You threw your head back in frustration, tempted to break the large, glass windows and throw yourself in order to end the agony of waiting for your plane.
How could March do this to you? March, of all months, had betrayed you so viciously. March, which was supposed to be the month that spring started, had decided that it was the perfect moment for a freak snowstorm that had severely delayed multiples flights across your state, but you didn’t have time for a delay. You didn’t have enough energy or heart or anxiety and certainly not time for a delayed flight.
The snow had started falling earlier yesterday, very beautiful and light and fluffy snow. You had been extremely excited, because you knew that only a few inches could get classes cancelled, and this was the week before Spring Break for your university. Naturally, you had been pumped for that prospect. And the snow had remained light throughout most of today as well, failing to cancel your Wednesday classes, and it hadn’t been until you had scheduled an emergency flight for nine at night when the snow had decided to come down harder and put everything into disarray.
This was a small airport. There was almost no chance that you were going to easily get out of this place. You could forgo all the money you had spent on the flight and probably taken a cab to the nearest, large commercial airport, where the flights were likely to still be running. You certainly didn’t have a lot of money, but it felt worth it. The cause would definitely be worth it.
But could you risk it? Could you risk losing time driving over to the next airport? Could you risk waiting here for this plane to arrive?
You were seated sideways on your seat, staring at your phone, which had been set out on top of your carry-on in the seat next to yours. The screen remained black and blank, which was good news. It was definitely good news. You preferred it to remain that way, without anyone texting or calling, Stability was good enough right now.
Your stomach grumbled through your T-shirt and coat, and you glanced around, hoping to find a vending machine or something. You didn’t have enough money to spend on overpriced food, so some crackers and an apple juice would probably be the extent of your splurging. You hadn’t exactly had time to eat since you had booked a flight almost immediately upon getting back into your dorm after your 3:30 class. You had spent the time between 4:50pm and 8pm quickly packing, and running around and trying to find someone to take you to the airport and crying a little bit.
You hadn’t found anyone and had had to take several buses over.
Your flight was supposed to leave at nine.
It was almost midnight.
You located a vending machine, taking out your wallet and grabbing your phone as you went over to it.
The crackers had felt so amazing on your stomach, and you exhaled softly as you leaned back on your chair again, wishing for a huge plate of your father’s mashed potatoes—the ones he had made for Christmas. Christmas felt like years ago, when the reality was only over two months ago. The apple juice felt amazing on your throat, and you had finished it practically within seconds of bringing the bottle to your lips for the first time.
“Can I sit down here?”
You looked up at an attractive man with short, light blond hair and dark eyes. He wore a dark gray coat and ankle boots. His hair was pulled back on left side with some sort of cross barrette. The chairs had been crowded because of so many flights having been delayed, and one had even been cancelled—not yours, luckily. You pulled your bag off the chair and placed it below your chair, turning to the correct direction. The man, who probably was still in his twenties, thanked you quietly and sat down. His arm brushed yours.
He was warm.
“Did your flight get delayed too?” you ruminated softly, hoping the conversation would distract you. You dared to look at the stranger, hugging your knees to your chest. “Mine was supposed to arrive at nine. It’s been two hours and a half since.”
“Yes. Eleven,” he answered, pulling out his phone. His face had remained expressionless—you couldn’t even tell if you were bothering him or if appreciated your efforts.
“Where were you headed?”
He paused for a bit. “Norway.” He glanced over at you. “You?”
“Arkansas,” you answered, putting your legs down and sitting properly. “Home state. Home country?”
Silence ensued after that, and you wanted to ask him so many questions, so many things that would take your mind off your own problems, like why he was going, what city or town, was he going to transfer planes later? You wanted to ask about his barrette, and you wanted to compliment his shoes because they were very nice boots. He had some lint on the coat of his jacket, and there was a hair out of place on the left side, a cute hair curl that almost seemed to be floating independently from his head.
He had a handsome face.
“You look young,” he finally said, and you blushed a little. “College?”
“College sophomore,” you confirmed, staring at your phone again. Still blank. “How about you? You look young too, though a little older than me, I’ll admit.”
“Twenty-three.” His focus remained on his phone as well, but he seemed to be watching at a particularly conversation. He wasn’t texting anyone back or anything, just observing. Pondering. “I worked at the bakery on Main Street.”
Your face lit up. “I love that place! My friends and I get pastries there maybe once a week. I’ve never seen you there? Do you work in the back?” He nodded solemnly. “So, you’re behind the magic,” you commented as you lightly drummed your fingers on your phone. “Is this a permanent trip, or will you be back?
