Loss and Love

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
John is a twenty-one year old college graduate who previously lost his father. He moved back home to take care of his mother and four-year old sister. One night, his mother dies in a car crash and John becomes lost. He travels aimlessly on planes as a nomad (money provided from mother's life insurance). He meets Jane on a flight, a young woman of the same age, and is intrigued by her. This is the first time he has experienced happiness. He doesn't want to lose her.

Submitted: March 18, 2009

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Submitted: March 18, 2009

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“I think she’s here” exclaimed little Bella with excitement as she looked toward her older brother.

“Finally,” John said. “I was starting to get a little worried.” The older brother was not one to become worried. In fact, he rarely ever worried, which his mother always attributed to his laziness. However, as he looked out the window with his little sister, he couldn’t help but worry. His mother had been off work for three hours now but had not yet come home. This was not like her, he thought to himself. After the death of his father, his mother had been very punctual in her daily routine. She left work promptly at six and arrived exactly at seven every night. It was now ten, and there had been no sign of her. To make matters seemingly worse, her phone had been off for the day, as she had warned them in the morning. My regional boss will be with us at work all day today, she had told John and little Bella earlier that day, so don’t call. John wondered why her phone remained off even after she had left work for the day. After wondering for hours with his little sister, an answer finally came.

Although the torrent of rain outside limited their vision through the window, when the doorbell rang John and little Bella were surprised that they had not seen someone walking up toward the door. John got up immediately from the couch and walked toward the door as little Bella followed closely behind. Without bothering to look through the peephole, John grasped the handle and quickly opened the door. To their utter amazement, it was not their mother.

“Oh, hello Ms. Worthington” John managed to say through his surprise as he faced his neighbor. His pale face and stark black hair were in great contrast to his bright green shirt and off-white pants. His bright blue eyes always seemed to be full of vivacity, but today they were reflective of his uncharacteristic state of worry for his mother.

Even at his rather tall height of 6 feet, John was dwarfed by that of Ms. Worthington. At 6 feet 5 inches, Ms. Worthington was undoubtedly the tallest woman that either John or little Bella had ever seen. Coming from a gangly family, Ms. Worthington was never questioned for her height, but from everyone else she received looks ranging from disgust to wonderment.As she stood at the doorstep of the Welton family, she was acknowledged with an awkward look from John, which she decided to ignore because there were more urgent matters at hand than others’ insecurities. 

“Sorry to knock so late,” she began in a rather hasty voice, “I need you both to come with me immediately.” And without any sort of hesitation Ms. Worthington turned around and went back to her car. John and little Bella exchanged the slightest of glances, grabbed their coats and put on their shoes, and went after her.

The clouds were heavy and thick on this February night. Rain was expected for the next week due to a storm that was moving in from the East. As John looked up momentarily, a large rain droplet pierced his right eye and he uttered a quiet gasp of pain as he made his way over to Ms. Worthington’s car. The rain fell hard and fierce, forming several puddles on the Welton driveway. Little Bella, who stayed close behind John, accidentally walked right into one and splashed up water that drenched her small body. John looked behind him and, seeing this, lifted little Bella into his arms as he opened the car door.

The temperature in the car was very hot compared to the outside cold. John safely strapped little Bella in as well as himself, when Ms. Worthington turned around and offered a weak smile. Being too young and inexperienced to have honed her instincts, little Bella remained quite unaware of the dangers that her older brother had sensed. As she looked out the car window, the rain at once frightened and intrigued her. She was four years old, but she was beginning to develop an adventurous side that seemed to be interested in the peculiar pellets of water that fell from the sky. John, meanwhile, kept his gaze straight forward with the most serious of expressions. Ms. Worthington noticed this through the rear-view mirror, but decided not to say anything. She knew exactly what he was thinking, but didn’t want to address his suspicions just yet, especially for the fact that little Bella was in the car. 

