The voice over the loudspeaker paged every thirty seconds announcing
arrivals, departures, and delays. Kathleen sat amid the turmoil surrounded by
luggage laden college students in jeans and businessmen in dark suits with leather
briefcases in one hand and wardrobe bags flung over the opposite shoulder in the
“Why do women insist on mimicking men's drab attire in the workplace?”
she wondered. Kathleen had fallen into the three-piece suit trap as well except she
always added a dash of color, either in the form of a striped scarf or colorful silk
blouse. Few of her colleagues would suspect her bikini panties. A slight smile
crossed her lips. She always wore red ones whenever she addressed the board,
especially for those unassuming tight asses who admired her total professionalism.
Kathleen shifted her body on the fake leather bench of the terminal. Usually
Annette, her secretary, scheduled her flights with as little layover time as possible.
And usually, Kathleen visited the executive club to return phone messages and
have a complimentary vodka tonic. But this evening, nothing was usual.
The flight from Chicago had been late landing in Denver and it would be at
least two hours before the runway was cleared of snow for the LA departure.
Colorado often had freak spring storms. The irritation of the delay was complicated
by the closure of the club because of a broken water pipe. Kathleen, was sitting
with the general public, waiting.
"Oh, well," she sighed out loud as she surveyed the crowded terminal. There
was no point getting irritated.
She considered working her way to the bar, but a football game on the large
screen TV had drawn an enthusiastic crowd and even a drink was not worth the
thick smoke and bumping elbows she would encounter.
“So,” Kathleen cajoled herself, “relax.”
Traveling for the company the last two years had eliminated all glamour from
flying. To Kathleen boarding a 747 for New York was like a daily commute on the
freeway for some; something she had to do to get to work. Of course, her family
saw her travel as neither a burden nor a sacrifice. Aunt Sadie thought she was a
stewardess. "After all, why else would Kathy fly so much?"
Kathleen’s gaze focused on a tailored, tasteful woman in her 60's greeting a
distinguished man with a discrete kiss on the cheek. As they passed, she noticed
the woman properly take his elbow.
“If Daddy had lived, that's how Mother would have said 'Hello,'” Kathleen
But her father had died when she was thirteen, leaving his wife an insurance
policy that would allow her to live comfortably, but not extravagantly, without
having to work.
“What would life have been like if Mother had to do what I do?” Kathleen
Their situations were hardly the same. Mike had walked out on Kathleen
and in a very unceremonious manner.
“He should have had the courtesy to die like Daddy.”
No such luck. Mike left a note which Kathleen saved.
Kath, I don't love you anymore. I don't know why. Take care of yourself.
Kathleen rested her head on her left hand stroking her forehead with her
"Thanks, Mike," she said out loud.
She cleared her throat to cover the startledness of the young sailor seated
beside her. He shifted in the chair, pretending to fall asleep.
Kathleen flashed back to the present, noticing an airport wheelchair at the
end of the opposite row. She blinked sharply, focusing on the old woman's face.
“Silly how you think you know someone.” Kathleen studied the face. She
shook her head. “I guess all Gramma's look the same.”
The old woman's body was stooped, her elbows on worn arm rests. Both
hands clutched a gold trimmed, black pocketbook on her lap. The torn edges of her
boarding pass were snapped, half inside, half outside the purse.
The woman slowly unbuttoned the top two buttons of her coat then looked up
Embarrassed by her intrusion, Kathleen quickly looked away. “Probably
waiting for her family. I hope they come soon.” She wondered why she cared. No one
would be waiting for her in Los Angeles.
Usually she justified her singleness as freedom. “Come and go as I please.
Vacation when and where I want. No one to pick up after. Freedom.”
Of course, her mother redefined this freedom as loneliness. "You must feel so
empty with no one in your life, dear?"
Kathleen never answered her mother. There was no point telling her that there
had been other men since Michael. She didn't think her mother really wanted to hear
that she was even occasionally sexually satisfied.
There hadn't been that many since Michael, but more than Kathleen like to
admit. No one seemed to last more than six months or the mention of the word
commitment, whichever came first. Her last breakup was particularly emotional.
"You're going to be alone, Kathy," said Christopher through embittered tears.
Maybe so, thought Kathleen, maybe so.
Maybe that's why she remained fascinated with the woman in the wheelchair.
“What if I'm not seeing Gramma but I'm seeing myself?”
Kathleen closed her eyes slowly and remembered.
The three generations lived together briefly after her father died. Her
mother, unable to be responsible for anyone other than herself, soon shuffled
Kathy off to boarding school and placed her husband's mother in a nursing home.
The women seldom saw one another, usually at Christmas holidays and
spring break. Kathleen and her grandmother wrote often.
Kathleen remembered the spring break Gramma had a stroke. She
borrowed her roommate's car and drove 125 miles to the nursing home. As she
walked the dimly lit corridor that smelled of urine and bleach, Kathleen saw the
wheelchair facing away from her. As she walked silently toward the woman, she
recognized the green cardigan she had given as a present.
The grey head was bowed, and the frailness of the body startled Kathleen as
she turned and knelt, looking up into the eyes of the person who had always been
her best friend.
The steel blue eyes clouded by cataracts, stared up until she recognized the
"Kathy, Kathy." The crippled hands touched her granddaughter's tearstained
cheeks and cried.
There was nothing Kathleen could do to change life for her grandmother.
Her pleas fell on deaf ears when she begged her mother to help.
"They're taking care of her at the home. Now that I've married Richard, I
can't think of a better place for her to be."
"Right, Mother," Kathleen said aloud shaking her head, bringing both herself
and the sailor beside her back to reality. He got up and moved to another bench.
Kathleen looked across at the wheelchair. The woman had nodded off.
Several minutes passed when an airline employee approached the chair.
"Mrs. Everett?" A little louder. "Mrs. Everett?"
The old woman jerked awake, startled by the attention. Leaning over, the
attendant spoke slowly.
"Mrs. Everett, your family called. They're stuck in the blizzard. They didn't
want you to worry. They'll be here soon."
"Thank you, dearie," she smiled. "I'll be fine."
Her tired eyes followed the messenger as she briskly walked away. Turning
her head, she once again caught Kathleen's eye.
This time Kathleen didn't look away.
"Beautiful snowfall," she motioned to the windows speckled with flurries.
Kathleen looked outside for the first time, noticing the gentleness of the
Gathering her winter coat and briefcase, Kathleen moved to the empty bench
beside the wheelchair.
"Yes, I suppose it is."
(c) Rebecca Redshaw