Jennifer is late. Horribly late. She arrives at the airport in a flurry of measured panic, striding past queues of impatient travellers with barely a glance at the infuriated faces behind her. The woman on the check-in desk is foreign, her clipped accent bristles.
‘You’re very late, madam,’ she says, adjusting the scarf beneath her blazer.
‘There’s a lot of traffic on the M4.’
A pause, a long sigh. ‘We’ve been calling your name for the last half an hour. All the other passengers are currently boarding.’
Jennifer removes her sunglasses. She raises an eyebrow.
The check-in woman flinches. ‘You’d better come with me.’
On the plane, Jennifer shifts uncomfortably, folding and unfolding her legs. She looks across at Lisa, at her dowdy jeans and tangled hair and she frowns at the image that forms in her head, the incongruous sight of her well-groomed husband hand in hand with this mess.
‘What exactly did Alex say about my working a lot?’ She turns her head casually, trying to look blasé.
Lisa opens her eyes. ‘That was all he said, that you work a lot. I don’t remember him saying anything else.’
Her pen is in her mouth. She’s chewing. ‘He was angry, was he?’
‘No not exactly. More uh, well…just frustrated, I guess.’
‘Frustrated?’ She swivels in her seat. ‘He said that, did he?’
‘Well, no…not in so many words.’ Lisa begins to blush. ‘Look about Sam, I appreciate he’s not your-’
‘Don’t change the subject.’ She clicks her fingers, an arm outstretched. ‘What exactly did Alex say?’
‘He didn’t say anything.’ Lisa leans back towards the window. ‘He just mentioned that you work a lot when I dropped Sam off this morning.’
Jennifer moves in closer. ‘And how long were you there for?’
‘What? I don’t know, ten, fifteen minutes.’
Lisa looks at her watch. ‘About eight o’clock. Why?’
A flight attendant passes by. She ducks her head towards them and smiles, ‘Any drinks?’
‘Whisky,’ barks Jennifer.
There’s a rattle of dull clinks as a cup is placed on the table in front of her.
‘Nothing for me, thanks.’ Lisa’s voice is trill. As the flight attendant moves away, she reaches a hand up to her face. ‘Look Jennifer, I didn’t mean to upset you. Alex and I hardly ever talk these days and if we do it’s about Sam, not you.’
An instinctive anger is bubbling beneath Jennifer’s icy surface. She breathes heavily, in, out, in, out; just like he told her to. But as she turns back in her chair, one hand gripping her plastic cup, words begin to seep from her mouth on an outbreath and momentarily she is vulnerable, ‘We hardly ever talk either.’
She takes a long gulp of her drink. ‘I said Alex and I hardly ever talk either.’
There is silence. Jennifer rests her head back against the cushioned seat and closes her eyes.
A few minutes later, she hears a small, barely audible, ‘Oh.’
- The Flight is a Tiny Tale in two parts. Read Part 1 here.