John was twenty one years old with a Bachelor’s in Forestry from University of North Carolina. After his father had died a year ago, he moved back home without request from his mother although they both knew that she had wanted it. John convinced himself that he would stay home as long as it took for his mother to regain her strength and for little Bella to begin school. During the past year he had taken up a job as a forestry consultant for the state of Michigan. While his job required some travelling across the state, John was somewhat surprised by the liberties he had. Namely, he was able to be there for his mother and sister forty weeks out of the year. That’s not to say that he didn’t have to work at a local office when he was home, because he did. John was grateful for everything he had, and he never saw his move back home as a burden in any way. 

As he continued to stare at the front window of the car, an eerie dread came over him. 

The twenty minute car ride led little Bella and John to a small ditch on the side of the freeway. The rain continued to pour outside as John swiftly opened the car door and looked toward flashing red lights with concern. He started off at a slow pace that gradually built to a sprint as more lights came into his view. He slipped once in a puddle of mud but got up quickly, and slowly began to realize that the lights came from several police cars and fire trucks that were across the other side of the ditch. Tears streamed down his face though they could not be distinguished from the rain drops that did the same.

Finally reaching the police car closest to him, John quickly searched for the owner. He looked to his right but found no one. The combination of tears and rain made sight nearly impossible; he could only see a mere couple of feet in front of him. As he turned left he stumbled into a shorter but stouter man. 

At once John recognized the uniform and blurted out, “Where’s my mom?” John’s clothes were soaked at this point, as were the police officer’s. Everything seemed a blur. The flashing lights that attempted to pierce through the rain painted the sky alternating colors of red and blue. For a moment John seemed to lose all sense of himself as he looked around him. It was as if he had been caught in a nightmare. 

“Son,” repeated the police officer for the second time in a louder voice, trying to catch the attention of the tall and thin young man in front of him after he failed to do so the first time. After finally catching John’s attention the police officer asked, “Are you John Welton?” The police officer had a low and gravelly voice that was difficult for John to understand at first. The words took a moment to register.

“Yes, sir,” John replied as he looked about in concern. “I’m John Welton. Is my mom okay?” he asked with a tone that seemed to have already accepted the worst. His eyes were bloodshot as he spoke these words, and because of this it was difficult for the police officer to look him directly in the eye. “Is she?!” yelled John, unable to control himself. He had become almost manic in his fear. All he needed now was confirmation. 

The police officer momentarily regained his composure and said, “Your mother was in a car accident just over a half hour ago. I’m sorry, but,” and the officer’s words seemed to fail him. He looked down at the rain-soaked ground, struggling to utter the last words. “I’m sorry, but, she didn’t make it.”

John stared blankly as his entire body numbed. Everything around him faded and the constant pelting of rain was slowed, as if time itself was freezing. His first thoughts were of unrelenting pain, worse, he later recalled, than anything he had ever experienced. To be forsaken of one of his parents was horrible, but to be forsaken of both was like a death sentence.

 

Despite the company of little Bella, John was utterly lost without his parents. Always considered to be a strong man both physically and emotionally, suicide seemed to be the only solution following his mother’s passing. After a brief stay in a local psychiatric ward, John was released and left to survive on his own in the cruel world. Little Bella, although very young, felt the effects of losing a loved one more so than when her father had died. She was taken in by Ms. Worthington, whom Mrs. Welton trusted dearly. 

Instead of living at home, where the ghosts of his mother and father seemed to continually haunt him, John simply vanished. Ms. Worthington, the closest family friend that the Welton family had had, discovered John’s intentions in a note that he left at her doorstep. It read:

Ms. Worthington,
 

I cannot stay at my parents’ home. 

Don’t worry about me. 

Thanks for taking care of little Bella.

