"Yes! Yes, oh yes, Brian, do it again! Come on!"
With a sigh, Brian put his hands on the controls and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, due to hurricane-force winds we will be forced to make an unscheduled emergency landing. Please fasten your safety belts and remain calm." Brian felt like an utter fool, participating in role-play in a plane that was still parked on the ground in the hanger. Not that he had even been one to reject the idea of role-play, but at least on other occasions he had received some pleasure out of the bargain as well.
Sheila was ecstatic, and she breathed deeply as if to take in the moment and savor the feeling of near-death in this incredible machine. She had been going on like this for the past ten minutes, and Brian had already had to wrestle an oxygen mask from her. What a night this was going to be! He now regretted ordering all those glasses of wine for her. All he wanted to do was get her in bed, but all she wanted to do was "play airplane". What a one-track mind this girl had!
"Uh, Sheila, now that we've landed how about we go and seek shelter somewhere and huddle together for warmth, huh?"
Sheila's eyebrows shot up in surprise, and she gave a little hiccup. "Brian, I thought you were supposed to be a pilot. Don't you know that you never venture from the plane when you don't know where you are? There could be wild savages out there."
"Friends of yours?" Brian muttered.
"Nothing," he gave one of those weary, patronizing smiles that he usually reserved for Lowell.
"Joe. Hey, Joe!" Someone outside was calling Joe's name, but the sound of the voice was steadily approaching, so Brian looked out and was more than a little surprised to see Rowdy Symcox waltzing up to him, duffel bag in hand.
"Joe?" Rowdy peered at him.
"Uh, no, It's me, Brian. Wow, Rowdy, It's been a long time. So I heard you and Helen were going out tonight; how'd that go?"
"Well, this is how it's going, Brian, I'm leaving. I need to get back to New Bedford tonight, so if we're not waiting on anyone else..."
Brian hesitated. "Uh, no, no. You see, Rowdy, I'm a little busy right now. I'm on a date. We don't have any scheduled flights tonight, but I'm sure that if you come back tomorrow, Joe will be happy to take you, uh, wherever it is you want to go."
"Look, I don't have time for this right now. I paid the lady at your counter handsomely and she said you were free back here. I'll even give you a little extra; I just need to get out of here."
Sighing, Brian gave in and took the money. "You know what, whatever, man. I can sympathize with you because my date's not going as planned either. In fact, I'm still on my date so you'll have someone to keep you company. Who knows, you two might even hit it off," he added jokingly.
Rowdy boarded the plane and Sheila, who had been gazing dreamily out a window in the back of the plane, looked at him suspiciously.
"Uh, Sheila, I hope you don't mind but I picked up a hitchhiker. As it turns out he knows how to fix planes as well, so we'll be taking off in just a moment."
"Oh," Sheila seemed to be interested. As Brian was steering the plane out of the hanger he saw a shape dart out in front of them; it was Helen! Stopping, he let her onto the plane.
"Helen, what are you doing!?" Brian asked, surprised to see her. But Helen was looking at Rowdy. Rowdy refused to look at her and instead stared at Sheila. Sheila was staring at Brian.
"Never mind," said Brian, who just wanted this night to end. "Just get on, we're going to New Bedford, you can join us if you want."
Helen felt hurt when Rowdy didn't acknowledge her, though she knew she probably deserved it. She just didn't want to leave him in the condition that she herself had been left in so many times.
"Rowdy, I just wanted to apologize. I really am sorry." The words sounded empty when they came out like that, and Rowdy still didn't appear convinced. He just sighed and turned away. She decided that being sincere and honest was the best approach; after all, though she was sorry she still didn't believe she was entirely at fault.
"Look, I'm sorry for the way I acted. I was being selfish and inconsiderate...but honestly, Rowdy, what did you expect? That's why you made up those fake cards in the first place, wasn't it? I know I was wrong, I admit it. But what you did was cruel--playing off my dreams of being in an orchestra."
Rowdy turned and looked at her incredulously. "Look, Helen, we've already been through this. You were wrong and I was wrong, and now we both go on with our lives. I'm sorry, too, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear? Is that why you came all this way?"
