The plane began to move and I lowered my book to watch the world disappear beyond my range of vision as it climbed. This was the second plane I'd been on that day, and by rights I should be exhausted, but I wasn't. Thinking back I assume the excitement of finally making the journey was overpowering all other feelings. I continued to watch for a while even after the plane levelled out; enjoying the play of light that made the clouds look like glistening cotton wool, despite the stab of pain that told me my eye wasn't tolerating the combination of bright light and high altitude air pressure very well. I considered using my drops, but dismissed the idea immediately; they'd been in my bag for almost 24 hours and were by now all but useless; they didn't work when warm. Sighing, I tore my gaze away from the cotton wool clouds and golden sunbeams to shield my eyes until the pain eased enough that I could return to my book.
It was shortly before landing I started to think about what I was doing. I'd told airport staff and flight attendants why I was making the journey each time I'd been passed from one to another, but I'd dismissed their comments about my bravery; every day people acted as though the mere fact I wasn't curled up with a braille book being waited on by carers was a miracle, so the excitement had helped me dismiss it as another example of this. But as the plane was preparing to land I began to think.
"Is someone meeting you at the airport?" the smiling flight attendant had asked shortly before the seatbelt signs went on. I'd replied in the affirmative, and she'd gone away muttering again about my bravery and telling me to give his name to the airport staff and they'd page him for me.
It was when she walked away I started to think.
His name was Kelly, and I'd known him for about a year, and been officially having an online relationship with him for several months. About a week before this I'd decided I wanted to meet him before things went on for too long. He'd asked me if I'd marry him if we felt the same way when we met as we had for all this time, and I wanted the meeting to happen so we knew where we stood.
I'd learned of his existance because of a friend who he'd been dating at the time. She'd played a message he left on her machine, laughing at the angry Canadian who was frustrated at having failed to reach her again. I hadn't found it funny, though I'd made a half-hearted attempt at laughing with her. I wanted to give him a big hug and tell him not to waste his time with someone who couldn't even be there to answer the phone when they knew he was calling.
She showed me his photo after that, asking me what I thought of him.
"Not bad," I'd said, not wanting to let on how good looking I thought he was.
I was babysitting the next time he tried to call her, and got to talking to him in an effort to hear his voice some more. We found we had some things in common, so he told me to get his e-mail off the friend and we could talk more. Maybe she guessed my feelings, because she refused to give it to me.
I was there the next time he called too, but this time so was she. I hung about trying to hear his voice as best I could with the phone by her ear.
"It's hard to talk with my friend here," she'd said.
"Give your friend the phone," I heard him say, and she did so. "Do me a favour," he said. "Go downstairs so she'll talk to me properly."
"Sure," I said, handing back the phone and leaving the room.
The friend stared after me in amazement, asking him what he'd said to me. I never listened when people asked me to do anything unless it was something I'd wanted to do anyway, and she was amazed it had taken so little for him to get me to do something.
"How come you listened to him?" she asked suspiciously later.
I shrugged. "Don't know," I said. I did know though. The truth of the matter was that I didn't want her to see the effect his voice had on me, didn't want her to know how I felt, and doing as he asked gave me an oppertunity to pull myself together while she spoke to him. Besides, something inside me wanted to listen to him; wanted to please him.
The next time I babysat I helped myself to his e-mail from her contacts list. I knew her details, having set up her account for her, and he'd said I could have it, so I didn't feel it was wrong to take it. It was simple enough; once her boys were in bed I switched her computer on, went online, signed in with her account on MSN messenger, grabbed his e-mail, signed back out, then signed in with my own to add him to my contacts. Quick and simple, and since she had no objections to me using her internet connection when I babysat she'd think nothing of it.
We talked online just about every day after that, swapping photos and bits and pieces of information both about our families and our beliefs, never seeming to run out of things to say.
When, shortly after we started talking regularly, I learned the truth of why she often missed his calls from her eldest son (then 7) and a friend of mine from my writing group who lived across the road from her, I was torn. Should I tell him? A part of me wanted to, another part knew it wasn't my business and I should keep out of it. The decision was taken out of my hands, however, since he seemed to sense that I was keeping something from him. I couldn't lie to him, so I told him the truth.
Naturally, he didn't believe me at first - nobody ever wants to believe their partner isn't being faithful - then something happened to show him I was right, and I somehow became his shoulder to cry on. I didn't mind; I liked the thought that he felt he could come to me for comfort.
Somehow it didn't take long after that before we became more than just friends, though to this day I don't know exactly how it happened.
I pulled my thoughts back to the present as the plane's wheels began to skid along the runway.
"This is it," I thought, wondering if I was doing the right thing. Fears and doubts began to surface. What if he didn't like me when he met me in person? What if I felt differently when I met him in person to how I'd felt all this time? Was I doing the right thing? Would I know him when I saw him? Would he know me? I felt sick; I shouldn't have done this journey on my own, I should have brought someone with me.
The other passengers filed out of the plane and I waited for the flight attendant who was to help me off the plane.
"Ready?" she asked, beaming at me as she had done every time she'd checked on me during the flight.
"Yep," I said, though I didn't feel ready. I suddenly felt very frightened, very sick, and very much like I wanted to go home. For the first time since I was a little girl, I wanted my Mam.
She led me off the plane and handed me over to someone who had no clue how to lead a visually impaired person. He'd brought a wheelchair for me, seeming confused by the fact I was walking, and unsure what to do now. I took pitty on him and sat in the chair. He seemed relieved and began pushing the chair towards the desk to page Kelly.
I think Kelly had been waiting for the call, because the woman at the desk had bearly said his name when he appeared. He looked at me in the chair, concern evident on his face even to my poor eyesight. I hastily jumped to my feet, seeing the relief on his face when I did so, and wondering what he must have thought on seeing me sat in that chair. I later learned he'd thought I'd been involved in an accident at some point during the journey.
I knew him immediately, and he knew me. I stood there though, unsure what to do; speachless for what may have been the first time since I learned to talk. He made the decision for me, coming forward to give me a hug. I'm not sure if he'd planned the kiss too or if it just happened, since he seemed as surprised as I was that it followed the hug so smoothly, but it happened either way... And it felt right.
When we finally broke apart and he introduced me to his cousin Holly, before the three of us set off in search of my suitcase. After finding it we climbed in to Holly's truck and drove away from the airport, Holly and I up front, Kelly and my suitcase in the back.
He reached for my hand at some point during the journey, sticking is hand between the seat and the door of the truck. I let him take it, enjoying the feel of him stroking the back of my hand with his thumb. So far, so good, I thought, hoping the rest of the trip was going to go as smoothly.
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