I heaved Mirela's suitcase in the overhead and gave her the window seat.
"When we get over Vegas, take some pictures."
She stared at me. "But I don't know anything about angles, Caleb!"
I laughed. "The window is, like, two foot by one foot. You don't have enough room to do angles."
"Oh, shut up," she pouted and I kissed her. We buckled in and she pulled me over to kiss me again. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," I said, touching her cheek tenderly. "I-" I sighed. No. Now wasn't the time. I cleared my throat. "I really liked that wild berry smoothie."
"I know, right?" she said.
"So what's in your suitcase that weighs a million pounds?"
She looked around nervously then beckoned me over so she could whisper in my ear.
"A stronbox with $2,000 in it," she whispered and I gaped at her.
"Are you insane!?" I yelled and people looked around.
"Shh," she hissed. "Ma made me take it. I didn't feel comfortable putting it in an envelope or anything so...."
I shook my head and kissed her forehead. We rested our heads together until our new friends came down the aisle. I liked them. They seemed like a nice couple. As they teased each other while putting their luggage overhead, I wondered if that's what Mirela and I would look like in 40 years.
"Have you two been to Las Vegas?" Margaret asked and we shook our heads, Mirela leaning forward to see around me. "It's so much fun. Are you on your honeymoon?"
"No," we said in unison quickly.
"We have been in desperate need of a vacation," Mirela said.
Margart winked knowingly and I rubbed my neck.
"What about you guys?" I asked.
"It's our 50th anniversary," John said, smiling at his wife and kissing her cheek, prompting a giggle. "Our kids bought us a special ticket so we could visit every major city in the US."
"Wow," Mirela said. "Was Oklahoma City part of it?"
Margaret nodded. "Bricktown was... interesting."
Mirela laughed. "That canal... they don't clean it very often."
We all laughed. "So, Mirela is a very beautiful name but it sounds foreign," John said and Mirela nodded.
"I'm half Romanian," she answered.
"Have you been?" Margaret asked.
"Yeah, I have. Several times. My ta- father's parents lived there."
"When's the last time you went?"
Mirela bit her lower lip and I held her hand.
"It's been a while," I answered for her and Margaret's face fell, understanding.
"I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I didn't mean to upset you."
Mirela smiled. "It's okay. Really, it is," she said when Margaret looked doubtful. "He passed a long time ago."
Just then, the flight attendant stood to do the usual safety spiel. While she did, Mirela got comfortable and leaned into me. God I loved it when she leaned into me. I smiled and held her hand, kissing it. It didn’t take her long to fall asleep.
“Young man,” John whispered and I looked over. We were in the air and Margaret had fallen asleep, too. He passed me something. “I can tell you love her and I happen to know that, as a photographer, a trip to Vegas isn’t cheap. Take her on a nice dinner.”
I frowned and looked at what he had given me. My eyes widened. It was a check for $200.
“I can’t take this,” I whispered. “Thank you but this is….”
“A gift,” he interrupted, “from one love sick man to another.” I smiled and he passed me a pen. “Just put your name in there.”
I did so and passed his pen back.
“Thank you very much,” I said. I thought. “What hotel are you in?”
“Uh… I think it’s called the Excalibur.”
“Would you like to join us for a nice dinner in two nights?” I offered, holding up the check.
He beamed. “I would love to.” Suddenly, he looked sad. “We don’t… we haven’t heard from our children in a while. They… this is their way of getting us an anniversary gift without actually coming out here.”
“I’m very sorry,” I said. “I can’t imagine not being around for my mother.”
“Is your father gone, too?”
I shook my head, frowning. “No. He’s… well, he disowned me,” I mumbled and John looked horrified.
“Why in the world would he do that?”
“My brother is an addict,” I explained, “and has been robbing my studio.” His look of horror increased. “I’ve called the cops each time and this wonderful young woman helped us find a good rehab place for him. He’s in there now but my father expects me to raise him like I did when we were kids.”
John clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Things like that are never easy. But you said your brother is doing well?” I nodded with a smile. “That’s good. I lost a high school friend to that mess.” He yawned. “Oh, forgive me. That layover was awful.”
I smiled. “Sleep. I should probably get some, too, if I’m going to keep up with her when she wakes up.”
He laughed and settled back. I carefully put the check in my wallet and leaned my chair back a little. Mirela mumbled in her sleep and I kissed her head. She calmed but she was crying. I sighed quietly and wiped her tears away. She was dreaming about her father, I was certain of it.
I woke to my camera disappearing. I rubbed my eyes.
“Sorry,” Mirela whispered. “I tried not to wake you but we’re over Vegas so I’m going to get some pictures.”
I stretched. “Go for it.”
She held it up to the window and leaned back, pressing the shutter button several times. She kept it up until the seatbelt sign came on. While we were landing, we looked at them.
“You have got to merge with us,” I said. “These are awesome shots, Mirela!”
“Thank you,” she said proudly.
“A piece of advice,” Margaret said after she had woken up and we looked over her. “The airport is much larger than Will Rogers. You’ll probably get overwhelmed since it’s your first time. Just follow the signs and you’ll get out just fine.”
“Thanks,” Mirela said.
I dug my wallet out and found one of my business cards. I passed it to John.
“Call me when you and your wife find a good time and place,” I said and he nodded.
“I will, young man.”
I smiled and we let them get off first.
“What was that about?” Mirela asked as I got out luggage down.
“He has given us a gift,” I said, “of a nice dinner. I’ve invited them along.”
“Aw! That was sweet of both of you.”
We hesitated before getting off the plane.
“Are you ready?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “Are you?”
“Then what are we waiting for?” she beamed and grabbed my hand, pulling me down the ramp and into the airport.