“I don’t know.”
You glanced at him again, catching a fleeting expression of grief, but then he quickly went back to being stoic. It struck you that his reason for leaving was probably a lot more different than yours. You were in a hurry to leave, but you’d be returning—with your heart in your stomach or with a hint of hope… Yeah, you’d definitely be returning. But him? It sort of seemed like he didn’t want to return, at least at the present time.
You phone lit up and you almost dropped it out of surprise. The handsome man beside you glanced over at you, and you caught a hint of blue as the airport lighting hit his irises just right. You looked back down at your phone. It was just a game updating you to check in for a daily reward. Relief filled you, and you pressed the palm of your hand up to your chest, rubbing away at your sternum. Your heart was palpitating rather quickly, and you tried to breath normally.
It was 11:36PM. You didn’t have time for this. You needed to be arriving in Arkansas right now.
“I’m Lukas Bondevik,” the man told you, turning off his phone. He kept his eyes diverted from you. “Just so you know.”
You had forgotten about an actual introduction. “(name)(last name),” you blurted as you turned off your phone as well. “Can I ask why you’re headed to Norway? If it’s not too personal, I mean. I don’t want to impose.”
He shook his head lightly. “My family is there,” he answered. That seemed simple enough. Maybe he was dealing with the same thing as you. “My fiancée cheated on me.” Shock crossed your entire body, and you stared at him with wide eyes. He remained expressionless though, not indicating if he was hurt by such a thing. “We were together six years. She was with my best friend.” The story was only getting worse, but his voice was so monotonous that you were worried for this stranger who, only moments before, had never existed in your life. But why was he so nonchalant? It was fine to want to scream and cry at moments like this, but he wasn’t showing any form of emotion, much less sorrow and fury. “I’m going home.”
“I’m sorry,” you whispered to him, and you found yourself putting a hand on his elbow as comfort. You withdrew quickly, realizing that you had only known each other for ten minutes. It was highly inappropriate for you to do that. “I’m sorry,” you reiterated, but this time it was for touching him. “She probably doesn’t deserve you. Neither of them do. I hope you…I hope you feel better soon.”
He didn’t thank you. Instead, his eyes met yours—such a deep, blue color that your head was spinning—and he nodded at your phone. “What about you?”
You quickly averted your gaze, staring at your phone. No missed texts, no missed calls. Stability. “My father,” you managed, though the words came choked out. “My father is dying.” Your vision quickly became blurry, and you felt your bottom lip trembling. Had it always been this hot? “He was hospitalized a few days ago, but his condition had been more or less good. He had always been in and out, so I wasn’t too worried.” Your chest hurt again. “My mother called me today, during my final class, and she had said that the doctors were saying he wouldn’t last through the night. Which is why the snow is so infuriating—because if he goes today, I want to be there. I want to say goodbye. I want to apologize for not going to a school closer to him, as he had wanted.” You brought your knees up to your chest as hot tears cascaded down your cheeks. “I just want to see him one last time.”
“I’m sorry,” Lukas said, and there was a hint of sympathy in his voice. You smiled just a little. “I hope he gets better.” His voice was soft and low, and at the moment, it was the most comfortable sound you had ever heard. Well, almost. You supposed your father’s voice was probably the most comfortable. “Or that you get to see him.”
“Thank you,” you managed, clicking on the home button of your phone. Stability. No calls, no texts. “Right now is fine though. I haven’t gotten any calls from my mother or anything, so it’s safe to assume he’s in a stable condition.” You laughed, though it was something bitter and cold. “Life sucks, doesn’t it? You got betrayed by your best friend and fiancée, and I got betrayed by Mother Nature, with this snowstorm and my father’s health.” You exhaled softly. “Well, I hope we both get better.”
“Yes.” You heard him rummaging through his carry-on, and when he found what he wanted, he produced something with a sweet smell. The fragrance of baked goods filled up your entire soul, and you knew he most definitely wasn’t lying about working at that bakery. “Are you hungry?” Your stomach gave away your answer, and Lukas gave you some pound cake, cut and fitted into sandwich bags. “Do you play chess?”
You laughed, lightly this time—without any melancholy to weigh it down. You broke off a piece of the pound cake. “No. I’m terrible at it.” You brought the cake to your mouth and had to restrain yourself from moaning at the delicious taste. Not only did it taste like heaven, but your empty stomach definitely appreciated it. “Thank you…for the cake. It’s really…it’s amazing.”
