Until The Time Is Through
“This is the final boarding call for flight BA9723” The ground crew announce over the loud speaker. As the boarding line starts to dissipate I decide now is the best time to join it. I do this for every flight, wait until almost everyone has boarded and then make my way on, it was something my Mum used to do and I’d panic that we’d miss the flight as we sat back and watched everyone scramble up to be first on but by hanging back I’m almost guaranteed that every wanker who rushed on first is now settled in their sets and I can just breeze on through the clear aisle without being pushed and shoved, it’s not a foolproof plan, theres always someone who is blocking an aisle, trying to grab items out of their carry on, that they threw up into the overhead compartment.
“Let’s go Sammy” Shayla squeals with excitement beside me, she puts up the handle on her small carry on suitcase, the only luggage she brought with her, and joins the end of the line. We have our boarding passes and passports checked and are waved through pass the gate, down the long tunnel that leads to the plane.
“Shay, I gotta ask, did you pack enough? We will be in Australia for two weeks and all you have is that tiny suitcase” Veronica would have her whole wardrobe and then some for a two week holiday but Shayla, like myself, seems to just bring the bare essentials.
“Yep, it’s funny how many skirts and singlets you can fit into this thing, thank christ it’s Summer and I heard Aussie Summers were notorious for being hot” She looks so pleased with herself too, I feel bad that I have to correct her.
“Ah Shay, it’s Winter in Australia right now” She stops dead in her tracks, looking at me confused, luckily there was no one behind us. “It’s in the southern hemisphere”
“Feck! I thought it was near Germany” She starts walking again, her cheeks turning a shade of red that matches her hair.
“That’s Austria, completely different country” I laugh, shaking my head.
“I didn’t even pack a jacket, let alone any Winter gear, feck, I’m going to freeze me tits off” She giggles, I’m glad she found the humour in her mistake and didn’t have a full blown melt down like most girls would, not that Shayla has ever been like most girls, she’s always been a go-with-the-flow, carefree chick.
“First stop when we reach Claremont is to go to the shopping centre and get you some decent Winter clothing”
“I’m starting to see now why I failed Geography” She laughs. We enter the plane and hand over our boarding passes to the cabin crew greeting everyone and directing them to their seats. The plane is only partially full, there’s still a lot of spare seats, Shay and I are directed to an empty row of 3 seats near the emergency exit, I was offered the row when the check-in staff saw my height and said it would be best seat to stretch my legs out. The aisle is completely clear as we are the last ones to board, making it easier to navigate our way to our seats, once seated a member from the cabin crew comes by to brief me on how to operate the safety door in the case of an emergency.
“Did you call your girl to let her know you’re coming home early?” Shayla asked when we were taxiing down the runway, she had told me on the way to the airport that she liked to talk during take off, to distract herself from her fear of flying, she put down to watching way too many episodes of Aircrash and rattled off at least 6 different ways an aircraft can be brought down, she would have told me more if I hadn’t begged her to stop. I love flying, it’s like going on a ride at an amusement park but the last thing I need before getting on a long haul flight is to hear how it could just break up, mid air or stall and come crashing down into the ocean.
“I’ll call her when we get to Singapore” I had emailed Veronica, telling her I’d be home on Saturday morning instead of Monday, I changed the flight to give myself some extra time with Roni, even if it will only be a few hours.
“I can’t wait to meet her” Shayla’s excitement is short-lived as the plane begins to speed up down the runway, engines roaring, it lifts off the ground, Shayla’s small hand thrusts itself into mine, gripping it tightly, her eyes squeezed shut with fear, for me it’s the opposite, a complete adrenaline fuelled thrill. The plane banks to the left and a frightened Shayla sucks in a sharp breath, I need to get her mind off this or else she’s going to work herself up into a full blown panic attack.
“Let’s play a game” I suggest, looking around the cabin at all the different people travelling on the flight with us, I know the perfect distraction. Shayla opens one eye, timidly, as if keeping them shut will prevent the plane from crashing.
“What kind of game?” The grip she has on my hand begins to loosen, only slightly.
“See that couple over there?” I point with my head at the man and woman, he looks to be around 40 but she looks younger, late 20′s, sitting in the row across from us, their lips have been locked together since we sat down and if it wasn’t for the fasten seatbelt sign being on I’m sure they would be making a joint trip to the tiny bathroom stall. “What’s their story?”
Shayla glances over at the couple, who are not being coy in any way about being openly affectionate in public. Her hand leaves mine to stifle a giggle of surprise at the sight.
