I wanted to be somewhere else, away from everything and everyone.
Work, family, decisions, and pressure, all came together at once, to such an extent that, finally, I just couldn’t find a reason to get out of bed.
I looked up at the ceiling, then around the loft, a space I had to fight for, and could, at first, barely afford. Then, it symbolized my success, the first of many.
If I was to think long and hard about where I was right now, I wouldn’t want to think long and hard about it.
Last night lingered in my mind. The girl I thought was the one, who broke up with me, at least not by text, but in person. It was not me, she said, but she was not ready for a serious commitment. Neither was I, but I think I wasn’t the one for her.
Work had taken precedence, as it always did, despite the constant advice from both friends and family that I should draw a line in the sand before it was too late, I didn’t listen.
The cell phone on the side table erupted with a song that Anne had put on there some time back, a reminder of something I’d lost.
I ignored it, suppressing the temptation to throw it against the wall in the hope that breaking it would somehow provide some relief.
Then I counted down the seconds to when it would ring again. Arty, my business partner, and truly a man with no life other than work, was persistent.
Sixty seconds passed.
That awful song!
I picked it up and answered, “What?”
“Where are you? Tell me you’re just running late.” No mistaking the panic in his tone. Nothing unusual. He was capable of doing it himself, just chose not to. Not today.
“Get it done, and don’t call me again until it’s settled.”
I disconnected the call and switched the phone off.
I rolled over hoping the perspective would change but it was still the same space, except for one minor detail, a painting my mother did a few years back of the house by the lake we had grown up in.
It was, and still is a sleepy little town few people visited, and the young couldn’t wait to get out of, like my brother and I. My sister, she had no big-city dreams, married the bit next door, and lived nearby.
I hadn’t seen the house, or her, since my mother’s funeral eight months before, and was always promising to go but never found the time.
I guess now was the perfect time to go home, and try to make some changes, before it was too late.
There were several ways of getting to Alpenville, tucked away on a small Cove, off an estuary, not far from the border, a picturesque setting with mountains on one side and the water on the other.
The first, by ferry, buy that had timing limitations, and I had to get to the ferry berth first. The second, by road, but it was an unnecessarily long and convoluted drive. The third was by floatplane, where I could go to the airport and catch a plane.
I had only done that once when an old friend of my father ran the service, a long while back. He’d obviously sold it, and the new people had turned it into a glossy tourist brochure.
It was expedient, and I knew the flight in over the water would be a sight to behold, which clinched the deal. It would also take the least amount of time.
I turned my phone back on, and it beeped constantly with missed messages. I ignored them and called the airline and lucky for me there was a seat available. But I had just on an hour to get to the airport.
Of course, everything was conspiring against me, as if fate didn’t want me to leave the city, but by a quirk of fate, I walked through the terminal office door five minutes before departure.
The girl behind the counter smiled. “Just in time,” she said, handing me a ticket and boarding pass.
She pointed to the plane, and I could see the pilot waiting. When I was about twenty yards from the plane, I recognized the pilot, just as she recognized me. Lucy Benn. Granddaughter of my father’s friend, who, it seemed, followed in her grandfather, and father’s footsteps.
“As I live and breathe, Alpenville’s prodigal son. Returning in disgrace, are we?”
Lucy had been a girlfriend, we had been engaged, I left promising to return. Promises not honored. That she would hate me was understandable. We had not parted on the best of terms, and this was the first time I’d seen her since.
“It’s nice to see you too Lucy.”
She simply shook her head, took my backpack and put it in a compartment upfront, then opened the side door to let me climb in. I would be sitting next to her the whole way, which could be uncomfortable. She got in the other side. Sorted put the seatbelts, then handed me headphones.
“Put them on. If there’s trouble, I’ll let you know.”
She went through the pre-flight checks and got clearance from the tower, and we were off.
It didn’t surprise.me.she was a pilot, though back before I left home, she had always said she was going to fly real planes. At twelve she had already been proficient at flying the small plane her father owned and operated.
She had taken me up in it once and it had been both terrifying and exhilarating.
A very few had a poker face.
Hers overall suggested contempt.
“Did you ever get to fly big planes,” I asked, picking a moment when she was distracted, looking out the side window.
She turned back. “Did you find what you were looking for in the big city?”
Answering a question with a question, it was her way of evasion she used to use when she didn’t want to answer.
“No. It might please you to know that when I woke up this morning, I realized that I have no idea what I’m doing anymore. My first thought was to come home but given your depth of feeling and the fact I can’t cry on my mother’s shoulder, I guess I made a terrible mistake.”
It was a sad story, but true. I hadn’t thought for one moment I might not be welcome, except by my sister, Suzanne, who didn’t care what anyone else thought.
She said nothing, which was probably better she didn’t.
A few minutes passed before she said, “Yes. Had to go through hoops simply because I was a girl. Showed them. Got to fly A380s, slightly bigger than this, married a pilot, the basted cheated on me, so I came home and stuck to what I know, flying these planes. They don’t let you down.”
So maybe we would not have spent the rest of our lives together like we had promised each other at graduation.
“I guess we both have our unresolved issues.”
The conversation ended there, and for the rest of the flight, there was silence, except when she checked in with the various flight controllers. I may also have nodded off for a whole venture when I was jolted away, we had just landed on the water and headed towards the pontoon.
I could see Suzanne and Cecile, her daughter, waiting on the pontoon.
As soon as I was off the plane she came over and gave me a hug.
“It’s good to see you, but you’re not going to believe what’s happened. Dad’s just been taken to the hospital, and they don’t think he’s going to last much longer.”
© Charles Heath 2022