Jerry leaned back in the chair, eyes closed and lost in thought. People in the terminal regarded him as a sleepy tourist trying get a few moments rest. But Jerry was not asleep, just overwhelmed.
Less than twenty-four hours earlier he was sitting on a patrol craft on the Tigris-Euphrates River. He lived and fought for over two years along the river - a combat zone where every breath he took could have been his last. He saw many men die and killed many more but now it was over. He was going home.
Having lived on the edge for so long, Heathrow International Airport was a nightmare for him. Everyone was suspect. All packages contained bombs; insurgents hid in the shadows; an attack was imminent.
He hoped these feelings subsided once onboard the airliner. For now, he sat motionless. Intent on keeping his eyes closed while waiting for the announcement to board.
An hour later, he heard the announcement over the public address system.
He quickly headed toward the gate, carrying a small bag with his personal effects. He did not check baggage having accumulated essentially nothing during his time overseas.
Once onboard he noticed a middle-aged woman sitting in his assigned seat. He politely asked, "M'am, I think this is my seat assignment. Can you check your boarding pass?"
Slightly irritated, she answered, "I know this is not my seat. I was hoping to sit here with my daughter. Do you mind?"
Without hesitation, he politely said, "Not a problem, M'am. Stay here. I'll move. What's your seat assignment?"
Disarmed by his manners, she embarrassingly smiled at him and said, "Seat C25... Thank you."
Jerry smiled back at her, and then moved on to search for the seat.
He slowly shuffled along the aisle scanning ahead, being careful not to disturb the other passengers.
Seat Change Anyone?
Noticing an empty seat in the back, he quickened his pace.
As he neared the row, he saw a young woman in her early twenties sitting adjacent to the empty seat.
The young woman was wearing a baseball cap, a jacket, and sunglasses.
Oddly she did not look at anyone directly. She purposely tried to avoid contact with other people.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Jerry quietly said to himself, "Good.... Someone else who doesn't want to be bothered."
He verified the empty seat was C25, placed his bag in the overhead, then sat down and fastened his seat belt.
The young woman briefly looked his way, their eyes met but not a word was said. Once off the ground, Jerry leaned his seat back and closed his eyes.
Sleep comes quickly for those who have not slept for more than one hour at a stretch. Back on the river, this was the norm.
Gunfire, explosions, and sounds of men dying echoed throughout the night. Jerry's ability to stay alert regardless of his lack of sleep was one reason why he survived two consecutive tours in Iraq.
Now on the flight home, he decided to let his guard down and rest. The drone of the airliner's jet engines combined with years of fatigue produced the desired effect.
He fell asleep soon after the airliner leveled off at its cruising altitude.
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight Movie Trailer
The young woman
The young woman sat quietly next to Jerry. She was worried when he sat down next to her. She wanted to avoid awkward, small talk with a stranger on a long flight.
But, it was immediately obvious that the stranger had no inclination to talk to her or anyone for that matter. The stranger looked tired, emotionally beaten and drained of feeling.
The young woman, relieved to be left alone, opened a paperback book, and began to read. Normally she read a book from cover to cover on a long flight.
But this time, she could not concentrate. She found herself losing her place and rereading paragraphs. The sleeping stranger distracted her.
Each time she finished reading a sentence, she casually glanced at him. Although they had not spoken, his presence had a curious effect on her.
She felt giddy like in high school when the cutest boy in class would walk by.
The young woman eventually gave up trying to read. Instead she just held the book up pretending to read in order to disguise her ulterior motive. She was studying the sleeping stranger.
A good-eye for first impressions, she figured him to be in his early-thirties. He was clean-shaven, and his hair was short. He was not tall but extremely fit and strikingly handsome. She did not see a ring on his finger but did notice scars along his arm. They were purple in the shape of little stars.
A tired soldier returning home she gathered. "Interesting," she thought.
She wanted to wake him, feigning the need to use the restroom, but decided not to disturb him. He slept so soundly and seemed content to be alone. "Let him sleep", she said to herself.
