They walked off the plane to baggage claim. The time they had spent together had felt comfortable and awkward because it felt comfortable. She took her phone out of her purse and turned it on. With friends flying in on different planes a cell phone would prove useful, much as her time on call in while computer support and 3 horrible years working for stupid bosses made her hate the blasted thing. She still half jokingly claimed to have post traumatic stress disorder associated with pagers going off and phones ringing.
“Is your family meeting you?”
“Yes, they are probably here now. We usually meet at baggage claim.”
“When do your friends arrive?”
“You have 2 hours!”
“I have to pick up the rental car, see if I can find a grocery store, get a local map and be back here for 3:40. I’ll be busy.”
"Have you been here before?"
"No, but I'm a big girl and have traveled lots of places. I'll be fine. I'm a Katrina survivor, we know how to make due. Are you worrying about me?"
He realized he was but said, "Well no, but I do want to make sure that you make it back to New Orleans in one piece, so we can start my training."
"Ah, the fire of a new student! It’s interesting to see it in person instead of via Email. This could be fun." Please Gods don't let him burn himself out. Slow and steady is what he needs.
“Wait, when are you flying back?” I want to continue to talk to this woman. I want her phone number, her Email address. Hell part of me wants to take her home with me right now. Where did this fire come from? Shit, I don't even know her name. How did she get away with not telling me her name? Witch, indeed.
“Monday.” She says absently, looking up at the signs and finally seeing the baggage claim area.
“Really, Monday when?”
“Hmm, in the afternoon, 3 something, via Philadelphia, but my friends leave at noon and I have to get them here in the rental car. Ah here we are and the carousel is already moving."
“Well then maybe I’ll see you Monday.” But what he was thinking is you bet I’ll see you Monday, because I’m going right to the ticket counter and adjusting my flight. I was planning on returning on Sunday but, Mom will be pleased to have me spend another night. And the guys can start the week without me.
She thinks definitely Bob Deja’vu. Vibe indeed. She is searching the carousel for her suitcase. "Do you see your family yet?"
He is looks around and seeing no one says "No not yet, but then the pilot said that the winds got us here a few minutes early.”
Her suitcase is coming down the carousel. She reaches for it. He sees her reach and is right behind her trying to help. When she pulls it off the carousel she bumps into him and drops the suitcase on his foot.
“Oh my, Oh, I’m so sorry.”
Surprised by his own intensity he says smiling: “Give me your phone number and you’re forgiven. Coehlo says : ‘learn but always learn with other people by your side.’”
She shakes her head at him and smiles and pulls his ticket stub with the book list out of his pocket and smoothly borrows a pen from the man standing next to them “Here is my Email address.”
“StregaNola?” he says looking down at it.
“Yes, I had the address before Nola got splattered on everything postKatrina. I sometimes use Nola as a nom de’plume and it is my teaching name.”
“Streganola, oh Strega Nola, I get it. Nola. I like it. But what’s your real na…..”
“Owen,” He finds it strangely comforting that his name has a unique link to her tradition. And she smiles when she says it. "I think that your family is waving at you”.
He turned and she’s right, it’s his mom & dad. How embarrassing to be met at the airport by his parents like some kid. He scrambled to write his phone number and email address on the ticket stub and tore it off handing it to her. “Nola, Promise you’ll contact me.”
“Owen, there you are.” And he hugged his mom and she hugged him to. They clearly love and even like each other. He grabbed his father’s hand and shook it and then they bear hugged while still holding hands. Very manly she smiled.
“Who is your friend?” His mom asks.
“This is Nola.”
“Hello, nice to meet you."
Sounding clearly pleased, “Owen you didn’t let us know you were bringing a friend with you.”
“Oh, no ma'am. We just met on the plane.”
Really, thinks his mom. I've seen that look on his face before and I'd swear that he has more invested in this woman than a plane ride.
"Ma'am, have a lovely birthday." and she dipped her head to Owen's father. "Owen, it was nice to have your company on the plane. I'm off to pick up my rental car now. "
"Excuse me a minute, Mom.” And dropping his bag at his dad’s feet says “Watch this for me, please.” And he took her elbow and escorted her toward the car rental counter.
"Nola, promise me that you will contact me. A Strega's words have power".
Oh, she thinks, this one is definitely going to be trouble. "I promise. Now get back to your family before they think something strange is going on."
"Oh, but something strange is going on." he said before he walked away.
"O.K. Let's go" he says as he strolls up to his dad and grabs his carry on. "Mom, don't start. I have to make a small detour to the ticket counter, I’m staying until Monday”.