When Madison Reeves boards Flight 41 for a Bahamas vacation and after her plane passes through a shimmering curtain of lights, strange things happen; she finds herself landing at an airplane terminal that is not of this world.
" ... Something feels off, not quite right, like a run inching its way up my nylon every time I move." Madison Reeves said to herself the day she boarded a plane for a Bahamas' vacation.
Little did she know the prophecy in her own words. After her plane passes through an undulating curtain of lights, mysterious events occur to Madison and other passengers on flight 41, but not until they land do they realize how mysterious life has become.
Met by her dead grandfather in this otherworldly airplane terminal hung between the worlds of the living and the dead, Madison begins a journey that enlightens her mind and spirit and awakens something long buried in her heart. Is she in Heaven? No one tells her as she undergoes a deep awakening and understanding in the midst of facing her greatest fears.
Whether you're a man and a woman, if you don't cry when you read this novella's surprise ending, go get your heart checked out because something's broken there. From retired Georgia weatherman John Doyle, "Changing Planes, a movie your heart reads ... "
Chapter 1--A New Adventure
"What we are looking for is what is looking." St. Francis of Assisi
“Mom! I’ll be all right. Please, don’t fret, it’s only two weeks.” I look up to see the cabby watching me from the rear view mirror while I’m on the phone. Distracted, he barely misses swerving out of the way of a stopping car ahead.
He looks back to the mirror and catches my eye. I frown at him as I continue my conversation.
“Mom—you always worry when I fly. Nothing is going to happen. I don’t care what the tarot says, mother, nothing is going to happen!” I look at my nails and realize I need a manicure.
I must make an appointment after I land.
“Go feed Harry. She’s probably ready to go into hibernation, you know she needs to eat something first! Give her cantaloupe; you know how much she loves it. I know mom, I know—yes, I will. I love you, too. I’ll text you when I land. Bye.”
I definitely loved the mother person, but she could be annoying at times. At least I’d discharged my duty and called. I’d be free and clear for the next two weeks.
I flipped the phone shut and put it back into my purse where I traded it for my compact. I briefly scanned my image in its miniature mirror, made some minor adjustments, and put it back.
I looked back to the rear-view mirror in time to catch the cabby averting his eyes back to the road.
This is my life. A peeping Tom in a big yellow taxi drives me to the airport. I am always in the company of strangers, never alone, yet endlessly so.
I sigh at the thought and turn toward the window on my right, staring out at nothing. My mind drifts aimlessly.
I tell myself that it feels safer this way, being alone. There’s nothing to clog the pores. Nothing to get under the skin.
Long ago it was different, but with my hectic schedule and the traveling to and fro across this great big blue marble, I really don’t have the time to develop any long-term relationships.
I’ll be fine, I rationalize to myself.
As long as you keep telling yourself this. The cynical voice of my ever-annoying internal critic chimes in. It sounds strangely like my mother.
I’d decided early on that I don’t do relationships. They just don’t work out for me.
It happens every time. As soon as I settle in with someone and we get past the seeing-each-other-naked-phase, I’m off to China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan for two or three weeks and when I come back, Mr. I-Thought-You-Were-Made-for-Me has moved on and doesn’t even bother letting me know.
Maybe it’s you, the irritating voice says.
So, for the time being, I’ve given up on relationships altogether, impossible things that they are. And though I’m alone in a taxi heading for the airport, I really don’t mind at all.
Yeah, right! And if you believe that, I’ve got this bridge from London I can sell you—oh wait—sorry, I forgot, they sold it to the state of Arizona! The voice retorts.
I refuse to rise to the bait and engage the incessant internal battle. Thankfully, because I’ve ignored it, my internal critic slips into the quiet folds of my mind.
Out the cab window, I see a dark gray blur on the Pacific Ocean horizon that I know is the San Juan Islands.
North and behind me, Victoria, British Columbia calls to me across the distance with the sounds of ferry horns and gulls crying, a place I would live if it weren’t so isolated from the working world. A one-way three-hour ferry commute is out of the question, and though I make a good salary, daily trips by seaplane would soon make it pointless.
For now, my three-bedroom, two-bath condominium on Alpine Crest Loop in Mt. Vernon with a celebrated view of the Cascades is as close to nature as I can get. Someday maybe more, but not now.
