Return By Air – Tracey Jerald



“How far along are you again, dear?”

I let out a sigh of relief at my mother’s banal reaction over my overwhelming news. I’ve known since just before I left Alaska to come back to Florida, but this is the first time my parents and I have had a moment to reconnect.

“Just over twelve weeks,” I reply, modulating my voice carefully. I smooth my hand over my navy blue shirtwaist dress, my grandmother’s bracelet glittering at my wrist. I dressed the perfect part of the daughter my parents always wanted today—demure, not the woman I grew into being.

Most of the way to a doctoral degree in physics at the age of twenty-three, there was nothing I wanted more than to experience science tactically. That was until I met him.

Then all I wanted was more of his words.

My soul needed more of his kisses.

And I lost myself in his touch.

“Kara, are you listening?” my mother snaps.

“I apologize, Mother. You were saying?”

“I asked what your plans were?”

“Well, based on my calculations, the baby should be due around mid-March.”

“You haven’t seen a doctor yet?”

“No, not yet. I wanted to resolve matters at school as I don’t feel it would be appropriate for me to attend next semester.”

“No, that wouldn’t do at all. Would it?” My mother sniffs before taking a delicate sip of her tea. “Chip? What are your thoughts? You’re too quiet over there.” She tips her head imperceptibly in my father’s direction.

My father’s so detached, he might as well be in another room. He was on the phone for some time, scribbling hastily in his journal. When my mother’s voice calls him to attention, he replies, “Hmm?”

“I said, it wouldn’t do for Kara to attend school next semester. Do you agree?”

“Certainly not. After all, how will she pay for it?”

“Well, I understand babies are expensive, however, once grandfather’s trust comes in…” I carefully outline my—our—plans.

My parents stare at me blankly, as if I’m speaking a foreign language. Then my father chuckles warmly.

I relax my posture slightly. It will be all right. All that fear for nothing.

Then he opens his mouth and shows me why I was terrified to come here—back to where they ruined so many memories, why I escaped into the land of fact over emotion. I wish I could whisk myself back to the land that matched his eyes for just a moment. Because even though I was less prepared for the consequences of lying in his arms than I am for this conversation, I felt safe there.

Even if it was only for a short while. Here? I don’t know if I ever felt truly at rest.

Addressing my mother, he says, “Pat, excuse me for my terribly rude behavior earlier, love. That was what the call was about. Kara’s trust can be blocked, just as it was for Dean.”

“Excuse me?” I whisper. My older brother came out a few years before. And while we’ve maintained a close relationship, he was disowned by my parents. Or as disowned as a man of twenty-five could be. Thumbing his nose at the Malone heritage, he continued living exactly as he was as a fireman just outside the city limits.

I’ve loved my brother my whole life, and who he chooses to spend the rest of his life with means exactly one thing to me—Dean’s happiness. But to my parents, it posed an image issue.

So, they dealt with the image. Much like I suspect, to my queasy stomach, my father’s doing right now.

Ignoring my presence, my mother beams at him. “Oh, that’s delightful, darling. I knew you could do it.”

He smiles shyly at her praise for his abominable behavior. “They said it was trickier this time since Kara is over eighteen, however, I was able to convince the board she showed poor judgment by not only delaying her studies but by becoming sexually compromised. They agreed that if she was unable or unwilling to terminate the pregnancy, they would vote to revert her portion of the trust to the main fund.” Barely sparing me a glance, he bites down on his lower lip. “I don’t suppose you would consider—”

“How dare you!” I leap out of the settee I’m perched on, outraged. “This is your grandchild.”

“That—” My mother cringes. “—is an abomination. One we could still see about resolving if you’d use that logic you’re notorious for flaunting at inopportune times. Dear, Chip, did we apologize to the Fitzgeralds for the snub Kara gave their son the other night at the club?”

“I don’t believe we did. Let