White Dove Flying, Part I ©

       He leaned closer to whisper, "If Valerie should happen to pass your way, she's about  5'10",  shiny auburn hair and a smile as natural and beautiful as an autumn morning."  The stranger captivated Cory with his gracious manner and provocative voice.  He wasn't dressed like a tourist, but rather like a well-to-do playboy.  For an older man, he seemed quite sensual. She blushed when she realized he caught her staring, and she nervously pushed a long lock of sandy hair out of her face.
      They had both boarded the plane at San Juan International.  With a quick stop in Atlanta to change planes, they were again in the air headed for Denver.  Cory shared her vacation experiences with him, remembering with glowing eyes, the walks on the beach and the night life with all its music. Most memorable was the trip to the island where she had taken the pictures that now made her purse fat and hard to hold in her lap.
      He listened patiently to her stories.  She was immediately drawn to him.  It didn't seem unusual to her.  In fact she didn't even notice that he seemed to know her so well.  Then he began telling her about a woman, someone very special to him.  His whole demeanor changed as he began unraveling the details of her life.  "She takes on each new adventure in life as if it will be her last," he said.   "She is accomplished in everything she tries and yet maintains an air of honesty and simplicity."
      As they were nearing Denver, he pulled out a blue napkin with a white dove on it.  Obviously, it was very special to him.  "She loves white doves.  She told me--- one day, she will fly with the doves."
      The plane landed and the man stood to leave.  He was very tall.  Cory slid the strap of her purse over her shoulder and picked up her gum wrappers.  She noticed the blue napkin lying in the seat beside her.  He was gone.  She searched the air terminal but he had vanished.  The terminal was now empty and for the first time, she really looked at the napkin.  On the back the name, Michael, was handwritten, along with a Denver phone number.
       Cory's fingers trembled as she dialed the number.  Her thoughts raced back to the tall stranger and their time together on the airplane, and again she blushed.

      "Michael, it's Cory.  I'm so glad I found you."
      "Uuhhh— Cory?  Do I know you?"
      "Yes you know me.  I'm Cory from the airplane.   I have your napkin."
      "Who are you?  What do you want?"  
      "I have your napkin—  the one with the dove on it.  I know how trivial this sounds, but it seemed so important to you—  please don't hang up."  Realizing that she had been mistaken, her voice faltered.  Cory would never have called a total stranger, yet, everything within her compelled her to continue.  Without thinking, she  blurted into the receiver.  "The man on the plane talked about Valerie.  He lost his napkin.  When I tried to catch up with him after we got off the plane, he'd vanished..   I'd like to find out who he is and return it."
      "Valerie?   How do you know Valerie?  How did you get my number?  This better be good.  You've ruined my omelet."
      "From the napkin.  Your number is on the napkin." 
      There was a pause on the other end.  This time, Michael sounded more curious than irritated.  "I have no idea who the man on the plane could be.  I haven't flown in months, but I have the weirdest feeling that this telephone conversation has happened before, like deja vu."
      "I know.  I have the same feeling.  He said something else—  maybe it makes sense to you.   He said, ‘Her favorite picture is the one of the flying doves.'"
      "This whole thing is just too way out, of course I know that.  Look, will you be there for a while?"
      "Yes, I'm stuck here for six hours.  My plane doesn't leave until four."
      "Sit tight. I'll be there in about an hour.  Ok?"
      For a second, she wondered if this was the best course of action, but for only a second. "How will I know you?"
      "I'll go to the Information Center on the main floor and have you paged." 
      Cory spent the next hour vacillating from one extreme to the other.  Of course, I'll meet him, no, I won't, but of course, I will.   Finally, she reached the main floor just as her name was being called.  Michael stood with his back to her as she approached.  "Michael?"
      He turned and smiled.  "You don't look anything like you sound."
      "Is that bad? "
      "No, not at all."  He smiled, squinting his eyes and then raising one eyebrow.   "I guess I didn't think of you as being so short.  Actually, you look just fine and—" raising that eyebrow again, "You probably need something to eat and after you ruined my breakfast, so do I.  There's a place close by, come on—   and don't worry about my rudeness.  I'd rather eat lunch with a pretty lady anytime than eat my world-famous omelet alone."
      They sat looking out through a large window, watching people as they passed with their luggage.    Both noticeably uncomfortable, it was a few moments before either spoke.
      "The man on the plane--- you look like him, sound like him—   When I saw you, I couldn't believe my eyes.   I thought you were him for just a second,  until I realized . . . you're much younger. "  Cory reached into her purse to get the napkin, but it wasn't there.  "I know it was here.  I ran all over the terminal with it in my hand.  The only thing that could have happened was when I called you, maybe I didn't put it back in my purse."
      "Do you want to go back and look for it?"
      "No, of course not.  It wouldn't still be there anyway."  There was another awkward silence before she continued.  "The man on the plane said, ‘The little boy isn't the only one frightened.'" 
      Michael spilled his coffee.  "How could he possibly know that?  Valerie showed me a painting she did of her son hiding under his bed."  They were both  silent for a moment.  "This is too eery--- and what about the
dejavu thing?"
      "It seems so natural sitting here—  talking to you— like we already know one another."  Cory reached to twist a lock of hair.
      "Yes, exactly.  It is strange."  He smiled, noticing her nervous gesture.    "Today—  all of this—  is an unnerving experience.  Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?"
      "I'm not sure, but I do believe in a higher power and I know we all have a guardian angel."
      "I believe that too."
      "I don't understand why we've been thrown together, but it seems it may have something to do with Valerie.  Maybe--- if you want, you could tell me about your relationship with her."
       " I met Valerie only a few weeks ago and am aware that it's a vulnerable time for both of us.  We are both getting over broken relationships and share this feeling of emptiness, but we clicked immediately."  Michael paused for breath, searching Cory's face.  "Do you want me to continue?"
      "Yes, please."
      "Our dates are mostly hand-holding, stops at side-walk cafes and flowers. In a short time, we've built our own space together.   We talk a lot.  We have our times of laughter, of prank pulling, and— " his voice trailed,  "Creating those intimate moments that make memories.  Yes—  she's funny brave.  I guess what I mean is, I like her a lot.
       "When I took her home last night, we tripped over some toys laying in the yard.  I stopped to pick up a squirt gun and shot her in the backside with it.  When she laughs, she makes me feel ten feet tall.  Her laugh is so infectious and teasing."
      "I'm not sure how I fit into all this, but I feel so drawn.  The very fact that you came to the airport to meet me is odd in itself.  It's not even like me to phone someone I don't know."
      "Well you know me now, do you have time to meet Valerie?  I could take you to her house.  She and her children live with her parents."
      Cory frowned, pondering— then smiled.   "Why not?  Maybe she knows the man on the plane."