 
Sincerely,
John
 

His handwriting did not seem rushed; it was very neat and legible, which eased Ms. Worthington’s panic just slightly. After reading the letter, she decided it just let him go. Yes, she feared for him, but she knew in her heart that he would make it through this horrible time. After all, she thought to herself, John is a smart young man…he’ll be fine. Plus, he has money from his mother’s life insurance. A hefty amount, actually. He shouldn’t run into any financial problems. And so Ms. Worthington, carefully folding the letter in half and placing it in her front jacket pocket, went back into her little Victorian home. She had decided to lie to little Bella about John’s plans, telling the young child that her brother was going on a long work trip. Little Bella accepted this with ease, as her mind was still whirling over her mother’s death. Ms. Worthington sighed gratefully and sat at her red rocking chair in the far corner of the living room. She watched little Bella from a distance, deeply worried about how she would grow up without her parents and, as it now seemed, her brother.

 
 
 

“Now boarding flight #64 to Phoenix.”

John abruptly awoke upon hearing the raspy woman’s voice that came from the PA speaker directly above his head. His dreary eyes fell upon a large line that was forming right in front of him. He looked left out the large glass window, and saw snow falling beautifully on the black asphalt. “Denver,” he said. He closed his eyes again for a moment, as if to regain his thoughts. Opening them for the second time he saw that the line had grown much longer. In the middle of the line was a young girl, perhaps the same age as little Bella, he thought, who stared confusedly at him. Her pink parka seemed to fully envelope her. Her bright blue eyes were like little sapphires that glittered in the light. John smiled, thinking of little Bella back in Michigan. The girl frowned and looked away. 

“Mommy!” shouted the little girl to her mother, “that homeless man smiled at me.” The girl’s pink parka restricted her arm movement, forcing her to practically move her entire body so that she could tap her mother’s back. John kept his gaze on the little girl with a bright smile. The girl’s mother turned around to see what her daughter was shouting about. She glanced at John and tried to hide her face of disgust while the girl looked on. John was unmoved, his smile as bright as ever. Anything that reminded him of little Bella made him smile. He couldn’t help it. 

“Honey, come on,” the mother said, “it’s our time to board the plane.” The mother grabbed her daughter’s hand, which was eaten up by the pink parka. They moved their way quickly with the line, offering not another look in John’s direction. John’s smile slowly faded, but not because of the impression he made with the mom and her daughter. His brown, scruffy beard was not entirely inviting. In fact, the only thing that his beard did invite was speculation as to whether or not he was homeless. The little girl in the pink parka was no different in her speculation as everyone else who saw him in the airports. His hair, too, was long and uncombed. Often he wore a plain black beanie over it. Still, his general appearance did not exactly shout normal-twenty-four-year-old-college-educated-young-man. John had grown accustomed to the frequent stares and even the direct questions. He was not a self-conscious individual. Far from it. He just didn’t want to shave; he felt that it was simply unnecessary. As for overall cleanliness, John showered with shampoo and soap once a day, just like most other people that he encountered. He personally could not live without showering once a day. Nevertheless, most people assumed that he was a homeless man, despite his consistent denial. 

Now, as John watched the mother and the young girl in the pink parka disappear from sight, he decided that he should probably get in line to board. He grabbed his tattered navy blue backpack off the ground and threw it over his back. With his right hand he grabbed the black suitcase that lay in front of him, and with his left he pulled out his plane ticket that had crumpled a little in his pants pocket. John uttered a quick sigh and walked to the back of the line, which now had dwindled somewhat from what he had seen a couple of minutes before. The line moved at a pretty quick pace, and soon he was cleared to go through the door and make his way down the hallway to the entrance of the plane. Ahead of him he saw a large Japanese family that was talking excitedly as it reached the plane entrance. Tourists, maybe, John thought, but why in Denver in the middle of winter? That thought died as quickly as it had come up, and the Japanese family made its way to the coach section. 

