This story is by Janie Miller and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The stop and go traffic on I-94 was more stop than go. Carly drove past Detroit Airport, where a jet made it’s landing onto the tarmac. There’s something dreamy about watching planes take off and land. I-94 was now at a stand still, she noticed a jet taking off. Like always, to get a better view, she rolled down the windows and opened her moon roof. Excitement filled her as the jet’s wheels, yet to be stowed, glided directly over top of her car with its engine roaring.
The radio announcer’s voice disrupted her thoughts. “It’s an unseasonable sixty degrees. This is WCSX at 6:31.” Carly closed her eyes and deeply exhaled, which seemed to transport her to another world…
“You’re aboard flight 631 to Tampa, Florida where it’s mostly sunny and eighty-one. We’ll arrive at our destination in approximately two hours.” Thinking she was one goose short of a gaggle, Carly looked around the airplane, trying to understand what just happened. She thought about her car left in traffic.
Outside her window, watching the white puffy clouds lulled her to sleep until the pilot’s voice broke in, “We’re now landing in Tampa.”
With Google’s help, Carly was able to locate a hotel and rental car easily. In line at hotel check-in, Carly mused, ‘I wonder if my Visa gets charged if this is a dream?’ she smiled at her thought. Her mind returned to confusion, curiosity and cautiousness when…
“It’s a beautiful night out there.” She jumped. A man’s voice startled her.
Turning toward a handsome man. “Yes it is!”
“That’s all right. I’m in my own little world.”
“Perhaps you should try enjoying this tropical world?”
Carly checked out some of what made this guy so handsome. A brilliant smile, stunning blue eyes, and his cologne, Carly couldn’t not notice.
“Next!” She heard the call and walked toward the awaiting receptionist.
After checking in, Carly located the outdoor bar, Pearly’s, and ordered. “A piña colada please?” The breezes were a gentle touch to her skin. She let the ocean scent fill her lungs and took in the sounds of the surf.
Somewhere close by, she heard a man’s voice order a scotch and soda. Before opening her eyes, she recognized his cologne and smiled.
“Fancy meeting you here,” she said. “I’m Carly.”
He reached his hand across the empty bar stool which separated them. “Hi Carly. I’m Travis.”
As she took his hand in hers, there was something special about warmth of his skin against hers. Travis took the seat beside her. Their conversation flowed comfortably, like two friends catching up.
“Where do you live?”
“I’m from Atlanta,” said Travis. “Tell me your likes?”
“What kind of likes,” Carly said in a flirty voice. She scolded herself inside, ‘Where in the world did that come from? You don’t even know this guy, and you’re flirting with him?’
“Well let’s start with what you like on pizza?”
“No onions and no dead fish. Those can stay in the kitchen,” Carly laughed, “how about you?”
“I like cut up tomatoes, green olives with pepperoni. So tasty.”
“That does sound tasty. Oh, I love dogs… and I love the beach!” ‘And I think I love you! Good god, I hope that wasn’t my out loud voice. Where did that come from?’ Although halfway a joke, these feelings she had seemed real. She reminded herself, ‘This is my imagination.’
“Yes, the beach,” responded Travis, “just a few steps away. The moon glistening off the ocean is stunning. How do you like moonlit walks?”
“That sounds perfect.” When Carly stood, they both reached for her sweater on the back of the chair. Their touching hands was a jolt this time. He took a step back and apologized. She noticed him looking down, as if he felt shy. Carly found his shyness a turn on. It made him more handsome, if that could even be possible. They started toward the beach, their shoulders bumping into each other, it had its own kind of intimacy.
Their time at Pearly’s lasted several hours and covered many topics, work, childhood, music, hobbies. It amazed Carly how alike they were yet different in the other areas. Which was lovely because they could easily compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Once beachside and walking together, Travis chivalrously asked, “May I hold your hand?”
“I’d love that.” Taking his hand in hers, Carly felt a closeness to Travis that was unexplainable. She couldn’t recall feeling this before. Thinking about her home. Her parents. Gosh, Her folks would love him. But she couldn’t take a fantasy home with her.
They walked in silence for a way. “I have to admit,” said Travis, “I feel something strong here I’ve never felt before.” Carly was silent. The pause leading Travis to think he’d said something wrong. “I’m sorry, was I too forward?”
“Goodness, no. You caught me off guard because I was thinking the same thing.” She smiled, her heart felt full.
During their walk beneath the moonlight, time slipped quietly out to sea and took the tide with it. The sun peek a booed above the horizon. Strewn across the beach were a multitude of creatures. Starfish, conch shells and hermit crabs. Seagulls squawked overhead as they walked toward the hotel.
Travis picked up a large shell and brought it to his ear. He smiled and excitedly offered it to Carly’s ear, “Listen.”
“I never tire of the ocean sound. It’s lovely. Do you think it’d be okay if I keep it?”
Smirking, he peered inside the shell, “I think it’ll be just fine. It looks like nobody’s living in it.” He handed it back to Carly. She turned it over several times, appreciating the designs Mother Nature gave it and tucked the shell safely inside her purse.
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” Travis asked. Carly took his hand. Several couples were at Pearly’s when they arrived. Once seated, Travis mentioned the inevitable, “Can I see you again?”
“I’d love to see you again. This is unusual for me to have such powerful feelings for someone within a few hours. But we live so far away. How do you see this working Travis?”
“I need to be honest. Fair warning. This is going to sound crazy. The strangest thing brought me here to you today. Have you driven past an airport and you wished you were on one of those jets to some tropical beach?” Carly nodded, unable to speak. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
Travis continued, “I swear. I was driving past the airport this morning, listening to the radio, when I was suddenly transported onto a jet with the pilot telling me to fasten my seatbelt! Oh my god, you’re going to think I’m crazy.”
Carly was frozen while she took in Travis’ words. “Wow! That’s amazing. Like we were destined to meet. Yeah that does sound a little crazy!”
She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t want to tell him she’d had the same experience. Not yet. ‘It’s all an unbelievable dream, right? Travis came here mysteriously by plane as well? This can’t be true. Dang it! I want all this to be real!’
Unable to gather her thoughts, “I hate to do this. Do you mind if we call it a night?”
“No, of course not. We’ll see each other when we wake up.”
Standing, Carly longed for their lips to touch. Only a second passed until his lips were gently touching hers. The thrill of it going places inside her long ignored. His strong arms brought her into his chest, and she felt safe. This is where she belonged.
Saying goodbye was painful. Once in her room, she took no time and flopped down, exhausted, onto the bed. Just at the cusp of sleep, the announcer on the radio broke into her awareness, “This is WKTU, Tampa Bay, it’s 6:32…”
Carly’s dazed eyes opened, finding herself back in her driver’s seat on I-94 just past Detroit Airport. Confused and not wanting this to be her reality. Somehow, there had to be a way to go back to where ever she was. ‘That was the both the strangest and the most perfect thing.’
Her phone rang inside her purse. Reaching inside, she touched something that made her heart quicken. ‘It couldn’t be.’She wrapped her hand around the object and pulled out the shell from Travis. Carly listened to it as the ocean came alive, she smiled thinking of meeting him in such a serendipitous way.
‘How did this happen? Kismet or Serendipity set us both on a journey today and with no other way for our lives to cross, magic happened. A magic which was bound and determined for us to meet.’
Carly had to find out what was real. Then she remembered. Her eyes lit up as she picked up her phone, happy he’d entered his number. Now dialing, she felt giddy as a schoolgirl, when…