Excerpt 151


Her legs weakened.  The line was long and the people seemed to be closing in on her, threatening to swallow her up. She tried to fan herself with her ticket, but the paper was too flimsy to have any affect.

The line seemed to be stopped and she couldn’t see far ahead enough to tell what the hold up was.  Her stomach twisted and she felt light-headed. She should have eaten. The tea was not enough. Between the flight, the letter and the farewell from Danno, she was ready to pass out. She put her hand on the man’s back in front of her, trying to steady herself.  He turned around and gave her a dirty look. His wife began yelling at her in another language.  People turned and stared.

“I’m sorry,” she said, but the woman continued to yell, getting closer to her face. Ala could smell remnants of meat on her breath. Ala’s eyes watered as she felt the fullness make it’s way up her throat.  With chipmunk cheeks, she ran out of the line down the hall in the direction she remembered the restroom to be.

There was still a line outside of the ladies room, so she ran into the men’s room and vomited, missing the stall by three feet.  She got down on all fours and closed her eyes. She needed to lie down. She needed to eat. She needed someone to tell her that she could make it through the flight if she just stood up, rinsed out her mouth and boarded.

She stared at the puddle. Because she was so hungry, it was mostly frothy bile.  She carefully rose to her feet and grabbed a stack of paper towels.  She threw them onto the mess and tried to wipe up as much as she could with her foot.  The nausea returned and she lied down on her stomach, letting her face rest on the freezing tile.

Her phone rang, and very slowly, she sat up and took it out of her bag.  It was Jase calling. She chose to ignore him.  Once again she stood up and kicked the soggy paper towels into the corner.  She had to get to her seat as quickly as possible.  She could relax then, and possibly even get some sleep.

Leaving the restroom, she realized that she had left her suitcase at the gate. This panic brought her to a jog even though she still felt like crawling.  The boarding area was empty. She read the monitor to make sure she was in the right place for the flight.  Her suitcase was gone. She looked under the row of seats . She went to the personnel desk, but no one was there to help.

It appeared that she had missed last call for boarding the plane.  There would have been announcements, but she wouldn’t have been able to hear them while vomiting. She had gotten to the gate as quickly as possible.  She would have to find Danno and see if there was a way she could switch to his flight instead.  She would also need to report her missing suitcase. She tried to remember if anything valuable was packed inside.

All she could think of was a brooch her mother had given her when she was seven years old.  They were Christmas shopping in the city in the middle of a blizzard.  The lady who helped Ala’s mother take care of her was supposed to go with to carry bags, but had gotten the flu.  It was a very special day for Ala. She and her mother had lunch in the tearoom and she was permitted to order off of the full menu, rather than the children’s portion.  They had bought presents for relatives who would be coming in for the holiday, back when Ala’s mother still invited people to come stay.

They hurried through the street, struggling to grip the bags blowing all in directions and made it to the revolving door of the grand department store. This was their last stop of the day. They both laughed with relief as soon as the warm air hit their faces with the rich new perfumes of the season surrounding them, and stepped onto the escalator.

Ala’s mother tried to untangle her purse strap from the cluster of bag handles, when the brooch on her coat fell off. Ala knew this was a gift from her grandmother and followed it with her eyes as it fell against the slatted step.

Ala looked up and saw the steps being swallowed, one by one, as they reached the top. She quickly crouched down to grab the brooch before it fell through the grate. Her small fingers gripped the gilded edge of the large pearl encrusted plate just as her mother turned to see what she was doing.

“Ala! Are you crazy?” Her mother yelled, grabbing the arm of Ala’s coat and yanking her up and off of the last step. She shook her shoulders hard.  “Do you want to get your hand cut off?”  Ala had no idea the escalator was dangerous.  She held out her hand to reveal the brooch, which had pierced and was stuck in the palm of her hand.

“I wanted to save it for you,” she whispered, now embarrassed at the few shoppers watching them.

“That?” her mother scoffed, “Keep it. It’s fake. Come on!”

Ala didn’t realize her mother had meant that the large pearl in the center was not an actual pearl, but painted plastic. She had thought it was the most beautiful piece of jewelry she had ever seen and loved it because her grandmother had loved it. She swallowed hard to avoid crying and pulled the needle from her hand. She followed her mother into housewares, shoving the brooch into her pocket.

She found a seat facing the wall of windows, and slouched down, watching the planes take off. Now the brooch was with whoever stole her suitcase. Even if she reported it missing, she knew she wouldn’t get it back.  She felt violated at the thought of someone looking through her underwear.

The plane she was supposed to be on backed out and taxied down the tarmac.  Ala opened her purse to make sure that her passport, license and the check from Emmanuel were still inside.  It would be inconceivably difficult to leave the airport, had her identification been in her suitcase.

A woman screamed, throwing her hands to her mouth and pointing to the window. Ala whipped her head around to see the fluffy clouds of black smoke floating up from the bright orange flames shooting out under the right wing of the plane.  She stood up slowly and pressed her face against the glass.

An emergency chute sprung out and one by one, like wind up toy soldiers, tiny figures slid down and ran. There was a loud pop and people gathered around her at the window in time to see the large fire cloud engulf the plane, flames snaking both wings and all sides. Banging on the glass and screaming continued as Ala squinted ahead, trying to make sense of what was happening. Fire engines and squad cars surrounded the dying star, and the few who had escaped huddled together.

Running commenced with people going in all directions, crashing into one another.  She didn’t know what to do or who to call. She would’ve been dead had she made it on in time. At least she had been with him one last time. She heard people shouting and shoes squeaking, babies crying and whistles blowing.  She could smell smoke and wasn’t sure if it was from the cigarette she had or the world ending outside.

Danger had followed her.  She wasn’t safe being who she was. Her phone rang.  She took it out of her bag and, without looking to see who was calling, tossed it in the trashcan, along with her ticket.  She put her sunglasses on and looking straight ahead, walked quickly toward the exit of the airport.

 

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