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Come Fly with Me
With a grimace I couldn’t help thinking about how pained I must look wandering through departures on autopilot. The Boarder Force Officers that check our passports outbound looked at me like I was something from the walking dead – I don’t even remember our conversations. I’m guessing that I answered their questions correctly, else why would I be walking down the airbridge at ‘International Terminal Two – Gate Nine?’
Jesus. My head was pounding and eyes stinging from saying goodbye to the family, Sam… shit, everyone. In the short distance between me and the cabin crew greeting and directing passengers to their various ends of the aircraft, my mind kept wandering off and playing back my goodbye with Sam. I couldn’t help but think about him. What the fuck was I doing leaving Sam behind? I mean, really!
I was now only a few yards away from the doorway of the aircraft. The cabin crew looked up at me for a second. From the looks on their faces, that ‘really’ wasn’t just in my mind obviously. I continued to shuffle along, totally lost in my own thoughts. The whole boarding process was starting to feel like an out-of-body experience.
By the time I was seated, one of the cabin staff assigned to this area had checked with me a few times to see if I was ok. I don’t even remember stepping into the aircraft or being directed to my seat, it all seemed so surreal. I was finally going. I’d said goodbye to Sam and I was sitting in business class. Was this a dream? I only hoped it wasn’t one especially if it was directed by Quentin Tarantino, else there would be a fuck-ton of bloodshed at any moment or John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson would just stroll past me arguing about a ‘Royale with Cheese’. My god, I must be stoned or something!
What seemed to be only a few moments later, the cabin manager came down and asked me if I was okay. “Mr Spence, how are you doing today?” Michael, the cabin manager, offered.
I think he was concerned about my ability to fly. “Oh, sorry Michael. I’ve just said goodbye to someone that meant a lot to me, and I’m feeling a bit…”
Michael, gave me a reassuring smile. “Mr. Spence, if there is anything that my crew or I can do to make your journey more comfortable please let me know.”
“The person you left behind–” I Interrupted for some reason.
“Sam-Sam Lowe is his name,” I offered. “The person I left behind.” Then muttering to myself “I’m an idiot.”
“Then Mr. Lowe must be a special person, Mr Spence.”
I interrupted Michael again. “Jamie, not Mr Spence. Mr Spence is my Dad…I’m Jamie.” I must have been rapidly becoming one of those pain-in-the-ass passengers, but it wasn’t my intention.
“Jamie, in the fifteen years I’ve been lucky to fly with people, I’ve seen a lot of happy and sad faces. In time, it will all come together. You just need to give yourself and Mr Lowe some time to work out what the world wants from you, and you from it. Until then, let Stephen and the rest of our crew look after you, okay?”
Michael was smiling at me with either well-rehearsed emotion or genuine compassion. I’d like to think it was genuine compassion. Managing to force a half-smile back at Michael and Stephen, one of the other crew that was standing in the aisle next to my seat, I replied, “Thanks guys. I appreciate it. Maybe a JD and coke would be nice?”
“Sure, Mr. Spence…Jamie…but not too many, okay?” Michael smiled.
Retreating into the almost pod-like seat where I think I could successfully hide for many hours. I rubbed my face with cupped hands, slowly exhaling trying to snap myself out of this emotional turmoil I was in and being totally irritational too. I didn’t want to look out of the window of the aircraft in case I could see Sam in the terminal building – I didn’t know what the hell I’d do if I could see him, which, by the way, was impossible due to the distance from the public area to the boarding gates.
I was snapped out of my own little world when my cell beeped. Shit, I had forgotten to turn it off. Fishing it out of my jeans pocket I quickly looked that the screen. There were three messages, two from the guys, and one from Raine Wilmer.
Clicking on the first two messages, Dave-Ty and Dad, all asking if I was okay. They’d seen Sam after I left and he was pretty upset according to all. ‘No shit guys,’ I thought to myself. Damn those tears were about to spill again. Oh come on Michael – where’s that JD?
Reading on past all the ribbing about kissing and running, or that the guys had both booked my truck out as a hire-a-truck for the next 12 weeks, just to get at me I’m sure. Grrr… like hell guys the old man will put stop to that, I hope?
Must remember to text dad about my truck. I know he said he’d take care of it on the way into the airport today, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure, right?
