“You don’t want to miss your plane, Mr. Charron.” The clerk repeated as Aedan stared at her, not sure if she were ‘real’ or if he was dreaming.
“It leaves in one hour, there’s no time to waste!” she went on as Aedan slowly accepted that he should take her advice.
The emotions of Aedan’s recent experience – be it a dream or some kind of vision – were still overwhelming him. At once he wanted to tell her about his experience because he didn’t feel it was a dream and yet he wasn’t sure what it was and even after a week in the hotel, she didn’t know him from Adam. He knew only her name, Louise, which he got from her name tag, that she was probably in her early twenties and had a pretty smile. No, this initial urge to share what he experienced needed to be digested.
Aedan pulled himself to his feet and brushed the grass from himself. Already on the move, she looked over her shoulder, smiling even bigger than she had in the past. That it seemed the entire town was constantly smiling and especially friendly to him had initially bothered Aedan. It made him question their motives and sincerity. A week later and he had come to accept the smiles as genuine. There was something different about her smile now, though.
“Come on!” She grabbed his hand and tugged then laughed as she let go and started walking rapidly back to the hotel.
Aedan’s head was still full of all that he had just experienced so he followed after her somewhat blindly while trying to sort it all out. The older man at the table was not his father but it was him in the future. The boy was him as a child and then, there was no question about the other one at the table. They discussed many events in their lives but each remembered them differently. Some things Aedan wanted to talk about but the others glanced at the boy then shook their heads without saying a word. They discussed even bigger things – the meaning of life, of God, of being. Some of the ideas discussed with Aedan were foreign to him and yet, they seemed to make so much sense. Others he appreciated technically and thought he understood their meaning but now he had actually experienced them and realized the difference was vast. And now? Suddenly he was following Louise back to the hotel as if he couldn’t find the way on his own.
The walk back to the hotel was less than 5 minutes at the pace they traveled. Aedan had everything packed except the clothes he had intended to change into. They were laid out on the bed along with his ticket, wallet and passport which were tucked into a pocket of his jacket. It wouldn’t take much time to change but the airport was another 10 minutes by car and then there was the hassle of getting through security. The realization of the short time he had brought his focus back to the present and away from his experience. There would be time to sort that out while on the plane.
Louise and Aedan barged into the hotel lobby nearly in a run. Not surprisingly, the lobby was empty except for the blonde haired woman behind the counter whom Aedan had guessed to be the manager. She was as friendly as the others but besides her senior years, was obviously the one called upon when there was a question about anything that the other clerks couldn’t address themselves.
“Whoa! Slow down you two!” the lady behind the counter countered as Aedan was about to start up the stairs. “Mr. Charron, your flight has been delayed for a few hours. You’ve got plenty of time now”.
Aedan exhaled deeply, feeling the weight lift from his shoulders. “It is still coming today, right? No offense but I’m really ready to begin this vacation!”. He laughed at himself.
“Yes, they had to do some unscheduled maintenance before leaving but I checked right after Louise left to find you about thirty minutes ago and the plane was taking off then.” She went on.
“Rats! I was so looking forward to a bag of peanuts for lunch but… “ Aedan was cut off mid sentence.
“Nonsense, Mr. Charron “ exclaimed the voice from behind the counter. “Louise, fetch him a plate from the kitchen. “Today’s special is roast beef sandwiches and since you’ve been so pleasant in your extended stay here – and not too messy I might add – lunch is on the house.”
For the first time, Aedan saw Louise without a smile. In fact she looked horrified.
“Ms. Mann, I think Mr. Charron might prefer something else before his trip. There is a place around the corner with vegan options and am sure he can find something there”. Louise glanced briefly at Aedan briefly and then back to Ms. Mann.
Aedan studied Louise for an instant then smiled as he turned back to the Ms. Mann who was glaring at Louise. The instant of friction that Aedan had not witnessed since arriving didn’t last long.
Ms Mann nodded and a faint smile returned “Yes, of course, I forgot.’
“I appreciate your thoughtfulness, Ms. Mann .“, Aedan responded. “I do like her idea though, a quick lunch before I change and there won’t be any more dishes to pick up after me.” He winked at the manager and she smirked.
Her focus returned to Louise “Don’t be too long and Louise, for Goodness sake, don’t be spreading any gossip!”
For an instant, the gaze between the two was as sharp as a knife.
“Oh please!” was all that came from Louise’s lips before she turned to Aedan “Ready when you are!” Her smile returned.
The restaurant that Louise took him to was actually one that had become a favorite of Aedan’s. Being so close to the hotel, it hadn’t taken him long to find it. Now at lunch time, it was busier than Aedan had seen it before so they waited to be seated.
“Thank you for your interference.” He chuckled. “I am impressed that you noticed.”
