Angela Amman

Holiday Detour – Part 10

holiday fiction

So, it appears “Holiday Detour” took its own little detour, missing the Christmas exit, shooting past New Year’s, and careening dangerously close to Valentine’s Day. Let’s get this wrapped up before then, shall we?

Continued from Part Nine — or start at the very beginning with Part One!

Vance saw confusion in Margot’s eyes when she turned in her seat, but he couldn’t see any guilt lurking there. In his gut he’d known she wasn’t squirreling away time with the scruffy interloper skulking away from the table, but it’d still been surreal to see his wife sitting and having a drink with another man.

He tried to smile, shrugging in a way that didn’t feel exactly right. “I thought we’d have more of a ‘run into my arms’ kind of moment,” he said.

Her eyebrows arched nearly into her hairline.

He tried again. Apologies didn’t come easily, even when he wanted them to. “I guess it just looked differently in my head.”

“I know the feeling,” Margot said, and he tried to wrap his head around the weariness in her voice.

“Let’s start over,” he said, still unsure why she was looking at him like he might vanish into thin air. “Since fate threw us together when we were supposed to be apart, can I buy you a drink?”

“Fate apparently has a sense of humor,” Margot said.

Vance knew every nuance of her voice, could read them in her text messages and emails and the exhausted calls they squeezed in when they were on opposite sides of the country. He hadn’t expected to hear hurt and resignation in her voice when he’d realized they’d both been sidetracked in Chicago. Once upon a time, they would have looked at the coincidence as an adventure. Had they really grown so distant? And what did that mean for the papers he’d had his lawyer put together so carefully?

He dropped his bag at her feet and pulled the chair closer to hers before sitting. He’d been traveling long enough that his head throbbed from lack of sleep and the dehydration creeping through his body. Habit allowed him to reach for her water glass and gulp more than half of it down before she had the chance to protest. Relief crackled in his veins when he saw her smile, just a little.

“You never think about ordering your own water, do you?” Her words echoed with a sense of nostalgia, which confused him a little more, but he grasped at the small victory turning up the corners of her mouth.

“I didn’t even order our drinks yet,” Vance said, smiling back. “You can’t get mad about the water.”

He could see her struggling to hold back tears, and he reached down to grab her hands. “Margs. Did something happen? I thought this would be fun. Or at least as fun as a severe weather delay can possibly be.”

“Yesterday, I would have thought that, too,” she said, and his heart stuttered as her voice caught somewhere in her throat “But then you served me with papers, and I don’t know what to think anymore. And in a hotel? I don’t know. Maybe it’s better it happened there than at home…”

Vance felt torn between gathering her to his chest and trying to make sense of what she was saying. She’d seemed so unhappy for so long. She should have welcomed the news, even if she was initially surprised, but now she was near tears over it. His head swam. He drained her glass of water, wishing he could somehow start this whole conversation over again.

“What do you mean? I thought you’d want to know as soon as possible,” Vance said.

She pulled her hands back into her own lap, eyes wide with pain. “I just… I knew we were struggling to get back on the same path, but I never thought you’d be this cavalier about getting divorced.”

Vance’s tired brain felt pieces click into place, and he might have started to laugh if Margot’s eyes weren’t swimming with tears.

“Margot, did you even open the damn package?”

to be continued

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Holiday Detour – Part Nine

holiday fictionContinued from Part Eight — or start at the very beginning with Part One!

Margot took a shallow breath and tested the idea in her brain: Vance was here, wandering the terminal, close enough that they could crash into one another like a romantic movie. A deeper breath and she might be able to wrap her head around it. Despite the way she’d been feeling about him for the past few hours — maybe the past few months if she was being honest — Margot felt relief flood her veins. Her fingers flew over her keyboard to let him know how to find her in the terminal bar.

Everything had always seemed less dire with Vance at her side, from road tripping to a bowl game their senior year to starting a business they had few qualifications to start. Even this ill-timed Chicago detour could be more like an adventure, at least it could if she forgot about the papers sitting somewhere in the belly of the plane sullenly sitting at the gate.

Adam shrugged, his smile showing the dimples she’d noticed while standing in line for coffee, a line that seemed to exist days in her past instead of mere hours. “I guess this makes me extra baggage.”

“No! Stay. We can all have dinner together,” Margot said, though she could hear the distraction in her voice as she dug through her bag to find the red lipstick she’d already turned to once that day for a boost of confidence.

“This is why married women are bad news,” he teased. “Husbands always seem to show up when you least expect them.”

