Newfound Friend

Mt. RainierThe plane was almost full when Rachel Wagner boarded and took her seat beside the aisle. She preferred to sit by the window, but after the airline canceled her earlier flight, was grateful to have a seat.

It could be worse. At least I’m on the side of the plane with only two seats. I could have been stuck between two people.

She made certain her iPod was handy. Even if she didn’t listen to music, the earphones served as a deterrent to chatty people seated nearby. She didn’t feel like talking today. After a week of stressful meetings, she was tired, her head ached, and she wanted to go home.

It seemed strange to think of Seattle as home even after living there almost a year. Maybe if I didn’t travel so much…

A young woman and two small children sat across the aisle. It was already past time for their departure.  The children began to fidget.  Other travelers commented on the delay.  The seat beside Rachel remained vacant.

Ten minutes later a woman, who appeared to be in her mid-sixties, entered the cabin. Her flushed face and rapid breathing indicated she had been running. She bumped several passengers with her oversize purse, apologizing as she made her way down the aisle. She stopped beside Rachel and stuffed her carry-on bag in the overhead bin.

“Didn’t think I was going to make it,” she said. “My flight was late. Landed three terminals over. If it wasn’t for the tram…”

Rachel rose from her seat to allow the woman easier access.

“I’ve been in Florida visiting my daughter and grandchildren. Still can’t understand why my son-in-law moved them all the way across country. Probably to keep her away from me. He doesn’t like me, you know.”

So much for having a quiet seatmate. She tried to think of a polite response without encouraging further conversation, but the woman began talking again.

“Do you live in Seattle? I’ve lived there all my life. My late husband retired from Boeing and I…” The woman continued her constant chatter. “Oh heavens me, I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Maggie Adams.”

“Rachel Wagner.”

The overhead announcement saved her from further conversation. “Welcome aboard flight 1149 nonstop from Dallas to Seattle. At this time please fasten your seat belts…”

Rachel inserted her earphones.

Maggie wasn’t deterred. She continued talking until a flight attendant said, “Ma’am you must fasten your seat belt. We are departing the gate.”

Rachel closed her eyes as the plane began to taxi.

Maggie tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to the window. “This airport is huge. No wonder I almost missed the plane. It’s much easier to find your way around Sea-Tac. Oh, I love Seattle. Pike Place Market. The Space Needle…”

Does she ever come up for air?

The roar of the engines increased as the plane sped down the runway for takeoff, muffling Maggie’s voice. However, the loud noise further agitated the children seated across the aisle. They both began to cry. Their mother tried to appease them, to no avail. She looked as if she wanted to cry.

Rachel felt sorry for her, but the noise level was almost too much. Her head pounded. She wanted to scream.

“Excuse me,” Maggie said to Rachel. “Would you change seats with me?” She scooted over next to the window and heard Maggie say, “May I help?”

The woman nodded. Maggie began to tell the children a story. They stopped crying and turned their full attention to her.

Rachel leaned back in her seat and soon fell asleep. Over two hours later, she woke up, her headache gone. Maggie was reading a book. The children were asleep.

“Do you want your seat back?” Rachel asked.

“No, that’s okay, honey. I’ll stay here in case the children wake up.”

“You certainly have a way with kids.”

“I was a pediatric nurse for 30 years and I have four grandchildren.” Her voice quivered. “I wish they lived closer.”

“Do you have any family in Seattle?”

“No one—not since my husband died.” Blinking back tears, Maggie looked out the window. “Look, there’s Mt. Rainier. We’ll be landing soon. I’m glad to be going home, but I get lonely in that old house.”

Rachel understood. She didn’t relish the idea of going home to an empty apartment.

An idea sprang to her head. “You know, I’m not looking forward to having to cook tonight. Would you like to go to dinner?”

Maggie’s eyes sparkled. “Yes Rachel, I’d like that.”

Rachel smiled, thankful for her newfound friend.

  • You are such a good writer, and somehow you write the loveliest of stories. I’ve been where Rachel was, and I never think of the circumstances causing the other party to be in need of so much conversation or chatter. Thanks for an eye opener!

    • Sherrey, I got the idea for this story after being on a flight from Dallas to Tucson a few years ago. The woman in the seat behind me never stopped talking. That was one time I was glad to be sitting near the engines! Although I didn’t talk with her, I’ve often wondered about her circumstances, and thought “Why not turn that experience into a piece of fiction?”

  • kathunsworth

    Love it Joan you have a certain gentle smooth style the words come in a soft pace and I want to read on. Thank you I love meeting people on planes. I love observing people for characters etc.

    • Thank you, Kath. I also enjoy observing people – even before I realized I wanted to become a writer.