This is Part II to the short fiction piece I wrote for my class. (Click here to read Part I.) Comments, reactions, questions, and criticism are welcome (I have one more chance to turn in a revision, and it’s always good to keep revising, right?) Part III will be posted tomorrow. Hope you enjoy it!
The flight attendants began waving their arms mechanically as a monotone voice crackled over the speaker. Catherine pulled out the bright safety insert from the pocket in front of her and stared at it intently. Her brow wrinkled, deepening the lines that had been there for twenty-two years.
“So why are you going to Wyoming, of all places?” Lucy shouted over the pilot’s voice.
Other passengers were beginning to stare. “I’m visiting my mother,” Catherine muttered.
“My goodness! Is she okay?” Lucy screeched.
Catherine’s cheeks reddened. “She’s fine.”
“But she’s been having health problems? I mean, what kind of a visit is this?” Lucy was turned in her seat so she was facing Catherine dead-on, boring into Catherine’s face with thick black-rimmed eyes.
“It’s nothing. I’m just going to see her, that’s all.”
“But you purchased your ticket last-minute, right?”
Catherine’s head snapped up. “How did you know that?”
Lucy waved it off. “Bill would buy you first-class if you had time to get it. Kent always does for me. That’s why I’m not flying first-class. I got mine last-minute, too. Our husbands, they just adore us, don’t they?”
Catherine changed the subject. “So what brings you to Wyoming?” she asked, as though they were already there, although the plane was only just taking off.
“Me? Oh!” Lucy laughed like a hyena. “That’s just a quick stop. I’m changing planes to Costa Rica. Kent and I are taking a spontaneous vacation! Isn’t that crazy?”
“I know!” There was that laugh again, scraping into the air. “It’s just insane. But now that Lola is in college, we have all the time in the world. We don’t even know what to do with ourselves! We’ve been to Hawaii, Spain, and Italy already this year. We–”
“Where is Lola going to college?” Catherine asked.
“Well, you know, she had such a time trying to decide between Harvard and Yale.” Lucy rolled her eyes and laid a manicured hand on Catherine’s arm. “Kent was pushing for Yale–it’s his alma mater, you know. But she finally went with Harvard.”
“Did you go to college anywhere, Lucy?”
“Me? Oh, no!”
Catherine settled back in her chair and turned to face forward again.
“I guess you did,” Lucy said. “Everyone always said you were so smart! Where did you go?”
“I…” Catherine faltered for a moment. “I went to the University of Texas.”
“I knew it! Everyone always said you were smart.”
“I had to drop out, though.” Catherine shifted in her seat. “When I got married.”
“Ohhhh, yes,” Lucy said, nodding emphatically. “I know exactly what you mean. That’s why I didn’t go to college. I was so in love! There was no way I would have been able to focus on anything else, either. All I wanted to do was stay at home and have kids and cook and clean for my husband!”
“That’s not why I dropped out,” Catherine snapped. “We just couldn’t afford it.”
“Oh!” Lucy’s eyes popped wider. She looked away, fingering the pink leather strap of her purse. “I–That’s too bad.”
Catherine sat still, and several minutes passed. Finally, she reached under the seat in front of her to pull a book out of her bag.
“Oh, what are you reading?” Lucy leaned over to see.
Catherine opened the book to the middle, making no move to show Lucy the cover. “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”
“Wow. It looks hard.”
Catherine’s eyes moved across the page silently.