Everything had conspired against him that morning.
First he'd been delayed getting away from home. Rachel had chosen this morning to demand that he talk to her about some domestic issue or another, but he had explained to her that he had to make a flight this morning. She was clearly unhappy, but had accepted that he would sit down with her tonight, after he had returned from the short trip to Chicago to give his presentation.
Well, that, plus the fact that his eight year-old son had come into the room with his clothes put on with such disregard, that Frank was able to skip out while Rachel was trying to get Brent's buttons aligned in the correct holes.
But the delays hadn't stopped then.
He was going to stop at the office for five-minutes to grab a file and be on his way, only to be waylaid by his boss. Scott, the division director, proceeded to use his precious minutes making him go through the schedule for the next month, covering such exciting issues as performance reviews, preparing budget charts for his department, and setting sales goals.
Damn, this morning, when Frank was running behind, just wasn't the time for this rigmarole. He was finally on his way out of the office, only to hear,
"Frank, and one more thing!"
"Yes, Scott," he replied.
"Good luck on the presentation this morning. You close on this account, and we're set for the next quarter!" came his boss Scott's admonition, as if he needed more pressure.
"Give me a call as soon as you're finished to let me know how it went," were Scott's parting words.
Frank decided to answer the first part of the statement, and ignore the second.
"Thanks boss — but luck won't have anything to do with it," he said, as he excited, the double glass doors slowly shutting behind him.
Shit, thought Frank, I'm almost 38 years old, and my boss still wants to control me like I was a 12-year-old.
Frank was already skating on thin ice, time wise.
The road construction on the freeway that led to the airport, which was supposed to be finished a week ago, was the final blow. Frank found himself stuck, unable to move, with no way out for almost 35 minutes, while the four-lanes merged to a single lane.
Frank knew there was no point in getting angry about it — it would just raise his high-blood pressure, which he didn't need. He wanted to be calm and collected for his presentation with the inevitable questions that would come afterwords.
Parking his car in the short-term lot, running to the terminal with his briefcase flailing, going through the automatic check-in for his flight (thank god, there was an open machine), a sprint to the gate, and in the end, it still didn't help. His commuter flight to Chicago had just left the gate, and he wasn't on it.
A few minutes discussion with the gate crew clarified a couple of things: no, the plane would not return to the gate to pick him up; the next flight would be in two-hours, and in practice there was no alternative that would get him to Chicago any sooner; and finally, if Frank Stevens didn't calm down and stop acting in such an aggressive manner, he would find himself under arrest.
Frank finally gave up, apologized to the gate crew, who tried to ease his angst by telling him that they understood his frustration, and in a state of complete hopelessness, went to the airport cafe and ordered a breakfast and some coffee. Frank felt the necessity to give himself time to gather his wits, calm down, and find a solution to his dilemma. He sat down in one of the seats, fixed to the table in such a way as to always be too short for his 5' 10' frame, but was too upset by missing his flight to be irritated as usual by the lack of space for his knees.
His mind was racing at a mile-a-minute.
He probably needed to call the clients and reschedule the meeting. That is, if they were willing to reschedule. There were other firms competing, and his missing the time scheduled for his presentation to upper management would leave an impression, a bad impression, that Frank Stevens wasn't a reliable vendor.
"Shit," he thought, "Someone like that asshole Bud Adams is going to end up getting the business. He does lousy work, but he's going to show up and do his presentation on time." He sat there stewing.
If Frank Stevens was in a state of professional chaos that morning, his wife of 12-years, Rachel, was in an emotional turmoil as bad or worse, with potentially profound implications for their marriage.
As Frank was rushing to catch his flight, she was having a cup of coffee at the kitchen counter with her best friend, and neighbor, Ellen. Ellen, a perky blond who, at 40, was five-years older than Rachel, was a great listener, and usually upbeat. Just talking out her problems to Ellen always seemed to help Rachel.
