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"What Really Matters"

“Hurry up, Margaret, we are going to be late,” said Ted North, her husband of a dozen years. The two of them began to change pace from a brisk walk into a half-jog. The clock read 1:27 and the flight was to leave at 1:35. It would take them at least 10 minutes to get to the terminal they needed to get to, and they still had to board the plane. They would never get there in time. Ted pushed his way through innocent crowds of travelers and tourists minding their own business, dragging Margaret behind him like a loosely-hinged trailer attached to a loudly-speeding truck bearing its way down a busy street. Ted was not a gentle man. Margaret did not know this when they married. Everyone knew now. She was very much held to his will, and she was embarrassed to be seen with the man she once fell in love with. Ted had always promised to take her on a trip abroad, but this is not how she envisioned it. As they barreled down upon Gate A24, the clock then read 1:33. 2 minutes to spare. Ted’s rudeness was good for something, she supposed. He curtly handed their boarding passes to the woman standing by the doorway that leads to the plane, still dragging his wife behind him.

This was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, and it had all the makings of one, but she knew somehow Ted would ruin this for her, too. “Let go of me, dear, you’re hurting me,” she said softly as the boarding pass was being processed. “Be quiet”, he hissed seethingly between his teeth, hardly turning around to look at her tired eyes. As they boarded, Ted and Margaret found their seats, with Ted taking the window seat that Margaret had wanted. She’d always dreamed of flying. Not simply in a plane, no. She dreamed of flying like a bird. Like a kite. Like a leaf adrift in the autumn wind. She desired to travel, and she desired an escape from her life with him. In fact, she wanted to get up right then and there and leave. Her inner voice, the portion of her who harbored all of her courage, was screaming at her internally, as usual. This intangible voice always spoke the truths she herself was too afraid to vocalize. If only she had the courage to get up and go, right then and there. Every fiber of her being was pulling her away. But where would she go? She had no other family. They never had any children. He held her in the palm of his hands, which often gripped her by the throat. She wanted to leave but had nowhere to go.

Truthfully, she wanted a divorce. Even more truthfully, she wanted to go back 15 years and do her life over, this time without him in it. But this could not be. So, instead of doing all that, she quietly took her aisle seat, away from the view of the outside world. But she peered over Ted and looked out the window while the other passengers were still boarding.

Something strange was going on. Her husband did not notice, as he so often didn’t notice her. There was a ramp, projecting out from another plane that had just landed. Extending out from it was a conveyor belt void of luggage. In place of bags, was a casket draped in an American flag. She watched it come down from the belly of the metal, wingéd beast. It came down slowly, and on each side of it were soldiers reverently giving one final salute. It was a fallen soldier. It continued to descend the conveyor, until finally, it stopped at the feet of a weeping woman, clutching a child that did not understand. This soldier had given his life for his country. Margaret’s heart broke for this poor woman she saw outside the plane and for the child who would grow up without a father. And all the while, Ted was scowling at a stewardess and ordering a drink. She wanted Ted to see what she was seeing. To feel what she was feeling. He was incapable. It wouldn’t matter to him. Nothing mattered to him! She again looked out and saw the casket, looking deeply at the woman’s face, perversely wishing to love someone as much as that wife loved her fallen husband. Margaret wondered to herself if she would cry if Ted died. She knew she wouldn’t. She wished she could take away the pain of the soldier’s widow by replacing her now-dead war hero husband with her own no-good bastard one. A wave of deep-seated anger, mixed with an overwhelming sense of sorrow and the deafening scream of that inner voice, seeing and thus seizing its chance, rose up in her, all at once. Margaret wanted to get up right then and there and leave. And so, this time, she did.

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