Being Inspired, maybe - 81

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:




And, then, the words:

There was a degree of exhilaration when the wheels lift off the runway and the plane starts its journey up into the sky.

And even more so when you are in the pilot’s seat.

It was my first flight after finally getting my licence, and probably one of the most fortunate of new pilots to have a company that not only have several executive jets but one that was owned by your father.

Guilty on both counts.

But it was not a privilege that I took for granted.  I worked hard and earned it, and that in itself made it all the more rewarding.

Of course, I still had to fly with the company's chief pilot, who just happened to be my uncle, but it was a small price to pay.  An ex airline pilot, he was both instrumental in convincing me to get it, and then to mentor me.

And sitting at the end of the runway, waiting to take off, it was his quiet words in my ear, "you can do this", that the final confirmation I'd made it.

Twice a year several of the company's executives attended industry-specific conferences, not so much for the latest information, but more of an opportunity to network with others in the field.

For several years I'd been included on that group in a lesser capacity while I learned more about the business, and the last conference was my first as a contributing member

That was in New York, my home city, and no travel was required.  This time it was in Montana, in a place called Butte, one I hastily had to read up on as I'd never heard of it before.  That and the airport where I would be landing the aircraft in what my uncle called a 'fly by the seat of your pants' landing.
By the time we were back on the ground, I was exhausted.  It had been a long day, and I knew I'd fretted more than I should, but it was my first flight, and as my uncle said, once we were on the ground, it only got easier.

The conference centre was large and looked exactly as it had in the photographs.  My room had an awe-inspiring view and had a comfortable bed, the only criteria I had for rating a place good or bad.
After a shower and change into casual clothes, I headed for the meet and greet in one of the conference rooms.  There, scattered about in many random groups were other conference attendees a lot of whom I'd met before, and I took the time to catch up with.

There were also several new people, and it took time to briefly touch base, as we would all, and by the end of the evening the one person I'd expected to see, was not there.

It was the other compelling reason to come to the conference; her name was Victoria, even though I didn't have high expectations she would even be attending.

She had been at the last conference six months ago, in New York, where we had a chance meeting when assigned to the same group for an exercise, and a second meeting that night in the dining room when we were slated to sit together and both of us took it as a sign.

That was the first few days, after that, it was a few minutes here and there over lunch or dinner.  I never saw her for breakfast and had assumed she liked sleeping in.

We had exchanged business cards in what was a hurried departure, and I called once; she wasn't there, and after I left a message, she didn't call back.  I figured there was nothing more to be done, what happened in New York stayed in New York.

Still, I was disappointed.

I went outside to take in the night air, a noticeable chafe from the overheated stuffiness of the hall.  Several others were in a corner, smoking talking and laughing.  Another joke of questionable taste, I suspect, I'd heard a few before and still amazed that some men had not got the message.

Perhaps that was why so few women attended, and the reason for Victoria's absence.

Residual smoke from their group wafted in my direction, a reminder of why is given it up a long time ago, mostly because the odour permeated everything, and couldn't be removed.  Even now, it wrinkled my nose.

It almost masked the sound of soft footsteps behind me, and at the last second, I turned to see who it was.

Victoria.

"Hey."  It was the best I could muster to cover both the surprise and e location of seeing her again.

"Hey, yourself."

A step closer and she hugged me, and, once list that initial surprise, I hugged her back.  Our last meeting had not led me to believe we might be at that stage, but I wasn't going to let that get in the way.

It was longer than I thought before she took a step back.  She had changed, not so much physically, but her hair, shorter and a different colour and, if I was not mistaken, a little gaunter in the face.

Had she been ill?.  I had a dozen questions, but refrained, except to ask, "How are you?"

"Well, for the most part.  Yourself?"

It was in interesting reply that conjured up more questions, of the type I didn't feel like I had the right to ask.

" Fine.  A little tired though."

She smiled.  "Is it that difficult to fly a plane?"

She caught me by surprise.  If she had only just arrived, how could she know?

"My plane arrived after yours.  I just happened to be passing by when you were coming down the stairs.  I have to say you look very distinguished in your pilots’ uniform."

"I just got my licence.  I was given the privilege of flying a sector one of the company's jets."

"So, you can go anywhere in it?"

"Well, no.  It only has a range of slightly over two thousand miles, and you need a no-limit credit card when you fill up."

"So, no chance of a joy flight then?"

I hoped she was joking.

"Probably not.  I came with the chief pilot and he's got the keys.  The best I can do is a ride in a Ferrari if there's one at a car hire place."

I was not sure why I even suggested it and hoped I wasn't falling into the schoolboy crush phase of trying to impress her.

"Good to know.  Have I missed anything in there?" She nodded in the direction of the hall where, when I looked in through the French doors noticed that nearly everyone had left, including the group of smokers, and staff were busily cleaning up.

Tomorrow morning it would be a lecture room, everyone crammed in to hear the opening address and one of the keynote speakers on the new regulatory changes recently brought in.

"No.  Everyone is six months older, so a few more grey hairs, and wrinkles.  Everyone is worried about the new statutory requirements, but I don't see how there's anything to fear unless you've been cutting corners."

There were a few mavericks in the group, trying to maximise profits at the expense of quality and this was what the new regulatory actions were aimed at stamping out.  We were squeaky clean, so it wouldn't apply to us.

"Then nothing really new then.  Hey, can I ask you for a favour?  It's a pretty big one, and I don't want you to get the wrong idea, but I left it too late to book a room and apparently there's none left so, can I stay with you?"

I could see where getting the wrong idea might come in.  It was a rather interesting request and could by some be easily misinterpreted.

I shrugged.  "Good thing then I have a two-room suite.  You're welcome to stay if you want.  But, I'm not sure..."

"What my intentions are?  Tell you what, let's get a drink at the bar, and I'll tell you a  story.  After that, you can make up your mind one way or the other."

"Ok."

Disappointment had changed to elation which changed to apprehension.  What had I got myself into?


© Charles Heath 2019

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