Herald sat in the only open seat directly behind the cockpit of the airplane and watched the rest of the passengers board. He tried to look as presentable as he could as most of the passengers would look at him and Air Freedom wings on his lapel and make the natural assumption that he was the pilot.
He smiled at a little girl who walked by all the while trying to hide from his face the memories of Elizabeth that came rushing back to him. Most were pleasant memories, like the time they spent on a small lake in northern Idaho, where he purposed and she joyfully accepted, jumping to her feet to hung him, almost tipping over the small fishing boat they had paddled out to the center of that small lake.
What was the name of that lake? Herald tried to remember smiling at another passenger as they continued to make their way onto the plane, this one a small boy who was being towed behind his mother as she hurried down the aisle to find their seats.
Then there was the not so pleasant memories, such as the one and only time he had hit her, the one and only time that he had hit anybody for that matter.
It was late after a party for work and she had had a little too much to drink. On the way home Herald had brought up the idea of starting a family, a subject she was apparently getting tired of hearing about as she shot back with an abrupt “drop it.” Then, as the walked to the house, Herald first walking around to open her car door and then leading her up the walk, helping her as she stumbled first over the flower-pot and then the first step leading up to the front door. When they walked inside and he casually said “can we at least talk about? Maybe tomorrow?” was when the evening took a downward spiral.
“Listen,” she said, twisting around on her feet to free herself from his helping hand. “I have a carrier to think about, and the last thing I want or need is a kid. If that’s what you want then maybe you should find another incubator, ’cause this one is shut down until further notice.”
It was the look in her eye that drove Herald over the edge. Her eyes were barely half open and her speech slurred, but even in her sorry state Herald saw the Elizabeth that was their even when she wasn’t drunk, the Elizabeth he came home to every day of every week. But it was something more than even that, he thought to himself as he nodded to another mother and young child as they walked by. Behind that look was the look of the women he had grown to love; it was the look of the women he had fallen in love with and the women, he realized at that moment, that he was falling out of love with.
Before he could stop or even react to the yelling voice inside his head that was screaming at him to stop, Herald twisted his left shoulder around and then let his upper torso unwind, swinging around his left hand to violently slap her across the face.
After a brief moment Elizabeth turned and faced Herald, a deafening silence lingering between them as Herald returned to the here and now, back from the world where he didn’t hit his wife, back from the world where he was able to control his rage. And in that instant he knew their marriage was over. Not because he had hit her and Herald would be lucky if all she did was kick him out of the house, but because in an instant he realized that he was unable to control his anger because deep down he didn’t want too, he wanted it to end just as much as she did.
* As I have mentioned here before, one of the exercises that I do to better my writing skills is to try and draw from memory certain scenes and situations that I have read in some of my favorite books. This is a scene from Stephen King’s The Langoliers. More times than not I don’t remember names, or if I do I slaughter then in some other fashion – spelling, pronouncing, etc. When writing this small part I didn’t reference the original material at all, and drew purely on memory to write this small bit. This particular piece took me about 15 minutes to write