“That’s not the only reason you should stay away from them,” she said. “Seriously, though, don’t feel like you have to disappear. Who knows how long we’ll be here. Besides, Vance and I are in the middle of…well…it’s complicated.” She cringed, wondering if she only wanted Adam to stay to let Vance know she wasn’t completely invisible to other men.

“No offense, Margot,” he began, his grin turning into a grimace at her words.

Margot prepared herself to be offended, as she always did when someone prefaced a comment in such a way.

“I’ve enjoyed chatting with you, but if I wanted to be in the middle of complicated marital situation, I would’ve just stayed married.”

Margot’s heart stuttered at his words, and part of her savagely wished he never would have sent her over a mini bottle of airplane wine. Her emotions were all over the place without offhand commentary from an attractive man who made divorce sound like an attractive option. Not to mention, having him quickly gulp down his beer and collect his backpack made her feel like she’d been engaged in something elicit rather than simply passing time during an unexpected situation.

She opened her mouth to try to explain her remark further, then snapped it shut. She’d spent over a year trying to explain and justify her feelings to her own husband with obviously disastrous results. She didn’t owe anything to this stranger except the beer she’d promised him she’d buy, no matter how charming he might be.

“Thank you for keeping me company,” she said instead, and the simple statement of gratitude coaxed genuine smiles out of them both.

“No problem,” he said. “Good luck with the complications, and fingers crossed that I see you on a flight later tonight.”

Before she could respond, his eyes shifted to a place over her shoulder. Margot didn’t have to swivel in her seat to know what had happened. She could smell Vance’s familiar soap, one she’d started buying for him well before she’d known she’d marry him, mingle with the overheated, fried food-infused airport air.

His hand on her shoulder felt like home, yet utterly surreal, and the hurt in his voice made her dizzy.

“Well, I can’t say this is how I pictured our unplanned reunion.”

…to be continued

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Holiday Detour – Part 8

holiday fictionContinued from Part Seven — or start at the very beginning with Part One!

By the time Margot and Adam were making small talk at a hightop table at a nondescript airport bar, she felt like she would either cry or scream if she heard one more person complain.

A frantic woman barreled toward the bar, her dragged carryon bag careening off Margot’s legs. She barked an order at the bartender and returned to loudly outlining the situation into a phone tucked beneath her chin.

“I know tomorrow’s Christmas Eve, mom! We had plenty of time to get to your house, but I can’t make the planes fly into a blizzard,” she said. “Yes, we’re keeping an eye on the flights and maybe we’ll get to you by tomorrow. Oh, mom. This isn’t Jack’s fault. We agreed we weren’t going to take the kids out of school early this year.

Despite her bruised shins, Margot sympathized, even more so when an equally frantic man and three young children tumbled into the bar and made a beeline for the woman. A pang of loneliness hit when she saw the couple’s eyes meet. The woman handed her husband one of the two cocktails she’d ordered, and his rolled eyes seemed to release some of the tension in her shoulders.

“I can’t think of much worse that being stranded in an airport with a bunch of kids,” Adam said, sipping his beer as the family retreated to one of the tables in the corner. Backpacks and bags crowded together under the small table, but Margot thought the woman seemed at least a few degrees less frazzled since she’d been joined by her family.

“At least they’re together,” Margot said, ignoring the incessant vibration of her phone.

Adam laughed. “You might not think that in two hours when the kids are asking for their third round of overpriced airport snacks and their parents have a splitting headache from cheap cocktails.”

“Hey, you don’t know that they’re drinking cheap cocktails,” Margot said, unsure why she felt she had to defend a family whose mother had rammed a suitcase into her legs without so much as an apologetic smile.

“Trust me. No one flying coach with three kids is drinking expensive cocktails,” Adam said. “When my ex and I used to travel with our son, we’d try to figure out how many of the cheap airport bottles of booze we could drink before one of us needed a nap.”

Margot felt a little sting at the ease with which he mentioned an ex-wife and a son. She’d noticed the lack of a wedding ring when he’d commented on hers, but with her own concerns with her marriage at the forefront of her thoughts, she’d simply assumed  unmarried bachelor. She felt as though a divorce should leave tendrils of shadow on one’s self. Adam’s easy demeanor didn’t reflect any of the pain she’d been feeling the last few months.

“I’ve never flown with children,” Margot said, mostly because she couldn’t think of anything else to say. She resisted the urge to pick up her phone to check who’d been calling, fairly certain it was her mother, who managed to keep track of all of Margot’s flights almost as well as Margot’s infallible calendar system.

“But you fly a lot,” Adam said, referencing her earlier description of her job.

