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He’d left the house in the middle of an argument. She wasn’t happy with the fact he was going on to Stockholm after Helsinki. She had screamed. It wasn’t like her.

There was to be a dinner-party at the weekend and they had been invited. They rarely got to go out as a couple anymore and she had seemed pleased that they were going to this. It was a couple they had both known since college, so the night would be relaxing and fun. Then his boss had asked that he stop-over in Sweden on Friday. ‘A chance to meet with the Uppsala branch on your way back to London. You should have it wrapped up by Sunday evening’, he’d said.

Try telling his wife that.

He had been on a business flight when his mother had died. He not been able to say goodbye; now his father had called from his hospital bed and wanted him to visit. That was the plan – after he got back from Stockholm, and had spent a couple of days making up for the argument with his wife, he’d head north and see his father.

He was also going to have make amends with his best mate, too. He’d lent his pal some money, not a lot but enough, and the repayment hadn’t yet begun. He kept dropping hints but the hints were never taken up. ‘I can’t believe you asked me for the money back’, his friend had said before he walked away from him.

He didn’t remember what the weather was like when the flight had taken off from Heathrow on the way to Helsinki. Yet now it seemed so important to remember exactly what the weather had been like as he left London. Was it sunny? Had the sky been a beautiful red?

He was in business class and as he swallowed his final glass of red wine, he looked across at the women in the seat opposite; she was crying. He reached out and touched her hand and she smiled back, then mouthed the words ’thank you’.

There were several things in his life that he hadn’t finished or completed – things that he had planned address in the coming weeks and months. He kept meaning to go to the doctor about the pains in his chest but he reckoned it was just stress, and would put off keeping the appointment.

His daughter had asked about going to Disney Land and he was always giving her the same reply, ‘next year darling, when I’m not so busy’.

It was then that he thought about his oldest pal, Steve. Since his bud and his wife had moved to America, he had always meant to visit but there never seemed to be the opportunity or the right time.

Then there was his other pal, Jake, the one who had killed himself, the one whom he had fallen out with and hadn’t got to say goodbye. Why had he not lifted the phone, called Jake and said that it had all been a big misunderstanding? But he hadn’t.

And now he was on this flight to Helsinki, and with all the things he had still to achieve in his life. And yet it was all too late – the pilot had said the undercarriage hadn’t come down. He had made the airplane swoop a few times to see if gravity would help the wheels descend, but it hadn’t worked.

The man was sure he could hear the sadness in the pilot’s voice.

The pilot wished them all the best and said that he wasn’t sure how the airplane would react but it would be a crash landing.

And then the man wondered why his life had to come to such an end on a flight to Helsinki. Surely this wasn’t his time? He still had so much more to do. People to tell things to – people to tell that he loved them so, so much; to tell them how important they were to him. All of them had built a place in his heart.

But it was all too late. Much too late.

 

bobby stevenson 2016

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