“Try to be I more like Virginia and Liza,” Aunt Toni would say. “You have no sense of style. Are you really going to wear that dress? Green is all wrong for you. Slow down your eating, Miss Piggy.” Then she and her two horrid daughters would turn and laugh.

Most of the time, I shrugged it off. I only saw Aunt Tini once or twice a year. She lived in California, and we lived in Connecticut. She was twice divorced and preoccupied with men. my parents we happily married and ran a successful computer software manufacturing company.

Life was great until the plane crash that killed them.Then Aunt Toni swooped in like the Wicked Witch. She’d take over because she was sure that was what her late sister would want. What she really wanted was to get her hands on my trust fund, but, of course she couldn’t come out and demand the money. So figured she’d just make make me miserable. She sold her home and came east.

Did you ever have a bad dream only to wake up and realize you weren’t dreaming? That’s what’s life with Aunt Toni. I think they call it benign neglect, except there was nothing benign about Aunt Toni. my clothes allowance went to her girls.i got the hand-me-downs. If she could have pulled me out of my school, she would have, but that was iron clad in my parents’ will. Somehow, Aunt Toni got money for her girls to go to school with me so I had no refuge. Even when college rolled around, she told me that the price of college had gotten too much for my puny trust fund.

“Sacrifices will have to be made,” she said.

Then two weird things happened, and by weird, I mean amazing. First, Jack Ogelthorpe took over for his father managing my trust. He showed up at the house on a Saturday when Toni and her spawn weren’t home, and said he had concerns about the way the trust was being administrated. We had a long talk, and he promised to look into Toni’s questionable handling of my parents’ estate.

Second, I was assigned to work on a science fair project with Dave Carns who under his Clark Kent glasses had big blue eyes and a sweet disposition.When we won first place for our study of brain function under stress, it was one of the happiest days of my life. One of Dave’s too, because he asked me out.

Four years later, we’re living together about to dedicate ourselves to studying brains. Toni has been invited to leave and go back to California with her girls, and I barely give them a thought. Except I heard Virginia got a tattoo and gained thirty pounds while Liza took off with some guy who said he’d make her into an actress.She kind of is, i guess. Her latest film was called Lizard Tongue, and I hear it was a big seller.

Music for Pain

“I’m so psyched. Tom and I’ve been dating for six months. It’s like a record for me.” Shannon felt the giant smile in her words.

“We’re hitting The Blue Diamond tonight,” Emma said. “Why don’t you stop by? There’ll be a bunch of us.”

“Okay, maybe.”

It seemed like a fun idea. Shannon figured it was time she introduced Tom to her friends. He’d met Emma and and her roommate Amy, but their schedules were busy. He liked to spend time with her. The new love phase Emma called it, but she was a cynic.

But Tom was in a great mood. When he appeared at her door, he said why not make an appearance after dinner? They’d have a few drinks and slip out. It sounded like a plan.

When they reached The Blue Diamond, it wasn’t too crowded. Emma had saved a table and seven people already crowded in. Tom pulled up two chairs and they wedged between Amy and a guy named Chuck. As the the bar became more crowded, Shannon found herself having to shout to be heard;more often than not, she found herself facing Tom’s back. Whatever he and Amy were discussing, it was intense.

The bar kept getting louder and more crowded, and she began to feel like she was an outsider. Chuck was talking to his buddies, and what the hell was with Tom?

When the band came on, Shannon excused herself to go to the ladies room, and by the time she got back the table was empty. Her friends had hit the dance floor. Tom was dancing with Amy, but she figured it was because she wasn’t there when the music started. When the song ended, the band slowed the tempo, and she watched Tom slide his arms around Amy. She fit perfectly, and smiled up into his face.

A third and fourth dance passed, and Shannon took a twenty from her purse. She dropped it on the table and walked to the door, ignoring the two guys who asked her to dance.

Outside it had started to mist a little, but it wasn’t cold. She didn’t mind the wet. Music drifted out from clubs as she walked: a hip hop here, a little techno there, and best of all some slow, sweet jazz that wrapped around her heart and squeezed.

She wasn’t going to cry. Not yet. She go home and turn off her phone.
Maybe she’d put on a little Ella and listen to that wonderful voice sing about heartbreak and pain. Then she’d cry. Oh yes. Then she’d cry.

We Have a Delay

“Ladies and Gentlemen, BCA Flight 1251 departing for Philadelphia has been delayed for two more hours. We apologize for the inconvenience. If you are making connecting flights in Philadelphia, please come forward at this time to the service desk.”

At the sound of the attendant’s voice, I watch weary passengers rise and drag their suitcases to the service desk, while new people  quickly grab the vacated seats. This flight has already been delayed for three hours. Heavy fog blanketing the UK and spreading across the Channel to Europe has left so many of us stranded in a peculiar kind of limbo.

Two more hours. We who are waiting in the cattle car section are now firmly boxed. Young folks sprawl on the floor, the rest of us claim our seats with the ferocity lions protecting their prey. Since I travel alone, I can’t abandon my bags to head for the ladies room, lest I lose my coveted chair. Come to think of it, I would love to get up and walk around, but there’s really nowhere to go.