Out the front window, I see drizzles and dreariness; another monotone Skagit County day no different from the countless others just like it. Gray and smudgy around the edges, the sky spits at me every which way I look.
I hunger for the feel of the sun and the touch of it on my skin, hot and warm like a lover. A lover who is always faithful. A lover who is always there, even if at a distance. A lover who will never let me down.
I know I should feel better since I’m on my way to my first vacation and some real sun in three years; but something feels off, not quite right, like a run inching its way up my nylon every time I move.
Maybe mom’s crazy tarot cards are right.
It started early in the morning as a tickle on the back of my head creeping forward on my scalp; but I deliberately ignored it because I wasn’t going to let anything come between me and my first real vacation in a long time.
Coming out of a daze, I find myself focusing on the back of the cab driver’s neck.
As I look at his neck, I realize that you can tell a lot about a person by their neck. The cabby has a short neck. Short-necked people don’t take chances. Short-necked people seemed fixed and set in their ways. Their thoughts never seem to stray far from their bodies.
Staring at his neck irritates me. I feel my jaw tighten.
The cabby messes with the radio dial as an oldies station suddenly pumps music through a blown speaker in the dash. The cabby must be deaf because it sounds like the songs are playing inside a kazoo. I feel my irritation rising.
“Saturday in the park, I think it was the Fourth of July—” blasts through the kazoo; and even as bad as it sounds, it sends me reeling headlong into the past, the replay button on the internal video automatically activated.
Leave it to Chicago.
The image pops into my head, and I see Connor as if it was yesterday and not nine years ago. His sandy hair is skewed and dragging at his collar.
I realize that Connor doesn’t have a short neck. His is a perfect neck well served by his longish hair. His is a neck that begs for arms around it. I remembered that I couldn’t find a thing wrong with him and how much that scared me. I couldn’t believe that a guy like him would even be with someone like me.
Deeply embedded in my memory, it all comes back to me in a rush of feelings, songs, and smells.
The memory comes to me like something that happened yesterday. I remembered that we’d discovered an old music store downtown. Even now, I can still smell the dank mustiness of old cardboard boxes and damp wood. Tucked away in a corner in the back, Connor unearthed a timeworn display case stuffed with vinyl albums from our parent’s era. He pulls out albums making jokes at some of the bizarre covers; we both laugh until we come across Chicago II.
“I love this album,” he says.
“Me, too!” I reply in amazement. “No guy I know likes Chicago.”
“Well, this one does. My mom used to play it all the time when I was growing up.”
“So did mine!” I exclaim. Glowing green eyes meet mine in a mid-air embrace. My stomach does a three-sixty as if on a Magic Mountain roller coaster.
“It makes me feel good inside. Let’s buy it!” he says as we head toward checkout.
“That’ll be a dollar-six,” says the clerk as we scraggle for change, “I’m getting rid of the whole kit and caboodle, as no one buys albums anymore. I’ll give you a deal if you want anything else.”
“No thanks,” Connor says as we both put fifty-three cents on the counter. “We’re heading for the beach.”
We’d done it: we committed our first act as a couple. We now shared joint custody of Chicago II. At that moment, I fell madly and completely in love.
After that, I remember we walked along Ocean Beach just north of the pier at the water’s edge. I’d taken my shoes off so that I could feel the sand squish up between my toes and the water still felt reasonably warm.
Though already mid-December, it was a typical So Cal sunny afternoon. I’d learned quickly that San Diego winters meant wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt with your shorts and sandals. I don’t think I’d met a local that owned a woolen winter coat, unless they were in the Navy. Most wore car coats and light windbreakers.
It was my junior year at State. I remembered dreading going back to Washington. Neither one of us wanted to go home on Christmas break that year; we wanted to be with the other.
Connor stopped along the ocean’s edge and raised his arm toward the sea, pointing.
“Look, Madison, can you see them?” “What?” I looked to where he pointed.
“Here they come again. You can only see them when the tide turns like this and the waves break short of shore then come in long and low.”
He moved behind me and placed a hand on my left shoulder as he pointed across my right so that I could easily follow.
An alligator clip gripped my long hair atop my head. I could feel his soft breath on my neck. A warm rush cascaded through me.