“Oh, I know a lot about you, Mr. Charron”, she laughed.
His brows raised “Really? Like what? “
Her eyes rolled. It wasn’t the first time he had noticed the sarcastic thread in her but the first in this setting. “Seriously, it didn’t take long to figure that out and I know next to nothing else about you except…except you are dedicated to your work and..and you have a nice car that you haven’t touched in over a week. A lot of good that does you.” Her smile was interrupted by the hostess prompting them to follow her to a table.
Once seated at a small table beside the window with menus in hand and iced tea ordered for both of them, Aedan continued. “And…what else do you know?” He enjoyed the facial expressions she made to his questions. The rolling of her eyes, lifting of her eyebrows and exaggerated mouth movements…open emotions being shared, always got his attention.
“Nothing. Oh! I lied. I know your full name and address because it’s on your bill. That’s it.” She laughed and Aedan figured she had told all she had to tell…or was willing to tell.
“And all I know about you is your first name. It’s a beautiful name but a bit unusual for women of your age. I had an aunt named Louise. Not too friendly from what I remember“ Aedan chuckled, anxious to see her animated response to his intended dig.
“Oh…yes, it is a bit unusual but it was my mother’s middle name and her mother’s first. I loved that she shared that with me. My mother is a very caring woman and we’ll always have this connection no matter how far apart we are.”
The waiter returned and their lunch was ordered right away. As they waited the conversation remained light and playful. There was a familiarity in Louise that Aedan found comforting though he reminded himself several times that she was less than half his age and he would be leaving a couple hours. The light conversation kept his mind off of the day’s earlier events too. Really, she happened along at the right time several times today.
Among other things, Aedan learned that she had recently finished college and had come to this city on a whim. Spontaneity was something she inherited from her mom. Undoubtedly, she learned much about him too as he found her quite easy to talk to.
With lunch done, Aedan glanced at his phone to get the time. “Are you expecting a call?” Louise asked?
“Oh no…just don’t want to miss the plane.” Aedan laughed as he saw the relief in her face. Nothing could hide behind that face.
“Of course! I’m sorry. I hate to see the time pass so quickly.”
For a moment their eyes locked and much was said with no words. Aedan had to break the silence.
“So….I don’t know your middle name! Marie? Ann? I don’t know what goes with Louise.”
Her eyes dropped to her glass as Louise took the last sip of her tea. “Sara” she said “without the ‘h’”.
Aedan looked at her in silence, struggling to find words.
“My mother’s first name is Sarah and I guess she didn’t want to say she named me after her so she dropped the H from my middle name.’ Louise looked a bit upset for the first time since Aedan had met her.
Aedan regained his composure and tried to smile “No…it’s a beautiful name. Your mother must love you very much. We should be moving before I miss that plane.”
He flagged down the waiter to request the bill but Louise interrupted “I got this.” and pulled a card from her purse to hand to the waiter.
Aedan’s protestation was met with a “Shhh… Ms. Mann said this was on the house and besides….you don’t have your wallet on you.”
Aedan’s mouth dropped as he felt his pocket and realized she was right. He had made all the preparations for his flight, including putting his wallet, ticket and passport in his suit pocket.
“OK, you win but don’t get used to that. I’m really glad we got this time together before I left. You have no idea of how much this has meant to me.”
The bright smile returned to her face “and I am so happy we did too, Mr Charron.”
“Aedan, please call me Aedan – or were you lying about knowing my name?”
Both laughed and Aedan held out his hand as he stood. Louise took his hand and as she stood then grabbed her purse.
“I’m going to drive you to the Airport once you get changed so let’s get going” she volunteered and they headed toward the door.
Before they made it out the door, the waiter caught up with them “Ma’am…your credit card..and your signature please.”
Again, Louise made the most amusing faces of surprise and embarrassment and Aedan admired every motion.
Back in his room at the hotel, Aedan found his suit just as he left it lying flat on the bed and waiting for him though the bed had already been made. His bag of toiletries was in the restroom beside the sink but as he entered the room he was shocked to see the mirror was missing. It wasn’t necessary for anything he needed to do but still, one gets used to staring at oneself, counting wrinkles, noting the losing battle with the receding hairline. With those thoughts he began again thinking about the morning’s events but closed his eyes, took a deep breath and pushed it away for now.
Once done in the restroom, Aedan undressed and put his now dirty clothes in a separate bag before putting them into his suitcase. When he lifted his suit coat from the bed his passport fell out of the inner pocket. With little thought but to make sure he put it back in there better this time, he verified that his wallet was in the same pocket where he had left it earlier as was the plane ticket.