“That’s his mistress” She whispers, my plan of distraction is working, she more relaxed now that she has something else to focus on. “He told his wife and kids, 3 boys, that he’s going on a business trip, he failed to mention the he was taking his secretary with him, he was so taken by her dick-tation” She bursts into a fit of laughter, hiding her head under the blue fleece blanket we were given to muffle the sound.
“That’s very detailed” I’m impressed, I wasn’t expecting a full backstory.
“I meet a lot of people through my line of work and everyone has a story to tell you” She shrugs, looking around the plane her eyes settle on a small family, a mum, dad and a girl who looks to be around six, a few rows up and across, the young girl is laughing at jokes her dad is telling her while the mother has her nose in a book yet keeps giving them looks of disapproval.
“Tell me about them” Shayla says to me, I think for a moment, analysing the situation before me.
“Umm, it’s a family, going on holiday together.” I’m not as good at this as Shayla is.
“Lame” Shay scoffs, shaking her head.
“Ok, well you try”
“Divorced father, that’s his daughter, he’s stinking rich and little miss gold digger, the woman, loves that he splashes the cash on her, look at that diamond encrusted bracelet on her arm, that thing would have cost a fortune but she hates that moneybags comes as a package deal, she wants all the attention and money, for herself, she resents that little girl” The woman gives up on her reading and turns her attention to the man to try and engage him in conversation, making it clear not to include the child but her feeble attempt at pulling his attention away isn’t getting her anywhere, she huffs loudly and returns to her book.
“You’re good at this”
“I just have a knack for reading people.” She says. The seatbelt sign goes off and the captain announces that we are now free to move around the cabin, the woman across from us wastes no time undoing her seatbelt and standing up, throwing a wink to the man as she scoots past him, Shayla looks at me wide eyed, looking very amused. I nudge her when the man gets up from his seat a minute later and walks towards the tiny bathroom. “I hope someone gets in there before them and stinks the whole room out, nothing romantic about shagging where someone has shit”
The drinks cart pulls up beside us and I’m just about to ask for a coke when Shayla pipes up and orders two vodkas with orange juice.
“It’s not even mid morning and you wanna hit up the hard stuff?” I’m a little surprised. The stewardess pours out our drinks into plastic cups without even a hint of judgement, I hand over my credit card for her to run through and she hands Shay the drinks, plus two bags of complimentary pretzels.
“Time doesn’t exist on planes Sam, everyone knows that” Shayla informs me, taking a sip of her drink and relaxing back into her chair. “Plus, I need this, it will help ease my nerves”
“Fair enough” She makes a good point, with the shades pulled down and the cabin lighting dimmed you can be forgiven for thinking it was night time.
“Was it love at first sight with Veronica?” Shay asks, tearing open her small bag of pretzels, she shoves three into her mouth at once. She skipped breakfast this morning because she was nervous about flying so she must be starving, I pass her my bag to eat too, it will get her through until lunch is served.
“It was for me, not so much for her though” Thinking back to that day in year 9 when she was seated in front of Lucas and I at assembly, her shinny blonde hair and perfect pouty lips caught my attention, she was unlike any girl I’d ever laid eyes on before.
“How could she not have fallen for those dimples of yours? And that hair? Is she blind?” Shay exclaims, turning heads of the other passengers around us and making me blush. “I may be a lesbian but even I recognise that you’re an attractive man”
“There was another lad, who was my best friend, he was pretty popular and he made his move on her first” Just thinking about the shit Lucas put me through, how he stole my chance with Veronica right from under me, makes my blood boil.
“A love triangle?”
“Yep but he’s a wanker, he cheated on her with half the girls in our year and then when she finally broke up with him and starts seeing me, he convinces her, and everyone else, that he’s changed, that he’s now a white knight who just swoops in and saves the day and I’m a prick if I say anything about him” For the past week I’ve been free of any Lucas shit, the on going cycle that I keep getting pulled into and it’s been so refreshing not having to defend why it is that I can’t stand the guy or why I know he will never change.
“Why do you let him piss you off so much? You won, you got the girl in the end” Shayla reasons with me but I know, for as long as he’s present in my life, I’ll never feel like I’ve completely won.
“Remember how you told me about your ex? The one who was stuck in that ongoing cycle of always running back to the toxic relationship, no matter how many times she got burnt?”
“That’s Veronica and Lucas, he’d treat her like shit, she’d break up with him and he would worm his way back into her life, promising to change and that was how it went for two years and I just had to sit back and watch him destroy her” It killed me to stand by and watch Lucas cheat on the girl I was in love with, she was such a rare, precious gem and he treated her like she was dirt.