“See—right there, now watch—watch the waves as they come closer to shore—tell me you see them! Blur your eyes a bit and use your artist’s eye,” he said.
I followed along his arm, more entranced with his breathing on my neck than where he pointed. I blurred my eyes to try to see what he saw.
“Tell me you see them!”
“I see them,” I said excitedly. As if by magic, the long line of the wave rushed toward us like a miniature herd of white buffalo kicking up dust as it stampeded into shore.
That night we ate dinner in an Italian restaurant at a table covered by a red-checkered cloth and adorned with a single candle stuck in a basket-wrapped Chianti bottle smothered in multi-hued wax drippings.
We sat looking into each other’s eyes for what seemed to be hours, without saying much. It felt like a scene right out of Lady and the Tramp, but that was a cartoon and this was real life. The only thing missing was the shared strand of spaghetti, the fat waiter, and a starry night’s view.
I walked on air. I’d never felt this way before. It felt as if my insides melted into Jell-O, sending tingling shock waves throughout my body.
I remembered we moved in together that winter break and we were in love. For Christmas, he sculpted a seal on a rock out of a solid piece of soft wood for me. He used to call me his brown seal because I tanned so easily and I loved to body surf.
I painted him an abstract. It defined my view of life.
“Miss—where do ya wanna be dropped—what termn’l?” The cabby’s voice punched holes in my dream bubble, like bullets piercing tin cans. The interruption brought me back to the moment.
“American,” I said quickly.
In a hurry to get to the next customer, he pulled up to the curb, jumped out the door before the car settled into park, yanked my luggage out of the trunk, and placed it on the sidewalk in under twenty seconds with time to spare.
Why did cabbies rush so? At least he unloaded my luggage for me. Most of them made me do it.
“That’s fifty-three ninety, lady,” I saw his outstretched hand in front of my face as I stepped out of the cab. Digging in my purse, I handed him sixty dollars. Six-ten wasn’t that big of a tip, being a tad over ten percent, but I didn’t have any more singles, and I surely wasn’t giving him a twenty.
“Keep the change,” I said, thinking about his short neck.
I stacked my overnighter on top of my big suitcase, pulled out the suitcase handle, leaned the whole thing over on its wheels, and began my trek toward check in.
As I pulled my luggage behind me, it bobbed and bounced from wheel to wheel catching on every insignificant flaw in the cement. It seemed to grow little hands that grabbed at every crack in the sidewalk in a vain attempt to stay on the ground. Again, I felt that tickle crawl up my neck to sit on the crown of my head.
At check-in, I found the plane delayed and no need to rush anymore. I got my boarding pass and poured myself into a seat in one of the end rows near the gate. After wrestling with my luggage and memories of Connor, arrival at the boarding gate felt anti-climatic. The last few moments drained from my body like water after a shower, and I relaxed.
I turned off my personal cell phone and was thankful that I left my Blackberry in the office. No one could bother me.
This would be my private getaway from my work family and I would allow nothing to disturb me. The anticipation of a two-week date with the sun in the Bahamas while living at no one’s beck and call lured me like a siren’s song.
I pulled a magazine from my large Louis Vuitton Neverfull purse. My boss gave it to me especially for this trip. As I opened up my InStyle magazine, I casually glanced over the top of it and couldn’t help but notice an odd-looking couple sitting across from me.
The man, small and non-descript, did not fit well with the large and overbearing woman. They didn’t look at all like they should be a couple, and yet I knew them to be one because of the demeaning way in which she spoke to him.
She made her voice loud enough that anyone could hear that wanted to, taking in at least four or more rows with its reach. She lifted her index finger and shook it to make her point as she spoke.
“I told you. You always plan these trips and every time, every time something goes wrong. You are a complete idiot. An idiot!”
Her make-up had smudged and melted into her fat creases giving her an evil look. She frowned wickedly, which caused deeply etched and soon-to-be permanent marionette lines to frame her mouth.
Her bleached blond hairy upper lip served equally as well as an eyebrow above her large and now temporarily closed mouth.
I’m always amazed at women who think bleaching a hairy lip is better than removing the hair altogether. Dark haired women need to wax, not bleach; bleaching just makes the hair more obvious.