Both Dave and Ty were going to drive Sam home via Checkpoint Charlies, so I’m guessing a big afternoon was on the cards for Sam and the boys. Apparently Halkalı travesti my Dad was going with them to make sure they didn’t get into trouble. That’s so Dad, trying to look after everyone.
The other message was from Raine Wilmer, asking if I’d checked my emails.
Crap… I could feel my face flush red. I’d clean forgotten about it. With all the emotions flying about when I was leaving, it had just slipped my mind to check any messages. I was kind of thinking Mom would be bombarding me with messages or calls, but Dad had obviously calmed her. I think she was busy mothering everyone at the airport too.
Like a school kid that was playing with their cell or Nintendo in class. I peered around to see what the cabin crew were up to. They were down the end of the section about twenty or so yards, busily getting things stowed away. Most of the passengers around me were engrossed in the onboard safety video that had started, I was kind of following along too.
It was pretty-cool too, using iconic Australian images and places and turning them into a safety promo – good marketing someone. The loud ‘G’day! I’m here to show you blah, blah…’ from the safety video snapped me out of the trance I was in and I quickly opened up my emails on my cell.
There was the normal spam stuff, wanting to sell me all manner of Canadian medications. Trust me guys, I don’t have an issue with getting it up. I laughed, its keeping it in its holster I think might be my issue.
Then I saw it! Promotions Course 186 Operational Officer/Station Officer.
I am pleased to inform you that your nomination for promotion to Operations Officer/Station Officer has been successful. As part of your preparation for this course, we ask that you read and complete the required pre-reading and questionnaire prior to the commencement of the course. This exercise will form part of your course assessment. Please ensure that this is uploaded prior to the commencement date listed below, you will be billeted at the state training complex for the four-week duration.
Quickly I looked at the dates, shit it starts in thirteen weeks. I’ll have about six days from when I get back to drop bags and go.
I turned my cell off and slipped in into a storage shelf just as Stephen arrived with my JD and coke, including the standard packet of salted nuts. Okay, so maybe the tables are turning for me.
I awoke to the ding of the cabin bell, announcing that the crew were now moving through the cabin to prepare for landing at LAX, where the local time on arrival would be 6:15am.
Wow those couple of JD’s did the trick. I watched a few episodes of ‘Family guy’ – yes, I know, a guilty pleasure. While stuffing my face with some delicious food – like really! Airline food that wasn’t only edible, but nice too. A drink or two after dinner and bang, I’m here.
Taking the opportunity, I grabbed my toiletry bag and headed to the bathroom for a quick freshen up and get back into my normal clothes and out of these nice Qantas PJ’s.
I don’t even remember getting into them, but clearly, I did. I must have been emotionally exhausted or something because it was like the start of the flight, the whole departure process post Sam. I was automatically going through the motions before, not even aware of what I was doing. The concerning part was I had very limited recollection of the whole thing.
Walking back down the aisle and slipping back into my seat, I started to pack away all my stuff that I’d pulled out or was souveniring. I busily packed everything back into my backpack, settling back into my seat and slipping on my headphones while trying to watch one more episode of ‘Family Guy’ before we land.
But now my mind was racing, I can’t wait to see Lucas. Just the thought of seeing his smiling face was enough to transport me into a much happier state of mind. A smile broke out across my face, just as Michael walked past, thinking of all the shit Lucas and I have gotten up to over the years. Oh wow, this is going to be fun!!
“Ah, Mr Spence. I see that you’re looking a little happier now? That’s fantastic, and what a million dollar smile too.”
“Thanks, Michael,” I replied with a cheeky look on my face. “Must have been all the great ‘Qantas’ Service, hey.”
He just smiled back at me, resting his hand on my shoulder momentarily as he headed off down the cabin.
My exiting the aircraft and heading up the arrivals hall to customs went without a hitch, pretty much. It was a simple process and since I’d already taken out a gateway visa, I seemed to slip to the head of the line quickly and out the other side. Note to self: I should just get my US passport like Dad has been telling me for years. It would make this so much easier. I’m the only one that doesn’t – the girls and Mason all have.
Lucas was going to meet me near the Hertz Car rental counter, as the crowd Levent travesti outside the doors was always busy with people fighting to get that last inch closer to the doorway. And really guys, pushing forward right up to the barrier line outside the exit area from boarder control? That inch or two closer just isn’t going to make a difference, right, but you’d think that its valuable land by the millimetre.