John glanced quickly at his ticket and found his seat with ease, as it had been the aisle seat on the left side in the second row of First Class. He placed his black suitcase in the compartment directly over his seat and then sat down. After placing the navy blue backpack under the seat in front of him, John looked around. Mostly older men in fancy business suits accompanied him in the First Class section of the plane. Nothing new, John thought to himself. 

Two of the men—one in the row parallel to his, the other in the first row to the right—glared at him and seemed to shake their heads simultaneously in disapproval. John shrugged without care. He had seen those stares many times before. First Class was almost exclusively an old man’s club, and how dare a young (homeless?) guy barge in. The first time he had received those looks, John had felt a little intimidated, but that must have been three years ago. Now he was wise to their act. Now he honestly enjoyed knowing that he disrupted the normalcy of First Class flying. 

Looking to his left, John saw that the lone seat was empty. Despite being an outcast in First Class, John often liked the company of others even if the company was disapproving of him, which it always was. He looked at his watch. Five twenty-eight. There were still seven minutes before takeoff. John looked around a little uneasily, as if the empty seat was an evil omen that could potentially disrupt the flight. He closed his eyes for a moment, just as he had done in the airport terminal, to regain his thoughts. He glanced again at his watch. Five thirty-one. His body temperature seemed to be rising steadily as the seconds were passing. He could feel the sweat starting to collect under his arms and on his brow. Why am I sweating? he thought to himself. He looked behind him, down the long aisle that separated the two sides of seating. Everyone was in their seats, save for an elderly man who was gingerly walking back from the bathroom. All of the overhead compartments were closed, and the two female flight attendants stood in the back of the plane looking a little impatient and tired. As he turned to face forward, he twitched nervously. 

Just then a young blonde came barreling through the plane entrance, and John’s heart leaped slightly, though not much. 

“Last one,” said a man leaning against the cockpit door. 

The blonde smiled, visibly a little embarrassed, and mouthed “Thank you.”

John immediately sized her up in that split-second and concluded that she would not be his neighbor for the trip. She looked too young—perhaps his age, probably also college educated, maybe on her way visiting home for the weekend. She looked beautiful despite being covered head to toe in layers of clothes to stave off the winter weather. She wore light brown UGGS boots, tight dark blue jeans, and a heavy black snow jacket. Her hair was a stunning shade of blonde, not anything near the fake color that many other girls had. He barely caught a glimpse of her eyes, but they were sapphire like the young girl with the pink parka had. She just looked too…he couldn’t exactly pin point it, but he had a feeling that she was too smart to waste money on a First Class ticket when coach would get her to her destination in the same fashion. Funny, he thought, that he was judging this young woman the same way that the old men in First Class judge him. But John was right. She passed First Class without so much as a glance. John watched as she went all the way down the aisle. She was cute, John thought as he turned forward again. Too bad she wasn’t going to sit next to him. 

The realization that he was alone in his aisle came to him again, seizing him with an icy grip. Over the many years of flying, John had gotten over the looks of disdain but he had never gotten over his indescribable fear of not having someone sit right next to him during each flight. This time was no different. He suddenly felt hot despite the outside Denver cold that had made its way into the plane. He looked around again, as if trying to find a way out. He knew it would be not only unreasonable but entirely impossible to ask to get off the plane. He saw that the plane door had already been shut; takeoff was only a matter of seconds now. Without even realizing it he had already taken off his gray Nike sweatshirt and had placed it in his lap. 

His fear bubbled quickly into an anxiety that was gnawing at him. He was stuck on the plane. There was no way out. But, he thought to himself, I’m going to go insane sitting by myself, even though the plane ride was only going to be an hour long. Rational thought crumbled under the pressure of his deep anxiety. He considered asking for a seat switch, but he had seen how crowded the plane was. When he looked back earlier he hadn’t seen one empty seat. Not a single one. He started feeling the sweat sidle down his face and into the depths of his scraggly beard. Nothing. There is nothing I can do, he thought.

