Authors: Nikki Vale
Can You See Me?
By Nikki Vale
Copyright 201 Nikki Vale
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Table of Contents
How in the world did I end up on a plane heading to a small town in the middle of nowhere? Well actually, the plane doesn’t even fly all the way out to the small town of Acorn Grove in Southern Illinois. One of my younger sisters is going to have to drive two hours to the airport to pick me up. Why couldn’t they have moved to Chicago? That’s the city everyone thinks of when you mention Illinois.
I hope Summer doesn’t mind me crashing on her couch until I find a job. Hell, I hope they even have jobs available in a town with a population of nine thousand. Small towns bite. Everyone knows everything about everyone else and I just know I’m going to stick out like a sore thumb.
I just spent six years in the Air Force Security Forces and I don’t have any immediate plans for my future. I know one thing. I’m tired of being in a male-dominated career field. It sucks being the odd man out. It was a bitch trying to be one of the guys and I became a bitch the harder I tried.
I’m ready to get the old me back. The sweet, calm and quiet girl I was. At least, that’s what I’ve been told I was like before the military. I don’t remember, and I definitely don’t see that girl in me now. She’s hiding somewhere. It’s time to find her.
I didn’t hate my time in the military. I actually had some good times and made some great friends but it can be a hard life. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t settled down yet. My mom thinks I’m a lesbian. I tried to explain to her how difficult relationships are in the military, that the majority of marriages end in divorce and that I want a one that lasts. She just patted my hand told me that she loves me and that it’s okay if I’m a lesbian, she just wants me to be happy. I give up trying to explain things to her. I miss my dad. He’d understand where I’m coming from.
Tears fill my eyes as I think about my father. My dad had a sudden heart attack and died almost three years ago. I was deployed in Saudi Arabia at the time. By the time The American Red Cross was able to catch up with me in the desert it was too late. I missed the funeral, the wake, everything. Most of all I missed my chance to say goodbye. I wipe the tears from my cheeks.
As the eldest child, I was closest to my father. I think he understood me on a deeper level than my mother ever could. I was the only one not afraid to get my hands dirty. I didn’t mind dressing up and acting like a proper lady to please my mother either. But it was my father I adored. He taught all of his daughters to be proud of whom they are. He told us that we were all God’s creatures and beautiful in our own way. Dad said the only thing that could detract from our beauty was an ugly heart.
Too bad we can’t wear our hearts on the outside where people can see our beauty at first glance. I sigh to myself. I’m being a Debbie downer. This is not conducive to finding the old me that I want to be. I look out the airplane window and tap my finger against the pane.
“You have a very lovely voice young lady. What was that song you were singing?” the older lady next to me with her hair dyed red and an inch of white showing at the root asks me.
“Huh? I’m sorry I didn’t even realize I was singing,” I reply honestly to the woman. It’s a bad habit I’ve picked up in the past few years, singing to myself. It’s soothing to me and half the time I’m not even aware I’m doing it. The lady smiles at me and her skin crinkles at the corner of her kind blue eyes.
“Well dear, feel free to continue. It might help me to sleep through the rest of this awful flight,” she remarks.
I smile in response. I wouldn’t mind singing a song, but now that she’s made a fuss about it I feel weird. I mean who sings to a stranger on a plane? The person I want to be, someone with a beautiful heart and soul. I start to quietly sing Beautiful Soul, by Jesse McCartney to the nice elderly stranger with the endearing laugh lines and the kind blue eyes.
I stop singing as one of the flight attendants comes over the intercom to announce that the pilot is beginning descent into Evansville, Indiana and we should be landing within the next twenty minutes.
“The weather in Indiana is overcast with light showers and a sixty percent chance of snow later this evening. If you’re coming from a warmer climate ladies and gentlemen you might want to take your jackets and sweaters out of your carry-ons,” the perky blonde attendant advises the passengers, laughing casually.
My hearts falls into the pit of my stomach as the plane suddenly takes a plunge. I grip the armrests in a panic as the aircraft continues to wobble and dip in the air.
“Ladies and gentlemen we’re experiencing some slight turbulence due to passing through the low lying clouds. Please remain seated with your seat belts fastened,” the flight attendant advises.
This is exactly why I hate flying; that roller coaster feeling in your belly as the plane rises and falls. Except unlike a roller coaster, this just isn’t fun at all. I squeeze my eyes shut, still gripping both armrests as we bump along. I can hear the collective gasps of other passengers in the cabin. I’m not the only one freaking out in here; I’m just more silent with my panic.
“Don’t worry dear, it will all be okay. By the way, I’m Margie,” she introduces herself holding out her hand. She sure is calm as a cucumber. I guess you can afford to be when you’re already knocking at deaths door. She laughs lightly and I realize she still has her hand out. I don’t want to let my death grip on the chair go because it somehow makes me feel safer, more grounded. I also don’t want to be rude to this nice woman so I reach out and clasp her hand.
