Home to Stay (The Long Road Home #2) - Maryann Jordan


Rain slammed against the windows of the Atlanta International Airport terminal, the erratic pelting indicative of the oncoming hurricane. John Roster shifted on the seat, twisting his head to look at the board over their gate’s arrival and departure desk. Flight still listed as leaving on time. The gate personnel were huddled, their conversation muted, but the one doing the most talking gestured wildly with her hands, indicating a heightened sense of urgency… or she just liked being in charge and enjoyed her position of authority.

A little boy was standing next to the window, his palms splayed out in front of him, his nose pressed to the glass, his eyes wide as the sprays of water bounced on the other side. The wind picked up and a weary-eyed woman appeared, hustling the child back to a seat, toys spread out on the floor in front of him.

“We’re never going to make our connection to Orlando.”

“Like I don’t know that? Spend a fortune for Disney because you just had to have a destination wedding. Christ, I wanted Vegas, something adult. But no, you claimed you had to have Mickey and Minnie at the ceremony.”

“This storm isn’t my fault…”

Bored with the argument coming from the soon-to-be-married-and-probably-soon-to-be-divorced couple behind him, John lifted his hand to rub his eyes, then halted. While he doubted the motion would hurt, his left eye was still sensitive after surgery.

Casting his gaze around at the other nearby gates, the obviously heightened nerves of his fellow travelers were evident. Shoulders slumped, pulled down from the weight of heavy bags as well as weather concerns. Parents snapped at children. Couples snapped at each other. Customers snapped at the airline representatives standing behind the armor of the desk.

Women marching in heels creating a staccato noise in the background along with men dressed for business meetings, their ties loosened and suit jackets abandoned, paced the floor with their cell phones glued to their ears as they shot glances out the window as though glares or prayers could keep Hurricane Helen at bay.

The TV mounted overhead blared about the impending hurricane, the screen filled with meteorologists standing in thin rain jackets, their hoods blown back and wet hair plastered to their foreheads, cautioning everyone to stay inside as the wild winds whipped about them. If they listened to their own advice, they’d be out of this fuckin’ storm.

John sighed and stretched, the popping in his vertebrae probably heard by others. Without preamble, a voice suddenly sounded on the intercom, resonating throughout the airport.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Atlanta International Airport regrets to inform you that all flights are now canceled coming in and going out of the greater Atlanta region. The hurricane's winds have reached a level that deems airline travel impossible at this time. If you are already through security, please speak to your airline representative at your gate concerning transportation into Atlanta, hotel accommodations, and rescheduling flight arrangements. We thank you for your patience and cooperation.”

A collective groan rose into the air, quickly followed by mumbles, cursing, and the sound of people standing quickly as they gathered their belongings.

John stood but walked in the opposite direction. There was no reason to join the crowd around the airline desk at the gate. He swung his backpack over his shoulder and started down the hall. Stopping in front of an airport map, he scanned the legend.

“Can I help you?”

He startled, cursing lightly, having not seen anyone approach. Turning to his left, he saw an elderly man in a red vest, AIA embroidered over the left chest. “I was looking for the USO.”

“It’s right over there,” the man said, tapping his forefinger on the map. “You’re in luck. You’re already in the Domestic Terminal. You go outside of security, and it’s on level three. If you’ve got bags, you’ll have to claim them and recheck them before you can fly out on your rescheduled flight.”

John dipped his chin in acknowledgment and started to turn away.

“Thank you for your service, young man.”

Swallowing a snort, he dipped his chin a second time. Young man. Might be compared to him, but damn, I feel old. Pushing those thoughts to the side, he made his way past security to the baggage claim. The area was packed, and directions continually changed as the LED signs flashed different carousel numbers for different flights. The grumblings were turning mutinous as people pushed and crowded, each sure that they needed to be the first to grab their bags.

He waited, seeing his bags but knowing they’d