Slowly I made my way across the concourse. The layout had changed a bit since I was last here. Finally, I spotted the rental counter and started to make my way over when a voice behind me called.
“Excuse me, sir… Mr. Spence-Mr James Spence?”
I spun around and was confronted with two of the biggest guys I’ve ever locked eyes on. They looked to be police or homeland security, I wasn’t sure. The uniforms seemed to have changed a bit since I was last here and I wasn’t really taking too much notice of the insignia on their sleeves.
Shakily, I replied, “Yes, I’m James Spence. Can I help you guys?”
“Mr. Spence, we need you to come with us. We have a few questions we’d like you to answer.”
I’d just gone white as a ghost. My mouth was dry and heart pounding so hard I thought it was going to burst out of my chest like a scene from Alien. And yes, I know chest, not stomach, but you get the drift. God, even my ears started to ring with the rhythm of my heart beat.
“Umm, sure. Is there a problem?” I asked.
“Sir, we can do this out here in public or in private. It’s up to you,” with one hand directing me in the general direction off to my left.
At this point the biggest one (we’ll call man mountain-one) stepped a little closer. Man mountain-two just watched on, taking it all in.
“Okay sure, I’m happy to do this in private, but I’m requesting consular assistance I think,” my voice trailing away.
We walked off across the concourse into a small meeting room, with a table, four chairs and a desk phone on it. “Our supervisor will be with us in a moment.”
By this time, I was absolutely crapping my pants. My racing mind was trying to decide if calling my Uncle, Aunt or the Australian Embassy was the next step. What the hell was going on? My hands were all sweaty now. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights because that was a perfect description for how I was feeling right about now.
“Mr Spence!” started Man mountain-two. “It seems that there are some inaccuracies in the lodgement of your gateway entry paperwork.”
“What… What the hell are you talking about?” I could feel my anger levels rising a bit. What the hell were these guys going on about, for fuck’s sake?
“Look guys, I’ve been coming to the US since I was a little kid. My Grand Parents were US citizens. We came home for the holidays every other year. My dad is a US citizen, naturalized in Australia. I’ve got like three dozen close family members that are US citizens. This sort of stuff has never happened.” My head was starting to spin, but I was thinking of what the rebuttal was going to be. More, I was slipping into work mode. The fight or flight reflex had started to kick in and I was more for fight rather than flight.
Suddenly a knock on the door breaks the conversation. Man Mountain-two responds with “Come in.”
The door swings open and this smiling face pokes in.
“HAHA! Got-ya, Jamie.”
“Oh my fuckin god!! LUCAS! I’m gonna…”
As I jump up from the table, Man mountain-one and Man mountain-two stand and high five Lucas. “WHAT!” I let rip and made a dive for Lucas. “I’m going to kick his ass right now.”
“Whoa, there Jamie,” Mountain Man one says, holding out his hand – well more like a massive paw – in front of me. “Our buddy, Lucas here, said you’d lose your shit. Damn Lucas, you were right. Your cousin looked like he’d committed some major crime and we’d just busted his ass.”
Lucas’ face dropped a bit. He could see that I was really freaked out. He slipped past the guys and wrapped me up in a strong hug, somewhere between a bro hug and something tender and brotherly.
Pulling his face back and looking me in the eye. “Sorry, Jamie. I owed you that after you set those spiders loose in the outhouse at Granddaddy’s farm, remember? While I was locked in?”
“Oh yeah, I’d thought you’d forgotten about that Luc.” We both burst into laughter, pulling each other in again.
“Come on. I want to get my truck and get this holiday started.” Lucas had borrowed one of Tom’s friend’s cars, a guy that he works with, apparently.
“So, tell me again Luc, whose car is this?”
“Just some guy called Matt. He works with Tom at his station.”
“What – so this guy who doesn’t know you or me just gave you his car to drive to LAX and back, no questions asked? Really?”
“Nah, Tom was going to give us his car, then his wife’s car gave up some last minute hitch. I don’t know, it was all becoming too confusing for me at 4am.”
Lucas looked at me with Şirinevler travesti wide-eyed stare. “I just took the keys offered and got out.”
“Hmm, okay, I’ll have to remember to thank Matt when we get to their shed, sorry-station house. We’ll stop and fill it with gas and get the new car somewhere closer to Tom’s, ok?”
Smiling away, Lucas offered a salute. We both burst into laughter. “Don’t you salute me you son-of-a-bitch. That stunt at the airport made me age five years.”
