Emily clutched the straps of her knapsack so tightly it burned the palm of her hand. The airline clerk was speaking but she’d stop listening after hearing the words ‘No further flights’. All thoughts flew from her head as she comprehended what that meant. She’d have to stay in this godforsaken place for another day. Emily closed her eyes tightly. She wasn’t sure if her already frayed nerves could handle it.
“Is there anything?” she pleaded. “Anything at all?”
The airport clerk furrowed her forehead, pursed her lips and sighed.
“I’ve told you two times already,” she glanced at the computer. “Ms Jones. You have missed the last flight to New York. There isn’t another one until ten in the morning.”
“I don’t mind having stops,” Emily said.
“There aren’t any more flights.”
Emily’s grip on the strap tightened. She leaned forward and whispered, “I can’t stay in Seattle. I need to leave.”
This time the clerk didn’t mask the annoyance in her voice, “I’m sure all the other people who missed their flights feel the same way love. But they, like you, will also have to wait.”
Emily bit on her bottom lip trying to distract herself from the ache in her gut. She was well aware that she cut a horrendous picture. Her thick, black curls were pulled back into a slack ponytail with escaped tendrils haphazardly framing her oval face. The brown shirt she’d pulled on without a second through made her cinnamon skin look washed out. Her strategy didn’t work and before she could stop herself she burst into tears.
The clerk’s eyes widened as she darted her gaze from Emily to her computer and back to Emily again. Emily was willing to bet that of all the people she had said she’d seen being agitated about the missed flight she was the only on to pull out the hysterics.
She tried taking deep breaths but the tears kept coming. The box of pain she’d sealed inside her seemed to break. She wasn’t able to fight against the torrent of overwhelming grief that rushed out.
She couldn’t spend another night in Seattle. She couldn’t return to his house, sleep in his room – in his bed amongst his trophies and childhood photos. She couldn’t rest her head on his pillow and expect to get through the night. There was only so much a heart could break and continue to beat.
“Are you okay?” the clerk asked. Her hazel eyes were wary and her shoulders stiff. She angled herself away from Emily as if she expected her to lose it completely.
“I’ll be fine,” Emily sniffled.
She started turning from the check in counter when the clerk finally said, “I can give you a voucher for a room. You look like you’ve had a rough day.”
Emily wiped the tears from her face and tried to smile, “Thanks.”
The only place Emily wanted to be in that very moment was sitting in an airplane on her way back to New York. With a deflated sigh she acknowledged that that wasn’t going to happen – at least not tonight. She tried to be thankful for the small victories. At least she didn’t have to go back to Aiden’s parents’ house and explain to them that she’d missed her flight. She didn’t have to spend another night in his room. Emily wiped the errant tears still streaming down her face and hailed a taxi.
The hotel was a five-minute drive from the airport. After a quick shower, Emily decided against dinner and crawled into the double bed.
Emily twisted towards the soft hand that stroked her cheek. Slowly she opened her eyes and met blue ones. Emily smiled and reached out to him.
“I miss you,” she whispered placing her hand on his chest so that she could feel the steady tha-thump, tha-thump of his heart.
He tucked one of her tendrils behind her ear and kissed her softly on her forehead.
“You know this isn’t real right baby?” He gave her that small sad smile she’d become used to seeing. Emily’s eyes welled with tears.
“I want you here Aiden,” she said. “I need you here.”
“I love you Millie,” he wiped the tears from her face. “Promise me you’ll love me forever.”
“Don’t go,” she sobbed. “Please.”
But he was already gone.
Emily shot up in bed gasping, her chest tight and heavy. She didn’t try to wipe away the tears flowing down her cheek and unto the pillowcase. She hated dreaming about him the most. In those first seconds she could feel the warmth of his skin against hers and the smell of his cologne and for those seconds she could convince herself that he was still alive. Then always with jarring clarity she’d realize that she’d never feel his warmth or hear his voice again. The aching, empty hollowness that came along with that realization was enough to stop her breaths.
Emily swung her legs over the side of the bed and buried her head between her legs. She took deep, slow breaths until the panic that welled in her lessened. When she could breathe again she walked to the small bathroom and flipped on the switch. The bright, cheery yellow walls added an edge to her sadness. Ten days ago those walls would make her smile. Emily stared at her face in the mirror. Her face was gaunt and her yes bloodshot and unfocussed. She could almost hear Aiden gently chastising her for not taking better care of herself. Emily sighed. She’d do anything to have him alive and teasing in her arms again. Emily didn’t know the first or last thing about dealing with death. Was she supposed to walk around weeping, wailing and gnashing her teeth? Or was she to bottle everything up inside and pretend to be strong even though she never felt more broken or defeated? At nineteen Emily had never experienced the death of someone close, even her Gramps and Gran stilled lived happily together in a retirement home. The cold fingers of Death had never touched her until He walked in uninvited and snatched away the love of her life. She remembered the call.
“There’s been an accident. He’s gone.”
She remembered how she tightly grasped at the phone hoping that it was some twisted joke, hoping that someone would jump out of the shadows and shout ‘April Fools’ but it was March.
She still struggled to grasp that he could be there laughing with her, making her breakfast one morning and then the next lying cold and stiff in a morgue before the sun set. She couldn’t get the images of his coffin being lowered so deeply into the cold, dank dirt that she would never be reach him.
Emily grabbed on to the edges of the sink when another tightening of her chest left her lightheaded. For the first time she wished she had allowed her roommate to come with her. When Leigha asked her if she was sure she could go through Aiden’s funeral alone she was too numb with shock to think it through. Then again, she had also lashed out at her father when he suggested she stayed in a hotel rather than with Aiden’s family. When she closed her eyes she could still see the navy blue and red walls of his room and the photos on the wall of a smiling Aiden with no front teeth and of him as a toddler taking a bath. Emily bit her bottom lip until she tasted the metallic sting of blood and no longer felt the urge to scream until she was hoarse. Then she sank down on those bright yellow, cheery tiles and cried until exhausted she fell asleep in the wetness of her tears.
© Rilzy Adams, 2013