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All Flights Lead to Home

Summer comes to a close, and only a few days remain before the school year starts up once again. Where had the weeks gone?

The trunk of her car is filled with bags of school supplies: number two pencils, college rule paper, a red folder, a ruler, an algebraic calculator she prayed wouldn’t be lost since it cost an arm and a leg. The gas tank was full and she was typing in the coordinates for where they’d meet up.

The airport was only a few hours away; soon she’d get to hug her sons after eight long weeks of being across the country.

Before hitting reverse to initiate her trek, she checked her phone one last time. No messages from the boys’ account since last night. No messages from their dad. Irrationally, she feared they hadn’t made their flight from San Diego…but, pushing the gearshift out of park, she also pushed those thoughts away.

Surely her ex would have said something if they weren’t running on time. Besides airport travel with two high energy eight-year-olds is hard enough to navigate without texting minute by minute updates. Would she have liked a confirmation text, of course. And maybe she will during her drive toward the airport.

Her turn-signal blinks, blinks, blinks as she navigates the highway lanes while keeping one eye on the phone screen. It’d be a lie if she didn’t admit her attention was split between watching the navigation lines and hoping to see a text notification from her ex confirming their travel plans were uninterrupted and the boys were coming home.

Doubt caused her to wonder if she’d missed a message while her eyes had properly been on the road. Worry made her mentally replay checking the flight itinerary over and over again while flicking her gaze to the dashboard clock.

The mathematic gymnastics only added to her stress, but felt necessary to fill her mind as she made the mindless drive:

Their flight boards at 11:50 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time… 3:50 p.m. here… Take off is scheduled for 12:30 pm on the west coast, so 4:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time… They have a nonstop ticket … which means the boys land at about 8:00 p.m. in Atlanta.

And it is 5:43 p.m. now… about two more hours to the airport which should give her just enough time to park and meet them inside at arrivals. She remembered her ex planned to fly back out to the West Coast on the redeye that night.

Soothed she was making good time to pick up her kids from their Summer visitation, she reminded herself she’d had heard if something was wrong.

Several minutes pass when the well-known ping fills the car. The navigation is interrupted with a message from “Simon-Bug’s Tablet” that is a string of nonsensical emojies: basketball, lion, lion, sunglasses smiley face, peach, plane, flame, swirl, hippo. She smiled at her silly boy’s message until another ping sounded.

Queued up just under Simon’s silly text read “Sean-Bug’s Tablet” notification with only two words: “call dad.”

She started looking for an exit sign to calculate how many more miles until she could pull over and focus. There was a roaring in her ears.

1.5 miles until the next exit, she incrementally pressed harder on the gas trying to eat up the space between now and when she could get answers.

Another ping echos in the cabin of the vehicle.

“Richard’s Cell” flashed on the screen. Her heart sank as she read the words while her eyes darted between the screen and the road – four hundred feet, she is skimming the sign to identify the closest gas station off the turn.

How her heart could be in her stomach while still pounding between her ears she will never know, but she was able to throw the car into park and pull down her phone. Richard’s message only stated, “Call me.”

He picks up after three of the longest rings of her life. The other end is surprisingly quiet for the crowded San Diego Airport…

“What happened? Where are you?” She asked while trying to prevent herself from sounding as panicked as she felt. It was a beat before her ex answered, a little too cool and calm for her liking, “There was an issue. I’ll book the next reasonable flight. It’ll be sometime this week.”

“Where are you?” Deafening silence answered her for too long, so she repeated, “where are you?” A hefty sigh lobbed its way to her ear before his response, “I’d knew you’d do this.”

“Richard, where are you and the boys? You are suppose to be landing at the airport in ten minutes.”

If she thought she struggled to breath before, she was mistaken – because the air was ripped from her lungs when her ex simply stated “we didn’t go to the airport” before hanging up.

Jess Lill

 

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