“Running away was easy; not knowing what to do next was the hard part.”
― Glenda Millard,
I didn’t know what else to do. The pressure kept mounting, and so I ran. Now,
here I am at 32,000 feet, and I don’t have a clue as to what I am doing. I only know that up here, in the sky, I feel peace. I am above my problems. I am safe…for the moment anyway.
“We have turned on the fasten your seatbelt sign due to some turbulence coming our way. Please stay in your seats at this time.”
Great. Just what I need. But then, I should be used to turbulence by now. My life has been nothing but. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t take it anymore. My grandfather used to tell me, “Everything happens for a reason,” but I find that statement difficult to believe. According to Paw Paw’s logic, it would mean my dad left us for a reason, my stepfather abused me for a reason, and my mom drank herself to death for a reason. Seems to me every reason is self-centered, and I have always been the recipient of my family members’ selfishness. Still, in the back of my mind, his words are echoing, and no matter how I try to dismiss them, they are etched like letters in a tombstone.
“Oh my, that was a rough patch!” The lady next to me brings me back to reality when she grabs my arm. I wince at the pain, though my bruises are well hidden, she manages to grab and squeeze right on one of them. However, she looks terrified, and her hand is trembling. She doesn’t even notice my pain.
“It’ll be fine,” I assure her in a voice that sounds steadier than I am. She doesn’t look convinced by my words. I recognize the fear in her eyes – a deer in the headlights look —surprised and stunned. If she could run, she would. Instead, she is strapped to her chair gazing out the window, knowing she has no control whatsoever…a feeling I am all too familiar with. I feel a twinge of empathy in my hardened heart.
“Hi, I’m Carol,” I say; my new name slides off my tongue like silk.
“I’m Jacey,” she says, offering a half-forced smile, “nice to meet you. I guess I look like a scared little girl. I feel so silly, but I’ve never flown before, and this is like being on a roller coaster. Is it always like this?”
“Turbulence is never fun,” I offer, “but you’ll adjust.” I never had a choice but to adjust. My life didn’t offer options. Of course, Jacey has no idea I’ve never flown either, or that I am not referring to our flight when I speak. I am inventing my new persona as I go, and I surprise myself with how easy it comes and how calm I feel.
“I don’t think I can ever get used to the feeling that I am about to fall out of the sky!”
“There are worse things that could happen,” I matter-of-factly state.
“Worse than falling out of the sky to your death? I’m not sure I would agree with you on that,” she says. Her eyes widen with curiosity at my statement. I said too much. Other people’s curiosity could be trouble for me.
Trying to pull out of the conversation, I say “It’s best to put in your earbuds and pretend to be somewhere else.” Then I take the opportunity to do just that. I am good at pretending to be somewhere else, a master, in fact. I close my eyes, but I feel her staring at me. I imagine she is wondering about my careless statement. I could kick myself for even having a conversation with her at all. It has been my plan to be invisible and to draw as little attention to myself as possible. I have already blown it, and I haven’t even arrived yet.
“Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking. I am sorry to have to inform you that we will be making an unscheduled landing due to a storm up ahead. It is too dangerous to try to fly into it, so we will skirt to the edge to land and wait it out on the ground at a little airport in the West Indies. We will take care of your accommodations, and, hopefully, we will not be grounded too long. Thank you for your patience. Please prepare for landing. Thank you.”
Another delay. Another obstacle keeping me from getting as far away as possible from my problems. If only I could stay airborne indefinitely. I would rather brave the storm and take my chances on falling out of the sky than to be beaten again. My boyfriend turned out to be as big a con as my stepfather. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to him initially. He was a smooth talker, and he made me feel like a princess. He only had eyes for me, or so it seemed. But six months into our relationship, when we moved in together, everything changed. I am stunned and ashamed I didn’t recognize the tell-tale signs earlier. I seem to attract abusers like a magnet.
“Is it normal to land during a storm?” Jacey asks.
“You are asking the wrong person about what is normal,” I retort. Then, a bit softer, I add, “I am sure the pilot is doing what is best.”
“I’m sorry to be a scaredy cat.”
“It’s okay. I think we are all on edge a bit. This is an unusual situation. Sorry, I snapped at you.”
She grabs my arm again and squeezes when we bump down the runway. I pull it back quickly, but not quickly enough. She sees the bruise peeking out from my sleeve.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were hurt.”
I look away as if nothing is wrong. Of course, you didn’t know. I hide my wounds, I think to myself, but I am not brave enough to speak it. I’m wearing long sleeves in 90-degree heat, that should be a giveaway, but I have found most people don’t pay any attention to those kinds of details. As I gather my things and prepare to unload, my phone starts to ding with text messages. Seems like hundreds of them.
“Wow, you are popular!” says Jacey.
“Not really,” I reply, “must be a group text.”
But it isn’t. It is my tormentor. Every notification is another threat. The longer he goes without hearing from me, the angrier he will become. The angrier he becomes, the more dangerous he is. I know this already. This is not my first attempt to leave. He nearly killed me last time. In fact, today had been a random event. I saw a chance, and I took it. It was the first day in months he left me alone. I guess he thought I was too banged up from yesterday’s beating to go too far. What he didn’t know was, as I lay on the floor half-conscious, I saw the cigar box where he keeps his money, under the bed. The fool doesn’t trust the bank with his cash, so he moves his little box around, hiding in a different place each week. I wasn’t sure I had seen correctly, until today, when he left me to run to the store for cigarettes. I was determined they wouldn’t be used on me this time because I would be gone by the time he got back. I grabbed a bag, the money from the box, and made my way to the airport with a simple plan —disappear as quickly as possible.