"Ellen, I just feel so, well, unsatisfied and alone. It's like there is this hollow place inside of me that I just can't fill alone. And Frank doesn't seem anxious to fill it," she explained.
"Rach, all marriages go through periods like that. You need to sit down with Frank and let him know how you feel," Ellen said, suddenly laughing as the thought struck her,
"Naturally, you'll have to fit this conversation in between doing the wash, making dinner, getting the kid to do their homework and putting them to bed." Ellen made an obvious tongue-in-cheek.
Rachel laughed at that as well.
"Yeah, isn't that the truth. But I really worry about it," she continued, "I tried to get Frank to talk about it this morning, but it was the same as always: 'I'm late, got to catch a plane; maybe we can talk about it tonight.' He didn't even actually commit to that; it was more of a 'let's see if we can get around to it' sort of thing." Rachel shook her head back and forth, looking into her cup of coffee as if she could read the future in the grounds at the bottom.
What she didn't tell Ellen was how upset she was that Frank had quietly left while she was re-buttoning Brent's shirt (why couldn't Brent understand which button went into which hole, he was eight-years-old already, he should know) and had been in such a rush that they hadn't kissed, or even said good-bye. She could almost feel the tears coming to her eyes as she thought about it.
Ellen stood up,
"Well, I have to get motivated here. Your coffee is better than what I get at work, but damn it, they pay me more when I show up!" Ellen laughed again as she said it, but was already on her way out the door.
"Rachel, if you're feeling too down, call me this afternoon," she added, "We could take the kids out to the park or something." Ellen was glad that she only worked part-time, in the mornings, to fit around her children's schedule. But it allowed her the freedom to do things with Rachel and their children in the afternoons.
"Bye, see ya later," came her parting words.
Rachel continued to sit at the table thinking.
She picked up the phone to call her friend, Richard. If she saw Richard this morning, it would almost certainly make her feel better.
Rachel had met Richard about six-months earlier, just a casual thing, at a bookstore of all places.
Rachel had been looking for a book to read to her's and Frank's eleven-year-old daughter, Sylvia — "Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass," and had one of those momentary lapses of memory when she was about to type in the author's name, to find the exact location on the shelves to look.
She must have been talking to herself, muttering aloud the title, because a handsome man suddenly spoke to her.
"His pen name was 'Lewis Carroll' and his real name was 'Charles Dodgsen, '" the man told her.
"Pardon?" Rachel asked, somewhat taken aback.
"The name of the author of 'Alice in Wonderland, '" he replied, "That was what you were asking, wasn't it?" He was looking at her rather curiously as he said it.
"Oh, I'm sorry," explained a completely embarrassed Rachel, "I didn't realize that I have spoken out loud!"
The man laughed, a gentle and melodious sound, and looked at her again.
He saw a petite woman, maybe 5' 2", with brown hair that was somewhere between wavy and curly. She had a lovely face, with brown eyes that were as deep as pools that a man could fall into. Her breasts weren't overly large, they were proportionate with her body size, and were a perfect offset to a narrow waist and the hips that expanded enough to emphasize her waist, but still fitting with her slender frame.
"According to legend," he continued to speak to her, "Queen Victoria read 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, ' and instructed her staff to acquire all of Dodgson's books. One can only wonder what she thought of 'Euclid and his Modern Rivals, ' or 'Symbolic Logic'" He chuckled, almost to himself.
"Now I'm very confused," Rachel said, quite unsure of what the man was talking about.
"Well, Dodgeson was a mathematician, so Victoria probably expected more delightful children's literature, and got mathematical treatises instead," he explained.
Somehow that conversation ended with Rachel and Richard sitting in a coffee shop chatting about books, history, their favorite movies, and their favorite and least favored books. Rachel had enjoyed herself immensely; they traded vital information — cell phone numbers and email addresses, and she found herself meeting Richard for coffee or lunch about once a week.
