Her last night in New York had been spent in a tangle of sex and tears, fears and reassurances. But she knew that for all their promises, she wouldn’t see her friends there again. Some people fly into your life for a moment and though those moments shape us and will always be precious, they were never meant to last.
She’d been accompanied by police for the whole flight because she had no ID, because she was in shock, because, unknown to her, she’d become a celebrity overnight: the girl who got away.
She crashed into her mom at the airport amid a sea of camera flashes and staggered out into the light and the waiting taxi.
The house was the same, yet different.
John had gone – her mother finally found the courage Naomi had always hoped would come and sent him packing.
Davey had been allowed home from college.
Her room remained, but it was odd, a museum to the person she was two years ago, a person she barely recognised, a person she could no longer be.
At least Bailey was still here, but he didn’t even seem to know her these days.
She didn’t blame him. She didn’t know who she was any more.
Her clothes were clean but no longer fitted properly, no longer felt like hers. She was grateful when her mom offered to pay for her to get new ones and get her hair done. It was the one way she had of trying to regain herself; trying to inhabit this space as the person she was now, rather than walking uncomfortably around the ghost of her past.
In the first few days life was a bluster of interviews with newspapers, TV stations, radio – everyone wanting to know her story. There was talk of them writing a book about her. She spoke in a haze, a blur, recounting something, but the words that came from her mouth were so detached from her head and her heart, as if the story were comprised of birds she’d sent out there, flying away, migrating to somewhere new.
That first week, her mom fussed and fluttered around her, bringing coffee or chocolate, handing her remotes and control of the television. She flicked ildy through but couldn’t follow anything. Her favourite shows were two years ahead of where they’d been: couples who were then just friends were now married, beloved characters had died, villains had reformed and they all swam with faces she’d never seen before. The news was rolling and rolling with the story, her face occasionally mixed in with the famous rock star who chose not to go; of the famous actor shaking his fist at the screen, demanding his daughter’s safe return, of parents and siblings crying and crying, over and over.
The air here felt strange. Cleaner, fresher, but somehow empty – everything she had once had here was gone; her dad, Davey, Chase, her college-bound friends. There were her mom and Bailey but they had each other.
Her mom had been so sure she would return and finish high school, but Naomi knew that was out of the question. She wanted to go to university one day, of course she did, but she was too old and too different to take classes with a bunch of sixteen year olds and try to catch up. She could enrol at a community college, but she knew it couldn’t be here in Wisconsin, and by the same token, it couldn’t be in New York.
The first instalment of compensation had come through, a lump sum rushed through with an official apology from the US government and the United Nations for all she and her family ‘had been through’ and that money would be enough to cover her costs. It would be a couple of months before the new semester started and she could enrol somewhere, and there were things she could do before then, starting with a journey back to Union to see Red and Alice and Tina and Amber – to thank them for their kindness and apologise for blowing out of town as if on a breeze.
And after that, onwards…. to wherever the future took her.
Kissing farewell to her mother, her brother and her dog with a promise that this time she would always be back to visit, Naomi Jaye took up her bag and headed to the airport – travelling once more, but this time legitimately, overtly, unashamedly.
With one last look at the tarmac of a place that no longer needed her, nor she it…
…she took a deep breath and flew.
Author’s note: The aeroplane shot isn’t mine (wish it was!) but I pinched it from TJStreak (I hope he doesn’t mind too much) – he has modelled some awesome cityscapes and aeroplanes on his site so go check out his work.