The young woman made another attempt at reading but soon she fell victim to the steady drone of the airliner's jet engines. She was asleep; unknowingly she laid her head on the stranger's shoulder.
Later in the night as the cabin grew colder, a flight attendant laid a blanket across them. She assumed the sleeping couple was traveling together.
Quietly they slept. Her head comfortably resting on the sleeping stranger's shoulder.
Sleep So Powerful...
Jerry was lost in the darkness of a deep sleep. It was a sleep so powerful that all consciousness was lost.
His body was recharging itself, regaining its composure. His time in hell had come and gone. It was time to rejoin civilization.
While in this state he felt a soft nudge on his shoulder, followed by the sensation of warmth. It did not wake him.
Instead, the darkness turned to light. He was dreaming, something he had not experienced since he was a child.
The soft voice of a woman spoke to him, "Please. Tell me your name?"
He could not see her; just a bright light that blinded him. Jerry listened intently but did not answer... even the voice sounded so real.
The voice repeated hesitantly, "Please... tell me your name?"
He answered cautiously, "My name is Jerry. Can I help you?"
Without warning, a young woman appeared. It looked like the same woman who sat next to him on the airplane.
Except, she was not wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. He could see her long red hair and deep, blue eyes.
Jerry felt a lump in his throat grow and his heart beat rapidly. She was stunningly beautiful.
Timidly she replied, "Jerry. Please tell me... tell me everything about you."
What followed was euphoria. Jerry had suppressed his feelings for many years. Now, this young woman offered a release.
He gave in to the young woman's request and told her everything. She felt his pain, his sorrow, and his emptiness. In silence she cried for him.
When he finished, Jerry was elated. He felt absolved of his sins.
Then, with tears in her eyes, the young woman slowly began to describe her life. And like Jerry, the same feeling of euphoria came over her.
When she finished, the young woman stood silent. They had talked for hours, reliving each other's life. Their words became the other's reality. They were no longer strangers.
Suddenly they embraced and kissed passionately. The young woman nearly fell to her knees the moment their lips touched. Jerry held her tightly to keep her from falling.
As he held her, he asked the young woman, "What is your name?" She looked into his eyes and whispered, "Scarlett".
Then, ...the seat belt sign sounded loudly.
Just a Dream
The sign's audible warning suddenly awakened Jerry and the young woman. They turned to one another and noticed the blanket draped over them. Their eyes met but neither spoke.
The young woman suddenly realized she had been resting her head on Jerry's shoulder. She blushed, dropped her gaze, and then turned away to avoid his questioning expression.
They sat in silence not looking at each other as the airliner made its final approach to JFK International. They had slept for hours, not one word exchanged between them.
Jerry assumed the young woman turned away embarrassed for laying her head on his shoulder She blushed when he looked at her.
Jerry chuckled at the thought, "No matter. It was just a dream."
Back to Business
The airliner landed at JFK International at eight o'clock in the morning, slightly ahead of schedule.
As it taxied to the gate, Jerry remembered his itinerary indicated a scheduled pick-up at the airport.
The driver would be in uniform and easily recognizable. The next leg on his trip home would begin soon.
After deplaning the airliner, Jerry headed toward baggage claim focused on finding his driver.He was unaware of the woman who walked a few steps behind him.
She was the same woman who avoided his gaze earlier on the airliner, lost in thought paying little attention to her surroundings.
When he neared baggage claim, Jerry noticed a uniformed Navy officer and walked toward him. "Are you here to pick-up someone?" he asked.
The Navy officer answered, "Are you Mark Wills?"
"No, I'm Gary Matthews, " he replied.
The Navy officer held out his hand, smiled and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you Commander Jerry Buckner. I'm Lieutenant Mark Matthews. How was your flight?"
Shaking his hand, Jerry answered, "Please to meet you Mark. It was a long flight but I was able to sleep."
"Excellent.... Sir, if you follow me, I'll take you to the hotel. We were able to book you a room last minute at the Milford Plaza. It's within walking distance from the conference center. Do you have any luggage?"
Pointing to the small carry-on, Jerry replied, "No. This is all I have."
"Very well, sir. This way to the car," gestured the Lieutenant.