He didn’t answer, pulling out his tablet and placing it on the arm rest between the both of you. He had pulled up the chess game. “I’ll teach you.”
You could tell he was trying to low key keep your mind off the devastating reality you found yourself in, so you smiled a little as you shifted towards him. “Am I the white pieces?” He nodded.
“Protect the King,” he informed you, pointing out the piece. “The Rook moves horizontally and vertically.” He pointed it out to you. “The bishop is diagonal. The Queen can move anywhere.” He showed you the other pieces and where they moved, and then you started, since white always started.
He won. Very easily. He had even suggested which moves you take, at the expense of his own pieces, but he still had won.
“Again,” you insisted.
He didn’t seem to mind, pressing for a new game so that you two could both play. You was determined to win this time, because now that you sort of understood the game, maybe there was a higher chance of you winning. However, you also suspected that Lukas was highly-skilled chess player, so maybe if he took some pity on you…
Your phone went off.
Your body became drained of warmth as you quickly grabbed your phone. Your mother was calling. Oh, God, she was calling. You answered quickly, your hand trembling as you brought the phone up to your ear. Your chest was hurting again, from your heart to your ribs to your pitiful lungs that were desperately trying to take in air.
“Mom?” you whispered.
“(name),” your mother responded, and you heard relief filling her voice. “You didn’t call to tell me you were leaving. I thought something had come up.”
“No, sorry. My flight got delayed. Surprise snow.” You rubbed the denim of your jeans, grasping the material as you tried to contain your anxiety. “I’m still at the airport. I hope to be there to be there before morning. How…” You had a hard time finding your voice for this. Your mouth was making the formations, but no sound was being produced. “How is…how’s dad?”
“Stable,” she confirmed, and you could tell she was grateful for that too. “He has been asking for you, but I told him you’re on your way. He’s sleeping now, but his condition is stable.”
“When he wakes up, tell him I love him,” you managed.
“I will.” She paused. “Are you okay? In the airport? Did you get something to eat? Did you e-mail your professors for tomorrow?”
“Yes, yes. I’m fine. I’ll be okay.” You allowed yourself to loosen up a little, letting go of your pants and slouching a bit on the chair. “Make sure you eat as well. And get some rest. I’m sure…I’m sure he’ll be fine, mom. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
You hung up on your mother, after exchanging goodbyes with her. Lukas wasn’t next to you anymore, but his bag was still on his chair. You looked around and found him at the vending machines, getting a drink. You checked your phone. 12:11AM. You looked over to the windows where an hour ago, you wanted to smash and throw yourself into the asphalt. That idea had been radical and exaggerated, but at that time, all you had was frustration inside of you. You had supposed talking to Lukas had helped.
The snow had lessened. It wasn’t piling up very much on the runway, and you could actually see the clouds now. One of the delayed flights had already arrived, and a few people had left. Did that mean there was hope for you and your father?
Something cold was pressed against your arm. You looked down to find an apple juice on the arm rest, and Lukas had returned to his seat, drinking one of those iced coffees, something you were sure he’d need if the your flights continued to be delayed. He opened it and put the can up to his pallid lips—with such a faint hint of pink that they almost matched his skin tone. You grabbed the bottle, realizing that he must have noticed that you had had apple juice earlier, and his gesture made your heart calm down a little bit more.
He was so nice, and to you, a complete stranger. How could someone cheat on him, after being with him for six years and currently engaged? You supposed it was too early for you to make snap judgments on the girl or the best friend, because you didn’t know Lukas that well, but you didn’t think there was ever a reason to cheat. If the girl hadn’t felt anything for Lukas anymore, or if she was harboring feelings for his best friend, shouldn’t she have broken it off with him instead of going behind his back? There was no good reason for cheating.
“Thank you,” you told him as you opened the bottle. “If you don’t mind my asking, how did you meet her? Your…ex-fiancée, I mean.”
“Student exchange program.” His answer did not miss a beat, and he didn’t even flutter an eyelash when he said it. “We went out. I moved here for college.”
He had gone to your school? “To be with her?” He nodded at that. “No wonder you’re leaving. Did you at least enjoy it here?” He nodded again, and his eyes drifted to his phone again. You briefly caught the name “CIRCE” before he turned his phone off. Was that her name, the girl he had been in love with? “Well, it’s a shame you’re leaving. I’m sure this town will miss you. How long has it been since you broke things off with her?”
