The excerpt below is taken from…
Atlanta, December 1973
“Why are you testing me?” Brian MacKay groaned, glancing upward to the domed ceiling of the huge terminal as if an unseen listener hovered above him. Eastern Air Lines’ departures-and-arrivals board at Atlanta Airport had flipped open to Flight 149 for San Antonio. The status updates showed an hour delay. Not too horrible for local boarding passengers or travelers with a normal connection. But normal didn’t fit Brian’s morning or schedule at all. The flight from Gainesville had landed thirty minutes early. The delay extended his transit time to three eternal hours in a semisolitary concourse. He breathed in, seeking patience, and dropped the duffel on the floor. Concession stands hadn’t opened yet, and even if he crawled to the posted gate two concourses away, he could never waste enough time. The personal conference with his anxious mind and troubled conscience couldn’t be avoided, not as he’d evaded Marité.
From her, he’d run.
Brian had taken off. A jealous, demented coward, he’d fled in the dark hours. Before Marité awakened, before she could explain and change his mind. Or worse, before he revealed the fury that had nearly consumed him when he saw Michael’s greedy arms around Marité, his love, his angel of light, his woman. And the kiss? Hell, the kiss had twisted a fiery knife in Brian’s gut. In that moment, his dormant killer instinct had jerked to life, ready to strike. His hands had itched with the desire to squeeze Michael’s neck until the punk stopped breathing. If Brian hadn’t set aside the champagne glasses he’d been holding like a waiting fool, he would’ve shattered them to tiny shards.
No one could accuse Brian of hiding his possessiveness, especially Marité.
“I don’t share. Once you’re mine, that is it. I couldn’t handle another man touching you.” Good Lord, his chest ached viciously as he remembered the moment of unforgettable intimacy when he’d said those words.
He’d been clear. He’d warned her. And she had accepted his terms.
Some sleepless hours after the disastrous party, after everyone had gone home, he’d urged Matthew to drive him to catch the first flight out of Gainesville, regardless of the destination—Timbuktu sounded really good. Poor Matthew… His friend had argued against this move all the way to the airport. “You’re being rash, reacting to the scene instead of learning what happened. I agree it looked incriminating, but I know there’s a reasonable explanation. Marité loves you.”
Brian had ignored him. “Would you call my father, please?”
Livid, Matthew had retorted, “Call him yourself if you’re so intent on leaving.”
Judge and jury, Brian MacKay, do you have all the facts? If he didn’t fear being arrested for behaving like a madman, he’d bang his forehead against the flight board in frustration. No. He had had no good answers and zero facts, other than a jealous perspective and the certainty that he, of all people, didn’t deserve happiness. Any suppositions had been as pathetic as the note he’d left behind.
Stop. Enough. It’s over.
“Gotta call Dad.” Focusing on that immediate need, Brian scanned the hallway in search of a bank of pay phones. He located the symbol posted amid multiple directions for baggage claim, ground transportation, and the information counter. He grasped the suddenly heavy duffel, almost as weighted as his soul felt, and, exhaling a grunt, slung it over his shoulder. He shuffled onward, digging for coins in his jeans’ pocket, through the slowly growing crowd of travelers, his limp more pronounced than ever.
He dialed the number. Two rings later, the deep voice of Randolph MacKay answered. “Hello.”
“Mornin’, Dad. I apologize for calling so early,” Brian said as a desire to see, embrace, and be close to his father overwhelmed him.
“Your mother and I are early risers, son. What’s wrong? Are you all right?”
“Everything’s fine. I’m in Atlanta, waiting for a flight home.”
“But I thought you were staying longer, through the holidays,” Randolph said.
“I’m on a pay phone. I’ll explain when I see you. Can you pick me up in San Antonio? I know it’s a drive, but it’s the closest airport I could manage on short notice.”
“Not a problem. Give me the details.”
“Eastern Air Lines, Flight 149. It’s due in at twelve fifty-one, but so far it’s delayed. Check before you drive down.”
“I’ll be waiting at the gate. Have a safe flight.”
“Thanks, Dad. I love you,” Brian murmured.
“I love you too.”
Brian hung up just as the irritating female recording demanded another twenty-five-cent deposit for an additional three minutes. He sighed, glancing around the main concourse. Did he wish to sit at the gate alone, a willing victim to his punishing mind? Not particularly. Speaking to his father had improved his gloomy outlook. Besides, his stomach had already voiced its acute hunger, and in this area of the terminal, the food places had opened. The mouthwatering scents of breakfast filled the air and his senses. He could enjoy a hot beverage and a muffin as he watched a caravan of distracting humanity speed by.
As he repositioned the bag around his shoulder and headed for the nearest coffee shop, he told himself once more that he’d done the right thing by leaving. Maybe he could’ve stayed to address his reasons face-to-face with Marité. But then the explanation might have devolved into an argument. No. He shook his head. He couldn’t second-guess his actions. He’d decided for both of them. He knew best. He was older than Marité, more experienced.
Despite her protestations of love, Marité’s actions had shown she wasn’t ready for a committed relationship, and certainly not with him. She needed to spread her wings. See and explore the marvels the world offered. Most of all, find someone better suited to her age, not a man seven years older like Brian. He was tired and used up, loaded with emotional baggage and a hundred flaws, unworthy of affection. He had no right to interfere and derail the course of her life. In their situation, love would never be strong enough to bridge the gap.
And yet…if he had chosen correctly to leave, why the hell did it hurt so much?
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