Chance Encounter - Flash Fiction
Copyright © 2013 Ben Kesp
Her heels pound on the tiles, striding across the airport departures floor with her suitcase rolling behind. Her heart races giving the feeling of rising blood pressure setting on a severe headache. She curses the taxi driver for almost making her late for check in. She throws her bag onto the carrier belt, glaring at the desk attendant. Tapping her fingers on the desk, she waits for her luggage to be checked in. She grabs her passport as it is handed back to her, stepping back from the desk. Exhaling a deep breath, her eyes scan the view around London Heathrow Airport. She hates the airport and the time she will lose waiting for her flight to depart. Strolling to a nearby book shop, she browses some of the latest titles. Her mind will not settle. There is too much to do and she needs to be in Dublin.
George lifts the cup to his mouth, his lips feeling the hot liquid. Closing his eyes, he savours the hot English tea swirling, awakening his senses. He will miss its aroma; he enjoyed drinking many a hot cup after his three week holiday in Ireland. It is the one thing he misses since he has moved to the tropical island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Removing a book from his bag, he places it on the table next to his empty plate. Time is on his side, waiting for his connecting flight to Port Vila, so he continues reading The Man in the Iron Mask he picked up at Cork International Airport.
After quickly browsing through the books, Alice loses her patience. She grabs a daily newspaper and buys it. Moving through the bustling airport floor to the nearby café, she orders a coffee. Casting her eyes around the café for a table where she will not be disturbed, her eyes rest on him. Her mind relaxes momentarily and her lips part forming a gentle smile. It has been a long time since she saw him. He still looks great as she muses the thought. Strolling towards his table, she places her coffee on it. He lifts his head to see the owner of the coffee and their eyes lock. Smiling, they embrace with distant memories flowing through their thoughts. They sit holding each other’s gaze in a momentary grasp.
“It’s been a long time; how are you?” George asks her delightedly giving his full attention.
“Twenty years or more. You haven’t changed.”
“Maybe whiter,” George laughs pointing at his white hair. “What are you doing in London?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“You haven’t lost the sarcasm. It would be good to know what you’re up to these days. I’m somewhat out of touch with the world of business. Time Magazine isn’t on my reading list.”
“I saw your feature in it. Well done on making it into Time. A successful business executive and leader of a portfolio of innovative companies. I always followed your career until you packed it all in. Why give it up?”
“Got out while things were still good. I had enough. I wanted time out, a change in my life. Went to Vanuatu, a small tropical island in the South Pacific, and wait for it, you will laugh, took up painting.”
Alice places her cup of coffee on the table, laughing.
“You gave everything up to be an artist on a tropical island.”
“Yes, living in a log cabin one minute from a beach of white sands and water so clear you can see the fishes swimming. I had a successful career and I’ve never looked back. It was the best decision in my life.”
“Have you sold any works of art?”
“I donate to a local street art stall,” George replies laughingly. “Financially, I don’t need much where I live. Painting is a hobby, and the freedom to enjoy life is more valuable to me than making money. No restrictions. I don’t have to be on demand seven days of the week, meeting clients, deadlines, boring board room meetings; I could go on and on. I’m on my way to my beach cabin after three weeks in Ireland.”
“Lucky bastard,” Alice replies sinking deeper in her chair, exhaling a deep sigh. “I’ve made a complete mess of my life. I’m in my mid fifties, single, broke and I have banks, creditors, investors and every other god damn person on the planet after me.”
“What happened? The last time I heard your career was taking off in a big way and you were climbing to the top.”
“I climbed to the top alright. The thing is, I didn’t know where the top was and kept going. George, I gave my life to my career, built up a business empire in the latest technologies and in distribution. I made some crappy decisions and took risks that didn’t pay off. Call it greed if you want. I’m going back and forth between Dublin and London regularly. I have holdings here and I’m trying to sell off assets.”
“Is it that bad?”
“I’m financially broke. I have nothing left. I’m doing my best to salvage and sell to pay off debts. I took stupid risks. Shareholders aren’t happy as you can imagine. There are times when I sit in the airports waiting for my flights and I think about running away from it all. Just take a flight to anywhere in the world to escape. The last few years have been hell.”
“I’m sorry to hear this. You need to find yourself a tropical island.”
“If I could, believe me, I’d be there,” Alice answers taking a sip of coffee, staring out at the mass of people going about their business.
“Airports are great gateways of the world. They allow for freedom of movement,” Alice states, interrupted by the intercom, announcing that the gate for the flight to Dublin is closing. Returning her focus on George, she smiles.
“I must go. It’s been so good to meet you after all this time. It really has been too long. I’ve missed you and I’m sorry we lost contact over the years.”
“Likewise, and let me say, you still look truly amazing.”
Alice parts her lips in a smile unable to hide her blushing face. Standing, they embrace. George pulls a card from inside his jacket.
“My contact details. When you finish up with this mess, come to Vanuatu. There’s always room in the log cabin by the beach with snow white sands.”
“I’ll take you up on that offer.”
“I’ll be waiting for the call; don’t leave it too long.”
Placing her hand on his shoulder, Alice leans forward, kissing his right cheek before turning and walking towards departures. Seating, George allows his eyes to rest on her until she disappears from view. He smiles and returns to his book, continuing to read while waiting for his connecting flight.
Her heels sound lightly on the airport floor, strolling leisurely to the departures gate. Her headache has lifted and her body is calm. A chance meeting with an old and special friend she was once very close to has given her for the first time in almost two years a sense of release and renewed energy to tackle her problems ahead. Throwing the daily newspaper in a nearby bin, she steps forward to board her flight home.
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