“For now,” Margot said.

“You mentioned that, but didn’t elaborate,” he said. “Are you getting out of the training business?”

Wine and low lighting loosened her tongue. “I’m getting out of the marriage business,” she said.

“Really?” His raised eyebrows invited her to keep talking.

“Vance and I seem to have a difference of opinion about the lifestyle we want to lead,” Margot said. “I don’t think I can do this anymore.”

“What do you think you’ll do instead?” Adam asked.

Margot blinked, then stalled. “I wasn’t aware I signed up for a career counseling session,” she said.

“Well, I did mention I worked with high schoolers, right? Guidance counselors apparently don’t take a Christmas break.”

Scenes flashed through Margot’s head. She’d been working the professional angles with Vance for so long that she could easily spout off sound bites about doing training for other companies or working with conference centers to set up professional conventions. Truly, though, she’d pictured their lives after selling the company from a more personal angle: lazy weekends checking out the wineries along the Niagara, a little boy with Vance’s shock of blond hair, dinners that didn’t come from a room service cart.

Ending her life with Vance meant the end of the company, which was a relief, but it meant the end of those dreams, too.

“I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do next,” Margot said. Needing something to do with her hands, she picked up her phone and scrolled through the missed texts. Blood drained from her wine-flushed cheeks.

“Is everything ok?” Adam asked.

“It’s just that Vance is here. In the airport. His plane got diverted, too.”

…to be continued

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Holiday Detour – Part Seven

holiday fictionContinued from Part Six — or start at the very beginning with Part One!

Vance’s fingers flew across the keyboard of his sleek laptop. He never traveled without wi-fi, though it made him smile to think about how adamant Margot was about never working on a plane. His smile faded a little when he realized they wouldn’t argue about their working habits any more.

The client he’d been meeting with in Los Angeles had been one of the first sales he’d ever made. Jack had been shocked to hear Margot wouldn’t be following in Vance’s orbit in the New Year to train his new crew of payroll clerks.

“Half of why I work with you is knowing your pretty wife will be out here showing my girls how to operate that software,” Jack had said.

Vance had cringed at the statement, but he kept his mortification internal. He’d told Margot about Jack’s unabashed sexism soon after he closed his first sale with the octogenarian. Margot had sighed. “You think it’s surprising to hear someone talk like that, but you just don’t notice because it doesn’t affect you.” She’d trained Jack’s team anyway, wryly briefing Vance each night about how Jack’s twin daughters were essentially running the small furniture company Jack had started years before they’d been born. In the early days, Vance reminisced, he and Margot had communicated so frequently that he could almost picture her training sessions.

He would miss those conversations.

The papers he’d sent to Margot weighed on his mind, and he closed his computer. Standing in the aisle for a moment to stretch his legs, he second-guessed the decision to have the paperwork delivered to the bed and breakfast. Margot raved about the Camellia Cottage, and he’d figured it would be almost like receiving the news at home. His head hurt when he calculated she’d probably spent just as many nights at the bed and breakfast as she had at their small apartment during the current year.

“Excuse me, sir, you’re going to need to take your seat.” The flight attendant’s voice interrupted his thoughts, and immediately he noticed the strain she was attempting to veil with a smile.

“Of course,” Vance said. He flipped open the computer again as the seatbelt sign flashed to life above his head. He didn’t need to look at the information to know he and Margot were scheduled to arrive in Buffalo within minutes of each other. It would be the first time they were in the same city in well over a month, and he wondered why he’d thought it was a good idea not to wait until they were home to talk about the decision he’d made without consulting her.

Turbulence rattled the ice in the plastic cup sitting next to his laptop. Idly, he wished he would have only ordered a single bourbon instead of a double, but the liquid was already sloshing in his stomach and slowing his thoughts.

“This doesn’t feel right,” Vance’s seat mate said. Vance smiled automatically, preparing to smooth the panic he heard in the man’s voice.

Another jolt of turbulence stopped him from assuring the man.

“I haven’t been on a flight this rough for years,” Vance said, letting countless flights scroll through his thoughts. He knew the weather in the midwest and northeast looked precarious for the evening, but he’d been hoping they’d land before the snow got too heavy.

By the time the pilot announced they’d be grounding the plane far short of their destination, Vance had closed his eyes against his pounding headache. He wished he would have waited to give Margot the papers in person. Now he wasn’t even sure when he’d see her, and he knew she wouldn’t check her own email before landing in Buffalo.

Maybe two bourbons had been one too few instead of one too many.

…to be continued

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