“Only five? More like ten, I think. You looked like you were going to piss your pants till I walked in. It was hilarious watching it on the screens outside the room.”
Laughing at my own fear and what I must have looked like, I asked, “So where did you dig those guys up from anyways?”
“I met them on an interagency conference last year in Chicago. So, after reading your email and then hearing about all the shit going down at your place with Jules, Mason – and what’s up with Aunty Kate? – I decided that we needed to unsettle you a bit.”
“Nice. Thanks, buddy. And yeah, Mom is all freaked out about me coming over here -thinks I’m not gonna come home.”
Lucas was clearly getting excited about reliving the planning, his face had brightened and I was sure he’d licked his lips a few times while reliving it all. “Yeah? Really? Is that why you’ve been a bit of a sad sack in the quiet moments?”
“Nah. It’s just that I was kinda falling for someone, and it’s playing on my mind a bit.”
Lucas’ face lit up, “All you need is a good throwdown. It’ll fix everything. ” A mischievous smile wrapped his face. No wonder this guy has always had the action – if he wasn’t my cousin or straight, damn, I’d throw his ass down.
“Sex doesn’t fix every-okay, maybe.” I burst out laughing. “Come on, how did you plan all this?” I asked, gesturing with my hands. “It’s was too complicated for your limited brain power, Luc.” I narrowed my eyes at him – didn’t work, though. We both burst out laughing again.
“Well, it all just came to me in a flash. I called those two guys up and asked if I could get them to pull you aside and pull a little joke on you and explained the spiders story to them. But they decided that a little pull-aside wasn’t enough so… Karma, Jamie.”
I looked out the window of the SUV. My mind started to wonder back home, to Sam. The sunshine and warmth made it a nice day out, feeling like it was in the mid 70’s – almost like a summer’s day at home – nice and hot for a swim and ski later.
Making our way out of the airport pretty quickly on 405 north, we were whizzing through the outer counties of Los Angles. Soon enough, the built-up housing and business gave way to some state park that I didn’t catch the name of. We drove through the middle of it – well, the highway slashed its way through.
With the gentile hum of the SUV, the warm sunshine on us, it was taking me all my strength not to doze off for a mid-morning nap. I think Lucas got wind of it, and pretty-soon the front windows were half down. The outside fresh air did its trick.
The scent of the outdoors was almost invigorating. While not the same smell we get at home, it was somewhat familiar. I guess the outdoors has a similar feel here. The semi-arid terrain certainly looks like the hills of western plains at home, plus not being a city boy, the urban interface between bushland and suburbia is my normal.
Finally we got off the highway and weaved around a few streets. This was just taking for ever. I kept thinking to myself, ‘Fuck Lucas, can you drive any slower…
Then we turned the corner and there it was: not as pretty as my red truck at home, but this grey F150XLT was beautiful. For a used car, it looked almost brand – new, low mileage, and all the nice features from what I remembered in the specs’ sheet listed. Plus, being a crew cab, I thought the bigger cabin would be good to sleep in, if needed, plus the higher resale than a super cab 2-door.
We pulled up next to it in the dealership, and were quickly greeted by a ridiculously hot salesman – I’m guessing 6’4″, 185 pounds, with dark brown hair and hazel, almost gold coloured, eyes. WOW!!
“Hey there, Sir,” the god amongst us greeted me. My mind and mouth were not on speaking terms for a few seconds.
Lucas sees my fail and jumps in. “Hi.” Lucas moves forward and shakes the Adonis’ hand. “I’m Lucas Spence, and this is Jamie,” tilting his head in my direction. “Y’all have to excuse my out-of-town cousin. He doesn’t speak English that well, but he’s fluent in flustered.” At that they both smirked in my general direction.
I step up to the god and extend my hand. “I’m sorry, it’s been a long day.” I’m busy taking in all that I see, and his cologne fills my senses. Hmm, Chanel-Allure Sport, neat short haircut with mid-blue shirt and bright red tie, double Windsor knot too. This guy has got the whole look thing going.
As I look closer I finally spot what I was looking for, name tag, okay, and no rings either.
My brain and mouth seem to have come to a settlement, “Hi Joshua, I’m Jamie,” as I shake his hand, big-strong hand too. I’m guessing he hasn’t always sold cars. Josh’s hand is firm from some manual work, but not calloused.
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