THE SHINE JOURNAL

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 Close Call

by

Margaret B. Davidson

 

 

Clementine had been one of the first coach passengers to board the plane, and Trevor was still settling himself into his business-class seat when he’d glanced up and seen her coming toward him. Their eyes met for a second, and Trevor, panicking, looked quickly away.  She passed, not recognizing him. Everything about him was different now.

 

Clementine had changed too.  There were lines on her face where once there’d been none, and the loose linen dress she wore couldn’t hide the fact that she was thinner than he remembered.  But the violet eyes -- they hadn’t changed.  He’d always been mesmerized by those eyes.

 

Had the past fifteen years treated her well? He hoped so. 

 

The plane rolled away from the gate and roared aloft.  The pilot’s voice came over the sound system:

 

“Good evening, folks.  I’m John Reynolds, your captain for this hop over the Atlantic.  Flight time from JFK to Heathrow is approximately six hours.  We have a decent tail-wind so should arrive early.  I’ll update you on that as we near our destination.  Meanwhile, relax and enjoy the flight.”

 

Trevor closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but his mind refused to let go of what he’d lost so many years ago.  His name had been Michael then.

 

Clementine had pleaded with him.

 

“Those people are trouble!  You’re working for crooks!”

 

“I’m just doing what I get paid for, Clem.”

 

“Hacking into government files is a felony, Michael.  Quit, before you end up in jail.”

 

When he’d been caught, he’d turned State’s evidence.

 

They’d offered him the witness protection program.  If he accepted, he’d never see the woman he loved again, and she’d never know what happened to him.  If he didn’t accept he’d be killed by those seeking revenge.  He’d had no choice.

 

Plastic surgery, an American passport, and Michael Conlan became Trevor Smith. 

 

The following years had not been happy.  He’d obsessed about the fact that Clementine had no idea why he’d deserted her.  Many times he’d been tempted to shed his disguise and return home, but then his courage would desert him.  Eventually he realized that Clementine would have moved on, made a new life.

 

Almost crazy with regret, Trevor buried himself in work, eventually becoming a successful businessman.  Never happy, but somebody who had come to terms with his situation.  Until today.

 

 

At the captain’s pre-landing announcement, Trevor jolted upright in his seat.  He’d slept after all.

 

The seat-belt sign came on, and the plane began its descent.  Trevor pulled his window blind up and was greeted by rain sheeting sideways across the glass.  He peered out as the plane continued its descent, but he couldn’t make out a thing on the ground.  Suddenly, there was a rooftop, and then another.

 

He braced himself and waited for the series of bumps that would indicate landing.  He closed his eyes.  He heard a roar.  Startled, his eyes popped open.  What the hell…  The woman next to him began to whimper.

 

People who hadn’t spoken at all during the entire flight now began panicked conversation with their neighbors, shock registering on their faces.  The plane was soaring back up into dense clouds.

 

The cabin staff appeared shaken too, although they made a valiant attempt to hide it as they went about reassuring passengers.  Trevor watched as the head steward disappeared into the cockpit.  When he reappeared his expression was bland and, when questioned, he’d say only that there’d been a slight technical glitch but that the plane would be landing shortly.

 

Trevor’s mind raced.  The landing gear hadn’t come down.  That was it!  No, that couldn’t be.  He’d heard the grind as the landing gear descended.  But there had to be a problem with it.  That was the glitch.  The pilot had discerned a problem with the landing gear just as he was about to touch down. 

 

They’d have to try a crash landing.  Nobody would survive.

 

Clementine.  He had to get to Clementine.  Tell her the truth before it was too late.  Tell her he’d had no choice all those years ago.  Tell her there hadn’t been a day he hadn’t longed for her.  He had to get to Clementine.  He stood.

 

“Sir, the seat-belt sign is on.  You have to sit down.”

 

“No, I—“

 

“Sir, I insist.  Please remain seated.”

 

A second attendant approached.  Now the two loomed, blocking Trevor’s exit into the aisle.

 

Trevor, forced to comply, dropped back down.

 

A whine; the sound system clicked on.

 

“Captain Reynolds again.  Sorry for the scare, folks.  Seems there was something on the runway at Heathrow, so we had to climb back up.  I’ve been told things are clear now, so we’ll be safely on the ground in ten minutes.”

 

The Captain’s words were met with dead silence.  People clutched seat arms, couples locked hands.  The cabin staff calmly took their own seats.

 

And then they were on the ground. 

 

Trevor watched as Clementine snaked her way through the barriers to immigration.  He was in a shorter line – for non-British citizens.  Reaching the official, he was quickly waved through.  He hesitated at the door.  Should he wait here for Clementine?  No, that security guard was eying him.  He’d wait for her at the luggage carousel.

 

Twenty minutes later, luggage began to chug around the carousel. Trevor stood amid folks tugging their belongings off the conveyor belt, pushing and shoving in their hurry to be on their way.  Trevor peered time and again over the head of the crowd in an effort to catch sight of Clementine.

 

He understood why he hadn’t seen her sooner when the tall man who’d been shielding her stepped back.  Clementine’s lover clung to her hand as he used the other to lug a case from the carousel.

 

Sick at heart, Trevor knew the truth.  It was fifteen years too late, and Michael was gone for good.  He hurried through the terminal, and out the exit. Throwing his carry-on into a taxi, he was soon lost in London traffic.

MARGARET B. DAVIDSON shares...

 

Born and raised in England, Margaret B. Davidson now resides in upstate New York. She has approximately 300 fiction and non-fiction stories published in print and online magazines, and is proud that one of her fiction stories has been nominated for the 2006 Pushcart Prize. Margaret may be reached at MargaretDa@aol.com.

Motivation...

Close Call  was the result of a prompt supplied by the leader of her online writer's group. Margaret says she no longer remembers what the actual prompt was.