Rachel discovered that Richard was himself a successful writer, mostly for magazines, although he also published short stories fairly frequently as well. She looked up his articles, and found herself becoming a fan of his writing style. He was a widely read man, with a witty and charming way of telling a story.
Indeed, over the next couple of months, as Rachel became more comfortable with Richard, she found herself confiding in him. Nothing terribly private or anything, just the kind of things that she would normally tell her husband — kids going ons, little gossip about her friends — nothing important in itself, but the kind of 'talking' that wives need. Richard was providing Rachel the ear that she wasn't getting from Frank, as he always seemed to be too busy with work.
About six weeks ago, though, Richard and Rachel had gone a step further.
In the normal course of their emailing back and forth, Richard mentioned to Rachel that he wouldn't be able to meet her for their usual coffee, as he had slightly injured his ankle, and was in too much pain to drive. Almost as an afterthought, he suggested that if she wanted, he could fix coffee at his place instead. Then, he could also show her around his house, which he had described to her during their earlier rendezvous.
Rachel knew that she shouldn't go to Richard's house. Not that there was anything going on between them, but just that it was, well, improper for a married woman to be alone with a bachelor like that.
This was a different situation, she told herself; she was only going there because he was not able to meet her in their usual haunts. Besides, we are living in modern times, not in the middle ages, and Richard was not the type to do something improper. And, she had a quick guilty thought, no one that we know lives close to Richard's place. There would be no malicious gossip.
He greeted her at the door.
"Rachel, I'm so glad that you decided to join me. I'm sorry about the leg," he said, pointing at his ankle.
"It's not too bad, if I don't do too much walking on it," he explained, as he ushered Rachel in.
Rachel was actually impressed. Not that she'd known what to expect, but the condo was like Richard — neat, clean, comfortable, but reflecting his personality.
"Richard, your home is just beautiful — so charming and well appointed!" Rachel marveled, not expecting a single man to keep house so well. Probably had a maid come in a couple times a week, she thought.
"Well, my dear, that is what comes of having no kids to mess things up," he said rather wistfully. "Of course, there is a price for that: I don't have any children, which I always wanted."
"Why not?" Rachel asked, and then wished that she hadn't been quite so forward, that being a rather personal question. "Oh, Richard, I'm so sorry, that was a terrible question to ask," she stumbled to get out.
Richard just laughed, and waved away her concern with his hand.
"No, Rachel, I don't mind you asking. There's no great secret there — I just never found the right women, one with whom I wanted to make a life and have children," he explained. "But you know what I really don't understand?" he queried, his head tilted slightly to one side.
"What?" Rachel looked at him suspecting to hear some sort of witty answer.
"Since I've been so unlucky with women, aren't I supposed to be lucky at cards, or something? And I have to be the world's worst blackjack or poker player. The casinos start drooling when they see me walk in!" he joked, and they both laughed.
They finished the tour of his house. Richard had bookcases, filled with an eclectic selection of books, everything from history, art, and classic literature, as well as current fiction, and a collection of rare first editions by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and others. His walls were decorated with original paintings, often by artists who Rachel didn't recognize, but they were all appealing, even to her untrained eyes. The couple of signed and number prints by more famous modern artists completed his collection.
They went into the kitchen, which was, again, very clean and organized.
"I'm afraid it's my mother's fault," Richard confirmed, "she couldn't stand to have dirty dishes in the sink, so we would rinse off everything immediately after we were finished, and put them into the dishwasher, until we had a full load, and then run it."
"Wow," Rachel exclaimed, "I wish I could get Frank into that habit."
"I have to tell you, though," Richard added, "I went through hell during my college years. I could never convince my roommates that leaving your coffee cups and dishes out, half-full until they had mold covering them, wasn't the healthiest way to live. I still shudder when I remember the bathrooms!"
They laughed some more and swapped 'roomie' stories for awhile, while Richard brewed the coffee.
To top off everything, Richard made excellent coffee. Rachel was pretty sure that he had added some sort of liqueur to an already wonderful brew, and it was better than anything that they could get at the coffee shop. They sat down in the living room on Richard's deep brown leather sofa, to drink their coffee.