      They pulled into the drive against the white picket fence that separated the house from the neighbor's.  Cory opened the car door and climbed out, nearly stepping on a blue squirt gun.  It brought a smile to her face.
      Valerie's father came around the side of the house and spotting Michael, his face beamed with recognition.  Michael introduced Cory and they were invited inside.
      "I'm sorry Valerie's not here," he told them.  "She teaches an art class for children every Saturday.  It's part of an outreach program at our church."
      "What beautiful paintings.  Are you a painter too?"
      "No, I'm afraid not."  He laughed.  "These are all my daughter's.  She's the painter in the family--- and the writer--- and the seamstress--- "   With each added profession, his smile broadened.
      "The doves look like they're almost alive in that painting."
      "That's her favorite.  She tells people, ‘This one's me.'"  He smiled, pointing to the largest one.  It seemed to be leading the rest in a flight pattern.
      "The man on the plane said she would fly with the doves."
       "Would you like to see her album of modeling pictures?"
      "I'd love to--- "  Thumbing through the gold embossed album, Cory could only whisper, "she's beautiful."
      Valerie's father leaned back in his recliner and smiled.  "The Lord poured all the looks and talent in the family out on her, then He broke the mold."
      "The man on the plane said she had a whole list of accomplishments.  Funny—  he told me about the doves, and this painting too, and this one— "  She realized they were puzzled.  "I don't understand it myself, but he knows her well."
      After a visit and iced tea, Michael noticed Cory glancing at her watch and realized she needed to get back to the airport. 
      It was a short drive back.  "I'm so glad to have met him.  Your Valerie is surrounded by special people."  She smiled as Michael blushed.
      "I'm really not that nice.  You don't know me at all."
      "Perhaps I know a part of you that few people see.  I'm disappointed that I didn't get to meet Valerie.  Don't forget to ask her about the man on the plane for me.  If she knows who he is, send me a name and phone number.  If you could have seen his face when he was showing the napkin to me, you'd understand why this is so important to me.  Even if I can't return it now, I feel driven to at least connect with him."
      "I don't understand what you said about the boy not being the only one afraid."
      "I don't either.  I looked for the painting of the boy, but didn't see anything like what you described."
      "No, the painting wasn't there.  It's upstairs in the boy's room.  Did you see the boy?  He was there, peeking out at us from the kitchen with the same scared look in his eyes."
      "Yes, I saw him.  I knew instantly who he was—  the look in his eyes—  I saw him again a few minutes later, looking in at us through the patio door."
      "I missed that. When you were talking to Valerie's father, did you feel anything strange?"
      "He was there, wasn't he?"
      "It's creepy I know, but yes,  I felt him too."  Michael raised one shoulder trying to hide a cold shiver.   "I don't understand any of this.  It's almost as if he's a supernatural being and he's trying to tell us something."
      "If you figure it out, let me know."
      "Do you want to keep in touch?"
      Cory turned toward him, smiling.  "Of course, friends . . . ok?
      "You got it!

      At the airport, Michael stopped to drop Cory in front of the terminal.  As she was getting out of the car, he called after her.  "Valerie and I have a real honest to goodness date tonight, just her and me.  I'm going to take her out to dinner, maybe dancing."