I watched over the top of my magazine as she turned away from him in a snit. She crossed fat arms atop a heaving chest resting them on her protruding and low-slung breasts. An even bigger belly served to prop them up. To me, she appeared as ugly on the outside as what I heard spewing from her insides.
I felt sorry for the bespectacled husband. He shrunk deeper into himself every time she spoke, his shoulders jerking at the blows of her words.
Like a terrified rabbit, he frantically looked around himself as if waiting for a chance to break free, but his glasses kept slipping down his nose, trapping him in its repetitive motion.
Each time they slipped, he nervously pushed them up the bridge of his nose with the side of his index finger until the next time. The poor man simply needed new glasses.
And, he needed a new wife.
She turned and spoke to him again.
“Why can’t you do just one thing right? Harry—sit up straight when I’m talking to you!”
She reached over to pull him up as he bobbed away from her. You could tell the motion was part of a pattern between them as she kept on with her lecture, not noticing he’d dipped out of reach.
“I knew I should have married John when I had the chance. At least I’d be living in a mansion with servants to wait on me. I wouldn’t be trying to scrape together a decent living on your pitifully minute salary. Thank goodness, your mother put some money aside.”
She pursed her lips together and scrutinized the room, breathing heavily with the exertion of talking. I dropped my eyes to my magazine as she glanced past me. Her stare felt like a searchlight from a prison wall hunting for anything amiss; luckily, she took no other prisoners.
Though she carried a Gucci bag and wore shoes from Italy, her clothes were ill fit. She didn’t realize or didn’t care that she wore something too small and for a younger woman. It definitely was expensive, I could tell by the cut of the cloth, but I would not have recommended the garish florescent green for her size.
Her browbeaten man, a pitiful creature, wore nothing but Wal-Mart knock-offs. I knew their clothing and their accessories; as VP of Purchasing for Hillagos, a high-end West Coast retail department store, it was my job to know.
He appeared to be nothing more than a shipping and receiving clerk or some other non-descript person from a large company, spending long hours in a room with no windows with others of his kind.
Maybe he had evolved, as a point of survival, to blend in with his surroundings whenever needed, much like a wild jackrabbit frozen in fright in a summer’s meadow.
Only he wasn’t blending now.
I could see the woman planned on badgering this poor soul for the whole journey, and I didn’t want to be near them and be subject to any more of her negativity, as I might say something out of hand; so I got up and moved to another seat.
I scooted my overnight bag behind me as I threw both my laptop and purse straps over my shoulder and hunkered for a better spot.
I found a seat in the middle of the waiting area and settled back in. An aisle away on my right, two college-age girls engaged in conversation.
“Whoa, dude!” One slinky girl said to the other. “Can you believe it? I’ve gained five pounds just sitting here.”
I saw them jointly scrutinize an iPhone, heads bent together.
“I log everything I eat into this thing so I can keep track of when I need to purge!”
“Purge—isn’t that like—throwing up? Eeeeeww!“
“Why do you do it?”
“Dude—look at me, I’m like totally fat!”
“Sue—you are not; you’re not fat at all. In fact, I think you’re kinda skinny.”
“What would you know anyway, Sar-ah?” Sue threw her head to her right as her hair swung behind her back and hung in long oily and stringy strands. She turned her chin back over her shoulder and shrewd eyes appraised Sarah in a head-to-toe look that implied Sarah was the one overweight.
“Looks like you could lose a few, dude.” Sue said.
Sarah hung her head down and avoided Sue’s face.
I looked closely at the two, noticing that while Sarah looked heavier, she wasn’t overweight by any means.
“If that’s the way you feel about it—you can wait for me here. I need to make room for all those margaritas I plan on having,” she said.
As she moved toward the restroom, I could see that her retro hip-hugger bell-bottoms barely clung to her jutting bony hips. Her spine clearly stood out between her pants and crop top like blunt and fossilized shark teeth, jagged testament to her very serious problem.
Sarah gently lifted her eyes toward me as I discreetly averted my face to a view of the tarmac, where I kept my focus for a while.
If the young are our future, where is the world headed? Can’t we go anywhere without our gadgets anymore? Now young anorexics used their electronics to maintain their diseases.
I pulled my laptop closer.
A deep bass voice broke across the room.
“I am not! You can go alone!”
An unkempt, beefy man on the other side of the girls with wolf head tattoos on both upper arms stood up from his seat, knocking over the overnight bag that sat on the floor next to him.
