“That was a close call, wasn’t it?” Marta patted John’s hand.
“Yeah, I thought she would be chopped up for sure,” John sighed.
“It’s true. I saw the same thing happen in flight school. One of the other students didn’t duck low enough while approaching the helicopter. I almost quit flying,” John reflected.
Marta turned to John and leaned her left shoulder against the plane. “I’m glad you didn’t.”
“Are you really?” John asked.
“Yes. I wanted to tell you last night at the Millicans’, but I felt too awkward to say anything. You must hate me for ignoring you, but I felt like if I said anything they would know about last night,” said Marta.
“I felt awful about ignoring you. I thought you were mad at me,” John said.
“Please let me finish, John, while I have the courage,” said Marta.
John looked into her imploring eyes. He saw nothing but frustration and confusion. Doesn’t she realize she could ask me for anything and I would do it for her? “By all means.”
“Actually, I thought you were mad at me. I just couldn’t speak to you or look at you without feeling I would burst into tears.” Marta’s voice became shaky and she quickly turned away, trying to hide the tears welling in her eyes. She sniffed them back before continuing. “I have liked you since the first time we met, actually since before we met. I prayed all night and struggled with desperation when you and Steve went down. You can’t imagine how terrible I felt hearing you on the radio and not being able to help. I tried so many times to answer you and let you know we were here for you praying and hoping. When I followed your disaster on the radio and learned of your courage, of how you survived to bring Steve back, I instantly felt something for you, even though we had never met.” She saw John’s aquiline face glow with amazement.
“When we finally did meet, my knees buckled in spite of my denying my true feelings. John, I have only felt this way toward one other person and I feel terribly guilty about having them about you. Can you understand that?”
“Had I known you were there for me when I was in that jungle, I would have been out a lot earlier,” said John. “The moment I saw you, I recognized someone I could easily like and trust. But like you, I guess I tried to hide those feelings. And like you, I can’t afford to fall in love. You know what my plans are, and knowing you has made them difficult to face,” said John.
“But we can’t just deny them, even though we feel we must. I want to continue with our relationship, act on our feelings, and let what happens happen. I’m willing to suffer the consequences of my decision. I don’t care. I just want you while I have you. But at the same time, I don’t know if I am ready for others to know about us. I just don’t think I can explain our relationship since they all knew Raymond, and I don’t know what they would think of me,” said Marta.
“Marta, I can’t promise you anything other than that I do earnestly care for you. But I may have to leave here, and I know you are just as dedicated to your work as I am to my goal of becoming an airline pilot.
You couldn’t even consider leaving with me. Think about that. If you still want to continue in the direction we are headed, let me know next time you see me. I will be back in two days. Then, if you still want me, I can let the others in Tiom know how we feel about each other,” said John.
“Thanks for understanding. That gives you points in my book.” Marta said tenderly, caressing his cheek with the back of her hand.
John returned her smile warmly and nuzzled his face into her comforting open hand. He was grateful for her honesty but just couldn’t shake the dreadful feeling of having to come to a decision between following Marta or his plans.
Marta watched the plane become a distant speck over the mountainous horizon. After the plane disappeared, Marta walked over to the plaque dedicating the airfield to her late husband. Tears were heavy in her eyes as she caressed the letters forming his name. Each letter Marta traced with her fingertips provoked fond memories of the man who was gone. But she knew love and the hope to love again was not lost. “I hope you understand,” she whispered tearfully, somehow knowing he would.
Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP is the author of Commitment. non-fiction books, novels and periodicals.