In Transit

Lara pressed her fingertips into the knotted muscles of her neck, twisting her head in search of relief. A headache clung to the nape of her neck, shooting burning vines around the base of her skull. She was nearing 28 hours of travel and as many hours without sleep. The winter storms were unpredictable and nervous airlines grounded some flights while permitting others. In desperation she'd paid exorbitant fees to change flights, routes, even airlines, to arrive at her destination but to her own detriment. Now, instead of sitting stranded in O'Hare or Dallas, she was sitting stranded in Eagle County Regional Airport, which was possibly the smallest airport in existence. There were no cars available, not that it mattered since the roads were closed and every hotel room already booked. The restaurants were closed, the Wi-fi was down. Every human who was supposed to get on a flight to leave Eagle County had wisely stayed with their hotel, and every human - except, apparently, Lara - had already secured lodging before flying in. Here she sat in a small airport, in a small town, in the middle of the mountains. She looked again with despair at the empty Tylenol bottle peeping from the top of her black leather purse.

Lara pulled the white hat off her head, her fingertips brushing the twisting braids pinned around her head. Oh! The braids! Her hair had been wound tightly into braids her entire travel time! Correcting her posture from slouch to straight, with deft fingers she unpinned and began removing the snug plaiting. With each loosened section of hair her headache eased. Her hair fell around her narrow shoulders, kinked and waved from the long time wound up. Still chestnut locks hung past her waist, enveloping her upper body in silk. As she shuffled the last of the braid out of her hair the headache dissipated. Grateful for this small comfort, Lara put the pins and bands in a small case she'd removed from her purse.

She heard a quiet whirring of wheels on carpet and turned to see a young woman walking her way, a vibrant purple bag in tow. The young woman, dressed all in black and grey, with black hair and grey eyes, a black purse and grey carry on, locked eyes with Lara and made immediately for her. The way the woman made no hesitation about moving toward Lara seemed at once discomfiting and appealing. With no one else around and no chance of leaving until at least tomorrow, company for a while seemed acceptable no matter how awkward the first few words with a stranger could be.

"Thank God," the young woman said as she propped her bag against a chair and flopped back in the seat across from Lara. "You're the first person I've seen. I'm glad you're a girl, I was worried I'd be stuck here some asshole hitting on me, or a creeper, or a Nickelback fan. Or an ax murderer. Are you a serial killer?"

Lara shook her head, sending her kinked and waved hair into a frenzied waggle.

The young woman nodded. "Have you seen The Addams Family?"

Lara shook her head again, her small face almost obfuscated by her long mane.

"Probably for the best. Do you have any food in your bag? I'm starving and willing to trade a packet of Oreo's for absolutely anything salty."