"Ummm ... Richard, this is exquisite coffee. Why do you even bother buying that false imitation of the real thing at the bookstore?" Rachel teasingly inquired.
"Two reasons, Rach. First, is that I'm usually too lazy to make all of that mess just for myself, and two, the companionship that I've found at the bookstore is far more alluring than sitting here, drinking alone," Richard said, all the time looking deeply into Rachel's eyes.
Rachel could actually feel herself blush, at the same time feeling flattered, embarrassed, a little guilty, and highly aroused. It had been a long time since, even in this subtle and indirect manner, a man had told her that she was desirable. That it came from a man who she respected, found handsome, charming and sophisticated only increased the emotional impact on Rachel's ego.
They sat on his couch for the normal hour that they would have spent at the coffee shop in the bookstore, talking, laughing, joking, and for Rachel, forgetting the burdens of being a wife with a family. It was like being single in college again, sitting having stimulating intelligent discussions between adults.
Rachel and Richard walked to the door, and Richard opened it. As Rachel went to walk past, she reached up to give Richard a little peck on the cheek, but somehow, he happened to turn his head towards her at the same moment, and their lips met. Rachel was surprised, but didn't pull back, and then felt Richard's arm circle her waist and pull her towards him. An intimate kiss then became a passionate kiss that lasted until a breathless Rachel and Richard parted. Somehow, Rachel's arms had found their way behind Richard's back, so that they were holding each other.
They both seemed somewhat surprised as they took a half-step back.
Rachel was still in shock, when Richard said,
"Wow, Rachel, I'm sorry about that, I didn't mean to... , I mean, it was so good, but ... I know that..."
They both took a breath.
Rachel looked at Richard, stammering his apologies, and reached over and put her fingers on his lightly mouth, to hush him.
"It's OK, Richard. It happened, but I know that neither of us meant for it to go so far," she said.
"Thanks, Rach. I don't want something like this to ruin our friendship. Can we get by this?" he pleaded.
"It was both of our faults, Richard, so yes; we'll just forget that it ever happened," she finished, turning and waving to him as she left. As she drove away, she felt guilty for letting herself go like that, but at the same time, she had a huge smile on her face. Damn, that was a great kiss, she thought, followed by a flash of guilt that she should even be thinking that.
Frank was utterly bewildered at the great sex that he and Rachel had that night, but he was grateful, nonetheless. She wasn't normally as aggressive and demanding as she was that night, telling Frank what she wanted to do, telling him when to go faster or slower, directing him for her pleasure.
Afterwords, he asked her what had inspired this sudden change in her, and she replied that she had been reading one of the woman's magazines that had a number of suggestions on 'spicing up' a couple's sex life. Frank grinned, and asked if he should get her a subscription. They both laughed at that, before turning over and going to sleep.
After that, Rachel hadn't heard again from Richard for two weeks. Afraid that Richard was too upset at what had taken place between them, she finally broke down and called him.
He answered after one ring.
"Hello?" she heard his voice.
"Richard? This is Rachel. Are you alright? I haven't seen you at the coffee shop for a couple of weeks? You're not avoiding me because of, well, you know?" she asked.
"No, no, Rachel. I've just been working on a longish article, and when I'm working on something that really interests me, I just get completely caught up in it, and nobody sees me until it's done!" he explained.
"Could you take a break this morning? We could meet somewhere for lunch or something," came her proposal.
"Sorry, Beautiful, I can't take the time to drive all the way down there this morning. I'm under a deadline, so I have to stick here, even though I would much rather spend the time with you," was his reply.
"What if I dropped by your place? At least you could take a short break, couldn't you?" was her counter.
"Sure ... I guess. In fact, if you came by this morning, you could take a quick read through one of the later drafts, while I try and finish the final," Richard suggested.
