Chapter 4

Written by: Donna McTavish

She grabbed the smooth heavy wooden back of a chair and took a deep breath. 

 

“Di? Are you still there?” Chetna recognised the worry in Suju’s voice and snapped into her role of big sister. Her voice was steady as she replied. “I’m here. I’ll be on the next flight.” 

 

Within 20 minutes she had packed her small overnight bag and was sitting in a taxi that smelled like stale sweat. She wondered vaguely if there was enough time but she couldn’t rouse herself to ask the driver to go faster.

 

She glided through the airport as if guided by an invisible hand and arrived at the departure gate as the first boarding call crackled over the heads of the crowd. From seat 25A, she watched other passengers struggle to fit their overstuffed bags into the lockers above the seats. A man pushed an expensive black leather case into the last space and took the seat beside her next to the aisle.

 

She thought he was about 55 years old. His hair was grey but thick and quite long for someone dressed in such a well fitting suit. His tie was navy blue with narrow red stripes and a small emblem embroidered in gold and white thread repeated at intervals along its length. She could feel the warmth of his body as he fastened his seat belt and his shoulder brushed against hers. Instantly she pulled her arms tightly against her body shrinking herself into a tinier space. 

 

When the trolley arrived she asked for a glass of water and he took the plastic glass from the stewardess and passed it to her. His eyes were kind and he looked at her as if she was a precious and fragile thing, something that he hadn’t expected but was infinitely delighted to find. 

 

“Are you travelling on business?” he asked tilting his head towards her. She noticed the fine laughter lines that radiated from the corner of his eyes. He wasn’t dismayed by her limp reply or the silence that stretched between them. He pulled out a book and began to read, a small smile on his lips.

 

Chetna closed her eyes. She let each of her thoughts drift away until only one remained. In her mind’s eye she saw a small lake, its surface like liquid mercury shimmering in the moonlight. She was seven years old and she was watching fireworks with her family and friends. She recalled the warmth of the night and the acrid smell of gunpowder and how angry her mother had been when she had disappeared to play with the boys instead of sitting quietly with the other girls. Tears spilled onto her cheeks as she remembered how she had embarrassed her mother that night.

 

When she opened her eyes, the man was dozing with his book open in his lap and his neatly folded white linen handkerchief was balanced carefully on the arm rest.

 

Comments

I really enjoy the way you capture cause and effect in your stories, Donna. By this I mean that the man's body touch's Chetnas and she shrinks away. We've all had this experience where we been squashed into those tiny plane seats and tried not to touch our neighbour. But this encounter has a greater poignancy because of the thoughts it is causing Chetna to have and the emotions it is generating. Good word crafting captures this moment really well.
The story's twists and turns are certainly intriguing. Love it.....