Archie’s journey had started seven hours earlier in L.A. There were no direct flights from there to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he had to be for a meeting the next morning, so he had to connect in Detroit. After a 90 minute layover there, Archie boarded the plane to Fort Wayne.
Even though there were were only 12 rows on the regional jet, fewer than half of the seats were filled. Not only was Archie able to score an exit row seat, but the seat next to him remained empty, which meant he could stretch his legs and didn’t need to worry about making small talk with some stranger sitting next to him.
Archie had already been traveling most of the day, and now that he was situated in this seat for the short hop to Fort Wayne, he decided to take a nap. Unfortunately, he couldn’t seem to shut down his mind. Perhaps the fact that he was heading east from the west coast contributed to his inability to fall asleep. While it was around 9:20 p.m. eastern time, it was only 6:20 “his” time.
This shit is getting old, Archie thought. He had been thinking recently about retirement, trying to figure out if he could afford to go without a regular salary and still have enough left, after paying for the mortgage, food, clothing, medical expenses, and taxes, to live comfortably for however many years he had left.
He was pretty sure he could do it, but then there was his wife. Budget was a word that was not in her vocabulary. If she needed something, she bought it. If she didn’t need something, but she wanted something, she bought it.
She was also incurring a lot of medical expenses. Nothing really serious; just minor aches and pains that required a lot of doctor appointments and tests.
And then there were her favorite charities, the ones she felt compelled to give money to. Archie had asked her to cut back on the charitable donations. “Charity starts at home,” he would tell her, reminding her that they needed to start being more frugal to ensure that they wouldn’t run out of money once he retired. She wouldn’t hear of it.
Archie truly loved his wife and the life they had built together. He was horrified by the thoughts that were running though his head at the moment. Thoughts about bad things happening to her.
But if something bad were to happen to her, if she were no longer around, Archie would be able to retire comfortably. He could quit his job. He could stop having to spend hours in airports and on airplanes, and nights in crummy hotels.
Archie shook his head violently and willed such thoughts out of his head. He eventually was able to fall asleep, but not for long. The impact of the plane’s wheels touching the ground startled him out of his brief nap.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Fort Wayne, Indiana,” the flight attendant said, “where the local time is 10:52. Please remain in your seat with your seat belts fastened until we reach the gate and the captain has given the signal that you can start to deplane. In the meantime, you may use your cell phones and small electronic devices.”
Archie reached for his cell phone, powered it up, and took it off airplane mode. It searched for a cell signal for a feel seconds before several work emails starting showing up. He was beginning to read through them when he heard the text message notification. It was from his wife’s sister.
Archie just stared at the phone after reading the text message. He was numb. He felt like he was either going to pass out or throw up. Or both. He read the message again after rubbing his eyes. It didn’t change. It still said what it said the first time he read it.
“Archie, call me as soon as you land. It’s about Jane. She was in a car accident on the freeway. She’s gone.”