"I'd love that. I have a 12:00 tennis game scheduled today with one of my girlfriends, but I could come by for fifteen or twenty minutes," she concluded,
"Great! See you then. I'll have the java hot and spicy!" he said, and she could see the grin on his face as he spoke.
Rachel got dressed in her tennis clothes, and drove by Richard's place, where, as promised, he had coffee, as well as some cinnamon rolls laid out.
"I made those rolls by hand over the weekend, by the way," he added, "something else I learned from my mother."
"You're kidding me!" Rachel gushed, "That must take half-the-day to do from scratch."
"They do, believe me," Richard agreed, smiling at Rachel, "but there is nothing quite as sensuous as kneading, using your hands to feel the texture, smelling the yeasty odor, folding and massaging the warm dough until it feels just right. Well, I suppose there is at least one thing that is more sensuous than kneading dough, but..."
Rachel gave him a playful punch in the arm, as he trailed off his sentence, while leering at her.
They laughed together again. In fact, Rachel noticed, when she was with Richard, she did a lot of laughing, and they were a great deal more playful together than she and Frank had been for ... actually she couldn't remember the last time that she and Frank had been 'playful' together.
Richard handed Rachel a copy of the article that he was working on, in fact was doing the final edit on before he would email it to his publisher. He did have a deadline, but it wasn't for a couple of days, and he was actually ahead of schedule. But his story had worked to get Rachel over to his house again.
While Rachel read his draft in the living room, Richard went back to his office and went back to work on his story. He gave her about fifteen minutes to read it, and then returned to the living room.
"Well? What did you think of it?" he asked her, expecting a positive response. It was a pretty well written piece, he thought.
Rachel stood and approached him.
"Richard, this is VERY good," she said, as she more-or-less grabbed him to give him a hug.
"Why thank you, Rachel, I'm glad you like it, because your opinion is very important to me," he replied, laying it on, "Actually, I care more about how you feel about it than I do about my editor."
Rachel was flattered, and while her arms were still around him, she stood back a little and looked up into his face and smiled.
Richard smiled back at her, and leaned over and began to kiss her again, where they had left off two weeks before. But this time, as he kissed her, Richard took advantage of Rachel's tennis outfit.
As their tongues intertwined, Richard was running his hands up and down her back and shoulders, to the small of her back. Finding no resistance, he slipped his hand under her the short skirt, and began caressing her ass. He like what he felt, and Rachel was becoming more and more aroused, as she felt his strong fingers invading that space that had been off-limits to anyone but Frank for all of these years.
She continued to kiss him back, but now Richard's hands were under her shirt, gently massaging and kneading her breast, and when she still didn't resist, his fingers felt their way under the knit sports bra.
Rachel had been excited by Richard's fingers and hands on her body, and breasts, but when she felt his fingers gently rolling her nipples, which felt as if they were extended an inch, she almost orgasmed right then. There was an electricity that ran from Richard's fingers, through her nipples, and down to her clitoris — she was tingling, almost out of control.
Thank god, Richard backed off at that point. Rachel collected herself.
She almost couldn't say anything to him; she was on such an emotional high. The endorphins were raging in her.
"Oh my god, Richard!" she panted, "That was crazy. But I've got to go now."
"Yeah, I've got to finish this article, if I wish to keep living in the style to which I am accustomed. But Rachel," he said in a low voice, "I haven't been so excited by a woman as I have been by you, in years."
"There is a real electricity between us," he continued, "and I'm lost. I don't know what to do. After all this time, I meet the kind of woman who I would love to have kids with, and she's..."
"Yes, I'm married. But I have to agree with you — there is a powerful attraction there, Richard. I'm sorry; I'm so confused right now. I have to have some time to think," Rachel pleaded.
Richard put his arms gently on her shoulders, and placed a delicate kiss on her lips.
"I know. I feel the same way. Take your time. Give me a call, I don't want to rush you, or put pressure on you. I guess you can tell the way I feel about what's happened," Richard concluded, as Rachel left.