Love at first sight?
Afraid to Let Go
As they turned and headed in the direction of the airport's parking area, a young woman stopped them short.
She looked confused as if she wanted to ask a question.
Jerry smiled and broke the silence, "Can I help you?"
The young woman struggled to answer in a voice he had heard before,
"Your name is... Jerry Buckner, born October 12, 1976 in Texas. You are... a Navy officer returning from Iraq and... plan to be in New York for a few days... before continuing on to Texas.... I can't explain how I know these things... about you... but I do... and I'm afraid!"
Jerry felt a lump in his throat grow and his heart beat rapidly. The young woman could not hide her natural beauty despite the feeble attempt to downplay it with a ball cap and sunglasses. She was stunning.
When Jerry failed to respond to her comments, the young woman's eyes clouded over with tears and her head dropped. She looked at the floor silently screaming.
Realizing she was waiting for his response, Jerry slowly stated,
"Your name is Scarlett Mahon... born November 22, 1982 in New York. You are... an actress and plan to be in New York for a few days... before continuing on to Los Angeles.... I also can't explain how I know these things about you... and I also... am afraid!"
Suddenly they embraced and kissed passionately. Scarlett, like in the dream, nearly fell to her knees the moment their lips touched.
Jerry held her tightly to keep her from falling. As he held her, Scarlett whispered, "I'm afraid to let go."
"I don't want to either," answered Jerry.
Lieutenant Matthews shuffled away as the two kissed to give them privacy.
He thought about interrupting but decided against it.
He did not mind the inconvenience. He was escorting the only living three-time recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the same man who saved his brother's life in Iraq.
"Scarlett! There you are! I've been looking for you.... I said to wait at the pick-up area. The driver is waiting with the car but it's sure to be towed if we don't get there now. Come on!"
It was Scarlett's older sister, Clara, who was noticeably irritated.
Scarlett looked at her sister, and then looked at Jerry. She had to leave but her feet felt glued to the floor. She could not move.
Jerry took a step back from Scarlett and produced a business card from his jacket. "Take this... and call me when you get a chance. The cell number is still good. Okay?"
Scarlett looked down at the floor and nodded in acknowledgment. She wanted to hide her tears.
Jerry continued, "If I don't answer immediately, leave a message with a time to call back and a number to dial. I will call you back. Okay?"
Scarlett looked up at Jerry and again nodded in acknowledgment. When their eyes met Jerry saw the tears in her eyes. Unknowingly he was looking at a woman in love with him.
Then, Scarlett silently turned away and joined her sister.
Jerry watched them as they left. He was lost in thought when Lieutenant Matthews spoke to him, "Commander, are your ready?"
"Yes! Let's go," replied Jerry.
"How long have you known each other?" asked the Lieutenant.
"Who?" wondered Jerry.
"The pretty young woman trying to hide the fact that she is a definite looker."
Jerry smiled and replied with a question, "How long was I indisposed?"
"...about ten minutes!".
"Hmmm.... about ten minutes," smiled Jerry.
As they headed to the parking area, Lieutenant Matthews' regard for the decorated hero skyrocketed beyond his expectations.
Short Film about Love at First Sight!
PS: Do check out the video clip below. It's a short film about love at first sight.
It has humor, cameos of actresses and actors that you might recognize, and has a great ending, too.
Gives getting "shot through the heart" a new image!
johnmariow on April 29, 2017:
I enjoyed this short story. It was well written. The ending was pleasing.
hbng84 (author) on September 02, 2014:
Thanks for the comment!
hbng84 (author) on September 02, 2014:
Thanks for the comments and reading the story!
Saoud Mohamed from Dubai UAE on September 02, 2014:
Honestly WOW nice!!
Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on September 01, 2014:
Interesting story that kept me reading until the end. The plot was good but not very surprising . Voted up :). Needs a bit more detail when it comes to the dream. They were connecting at such a level I wanted more intensity. Thank you for sharing this story with great potential.
hbng84 (author) on September 01, 2014:
Change of pace; short story about love at first sight? Hope Readers find this one entertaining.