As he had done twice now, John closed his eyes to regain his thoughts, hoping that somehow a solution would reveal itself amidst the nightmare he found himself in. His mind swirled and so did his hearing. All he heard was the low humming of the plane engine. There might have been people talking, but he didn’t hear a thing. Hoping and praying, John sat still as if in a trance. From a distance he heard a woman’s voice. It was faint at first, but it seemed to be growing exponentially inside John’s mind.

“Excuse me, sir,” said one of the flight attendants, tapping his left arm. John opened his eyes not knowing exactly where he was. It was as if he had momentarily lost consciousness due to his anxiety. He looked at the flight attendant with confused eyes and nodded.

“Sorry,” John managed to say. 

“Sir,” ignored the flight attendant, whose disgust for John she was trying to hide, “we’re going to have this young lady sit next to you during the flight because there aren’t any other seats available.”

“Okay” was all John responded with, but his eyes suddenly lit up as if they had just witnessed a miracle. His heart leaped again, but this time into his throat. He swallowed awkwardly as the flight attendant nodded to him and then to the young woman who stood next to her. It was the blonde who was the last on the plane. John quietly thanked God and offered a weak smile to the blonde as she placed her luggage in the overhead compartment and then sat next to him. The blonde smiled back.

The captain announced that the weather was sunny and hot in Phoenix, and that the hour-long flight would be just that. The flight attendants performed the safety procedures, and the plane neared the runway. As she was walking to the back of the plane, the flight attendant who had brought the blonde over to First Class gave John a sort of warning glance. It was as if she was to say, “touch her and you will be sorry.” John shrugged it off. He was too happy to be concerned with something like that.

As the plane lifted off the ground, John lay in silence, trying to figure out a way to communicate to this woman next to him who nearly saved his life. For a while he simply stared at the Air Way magazine in the seat pouch in front of him. Its red, white and blue colors stood out from everything else. On the front cover were bold phrases that read, “The Best Airport Restaurants” and “Grand Hotels for a Penny or Two.” John let out a short laugh after reading the second one and turned to the blonde as if wanting to share the laugh.

The blonde noticed and looked at him curiously. For the first time in a long time John had become suddenly self-conscious about his appearance. He felt uncomfortable under his unshaven beard and uncombed hair. In that moment he wished that he could have shaved and gotten a haircut, but he had already received one wish. Two granted wishes in one day was like the equivalent of God offering to bring his parents back. It would never happen.

John, meeting the blonde’s glance for a moment, immediately looked down in front of him in shame. For the first time he honestly felt like a homeless man. Maybe the young girl in the pink parka was right, John thought. Maybe I am homeless and won’t own up to it. His thoughts were interrupted when the blonde spoke.

“I’m Jane,” she said. Her angelic voice seemed to lift John’s head from its gaze at the floor. Her right hand was extended towards him, and he looked at her graciously.

“I’m John,” he responded, and shook her hand. Her sapphire eyes gleamed brighter than before. They were like vast oceans in and of themselves. He realized that he was gawking and looked back and the green-blue carpeted floor of the plane. Both sensed the awkwardness, but Jane made an effort to expel it.

“Thanks for letting me sit next to you,” she said. Although John was still staring at the floor he could peripherally see that she was looking at him. He shuddered thinking that she was staring at the Unabomber reincarnated. He finally managed to meet her gaze.

“Oh, no need to thank me. It’s not like I own these seats.” In addition to his uncharacteristic self-consciousness, he became overly critical of his actions and words. He thought that he sounded arrogant, and he knew that his hunched stature reflected his awkward state. 