“Six weeks.” Lukas seemed like he had nothing to hide, and his face didn’t betray his emotions.
“And did you love her?”
Right. They had been engaged. “I’m sorry. Again.” Maybe the conversation he kept looking at was the last one he had had with his ex-fiancée, that girl named Circe. “I don’t really have much experience in romance, so I can’t really identify with you, but I’m sure you’re going through a hard time. It’ll get better.”
He nodded, but he pulled out his tablet. “Again?”
You smiled at that. “Again.”
You guys played three more games before you gave up trying to beat him—he had won all three times—and you resorted to have him tell you fairytales. This was when his sentences got a little longer, when there were less and less awkward pauses in between. Though his voice held no inflections or any sentiments, you could tell by the fact that he was talking more and more openly that he enjoyed the subject, and that he definitely believed in magic. You also learned that the barrette in his hair was in the shape of Nordic cross—such as the cross on Norway’s flag.
It was one-thirty when your flight finally arrived and you could finally board it. You quickly grabbed your stuff and hurried to your feet, stopping only to look over at Lukas.
“Thank you…for spending time with me. I hope…I hope you find what you’re looking for in Norway,” you told him.
“I hope you reach your father in time. I’m sure you will,” he told you, and then he produced a tiny smile—miniscule but nonetheless beautiful. “It’ll get better, (name). Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” you echoed.
You rushed towards the gate, so grateful to finally be able to board the plane. You sat down in your seat near the window, resting against the tiny pane and breathing hard as you closed your eyes. You hadn’t slept since you had woken up for your 9:30AM class Wednesday morning, but you knew you couldn’t sleep now. All that was left was to take this plane to Arkansas, hail a cab, and get to the hospital.
All that was left was for you to see your father, at least once more.
You made it in time, as Lukas had foretold.
You managed to hold the weak hand of your dying father, curling up near him with your mother holding you as she sat next to you. Your father’s breathing was stable, as was his heart rate, and you managed to have him kiss the top of your head one last time, and you managed to say your goodbyes. You managed to tell him that you loved him, and you heard him say it back.
It was 9:43AM when your father passed away at the age of fifty-three, a snowy March morning. The medicine the doctors had given your father had made it so he didn’t feel much pain in his last moments—enough medicine so that he could still recognize your presence and still be comfortable. His death had been quiet, his last words nothing remarkable—“I need water,” he had breathed—but he had been surrounded by the two people who loved him the most.
Luckily, you had missed any days of class, so you took spring break early, consoling your mother and having her console you back.
His funeral was the Saturday before you returned to campus.
You missed your father, enough to cry yourself to sleep at night, but you thanked the stars that you had gotten some closure with your father, because then you definitely wouldn’t be able to sleep at all.
“A slice of strawberry shortcake, please,” Miriam asked the girl at the counter before she turned to you. She was your best friend, a fellow biology major. “What about you, (name)? Don’t you normally get the cheesecake or scones?”
You looked at all the desserts behind the glass window before you made your choice, smiling. “A slice of pound cake, please.” It had vanilla frosting on top, but the last time you had had pound cake was the day that you had been stuck in the airport with— “Lukas!”
The young baker looked up at you from the tray of cookies he had just made, and his eyes widened just slightly. “(name).”
Miriam nudged your arm. The girl behind the counter laughed lightly. “Lukas, I didn’t know you actually talked to strangers.” She turned to you, her brown eyes shining. “You must be special, then.”
Lukas didn’t seem to worry too much about what they were saying. “Did you make it in time?”
“Yes, as you predicted,” you answered. Miriam paid for you, before you could stop her. You thanked her and moved out of the way of the people, in the direction of Lukas. “He died, but I did manage to say goodbye.” Miriam grabbed the slice of pound cake for you, and she found a small table near the door. “You…you came back. That’s good.”
“I didn’t want to run away,” Lukas answered as he put the cookies away into their proper spots. “I like this town.” His eyes met yours briefly. Your heart fluttered a little bit. Strange. “Are you busy this weekend?”
“I thought we could play chess.”
Miriam called you from behind as a smile sprouted on your face. There was a bit of a crimson sprinkled on Lukas’s cheeks, even though his face remained apathetic. His expressions were always so stable, comforting. For the first time in a few weeks, you felt lighter than air. The drumming of your heart was no longer due to grief, and you could feel your own face getting hot.
“Your place or mine?”