Rachel lost her tennis game that day pretty badly.
"Rachel, you are not focused today," called her partner, who then laughed, "not that I mind. You pay for the drinks!"
As Rachel had left his house, Richard was congratulating himself on another successful hunt. Rachel was definitely ready and randy, yet another proof that the slow approach, developing an emotional bond over a period of time, was almost always going to bag the game.
Richard figured that Rachel would be calling and begging to have him bang her within two weeks.
Richard was not one of those men who tried to break-up marriages, quite the opposite. In fact, he was discreet, never told a soul about his pursuit of married women, and so far as he knew, none of the women with whom he had affairs had ever divorced — at least not directly because of him.
He wasn't disrespectful about their husbands, he didn't get off on sending home 'cream-pies' or any of the more kinky pleasures that seemed to motivate some cuckolders. He just liked free-and-easy pussy and ass, and liked married woman because they didn't immediately begin expecting to hear wedding bells.
In fact, when they started looking like they were losing their emotional ties to their husbands, and transferring them to him, he would kiss them good-bye and send them on their way.
He figured that Rachel might be his little sex toy for, oh, perhaps three- to six-months, maybe even a year.
He wondered, as he always did prior to consummating his sexual conquest, how experienced Rachel would be when the time came. Not that it mattered — he would teach her what she didn't already know.
Richard was always amazed at how many husbands refused to give their wives oral sex, even if they demanded it for themselves. What an epiphany it was the first time he would go down on a woman who had never before had a mouth, lips and tongue playing with her sex organs. And when he would reach in with his fingers and find her g-spot at the same time; let's put it this way, women could get really angry when they discovered the pleasure that their husbands had been unwilling to give them.
There were still a fair number of married women who didn't know how to perform a good blow-job, or had hang-ups about swallowing. But once he had expanded their sexual horizons, they were always anxious to please, and were happy to be instructed.
Similarly, he wondered about whether Rachel and her husband, Fred or was it ... oh yeah, Frank, ever had anal sex? Again, it didn't matter, because he would be screwing her ass sooner or later. He had noticed how turned on Rachel had gotten when he was fondling her tight little ass, and when he had slid a finger a bit deeper into her crack, she didn't pull away or seem to mind.
No, he was going to have a lot of fun with Rachel.
But, for the moment he had to get back to work, keep the money coming in.
Frank had just picked up his breakfast sandwich and coffee from the fast-food joint in the airport, and sat down looking with a blank stare out the window. He would finish his breakfast and try to schedule a later flight; then he would call the clients, as early as they would arrive, to explain his dilemma and see if they couldn't see him this afternoon. Damn, he thought, a lot of effort, probably all of it wasted.
As he watched out the window, he recognized his flight as it finally reached the head of the line on the taxi-way, and pulled out onto the runway for take-off. He put down his food for a moment and watched as the aircraft gained speed and became air-born. Without Frank Stevens, he mentally added. A lighter load, he thought with a smile, recalling his New Years resolution to lose 20 pounds. His breakfast muffin was definitely not helping on THAT front.
His eyes continued to wander, traffic, both service vehicles as well as other aircraft moving around on the tarmac. He found himself idly watching his flight as it went out of sight over the low mountain a couple of miles from the airport. He was about to get back to finishing his breakfast, when...
From over the mountain there came an explosive flash, followed several seconds later by the sound of an explosion which caused the windows in the terminal to shake.
Like everyone else in the terminal, without realizing it, he was standing up, staring. Could that have been ... he continued to look as a black cloud of smoke began rising over the horizon.
Then all hell broke loose.
Alarms went off, and he watched as all of the fire equipment located at the airport rushed towards the smoke.
The aircraft still awaiting take-off stopped in place, although several incoming planes were still landing.
Frank looked back at the gate from which his flight had departed, and saw the gate personnel, looking as if they were in shock, talking on the airport phone system. The signs announcing the next flights were being changed to 'Delayed Indefinitely' and the airline staff people were running around in a clearly panicked state.