“I know,” she laughed, seemingly unaware of his worries, “plus, you wouldn’t want to sit by yourself, would you?” John’s veins turned to ice with those last words. It was as if she could tell! Her bright smile, however, warmed him and he started to feel comfortable. His self-conscious nature quickly dissipated, as did his shyness, and he suddenly felt a surge of renewed self-confidence. He smiled at her with genuine appreciation. His prayer had been answered in the form of Jane, a wonderfully kind attractive young woman who saw past his grungy appearance. For a moment, all he could concentrate on was her. The thoughts of his parents’ deaths and of abandoning little Bella, thoughts that always pervaded his mind, momentarily went away. John was happy, as happy as he had been before his mother’s death three years ago.

The plane ride went much more smoothly than John had anticipated when he had first entered the plane. He and Jane engaged in a rather lively conversation that ranged from college (she had graduated with a Business degree from University of Denver and was currently living in the city) to favorite bands and food. Her favorite food, it turned out, was a full steak dinner that included mashed potatoes and salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. John couldn’t complain about her choice, but he made it clear that his favorite was pepperoni and sausage pizza. Not the fast-food kind, he assured her, but the gourmet kind that his mom used to make from scratch (normally any mention of his mom irked him, but not this time). Jane playfully argued that pizza is unrefined, although she finally admitted that it was in her top five.

Their talk was effortless, and when the plane was coming into Phoenix, it suddenly dawned on John that he and Jane were about to part ways forever. He had only known her for about an hour, but he loved everything about her. He sat in reflection as the plan was descending. It was as if he was in a romance movie, where the striking young man falls in love with the beautiful young woman at first sight. A Romeo and Juliet of sorts, but without the behind-the-scenes family disapproval. Inwardly he felt a little ridiculous with these thoughts. I have only known her for an hour, he thought. But his instinct had him in a vice-grip. He knew what he had to do.

He never expected to meet someone when he started flying from city to city after his mother had died. He didn’t really care to. He was utterly lost and alone. He felt that planes and airports would provide him with some sort of comfort, if only for the reason that they collectively saw thousands of people each day. There was also the possibility that his plane could one day go down, which, sinister a thought as it is, didn’t bother him. For a long while he had been contemplating suicide, but was too afraid to go through with it. A plane crash provided the perfect opportunity for him to join his mother and father in the afterlife. 

But he had met someone, and he didn’t want to lose her. 

“Jane,” he began hesitatingly, almost regressing to the shy state he was in at the beginning of the flight, “what are you going to do after we land?” The awkwardness of his question immediately hit him like a punch in the gut. What a stupid way of putting the question, he thought. He caught his eyes wandering; he could not look at her directly because he knew he probably just ruined any chance he had. Jane had thought the question awkward, too, but decided to answer it anyway as if she hadn’t.

“Well, I need to go rent a car since my mom is on her way home from work right now. I didn’t want to make her pick me up. Plus, I want a car for the weekend, anyway. What about you?”

John, somewhat surprised at her nonchalant response, summoned up all the courage he could muster. Looking her directly in the eyes, he said, “Well, I know it’s a little past dinner time, but I was wondering if you wanted to grab some food. Perhaps a steak dinner?” He saw that she was about to speak and quickly added, “I know that the airport restaurants aren’t the best, but I would really enjoy it if you could join me, my treat.”

She ran her right hand quickly through her hair as she looked away from John and out the window to her right. John, nervous as ever, looked at her eagerly. He supposed that there was a chance that she would say yes, but then again, why would she? She had only known him for about an hour, and he did look like he had been in hibernation for a month with his unshaven beard and wild hair. But there was something about him that intrigued her. There was something in his eyes that spoke volumes about his character, and she was attracted to that. She also saw an earnestness in him that seemed to stem from hope that was previously nonexistent. Sure her mother was expecting her home at eight, but she was twenty-four now, not twelve. Never mind my mother, Jane thought. This would be a risk, but one that I am willing to take.

She turned back to look at John, her instinct telling her to say “yes.” She smiled. “Alright, BUT,” seeing John’s face light up, she wanted to set one condition, “I pick the restaurant.” She laughed and kept smiling.


© Copyright 2017 jake088800. All rights reserved.

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