Flight of Fancy
Beth Sampson pushed a stray tendril of dark brown hair from her cheek as she scanned her white elephant table.
"All set?" asked Sarah Milhouse, organizer of the event.
"Ready," said Beth. "It's a beautiful day. I hope we have a good turnout."
Sarah pointed skywards. "That's the coup. The plane rides will bring people to the fund raiser."
Beth could hear the drone of an airplane in the distance and stopped to gaze upwards with longing. If a genie had appeared from a bottle to grant her every wish, the first would be to learn to fly. The local flying club was donating the services of one of their pilots to sell short rides, but even that would be an extravagance on her part. She could of course consider it her birthday gift to herself. She sighed at the thought of one of those milestone birthdays approaching and went back to her table. The morning passed quickly and sales were brisk, even for the odd items considered white elephant.
A shadow fell across the table and she turned to look up into a pair of slate grey eyes set into a tanned face that so closely resembled her late husband's it gave her heart a lurch. Attached to his arm was her best friend Kate.
"Beth, this is Dan. Remember I told you about him?" Beth didn't remember but she groaned inwardly. She knew what would happen now. Kate would make a quick withdrawal, leaving Beth and a total stranger to wallow in uncomfortable conversation. Dan said, "Kate didn't exaggerate at all," leaving Beth blushing furiously and imagining the sharp words she would have with her friend later. Dan held out his hand and she took it, appreciating the firm handshake and the way his eyes remained connected to hers as he held on just a little longer than was normal for an introduction.
Sure enough, Kate was gone before Beth had a chance to return Dan's greeting. He didn't seem put out at Kate's manipulations so Beth decided to make the best of it. After all, here she was being chatted up by a handsome man whose eyes expressed interest in her. Maybe it would displace the longing she had every time the plane flew overhead. Then she realized the skies were silent. The pilot must be done for the day. Darn it. She had almost convinced herself to indulge in a treat.
Dan must have notice her preoccupation with the now empty heavens for he said, "Are you interested in airplanes?"
"Oh yes," she replied." I've always wanted to learn to fly. I blame my father. He was a pilot in the war and held me spellbound with his stories."
"Do you fly often?" She took a minute to realize he was referring to commercial flights.
"Only rarely," she said. "It's rather expensive and..." She stopped there. She didn't want to tell this stranger, this charming stranger, about her struggles to make ends meet. Howard had been a wonderful husband but a poor money manager and his death had left her penniless. She was just getting her head above water...
"Commercial flying isn't exactly the same thing is it?"
Sarah Milhouse chose that moment to bear down on Beth, looking for a recap of her day's results. Dan stood a moment or two, smiling at her over Sarah's shoulder and, apparently realizing this was not going to be a short conversation, waved his hand at her, mouthed the word "later" and disappeared.
Darn. Just when one of Kate's offerings turned out to be a surprising success, it was over. She scolded herself for thinking unkind thoughts about the busy and efficient Sarah.
After Sarah left, Beth vainly scanned the nearly empty lot for any sign of Dan. He had disappeared into the blue.
Kate's voice came from behind her, making her jump. "Looking for someone?" she asked sweetly.
"Don't be silly," said Beth crossly. "I'm just looking to see if there are any straggling customers."
"You can close up now," said Kate, "Because I'm going to give you your birthday present."
"My birthday's not till next week."
"Consider it an early gift then. Come with me."
Kate gave her a minute to tidy up and then led her to the edge of the green. They headed in the direction of the Cessna 150 sitting on the road which served as a makeshift runway.
"Happy birthday," she said, pointing at the plane.
"Kate, you didn't! Thank you so much!" Beth was overjoyed. "But is the pilot still here?"
"Special order," came a voice newly familiar to her from behind the wing. Out stepped Dan. "I can't wait to take you flying. Happy birthday." His smile held all sorts of wishes, and not just of the birthday variety.
"Oh it is, It definitely is," said Beth.
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