What a trip this has been. When my magazine sent me to write an article, Off The Tourist Trail: London Adventures On A Budget, I looked forward to the challenge. I found some great bookstores, a few specialty boutiques, a great little shop for war memorabilia, and some lovely restaurants. On my limited budget, I was quite pleased. Or would have been. I had planned to start writing the story here, but nothing comes to mind. I’m too worried about Chelsea. My errant daughter landed on my doorstep a week before my trip, eight months pregnant, deserted by her boyfriend. Life seems to be turning in circles.

My eyes keep drifting to the windows, where the gray presses against the glass and beyond I can make out some hulking shapes and dim blinking lights. Some days I feel like I’m disappearing into the fog. I suppose it’s because I’m nearing that certain age when women become all but invisible, just vague figures in someone’s peripheral vision until they are called to action.

Damn, I really need to get on with it. Self-pity is such an unattractive trait. Since the divorce, my oldest daughter likes to remind me of that fact. I still wear a ring on my left hand, not a diamond, but a ring nonetheless. My hand feels naked without one. I tell myself I’m easing into my new state.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m sorry to announce that BCA Flight 1251 departing for Philadelphia has been cancelled. Please go to the main desk at once for re-booking. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

I drag my carry-on and blend in with the stream of passengers who span a range of moods from dejected to furious. A red-faced man barrels through shoving me aside to get to the counter. In front of me an older woman in a shoddy pink coat trips, spilling half the contents of her purse, and I stop to help her as the rest of the people stampede past.

“You’re in a hurry to get to the counter, aren’t you?” she says, and I shake my head. It’s too late to catch the next flight or the next. I may never get out of this airport. “It doesn’t matter as long as I get a plane. I’ll go cargo.”

She laughs. “That’s the right attitude. Everyone is in such a hurry these days. I suppose the world’s sped up since my day.”

“Not sure it’s such a good thing.” I pat her shoulder. “Are you all right? Not hurt?”

“Oh no. Just run along, dear. I’ll be fine. I’m in no rush.”

“No, here. Let me help you up. Are you sure you don’t need some assistance?”

She gives me a smile, her blue eyes twinkling with good will and a sort of joy. “You get along now. You won’t get a plane. Good luck to you, dear.”

By the time I reach the counter, I stand at the end of a long, long line. Does it matter? A few business class passengers saunter past the much shorter line and are hurried along. I suppose first class has its own entrance and exit.

The rest of us cattle fidget and shuffle and wait. I listen to customers berate the attendants as if they can control the weather. I wish I had chosen another day to fly. Right now, I believe I could settle down in a plastic seat and nod off.

At last I reach the counter where a harried woman with dark hair and large almond shaped eyes gives me a tentative smile. I return it. I figure she’s had a long day herself.

“BCA Flight 1251?” she says, and I nod. She sighs. “I’m so sorry, but our next available flight is not until Friday morning, Flight 962, leaving at 9 a.m. arriving at 11:36, Philadelphia time.”


“I’m very sorry.”

“Do you have anything going into New York or Newark?”

She does a quick scan. “I’m sorry. We have nothing. So many flights were cancelled.”

“Baltimore? Washington? Boston?”

She shakes her head.

“But I need to be home. My daughter’s waiting for me.”

“Is she ill, Madame?”

“She’s pregnant.” I look away. Once again, I feel trapped. I take a breath. I can’t swim across the ocean. I need to relax. Chelsea’s an adult. She doesn’t need me. Tears prick my eyes, and I blink to keep them at bay.

“There is a first class seat available on Flight 409 tomorrow morning at 8:30,” the woman says. “There would be an additional charge of eight-thousand-four-hundred-ninety-six U.S. dollars.”

I want to laugh at the thought. My coat is ten years old, and I bought my suit from a consignment shop. Divorce has come at a heavy price. I shake my head. “It sounds lovely, but no thank you. You’ve been very kind and helpful, but I’ll take the Friday flight.”

“Excuse me, Danielle,” someone calls. “Could you come here?” The rep excuses herself for a moment, and I pull out my phone. It can’t be helped. Weather is weather. I’ll text Chelsea and tell her I’ll be there as soon as I can. I hope it’s good enough.

“Madame?” Danielle is back. “I’m sorry I had to leave you. It seems that we can get you on that 8:30 flight tomorrow after all. A seat is available. The last seat. You’re very lucky. “

“But I thought you only had one seat in First Class.”

“We do, did. It’s taken care of, Madame. Once we issue your ticket, we’ll have someone escort you to the First Class lounge.”

“But I don’t understand.”

Danielle smiles. “I’m not sure you need to, Madame. When good luck falls into your lap, you should take it, yes?”

I look around. The crowd has thinned. Moving down the corridor far ahead, I catch a glimpse of a woman in a pink coat. She walks with surprising vigor and laughs with one of the airport officials who strides by her side.