Chance Encounters by Rick Forristall
“Attention airport guests! US Airways flight 129 is now in its final boarding process. Please proceed to Gate 45 for immediate boarding,” he heard, frustrated that he overslept. Looking down at his boarding pass, nearly running now, he sensed the intrusion and impending collision. Raising his eyes he realized it was too late to avoid impact. “Damn,” as the contents of her Starbucks cup painted her crisply ironed white shirt tan. The cup bounced onto the floor, dotting the rug with the remaining liquid. He forgot about his flight when he saw the look of stunned disbelief on her face. “What the hell is wrong with you!” she said, breaking the eternal silence. Racing through his mind for the appropriately apologetic response, he whispered, simply, “I’m so sorry.” “What am I supposed to do now?” she thought aloud attempting to squeegee the dripping tan stain from her shirt with the heel of her left hand. “Listen, I always pack a second shirt in my carry-on. Why don’t you change into it?” he offered. “This is a $500 shirt,” she returned. “I know of a 1-hour dry cleaner just a few miles from the airport,” he said, suddenly realizing her stunning beauty. “It’s only fair that I pay to have it cleaned for you – before it becomes a permanent stain,” he added, hopeful of a positive reply.
“John, John Stevenson,” he said, offering his right hand in truce. “I’m Jayceene and I certainly can’t go to my appointment looking like this,” she said accepting his hand. “I’ll need to reschedule my appointment and change my flight reservations.” “I insist on paying for the reservation change fee,” John said, holding out his folded, pale green shirt to her.
Jayceene took the shirt and told John that would not be necessary. She headed for the women’s restroom while thumbing a number into her cell phone. As he watched her disappear into the bathroom, John became aware he was standing in the middle of a human traffic jam. He snaked through the crowd to a nearby bench and slowly sat, ruminating over the encounter. Picturing her face, he allowed himself to imagine how nicely this might just work out for him. A reminder on his iPhone vibrated, getting his attention, and he remembered he still had to rebook his own flight for early tomorrow morning. He tapped out the number to the airline’s reservation desk. After booking a new flight and calling for a taxi, he surveyed the area for Jayceene. Several minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom wearing his green shirt. As she approached, he realized she had no luggage. “Damn it,” he thought, searching the crowd, wondering if her luggage was stolen in all the commotion.
“You travel light,” he said, not really asking – hoping that there was no luggage. Tapping her Coach Madison Op Art Sateen Maggie with her left hand, “just this,” she indicated. “That’s a relief,” he admitted, explaining that he was worried her luggage was stolen. They continued together toward baggage claim and ground transportation to meet the taxi – it was waiting for them.
He held the door and, as she slid into the back seat, she brushed against his left elbow. His face turned high school red and he tried to hide his blush as he took the seat next to her. She grinned – slightly – as she peered out the window at the sun drifting toward the horizon. She turned to John, “I’m hungry. I know a great sushi place about 10 miles down the road. Let’s eat while we wait for my shirt to be cleaned – my treat.” “Things were looking up,” John thought. The dry cleaners accepted the challenge and advised of the extra fee for the 1-hour service. John shrugged it off as he gave himself permission to imagine the outcome of the next few hours. The taxi took them to the restaurant 5 miles down the road.
“Two please,” John replied to the hostess’ question. John and Jayceene were seated near the full-wall fireplace. “This is cozy,” Jayceene said coyly. Their waiter was prompt, offering the specials of the day and two menus. Jayceene ordered a water with a lime twist; John a Shochu. The waiter returned with their drinks with enough of a delay for Jayceene and John to choose their meals. Jayceene ordered the spicy tuna roll and John asked for the shrimp tempura roll. As he and Jayceene made small talk about their jobs and families, John learned Jayceene was single. He could barely contain his school boy excitement – rescued only by the arrival of the food.
They forgot how hungry they had grown so the small talk was unexpectedly suspended as they ate, except for the exclamation of how much each liked their, and the other’s menu choices. Jayceene stood and excused herself. “Sorry, I need to use the powder room.” As she headed to the ladies restroom, John couldn’t help but steal a look over his right shoulder at her. He noticed the ornate wall clock – 7:12 – as he took a sip of his drink. He picked up the last roll with his finger and thumb – “the chopsticks are a pain,” he thought – only to be interrupted. “Couldn’t wait for me?” Jayceene asked. The clock told John only 1 minute had elapsed. “That’s a first,” John smart-assed to himself. “Oops you caught me,” he said, stuffing the roll in his mouth. They finished dinner. John snatched and paid the bill. “Sorry,” he said to Jayceene. “I can’t let you pay the bill. It’s the least I can do after crashing into you like that.” Jayceene smiled. “I feel like walking a bit,” she suggested. John obliged.
Darkness had just fallen and John noticed, about 5 minutes into their walk, Jayceene nervously checking over her shoulders. “It’s OK, I can handle myself pretty well,” he said. She slid her right hand into his left, palmed her Maggie with her left hand and guided him across the street. Once on the other side, she slowed to a stop and turned to face John. She leaned towards John’s face. His adolescent-like excitement was interrupted by the popping sound and sharp pain in his stomach. He stumbled two steps back, still holding Jayceene’s right hand with his left. His other hand investigated for the pain’s source and found it – his blood. The last thing he saw, raising his gaze to her eyes, was the flash of the gun’s barrel. Jayceene let go and grabbed her phone while the body slumped to the pavement.
She thumbed the redial button. “It’s done.” “Your payment will be deposited in the usual manner,” the voice on the other end said while Jayceene disappeared into the night.
(This was a short story writing assignment for my Fiction Fundamentals course with Southern NH University.)