Her wrinkled hands are surprisingly soft and supple. Her reassuring handshake has a calming effect on me and I take in a cleansing breath relaxing just a bit. “Skye,” I finally reply, giving her my name.
“You know Skye, we might both feel a little better if you finished your song. It seems to calm you and it makes me feel good too,” she smiles encouragingly at me revealing perfectly straight white teeth that look out of place in her wrinkled face. This woman is a myriad of contradictions with her red hair and steel gray roots, the age spots and million and one wrinkles. She can’t be a day younger than eighty but she has the eyes, teeth, and hands of a twenty-year-old. I feel a shiver run through me. The plane is shaking and dipping worse than before. I begin singing again.
After a few verses, I pause my singing because I can hear other people joining in too. I glance at Margie. She’s leaning her head back against the headrest. Her eyes are closed and there’s a small smile on her pale lips. People around me continue to sing and I join back in.
We all suddenly stop our singing as we feel the wheels of the aircraft skip across the tarmac attempting to land. The aircraft slows and begins to taxi down the runway. I notice a few collective sighs of relief mingled with my own.
“See Dear, I told you everything would be just fine,” Margaret reminds me. I smile at her. I’m just glad we landed safely. I definitely won’t be getting on another plane anytime soon.
We reach the gate and we’re collecting our belongings. People are slowly shuffling single file off the airplane. The perky blonde flight attendant puts her hand on my shoulder and stops me by the aircraft door.
“Thanks for helping to keep the passengers calm by singing. That was genius,” she thanks me.
“Oh, it was all her….” I trail off looking behind me. Margie isn’t there. She must have already disembarked the plane. I feel kind of sad that I didn’t get a chance to thank her and say goodbye. “Honestly, it was more for me than anyone else,” I admit, a little embarrassed.
“Well, either way. It worked beautifully and we really appreciate it. Travel safe,” she dismisses me and I depart heading toward baggage claim. The airport is super tiny. I think there are only three gates and as I descend the escalators I spy only two baggage carousels. Well, that makes things easy.
“Skye!” I hear a voice shriek as I reach the bottom of the escalator. I’m practically propelled into the gentleman behind me as Summer launches herself into my arms. I wrap my arms around her returning her hug, at the same time maneuvering her out of the way of the foot traffic.
I hold her away from me taking in her long wavy honey blonde hair, dark brown eyes, and perpetually suntanned looking skin.
“Beautiful as always,” I comment looking down at her. I’m only two inches taller than her at 5’7 but I’m wearing wedge-heeled boots and her moccasin-type boots are flat.
“Look who’s talking gorgeous! You’re all lean and fit. Did they make you run and do pushups every day in the military?” she teases me as we start to walk toward the baggage claim. She knows I do my best to stay in shape. This isn’t the first time I’ve visited the family since I joined the military. It’s just the first time I’ll be visiting Acorn Grove since they moved there.
“Mom and grandma are excited to see you,” she remarks quietly.
My grandma Rose is the reason I’m here. She’s been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has a year or more left to live, if she’s lucky, according to her doctors. Mom and Dawn moved to Acorn Grove right after Dad died. I guess with him gone she no longer had a reason to stay away. If it weren’t for Grandma Rose I’d probably never step foot in that town.
Summer moved there almost two years ago. She had just finished community college in our hometown of Pleasant Hill, California when she moved to Acorn Grove to be closer to Dawn and Mom. She has a small one bedroom apartment, a job at the local Bar & Grill and takes classes towards her BA at night. I couldn’t be prouder of her.
“What’s Dawn up to these days?” I question, as I pull one of my suitcases off the carousel. Summer grabs the other one as it comes around and we start heading out of the airport exit.
“Same old stuff. She’s worried about clothes, makeup, and boys. She’s half in love with the young Sheriff like all the other young girls in town. I don’t know when she’s going to grow up and try to do something with her life. She seems content to live with Mom and grandma rent free while she works at one of the gas stations in town,” Summer informs me, as we walk through the airport parking lot looking for her vehicle.
“What about you? Any guys caught your eye?” I ask winking at her.
“Nah, I don’t have time for that nonsense. I’m concentrating on saving up money and finishing college. Those are my top two priorities right now. This is me,” she says, motioning to an old beat up, red pickup truck.
“Wow, you really are becoming a country girl. What? Don’t look at me like that. I love it in you, sis,” I tell her, hoisting my bags into the bed of the truck. “I just hope this beauty will make it across the Indiana/Illinois state line in one piece,” I tease as I hop in the passenger side.