      Cory was back on a plane on the last leg of her journey home, headed for Portland.  Home was becoming a reality again, but then she began to wonder.   Did these past hours—  days really happen, or was it all an elaborate dream?  Her purse, with it's shoulder strap hanging, lay in her lap, still plump with pictures of the trip to the island of Culebra.  The memory of the island brought an inward smile.  It was the high point of her vacation.  She sighed in relief, tossing her hair out of her face, welcoming the thought of being home again.  Snuggling , she found the comfortable warm spot and  settled back in private thought.
      Two days earlier, the tall stranger boarded the plane just ahead of her at San Juan International.   When Cory boarded the plane, he was already there.  He stood so she could take her window seat.  He was charming and witty. 
      What seemed so natural at the time--- his talk of Valerie, took on a more unreal aspect now.  The six hour layover in Denver was real enough.  It had to be.  She could still feel the warm glow of Michael's parting hug.  Without the napkin though, she had no proof.

      She slipped her key into the lock of her apartment and turned to push open the door with her back, tossing baggage aimlessly on her way to the shower.  Later, she settled on the sofa with a bowl of maple nut ice cream, a towel still around her head.  The phone rang.  It was Michael.
      "How did your date go?"
      "Cory, I'm really shook up and I need to talk.  I know we don't know one another very well, but if I don't tell someone, I'm going to lose it."
     "Michael, what's wrong?"
      "We were in the restaurant eating when Valerie told me about an ex husband.  She had him served with a restraining order a year ago, but felt I needed to know that he's a little crazy.  She hasn't dated until now because he told her that he would kill her and anyone he saw her with."
      "Michael, you're scaring me.  This is heavy."
      "I know—  wait'll you hear the rest of it.  I asked her what he looked like so I'd know him if I saw him.  She said, ‘Crazy eyes.  He has crazy eyes.'  The same instant, I looked beyond her to see a man sitting behind her staring at me.  She noticed the look on my face, turned to face him and freaked.  It was him.  There were some bad words thrown around and we split.  He followed and caught up with us in the alley.  More bad words, but we managed to lose him and get to my car."
      "Are you alright?"
      "Yeah, but that's not all."
      "Oh my gosh— "
      "Valerie said she didn't want our night to be ruined, so we drove around for a while and ended up on the hill overlooking the lake and made out."
      "Are you sure you're alright?"
      "No--- I'm not sure.  Please don't stop me though, I've got to talk."
      "I'm listening."
      "It was passionate and out of control.  I knew she wanted me, and I wanted her like I've never wanted anyone, ever, but I kept thinking it might be just an escape for her.  Anyway, I told her, ‘Right time, right place baby, and we will.'  Honestly Cory, I've never said ‘no' to a woman in my life." 
      "Did you take her home then?"
      "No.  We went dancing.  Her ex showed up right after we got there and there was another confrontation.  He had to be drug away this time.  It was the second time tonight someone called the police.  By the time I took her home, the police were waiting at her house.  They said they were there for her protection."  Michael's voice trailed off.  There was a pause—      "I wish I had."
      "I said, I wish I had.  Damn, I wish I had."

      Cory tossed most of the night, wondering why these people had changed her life so much.  She had never met Valerie; only seen Michael and Valerie's father, once.  And what about the man on the plane?  She couldn't put her finger on it, but there was something about him—   He said Valerie still had something to accomplish.  Obviously, it had something to do with her, but what?
      Two nights later, just before dawn, Cory woke from a restless sleep and got up to get a drink.  As she passed the coffee table, she noticed the napkin laying there.  "Now, how did that get there?"  She startled herself talking out loud as she bent to pick it up.  That's when she noticed Valerie's name on the napkin.  Under her name was1953 - 1992.

      She was back in the airport booking a flight to Denver.  Never had time gone so slow as now.  Why didn't I call Michael before I left?  In Denver, she ran to the nearest phone. A feeling of urgency filled her and settled in the pit of her stomach as she dialed Michael's number . . . no answer.  Searching her purse, she found her address book and dialed Valerie's house.  Only a message—  "We're at the church, saying good bye, please leave a message."  Valerie's father's voice trembled in the message.  The words, "saying good bye" caught somewhere between Cory's voice and the depths of her throat.   She turned, nearly bumping into a mother and her small child, running for the front door of the terminal.  For once, an empty cab was there, waiting.
      The cab pulled into the church parking lot.  It was filled with cars and many people standing, embracing and holding hands.  She paid the driver and turned in time to see an explosion of doves flying from the steeple.  In a burst of wing flapping, they flew from the bell tower filling the air with the sound of rushing wind.  The stranger's words came flooding back— "She will fly with the doves."
      Cory spotted Michael off to one side, standing alone.  Running toward him, she literally threw herself into his open arms.  They melted within tears, both bodies racked with emotion.  "Oh my God, oh my God," sobbed Cory.  "Oh my God."       She saw the blue napkin with the white dove on it in Michael's hand.
Written by Michael Blackwell
                                                                                                                                                                            and Sheryl Hamilton Chaney