The last text takes my breath away. “I will follow you to the ends of the earth. You are my possession. Wherever you go, I will be there. Then I will kill you.”
My face must have gone pale because Jacey says, “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” I lie as I turn my phone off.
The ride from the airport to the hotel is harrowing. The wind blows the van side to side, and the rain makes visibility impossible. I hate to think of what the full brunt of the storm would be like if this is just the edge. Being paired up with Jacey isn’t ideal, but since we have been making conversation, the flight attendant assumes we are friends. We make it to our room, exhausted and wet, but in one piece. I am thankful our luggage stayed on the plane so I won’t have to change clothes and expose the bruises to Jacey’s curious eyes. While she is in the bathroom, I throw my jeans on the floor and slip into my bed. I grab the tourist brochures on the bedside table and go through them. Parasailing. Chartered boats. Scuba diving. Island tours, from the air, by boat, or on a trolley. Snorkeling. Shopping. Restaurants.
“This place looks like an island paradise,” Jacey says, as she looks through some of the brochures I have finished with.
“From these pictures, it does seem perfect,” I say, “I’d love to take an air tour.”
“Not me. Today’s flight about did me in. I think I’ll stay on the ground from now on. I just wish I didn’t have to get back on that plane tomorrow. Goodnight. See you in the morning,” Jacey says.
She is lightly snoring in minutes. I, on the other hand, do not sleep much. The few stretches of sleep I catch are rudely interrupted by nightmares, except for one dream just before dawn; I am floating high in the sky above looking down on the islands. It looks just like the brochures, but the feeling of freedom is euphoric. I hear Paw Paw’s voice all around me, and it is comforting. I wonder if I have died in my sleep because I feel so peaceful.
The alarm on Jacey’s phone awakens me with a start. I am disoriented but still have the calm of the dream keeping me company. I go to splash off my face and try to make my hair lay down. As I leave the bathroom, I hear Jacey’s gasp and realize my mistake. My jeans are still on the floor, and the bruises on my legs are still fresh enough that I look like hamburger meat.
“Good God, Carol!! What happened?” she asks.
Grabbing my jeans, I quickly say, “I fell down the stairs.”
The pity in her eyes tells me that she’s not buying it. Thankfully, she doesn’t ask any more questions. I have made her uncomfortable. The awkward silence speaks volumes. She opens the door for me as if I am an invalid, and gives me a hand as we load the van. I pull away and try to put some distance between us, to no avail, she is stuck to me like glue.
The sun is out, and it amazes me how different things can look in just a few hours. This truly is an island paradise. The water is turquoise even after the storm, and the calm I felt in my dream settles within me. As we arrive at the airport, the familiar anxiety returns. Dread comes over me, and I realize I do not want to leave this island. I want to stay where the peace is, but if I don’t get on that plane, he will be able to track me. Of course, if I do get on the plane, the same is true.
“Give me your boarding pass,” Jacey says.
“You heard me. Give me your boarding pass. Look, they aren’t even checking them against IDs. Passengers are scanning them themselves while the team is reloading and getting prepared to fly. I can scan it for you. Then it will appear you arrived in South America as planned,” she says.
I look around. She is right. It might just work.
“Do you have enough money to disappear?” Jacey asks.
“Yes, I think so. At least until I can find a job,” I reply.
I am stunned at the speed with which this new plan is taking shape. I am also shocked that Jacey is the one who has figured it all out. Who knew the scaredy-cat had it in her? The biggest question in my mind, besides will it work, is can I trust her. I recognize that I have no other choice. I hand her my boarding pass.
She takes it from me, with a glance, and says, “Goodbye Karen. Take good care of Carol for me, will you?”
With tears in my eyes, I say, “I will.” Somehow, she has figured it all out, and I have never been more grateful. As I slip out of the airport unnoticed, the peace from my dream returns. I walk across the street and notice a Help Wanted sign in a window. I enter the door to Freedom Island Tours. I recognize it from the brochures.
“You need help?” I ask the man behind the counter.
“I need a pilot. You got your license?”
“I wish,” I say.
“I can make it happen,” he says. “You know how to run a computer?”
“Yes. That, I can do.”
“You want to run the desk here in exchange for flying lessons?” he asks.
“Done,” I say.
“My name’s Joe,” he sticks out his hand to shake on it.
“My name is Carol. It’s nice to meet you.”
I can almost hear Paw Paw’s words in the air around me. “Everything happens for a reason,” and today I think I believe them.
Michelle Gunnin is an everyday woman who is a writer, a wife, a mom of four nearly grown children, a teacher, a colleague, a sister, and a daughter. She is also a cancer survivor, a caregiver, and a recovering Pharisee. She has more questions than answers, and she writes to explore both. She is determined to be in the moment and live fully…both things life has taught her. You can follow her blog at michellesmosaic.wordpress.com
Michelle has an extensive amount of published works on Two Drops of Ink. Click this link for all of her posts: Michelle Gunnin
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
Looking for a summer read? Check out The Book Store
For those who love poetry
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook