She stood out (of line)

Her voice rang with alarm. “The airline still won’t allow me to check-in.” She’d booked the red eye departure from Pittsburgh the previous night. That had been after ending a fraught telephone conversation with her mum about her dad. The fact seat reservations weren’t accessible later in the evening didn’t strike her as odd, and an overnight wait hadn’t bothered her. Now, with a further delay, the problem was unnerving. So, the assured reply tried to form a calming influence, just as she often provided for him. “That’s not an issue. Registration at the airport is easy.”

“I’m sorry that organizing our house move is down to you. I hope you’ll be okay driving alone to Philadelphia for Thanksgiving. Please ring me as you leave once the movers have taken the furniture.”

“Sure, when I hit the road, we’ll chat. Then again, you can call tonight.”

“Maybe, I’ll see what happens. But experience tells me I may be at Dad’s hospital until late. When he hits a low, there’s no quick fix.”

Her spouse understood, and anyway, he required no reminder of that scenario.

The Uber came promptly. Her airport journey passed without incident. As a result, she reached her gate early, feeling relieved. But on approaching the desk, her earlier panic resumed. A line of people was forming. All were waiting to speak with the flight attendant. Several ticket holders stood ahead of her, even so she heard their questions and the replies. “The aircraft to Philadelphia is full and free seats rely on no-shows. So, I have listed standby passengers in order of arrival. What about the next plane? It is also fully booked. Yes, the airline’s policy is to carry priority rankings forward.”

When her turn came, she perceived the clerk to be unhappy. Before noticing scarring on her wrists, the entire aura of this person spoke of someone for whom being there presented a struggle, so while handing over her cell phone, which exhibited the e-ticket, she apologized for adding to her difficult day. She said she recognized signs of having woken in the morning and being unsure of the aftermath. Laughter or crying were equal possibilities. She continued by revealing her father shared those problems. She needed to complete this trip before he harmed himself. The worry made her shake and her speech trembled. “Seeing him again, will depend on arriving as soon as possible”.

It seemed like everything she mentioned was being ignored as the agent stared at her computer screen, showing no emotion. Then, as tension grew to be unbearable, the printer started working and the woman’s demeanor remained unchanged whilst presenting a boarding pass. The passenger who had headed up the line was furious. “I thought I should come first!”

In return, the airline assistant shot him a withering look. “This lady isn’t on standby. She produced a valid check-in.”

He met her disdainful regard with an icy stare, showing his total disbelief. Everyone else present knew he was correct to doubt the outcome. She was certain. They were all right. But the concession had filled her with gratitude, and having received the prized voucher, she wanted to utter effusive thanks. Instead, knowing that could be unhelpful, she muted her response as if the steps taken were with no special favor. Still, she hoped to smile at her benefactor, but the languid brown eyes she had seen only briefly returned to the monitor.

When the plane departed, she sighed with relief as the scheduled landing time gave a comfortable margin before her father should leave home. Despite this, having settled in her seat to relax, concerns resurfaced. Then she sensed her body shaking once more. The unique skills she developed were shortly to be available to her dad, but only by leaving her husband alone. He faced a stressful task to add to his own carbon copy of her dad’s disorder. A crossover which had fueled the bond between the young couple. Soon, that blossomed into love. Perhaps it shouldn’t have shocked her to realize he could suffer an overload. Regardless, she had realized too late that might prove too much.

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