Within minutes there were police and fire department helicopters and vehicles passing in front of the terminal windows, on their way to the wreck site.
In a state of shock himself, Frank sat back down and actually finished the last bite or two of his breakfast, without noticing. He realized that he was finished, so he picked up his trash, and his briefcase in hand, stuff the trash into the trash-can by the entrance of the restaurant, and walked slowly back to the gate.
Half-way back, Frank was suddenly ill, and rushing into the closest men's room, delivered the breakfast that he had just eaten into one of the toilets. Ten minutes later, after rinsing his mouth, using a wet paper towel on his face, and washing his hands, Frank straightened up his clothing and started again for the gate.
He wanted to confirm what he thought had just happened — that the flight that was to take him to his meeting in Chicago had crashed, and to let the airline staff know that he wasn't on the plane. He figured that they would be trying to account for everyone on the flight, and although Frank had gotten his boarding pass, he didn't know if they would know that he hadn't actually made the flight.
Approaching the gate, he went up to the young man behind the counter, who was busy tapping away on one of the ubiquitous computer terminals.
"Excuse me," Frank started, in a very low-key way, thinking that the airline might want to know that he hadn't been on the doomed aircraft.
"Could you please go sit down, sir, I'm busy right now," came the terse reply.
"I'm sorry I can see that, but I thought..." Frank tried to continue.
"Sir, just go and sit down. We are dealing with an emergency here," was the impatient, now rather angry response.
Frank was getting a little huffy himself by this time.
"I think that you should know..." he tried for the third time.
"Sir, if you don't just go and sit down, I'm going to call security!" he said with an angry glance at Frank.
Frank just stood there looking for perhaps ten-seconds. He looked at the man's badge that said 'Manny LoCisco, ' then he turned and walked silently away.
Fuck'em, Frank thought. Fuck'em all.
Frank walked all the way out of the terminal an out to his car in the short-term parking lot across from the terminal. He sat there in his car for a couple of minutes looking out of the front windshield, and then he began to shake.
He found himself shaking uncontrollably, and realized that he was crying as well. He could hardly breathe. He recognized that he was rapidly approaching a state of hysteria, so he sat back in his seat and closed his eyes, and began to breathe slowly and deeply. Over the next few minutes, he regained a modicum of control, as he got the adrenalin rush under control. He could still see the cloud of smoke above the terminal building from his parking space.
Finally, with his body under control, Frank reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He needed to call work and his wife and let them know he was alright.
He tried to dial, first his home number and then his work number, but he wasn't able to get through; all of the local circuits were busy. News of the crash had spread. Cell phones, the traveler's boon, were completely useless when everyone was trying to make calls at the same time.
Thinking for a minute, Frank knew there was nothing that he could do at the airport. There wouldn't be any flights by his carrier, probably not for a couple of hours, more likely, maybe for a couple of days, until the crash site has been secured, and some reasonable explanation for the crash developed.
Slowly and carefully, Frank backed his car out of the parking space, drove to the exit and paid the small parking fee, and exited the airport. He originally thought of going back to work, but then realized the futility of that, and headed for home instead.
He needed to hug and hold his wife and kids. He needed to let them know how much he loved them. He needed to understand how it was that he was still alive.
Rachel had made up her mind. She was going to call up Richard, and try to see him that morning.
It wasn't a decision she was making lightly. She knew that if they ended up at his house, they would probably have sex. She would become one of those women, desperate, in a complacent marriage, reduced to having an affair.
It was something that she never thought would be possible, she loved Frank too much. But she was weary; she needed the affection and emotional support that Frank hadn't been giving her for at least a year, if not longer. She realized she had been increasingly been relying on Richard for that support instead.
While she felt guilty about her feelings towards Richard, on one hand, at a subliminal level she held Frank as ultimately responsible for the distance that had allowed them to drift apart. Unconsciously, Rachel had been increasingly emotionally dependent on Richard, and the concept that the next step would very likely lead to a physical and sexual relationship with Richard as well was no longer unthinkable.
