by Kim Martins
The plane inched through high clouds and she wondered if he was on it, or if he’d changed his mind. He’d emailed last week: I’m coming home. After six months of finding himself, needing breathing space, some time apart. She wasn’t really sure what he’d meant.
She raised her hands to her face, an instinctive reaction acquired over many years of living with Bob and his erratic temper. But she closed her eyes to the past as she watched the plane land and taxi to the terminal building huddled in the corner of the small regional airstrip.
She stood near the smudged windows of Gate One, saw him trudge down the metal stairs. His greying hair was longer, disheveled strands hung shoulder-length, his usual smart chinos replaced with ill-fitting board shorts.
She imagined he’d spent his days on coconut cream beaches that edged into margarita sunsets. She didn’t plan to ask if he’d been alone; she was afraid of the answer.
He stepped through the arrival entrance, rucksack in hand, silver suitcase nowhere in sight.
“Hello Marian,” he said, in that same whiskey-and-cigarettes voice she remembered. She paused for a moment, looked into his tanned face splattered with freckles and forgave him, as she always had.
They talked on the patio that evening. Voices tight and strained. She walked him backwards through their lives together, avoided the damaged memories. But she could see he’d already forgotten.
It’s better this way, he said. The night air was sharp and Marian wrapped herself around the truth of those words.
He left at dawn the following day. She didn’t bother to go to the airport. She waited for the rumble of a small plane as it flew overhead, did a load of washing and hung her false hopes on the line to dry.