Once dressed and back in the lobby with his suitcase, Aedan asked Ms. Mann about the mirror. She apologized and explained how it fell while housekeeping was in his room and expressed concern that all the pieces hadn’t been picked up as she handed him his receipt. “It’s been a pleasure serving you, Mr. Charron and I hope you’ll return one day. Now, be on your way and don’t miss that plane.”
Louise dangled the keys before her “Your chauffeur is here.” The smile on her lips didn’t quite hide her real emotions. Aedan wasn’t the only one that noticed.
The short trip to the airport was much quieter than their earlier walks. Louise asked about his plans, how long he would stay. Small talk. Aedan felt some regret in leaving at this moment and yet this is what he had been planning for months and he truly needed some time to himself to sort the day’s events out.
Arriving at the airport, Louise pulled up to the curb and looked at Aedan “I guess this is it. The next leg of your journey begins. I really hope it goes as you wish.”
“Everybody needs a break once in a while, Louise. Don’t forget that. “ Aedan said jokingly.
“Is that an invitation?” She asked.
They both laughed as Aedan got out and pulled his bag from the back seat. To his surprise, Louise got out of the car and walked around to him. Aedan set the suitcase down and they hugged. The fragrance of her hair filled Aedan’s lungs before they both let go and looked into each other’s eyes again. “Aedan, please don’t forget me…come back again, ya hear?”
“No, there’s no way I’m forgetting you. Thank you for today. Now get back to work before Ms. Mann comes looking for you!”
With his bags checked in at the curb and having checked in the night before, Aedan headed straight to security. Though he would be transferring in Miami, when asked for ID, he presented both is passport and driver’s license. The guard inspected both and wished him a safe trip. All the rush and eagerness was suddenly lifted. He had finally made it with time to spare.
It seemed as though it had been a month since he first tried to leave from this airport. This town was starting to feel like home. Aedan made his way to the terminal and found a seat against the wall where he could stretch out and relax. And think. He had so much to think about.
When the arrival of his flight was announced an hour later he set aside those thoughts as difficult as it was and took a seat closer to the window where he watched the plane taxi up to the terminal. Fifteen minutes later passengers began unloading and streaming past him. He remembered how not so long ago that would be the point of reunion with friends and family but these days, it was just a rush to get out of the terminal to meet them and wait on luggage.
The terminal was now full of people waiting to board the plane. All headed to Miami…a good bit of them pale skinned and surely headed for a painful sunburn but all excited to be going. And he sat among them though feeling a bit disconnected.
The plane had been empty for a good thirty minutes but no boarding had started yet. There was some discussion behind the counter. Aedan caught a tone of frustration as he tried to listen to the conversation that wasn’t intended to be heard. It was at that time that the flight information sign changed to indicate that his flight was now delayed.
Within the terminal that he sat was an all inclusive sigh of disappointment and frustration. An announcement was made that there was additional maintenance needed on the plane but no ETA could yet be announced. Further information would be given as soon as possible but it was another thirty minutes before any more substantial information was given. Despite the earlier delay, the issue of concern had returned and the best course of action was still being determined.
Aedan hardly noticed the ongoing delays by now. He was deep in thought again. He was in awe over the morning’s events and sorting out what it meant for him. He was confused about the afternoon with Louise and what he had learned from her. He wondered if these two events were somehow connected.
An hour after the flight had first been delayed for the second time today, it was announced that a solution had been proposed and was being implemented but would take two to three hours to complete. Refunds were being offered. Aedan scoffed at the idea. He had waited nearly two weeks. What was two more hours? Additionally, he had said hs goodbys and thought it unwise to go back to the hotel at this time.
So, he sat and thought more. The voices in the terminal became a background noise that he barely heard. He tried to meditate but his mind wouldn’t slow down enough. Perhaps the only thing he didn’t think about was work.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, boarding will start in ten minutes” is what pulled Aedan back to the present. He opened his eyes and saw for the first time that the sun had set and it was well into dusk. From where he sat, he could look down and see movement in the illuminated cockpit and luggage being loaded. Finally there would be another step forward.
He watched the lights zip by as planes took off and landed. It was dark enough that he could see the reflection of people walking by behind him in the huge glass pane before him. He could see the attractive blonde haired woman a few seats from him without obviously staring.
What he didn’t see was himself. There was a figure in the seat that he occupied. The clothes were the same but it wasn’t his face.
Aedan was bewildered. He looked right and left and saw the people on either side of him reflected in the glass. He slowly raised his right arm and saw the figure before him raising the same arm. He repeated this movement with his left arm and sat in terror, afraid to move. That was not his face that he saw. The reflection was dim but he was certain it wasn’t his.
“Boarding is now beginning, please have your passes out”. The words passed right over Aedan.
He stood and walked slowly up to the glass until he could more clearly see the reflection. The face was his but from at least twenty five years earlier.