Short Story: The goodbye

Story prompt: write a scene with an airport goodbye

Lily heard the sound of a jet taking off, its powerful engine rising to life and she shuddered. She felt the clammy sweat of Pete’s hands on her own and her fingers slid from his and landed on her side with a thud. He looked up at her and his eyes wore a mask of grey, the lack of emotion so strange to her that she could hardly meet his gaze.

“Lily, look at me. Please. It’s not over. There’s always hope.” She laughed despite herself and the laugh transformed itself into tears that now ran down her cheeks, coating her neck.

“How can you say that?” She sobbed.

“How can I not?” He replied in an aching tone. She grabbed his sweaty hands again and squeezed.

“I know. I know. I just. It’s so hard to hope. It hurts so much.” He put his sinewy arms around her small frame and squeezed her close to him. He could feel her shaking and he gripped her even tighter. Pete wasn’t a tall guy but he was broad and radiated strength—his muscles showed from beneath every inch of his clothing. He looked like a guy you wouldn’t want to mess with, despite his kind eyes. Lily looked at him again and this time she she met his gaze and saw through his facade—straight into the piercing pain. If he could take this risk for them and for her, she could manage to send him off without having a complete meltdown.  She turned her emotions off and dove into business mode.

“Don’t forget to call me from each check point. Remember not to mention her name until you’ve had some concrete proof. Don’t go out at night. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Don’t trust anyone who hasn’t been vetted.”

“Lil, I know. We’ve been over this a thousand times. I’m ready. Well, as ready as I’ll ever be. I won’t come home without her.” This stopped Lily in her tracks. She stared at him steadily and hoped the tremble that ran throughout her body wouldn’t show. She wanted to speak—but nothing came out, like one of those paralyzing nightmares. There was no right way to send him off. No right thing to say in this situation.

All she could finally squeeze out was, “I know you will,” as her eyes darted from his face, trying to escape the feeling of falseness in those words. He kissed her gently with his standard, “I’ll see you soon” kiss and turned to follow the signs to his gate. They couldn’t even say goodbye. The word felt too jinxed for them now.

As his plane took off he felt more than the usual rumbling in his stomach from the rising pressure in the cabin. His fresh shirt was now coated with sweat and clung to him. He hadn’t really eaten properly in six months but in the last two days he’d eaten almost nothing and his stomach roared in protest. As he reached into his bag for a granola bar he felt his phone buzzing and realized he hadn’t put it in airplane mode yet. He went to shut it down, but a text popped up on his screen. He let out a cry that made everyone in economy turn and stare. He didn’t care. They were the most miraculous words he’d heard or read in six months.

We think we’ve found your daughter. Meet us at the first check point as soon as you land. 

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