“I will not put up with your ‘effin complaints anymore, woman.”
The man towered over a petite woman sitting next to him. She looked hastily around the room and grabbed at the man’s hand to pull him back into his seat as she spoke softly. I couldn’t catch what she said.
“No, not until you apologize.”
I didn’t hear what the woman said, but the man sat back down, puffing out his chest as he did so.
A woman’s shrill voice pierced the air.
I turned toward the outburst. Am I in Hell? I thought this is supposed to be an airport. I must have booked a flight on Dysfunctionals United. It was beginning to wear on me.
“Delayed? Are you kidding me?”
All heads turned to look at the woman.
Obvious to anyone paying attention, this was exactly the effect she intended.
“Yes, Ms., the plane is delayed. If you could take a—”
“Who in the hell are you to talk to me that way? Don’t you know who I am?“
The woman surveyed the room again to ensure her audience paid attention.
“I am Lucy Wright and I will have you know that my father built and sold this airline before your parents even thought about you.”
“That may be so Ms. Wright, but I must ask—”
The Lucy Wright person kept on talking, steamrolling the counter attendant while rudely interrupting, “In his day, there were no delayed flights, no waiting customers, and definitely no snippy counter attendants. And I might add—I flew free.” Lucy Wright spoke as if she’d prepared the speech ahead of time.
“I could get genetically engineered wings for the prices you’re charging. Since the plane is late, will there be any credit for this wait? Any miles I can add to my account?”
Lucy Wright annoyingly tapped her fingers on the counter, her acrylic nails sounding more like the clicking of a very large cat’s claws as it walked across a tile floor. Obviously an impatient sort, she followed the counter attendant’s every move as if ready to pounce on her next meal.
Not getting the response she wanted, the arrogant woman rotated toward the room to see if she still held her audience. Most people had already turned away from the conversation, not that they couldn’t hear it, they just chose to ignore it. I felt embarrassed for her.
“Hey rich bitch, why don’t you just shut up and sit down like the rest of us?” the Wolf Man said from his seat. “We could care less who you are. We’re just as much delayed as you are.”
The auburn-haired woman ignored his outburst and looked elsewhere. She took one look at the skinny college girls, banishing them as quickly as her eyes could pass over them. She completely ignored the Wolf Man and his demure wife and then spotted me.
Flashing her biggest smile, she pulled her overnight case behind her like an errant dog on a leash and headed straight for me. I mentally whispered don’t see me, don’t sit here, don’t see me— as I shuffled for something in my purse.
I heaved a sigh of relief when she passed by me and took a seat down from me, next to an older guy who appeared gay. Not that I would know that. He was just too good-looking to be straight. His clothes were color-coordinated and his socks matched his shirt. Neatly groomed and thoroughly engrossed in a book, he ignored Ms. Wright.
She sat down with a pout on her red lips that looked bee-stung.
On closer examination, she had no wrinkles for someone of her age, whatever age that might be. She had that waxy-face-stuck-in-one position-look like that of a doll with sculpted cheeks and thick puffy lips.
I found no ounce of character on her face anywhere. How old could she be? Her cheeks pulled up into her ears (which seemed lower than normal, proof of a face job), and her lips were more than bee-stung. They looked as if several bumblebees had at them.
I couldn’t figure out the women of today who were overly obsessed with their appearance. Funny that, it was my job to ensure our store stocked the soft goods they wanted.
Myself, I preferred the more natural look and frankly, a great smile could do wonders for any face. Only, her face looked as if it would break if she cracked a smile.
The overhead speakers blared Chicago music (what was up with that?) in from somewhere and it made me think of Connor again. I still see his face, uncomplicated, clean, and gorgeous—Brad Pitt gorgeous. But I left him behind. I told myself he wasn’t good enough for me—the truth of it—I felt I wasn’t good enough for him.
I never even said goodbye.
I felt a pain deep in my chest and my stomach turned over. Why did this always seem to happen, this journey into the past, when I didn’t have enough to keep my mind busy?
This is not the way I want my vacation to start.
A voice from the loudspeaker interrupted my thoughts before they took their chance to pull up another reel from the past and rerun it.
“First class passengers may now line up to board Flight 41 for Nassau City.”