To be honest, after her last encounters with Richard, just the memory of his mouth covering hers, his hands roaming over her body, the excitement of being with another man after being with Frank and Frank alone for more than fourteen years — twelve years of marriage and being together exclusively two years before that — was giving Rachel an endorphin rush; her brain and her glands were anticipating the pleasure to come. It was part of that chemical process of obsession that drives men and women to do irrational things, risking everything to get that jolt of pleasure.
Rachel started to reach for her cell phone with Richard's number programmed onto the quick dial, when suddenly the phone in the kitchen rang.
It was Rachel's friend Ellen, and she seemed to be breathless and horrified.
"Rachel, are you watching the news?" she demanded.
"No, I was thinking of going out for awhile," Rachel replied.
"Wasn't Frank flying to Chicago on the commuter flight this morning?" Ellen persisted, and it sounded to Rachel as if she might be trying to keep from crying.
"Yes, but he's coming back tonight," Rachel told her.
"I think you need to turn on the news, Rachel; right now," she said with a sob, before she hung up.
Rachel, sensing the urgency in her friend's voice, immediately grabbed the remote control for the small television in the kitchen and flipped the power on. She sat wondering what was going on as the set warmed up. When the picture finally came on, it was still set to the cartoon channel that her children had been watching at breakfast, so she switched it to the station that had the local news.
The news channel was showing pictures from the helicopter that normally did the morning traffic reports, looking down on a scene of destruction and carnage. Rachel could hardy recognize what she was looking at — irregular pieces of metal laying in a widely spread pattern all over the area covered by the camera. The area was blocked off, and surrounded by fire trucks, police cars and emergency vehicles of every sort. Small fires still burned all around the wreckage.
It took Rachel a moment to take in the scene, before she heard the voice of the news anchor.
"The commuter aircraft, which holds 48 passengers and four crew members, was Flight 1170 to Chicago. We understand that there are no survivors, although officials on the scene emphasize that they are still searching. It seems unlikely, though, that any survivors will be located, since most of the areas that have not yet been searched are those places where the fires have been too intense for emergency crews to approach ... The crash occurred less than three miles from the airport, less than a minute from take-off..." he droned on.
The shock of what she was seeing threw Rachel back into her stool, almost as if she had been pushed. Where there had been her body's chemicals of pleasure and anticipation, instead now there was adrenaline — her blood pressure was leaping sky high, and she could hear her heartbeat in her ears.
Her peripheral vision was shrinking into a classic 'tunnel' where all she could see was the television screen in front of her face. She couldn't hear the words anymore. All thoughts of Richard disappeared.
She was screaming over and over again,
"FRANK, FRANK, FRANK!"
After several minutes of screaming, crying, and hyperventilating, Rachel slowly, like molasses dripping from a jar, collapsed into a heap on the kitchen floor. She was weeping and wailing, repeating his name, out of control for perhaps twenty minutes.
She never heard the door open, and her friend Ellen, tears streaming down her face as well, enter to find her in the kitchen. She got a glass of water, gently helped Rachel into a sitting position, and got her to take a few sips. Then Ellen was able to get Rachel back up and into a chair, where she held Rachel in her arms as she was racked with sobs.
"Frank, I'm so sorry, oh Frank, oh god, I'm so sorry," Rachel rambled.
"It's OK Rachel, it's not your fault, it's not something that you did," Ellen told her, trying to comfort her.
Ellen looked at Rachel, hardly recognizing the woman as her friend. Her face and eyes were swollen; her hair, always so perfectly prepared, was a wild tangle. As she picked her up from the floor, there were stains on her clothes from food that had fallen from the counter when Rachel had collapsed. A mental picture suddenly came to Ellen of women from millennia past, tearing their clothes, putting ash on their faces and hair to show their grief.