“Do you trust her?”
“I do, until she gives me a reason not to”
“Connie, my ex, cheated on me” Shay says in a small, quivering voice, her eyes showing the pain she’s been masking. “She doesn’t know that I know though but I came home early from work one afternoon and heard them at it in our bed, I just left, went for a walk, cried my eyes out on a ferry boat on the Thames and then came home at my normal time and said nothing, I keep hoping she’d just own up to it and tell me but after a week of waiting it got too hard, she just thinks I ended it, not that she ever made any effort to fight for our relationship”
“If you love something, set it free” I repeat her words back to her, now fully understanding her anguish and heartbreak. “You’re still holding out hope that she’ll come back to you, that’s why you don’t get into relationships isn’t it?” I can’t help but wonder now if that’s why Veronica had stayed non committal, was she too just waiting around for Lucas to grow up and see her true potential? If I hadn’t made a move would they have just ended up back together anyway?
“It’s not like that, I’m over Connie, I just don’t fancy getting my heart stomped on again so it’s easier to keep my distance and not get hurt” She defends herself, I’m overthinking this whole thing, I always have when it comes to Veronica.
By the time we land in Singapore I’m exhausted, even though we both slept after lunch but sleeping upright on a plane is uncomfortable and I kept getting woken up every time someone walked passed us on route to the bathroom, in the end I just gave up and decided to read while Shayla was resting peacefully on my shoulder, for someone who had a fear of flying it certainly didn’t keep her up.
We would be stuck here for another two hours but were free to go outside, just had to go through airport security again if we did. The airport was humid, the hot, thick air made it made it hard to breathe but I knew it would be worse outside but Shayla said she was desperate for a cigarette and I didn’t want her wandering off in a foreign city alone, I purchased a calling card from a news stand in the airport and we headed out into stifling heat to find a payphone for me and a spot for Shay to light up.
We found a phone easily and I dialled Veronica’s home number, calling a mobile would have eaten up the calling card in mere minutes but calling a landline would give me more time to talk and it had been days since I’d heard her voice. I checked my watch which I’d purposely left set to Australian time, just so I would know when was the best time to contact home. It was just after 7pm on Friday, she would probably be getting a head start on her homework just so she would have more time to chat to Kelsey at the clinic tomorrow.
The phone rang four times until it was picked up, a croaky, drawn out Hello had me wondering if I’d even dialled the right number, the person answering didn’t sound like any of the Kreslin’s.
“Ah hi, I think I’ve dialled the wrong number” I was about to hang up and try again but I heard an excited squeal from the other end.
“Sam!” I recognised Bridget’s voice now but she didn’t sound too good. “How are you? I miss you so much. When are you home?”
“I’ll be home in around 14 hours or so, I miss you too Bridge, you don’t sound too well though” The sound of her blowing her nose travels down the line, followed by a series of sneezes.
“I have the flu” She tells me, although I’d already guessed that from how nasally she sounded, poor Bridget.
“You should be in bed, keeping warm and getting better” I advise her.
“I was asleep but I heard the phone ring and didn’t want it to wake up Dad, he’s in bed too but he has to stay away from me so he doesn’t catch what I have” She explains, blowing her nose again.
“Why didn’t Veronica answer it?”
“She’s out for dinner, celebrating with Lucas” For a moment I wondered if I had heard her correctly, I kept playing her words over and over in my head, ‘dinner with Lucas’, ‘celebrating’. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. “Are you still there?” Bridget asked when I didn’t say anything.
“Yeah, I am” My confused tone must have alerted Shayla that something was off, she stubbed out her cigarette and walked over to me, mouthing to ask if I was alright, I shook my head, still trying to wrap my brain around the information Bridget was feeding me. “Veronica went out with Lucas?” I asked Bridget, needing confirmation, Shayla’s shocked look matches my own, I feel sick to my stomach, betrayed.
“Yeah, we were all meant to go as a group but I came down with the flu this morning and had to stay home from school and I think Kate and Alex had to cancel too, I overheard Roni telling Dad that it would just be her and Lucas tonight.” Bridget says, like it’s no big deal. “She said she was going to tell you”
“She didn’t” I can’t hold back my anger, I’m seeing red right now. Every little piece of faith I had in Veronica had just been crushed. “I have to go Bridget, my plane is boarding soon” It’s a lie but if I stay on the phone to her I’m likely to take my anger out on her and she in now way deserves that.