She sighed. "No, no, it's not that. Rowdy, I just realize what a complete idiot I've been and, well...we've both changed so much over the years, I just think we should give it another shot. You know, two respectable adults who just need to get to know each other."
Brian was very interested in their conversation and it sounded like it was getting good. Wait till Joe heard about this! Helen and crazy old Rowdy; who'd have thought it? So far they seemed to have forgotten he was there, and Brian kept silent so they wouldn't notice him and hopefully continue their dramatics. Glancing over at Sheila, he noticed that the wine had finally taken its toll and she had fallen asleep. "Yes," he thought. There was hope yet. Maybe if Rowdy and Helen kept it up she would get off with him in New Bedford, then he would have Sheila to himself again and maybe she would have the whole "airplane" thing out of her system.
Rowdy blinked. "You-you mean that Helen? You would really want to go out with me? Just me?"
"Yes I would, Rowdy," she smiled. "But as long as we're being honest with each other, what do you really do for a living?"
Rowdy didn't answer her, but instead seemed to find the clouds extremely interesting all of a sudden. Then he looked at her with a strange, almost sympathetic, look. "Helen, you don't know how long I've waited for you to honestly ask me out, and I can't tell you how much this means to me, but I'm afraid you don't really deserve me."
"I-I'm confused, Rowdy. Why do you think that?"
"Because I'm selfish to want you, and I don't want you to be in a relationship that began with lies and deception."
Helen smiled. "I'm touched, Rowdy. Really, I am. Can we still be friends?" she asked as she held out her hand.
Rowdy took it and shook it enthusiastically. "Friends!" He exclaimed triumphantly.
"Well, I feel much better about the whole thing," said Helen.
"You know what," said Rowdy. "Now that we're on the subject, I always thought you should have stayed with Joe. You were always going to prom with him, and he just seems like a guy who's got it all together. I mean, this is quite a fine plane he's got."
Helen shrugged. "Yeah, I guess if you like that sort of thing."
"Who's Joe?" A voice piped up. "I thought this was your plane, Brian."
"Well, no," said Helen. "Brian just works for..."
"Ah-ah-ah-AH!!!" Brian cried, trying to drown out Helen's unwanted explanation. "Uh, I don't know who this "Joe" is that you're referring to, but..."
"You lied to me?" asked Sheila, her red hair tousled from sleeping. She looked like a poisonous snake about to strike. "This isn't your plane. You don't own this airline, do you?"
"You told her you own the airline?" asked Helen, sealing his fate.
"Great, just great. You know what, just drop me off wherever we're going. I'll get another flight back," said Sheila, as she moved to the back of the plane. She and Rowdy ended up chatting quietly in the back, and Helen moved up front to keep Brian company.
"You should have learned from my experience, you know," said Helen. "It's not good to have lies and secrets floating around in the beginning of a relationship."
"Who said I wanted a relationship?" Brian retorted. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. Let's just get this flight over with."
Soon they arrived at their destination. Rowdy and Sheila decided to depart together and have a drink to get to know each other. Before they left, Rowdy gave Helen his card again in case she ever wanted to call him, as one friend to another.
Helen laughed. "Rowdy, this is another one of your fake business cards."
Rowdy shook his head. "These aren't fake."
"What do you mean?" she asked, perplexed.
"Helen, I lied to you, but not when I gave you the card. Once we were out on a real date, I wanted to test you to see if my being a conductor really was the only reason she decided to see me. I know we hit a rocky spot there, but to show your gratitude for going to all the trouble to rectify the situation, I'd like to offer you an audition with the orchestra, if you're still interested."
"Still interested!!" Helen literally jumped into his arms and thanked him. "Rowdy, I'm glad to have you as a friend."
"Same here, Helen," he smiled. "See you, Brian."
Brian waved, and Helen screamed again as she took the seat next to him.
"I can't believe it. What luck!"
Seeing Helen bouncing off the seats in joy was enough for Brian to forget about his disastrous date, and he grinned.
"Good for you, kid," he said as they winged their way back toward Nantucket.