing one.” Uncle John chuckles while he walks along in a short-sleeved shirt.
“I’m okay. Don’t worry.”
“Sure, but I’ll get the heat on in the car as soon as the engine warms up.”
I adore Uncle John. After Dad died and Mum and I moved away, he stayed in our lives with regular phone calls and emails, and he visited every time he was in Brazil.
Uncle John is the chief engineer for Rybell’s Formula 1 team—well, Carrick Ryan’s team. Each Formula 1 team has two drivers. Rybell’s other is Nico Tresler, a seasoned driver from Germany.
And Carrick Ryan is the playboy from Ireland, but he’s one insanely talented driver.
He’s way too handsome for any woman’s good. He’s a total womanizer and party boy. He’s in the press more for his late-night antics and bedroom play than he is for his driving abilities. He acts more like a rock star than a Formula 1 driver.
He doesn’t seem to have a sense of discipline that can be seen from other drivers. But his talent is unmistakable. His advancement in racing was so quick that he was making his debut with Formula 1 at twenty and taking home the trophy that same year. Now, five years later, he’s only lost one championship.
I’m going to be working on Carrick’s team, thanks to Uncle John. One of their mechanics quit suddenly a few weeks ago, and Uncle John offered me the job.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m a mechanic.
Ever since I started working for the Brazil Stock Car team three years ago, Uncle John has been saying that I should come and work in Formula 1, and the minute he got an opening, it was mine.
He wasn’t kidding, and here I am.
Formula 1 jobs don’t come up easily, especially not on Carrick’s team. He keeps everything close-knit, so I know how lucky I am to get the position.
“How’s your mum doing?” Uncle John asks.
“She’s okay…struggling with me leaving. Worried. You know how she is.”
“Yeah.” He chuckles. “I know how Katia gets.”
“Uncle John…you haven’t told anyone at Rybell who my dad was, have you?”