“I’ll let Veronica know you called” She says, uncertain, most likely realising that she’s let the cat out of the bag and if Veronica finds out who told me it will be Bridget who will have the shit rained down on her, I can’t do that to the kid, she’s way too sweet to cop the wrath for this, it wasn’t her fault that her sister kept secrets.
“Don’t tell her” I blurt out, trying to think up a way to save Bridget’s ass here. “Let me surprise her when I get home”
“Deal, I’ll see you soon, have a safe trip home, love you lots”
“Love you too kid” I hang up the phone and turn to find Shayla staring at me expectingly, needing answers that I don’t have. All I know is there’s only one reason Veronica would have kept this from me, she’s been claiming that Lucas has changed for over a month now and I’m now left wondering if that’s how long they’ve been screwing behind my back.
“She cheated on me” I tell Shayla, I feel like the biggest fool for not seeing the signs sooner, no wonder she was so keen to get me out of the country, why she keeps encouraging me.
“She told you that? Over the phone?” Shayla places a hand on my back and rubs it, it’s comforting to have her here right now, if I had to go through this alone I’d be losing my shit for sure.
“Her sister told me that they were out together, she’s with the prick right now” I should have smashed his face in when I had the chance, cocky fucking shitbag he is.
“That doesn’t mean that she’s cheating on you, look at us, you’re here with me right now but you’re not cheating, men and women can be alone together without any sexual desires taking over”
“You don’t get it Shay, you don’t know this guy, he will stop at nothing to win and with me being out of the country it was the in he needed, they’ve probably been together this whole time and laughing at me for believing my relationship with her was real.”
“Don’t do anything you’re going to regret Sammy, talk to her when you get home” She suggests but I haven’t got it in me to be fed more bullshit from Veronica. We head back into the airport, going through security and make our way to the gate. There’s a bar near by and I’m in desperate need of something hard to drink, I order a bourbon and request it to be made strong. Shayla takes a seat beside me at the bar and orders herself a Guinness, she eyes me with caution, like she’s waiting for me to just snap or break down but I won’t, not yet anyway.
“The Dean at Cambridge told me to let go of any distractions before I come back and Veronica is the biggest distraction I have” The bartender places our drinks in front of us and I hand over my card to pay, bringing the ice cold beverage up to my lips and drinking it in fast, feeling the bourbon burn on the way down. Shayla puts her hand on my arm to pull it away from my mouth, stopping me from consuming my drink too fast. I don’t want to get drunk, that’s not my aim here but I need to take the edge off a little, I need to replace the bitterness inside of me with something else and right now I choose bourbon.
Shayla’s eyes are filled with pity, the same look she gave me in the months that followed after Mum passed. I hate pity, it’s such a useless emotion, it doesn’t take away the pain I’m feeling inside, it doesn’t stop me from having thoughts of beating Lucas to a bloody pulp, it does nothing for me.
“Don’t throw away a good thing Sam, you love her and she loves you, I know she does because you told me, just give her a chance to explain” It’s almost like she’s begging me but she doesn’t even know Veronica, she knows only what I’ve told her and I was fooled by love, could only see the best in my girl, refused to see I was being played.
“You did it, you walked away from your love and never told her why.” I’m not trying to hurt Shay but she has to see that she’s being hypocritical, pushing me to talk to Veronica when she didn’t even give her own girlfriend that chance, she just cut her off.
“That was completely different, I had actually proof that Constance was cheating on me, you have a hunch and are running with it”
“Shay, even if she’s not cheating, even if it was just the two of them going out for dinner, she still felt the need to have to hide it, like she was doing something shady. I don’t think I can live like this, being apart from her and always thinking the worst” I drink in the last remains of my bourbon, consider ordering another but talk myself out of it, I don’t want to be that guy who drowns his sorrows in an airport bar.
“Could you live without her though?” I’d never considered not having Veronica in my life, from the moment that I met her I just wanted to be near her, even if it meant sitting on the sidelines and watching her fall for my best friend, I even helped him plan dates, things that I knew would make her happy because she deserved happiness.
I couldn’t do it again though, not now that I know what it feels like to be loved by her, I couldn’t sit back and watch someone else take my place. That left me with two options really, stay together, endure everything that comes with long distance, which would be the constant worry that she’s out with him, sleeping with him, breaking up with me when she realises I’m not around to take her on dates and pay her the attention she deserves or I could just end it all and save us both the time we’d waste, the heartache of the enviable.