She shouldn't have come to the airport early. Leigha pushed up from the hard plastic seat and wandered out toward the large glass entrance to escape the sight of people meeting passengers from the newly arrived flight. Nothing brightlined the emptiness in her life more than these small family dramas played out so often in her travels. Maybe she should talk to her supervisor about giving up this territory. It was getting more and more difficult to fly here and it was getting more and more difficult to leave.
Trying to shut out the happy voices greeting each other, she pressed her hand to the cold glass and gazed out at the greening wheat fields that surrounded the small airport. Her heart and mind squeezed tight, trying to stop the memories. No use mourning a decision made over five years ago. Her job was great, she was so busy she didn't have time to think and that was good. She should be happy.
"Hey stranger, what are you doing here?" Leigha froze at the sound of the familiar voice rich as dark melting chocolate. Then she was whirled around and smashed up against a rough Levi jacket. She longed to cling to the shelter in his arms a little longer but he released her.
"Well I'm still waiting for an answer, Leigha." Jack's warm, coffee-brown eyes smiled. Jack was the one person she had always looked for on her trips to Burney. She had been half waiting for him to walk around a corner in a store or to find him sitting in a restaurant.
Her voice trembled as she confessed. "My job brings me here every few months. I've been doing some consulting work for the computer systems at the University for the past year." He looked wonderful, not too much different then when she last saw him. He still dressed in the ranchers' uniform of jeans, denim jacket and a black felt hat."
"A year, I can't believe you haven't called me." He was hurt.
Leigha never wanted to hurt Jack. "I didn't know if you wanted to see me." I was the one who left you. I packed up my car and drove away after college graduation. You were the one who said, "Call me if you ever need me and no matter where you are I'll come get you." But I didn't because I was young and smart and I didn't need anybody.
"Wrong call, honey, of course I'd want to see you. Say, have you got time for a cup of coffee?" He pushed his hat back on his head in that boyish way that always made her want to reach up and touch his hair.
"Thirty minutes." Only thirty minutes to be near you and listen to you.
He pulled her back to the plastic seats and bought two cups of vending machine coffee. He asked her about her job. She asked about the ranch. No, neither of them had ever married. They talked about college friends. As she watched his face she wondered, did he ever think about her because she thought about him. Did he remember the sleeping bag spread out in the wheat field under the stars, the cabin at Red River when it rained all week, dancing barefoot at a summer concert in the park? She couldn't ask him so she asked about his horses while she wondered who had loved him when she left. The thirty minutes melted away so quickly and she couldn't stop them.
He took her hand and pulled her to her feet, then walked with her to her exit.
"Call me when you come to town, I'll take you to lunch." He was walking away. Backpack slung over his shoulder with long, smooth ground-eating strides. Did it hurt him this much when he watched her leave? She remembered how he leaned in the window of her car and kissed her goodbye. He said, "Call me if you need me and I'll come."
"Jack", she whispered, "Jack I need you."
"Passengers with children may now board flight 2030." Leigha hated that disembodied voice.
She couldn't tear herself away until he was gone from her sight. She reached up to dash the tears away so she could see more clearly. He stopped before he pushed open the glass door and then turned slowly. He stood there staring.
"All remaining passengers can now board flight 2030."
"Jack", her voice was stronger, "Jack, I need you." She was shouting.
Joy washed across his face and he meet her half way. Dropping his backpack, he pulled her into his arms.
"God, Leigha, I've waited so long for you to need me like I need you."