Ch. 27 Before Separate Ways

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The plane cabin was dark and most of the people around them were sleeping; in Hawaii it was nearly one in the morning. Beth stared at the page of her thriller, reading and rereading the same sentences, but unable to concentrate enough to distract herself from the desolation growing in her heart. How many hours left? She checked her watch and counted four and half more to go.

Next to her, Russell was pretending to sleep after having pretended to work on an article for a while. She knew he was awake by his stiff posture and the way he was breathing. She had learned a thing or two about him during the past week, things that she would have to try and forget.

His hand was on the arm rest between them; she had said he could use it. Now she was staring at it instead of her page, remembering where that hand had gone and how it had touched her. She told herself to stop, but she might as well have been talking to the tide that had pulled her out to sea. The callouses on his fingertips, the way he had taken a hold of her hips and her waist and directed her body, moved her and carried her. Longing filled the empty pit in her chest. Longing for him, one more time. One more moment that would not last. She had one condom left and one last argument to make.

"Russell," she breathed so as to not disturb him if he was actually sleeping.

His eyes opened instantly. "Yes?"

"You said before that when we reach Denver it is over. That we go our separate ways—"

"It's just the way things have to be, Beth."

"Is that what Erica would have wanted for you? I'm not asking for my sake, but for yours. Is this the way she would have wanted you spending the rest of your life?"

"Do you think what happened to her was what I wanted for her life? Of course not, in both cases. It's just the way things turned out and there is nothing I can do about it," he said.

"All right. When we reach Denver, we go our separate ways. But I have one last request before we reach the ground. No deals, no bargains. I'm going to just ask please. There is something I wanted to do already on the flight to Honolulu, but it was not the right time and I want to do this, share this with you." She paused.

"To do what?"

"It looks like most everyone is sleeping or resting, so I don't think anyone will notice," she said and paused to gather her courage. "Give me until we reach Denver—meet me in the restroom in a couple of minutes. Please. Let us be together here where we are nowhere."

He swallowed, but no other movement or emotion showed on his shadowed face.

"I'll let you think about it," she whispered and reaching to the floor, deliberately removed her purse from under the seat. She stood and walked, trembling, to one of the restrooms in the back, taking care that no one was watching her when she entered the constricted space.

She slid the door closed, but did not fix the latch. With shaking hands, she covered her face and sat on the covered toilet seat to count the seconds. She would give him four minutes, and if he had not arrived by the number two hundred forty, she would return to her chair and that would be the end of it.

Why exactly did she have to go and fall in love with a man grieving for his wife? Who felt guilty for her death. When had it happened? He had been hired at the magazine two years ago, about the same time she had married Brian and it would have been impossible to hide such a tragedy and work normally. He had done quite a bit of overtime in the beginning, in fact.

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