It came in waves. First her lunch, which she spewed all across the seatback of an innocent traveler, then the sobbing screams which filled the cabin of the airplane. The screams grew in intensity as the panic hit her in a series of shockwaves.
The flight attendant rushed water over and tried to calm Rene down while simultaneously apologizing to the other passengers, especially the woman who was in the line of fire of Rene’s vomit comet. Loud whispers reverberated throughout the cabin as people openly stared in disgust, pity and irritation as the situation unfolded.
“I-I-I have to go back,” Rene muttered to herself. She grabbed the flight attendant by the collar and pulled her close. The woman winced as Rene’s unforgiving breath wafted in her face. “Can’t they turn this plane around! It’s an emergency! Naomi…. Naomi please.”
The flight attendant quickly regretted wearing her bronze name tag that morning as the next several hours she was subjected to a series of insults from a high-strung Rene.
“Go on, Naomi, serve your peanuts,” Rene said. “It’s not like it’s your life that’s crumbling down all around you.” Naomi offered new seats to the passengers who flanked Rene on either side, all of which gladly accepted the offer.
Nearly all of the passengers including Rene were returning from sunny, relaxing beach vacations on the Grand Cayman Islands. The crystal clear aquamarine water, the pristine white sand and enough rum punch to relax Captain Morgan himself was now fading into the past as real life began to set in. While most passengers were sad to see their dream vacation come to an end, no one was as distraught as Rene.
A few of the passengers noticed Rene had grown pale and distant in the first hour of the flight. From then on her composure began to deteriorate rapidly. The unsettled travelers tossed around their speculations for the cause of Rene’s alarm as the hours drug on at a snail’s pace.
“She left a child behind,” one passenger said. “I’ll bet she forgot her own baby on the island. I’ve seen this happen before in one of my soaps.”
“Probably can’t take the reality of returning to work,” another suggested. “She must hate her job something fierce to react that way.”
“Only a fugitive would act like that,” said yet another. “She must be wanted in every state. Big dummy probably couldn’t take living in secrecy. She’ll get what’s coming to her.”
Out of all of the suppositions, no one came remotely close to guessing the real issue behind Rene’s meltdown. And no one would ever know, Rene thought to herself, not even her husband of fourteen years and not one of her four children. This secret, Rene swore, was one she would take to the grave.
Rene gasped as the hazy silhouette of Miami International Airport came into view through her airplane window. She immediately leapt from her seat and threw open the upper luggage compartments, tossing unsuspecting suitcases onto the cabin floor to reach her own. Other passengers ducked and held their arms over their heads to avoid injury from the baggage barrage.
Naomi and two other flight attendants attempted to calm her, but gave up after she refused to return to her seat. Rene stood defiantly near the front half of the plane, determined to be the first one off of the aircraft. The women resigned themselves to their own seats and buckled, announcing it was time for all passengers to do the same.
A number of travelers who had a full view of Rene near the front of the plane suppressed smirks and laughter when Rene stumbled and surfed with the changing angle of the descending plane. Rene lifted off the ground for a moment, missing the top of the cabin with her head by mere inches, as the tires hit the tarmac. What would have been an embarrassing situation for most, Rene took in stride. She was successful in her endeavor to get off the plane ahead of everyone else.
She didn’t consider the videos and pictures the passengers were already in the process of sharing to social media, news outlets and other sites that would go viral in a matter of hours. It didn’t matter to her. I need to get back to that island if it kills me, she thought.
Rene rushed to the customs check line, which seemed endless from her perspective. At least two dozen other passengers waited in line ahead of her from an earlier returning flight from the Bahamas. Rene knew that if she were to act uncouth and cut in front of the rest of the travelers she would best case scenario be sent to the back of the ever-growing line and worst case scenario be arrested and spend the night in Miami-Dade Detention Center. She decided she couldn’t take a chance on either and rummaged through her purse.
“Please, I have an emergency and I really need to get to the front of this line,” she said as she passed out five dollar bills to each traveler ahead of her line one by one. A few refused to accept the money and simply allowed her to pass on her way, but most begrudgingly accepted the bribe and allowed her to pass ahead. One hundred dollars shorter, Rene reached the front of the line.
As the gloved customs officers sorted through her belongings she felt her heartbeat rise through her throat. An officer just behind the one who was performing the routine search took notice of Rene’s unusual demeanor.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” the officer said. “I’d like you to step over here for a moment please.”
Rene’s face drained of all warmth and she stepped over to the officer. She held her arms out and spread her legs, hoping to speed along the search process, but her hopes were quickly dashed.
“Please come with me, I’m going to need to speak with you,” the officer said.
She followed the officer to the detention room just off to the side of the customs line. It was a blank, windowless room with two chairs and a small metal table in between. Collect yourself, Rene, you must get back to that island. Whatever it takes.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” the officer said as he took a seat across from Rene. Rene offered a weak smile in return. “A whole house of ghosts, really. Wanna tell me what you’re all spooked about?”
Rene swallowed the dry lump in her throat. “I’m not scared,” Rene said. “I’m- I’m in a hurry because… well… because I have an emergency. I need to get back to the island. I just have to get back there!”
The officer seemed taken aback by her sudden outburst. “Which island are you talking about?”
“The Grand Cayman Islands,” Rene said.
“You said you have an emergency, what is the problem?”
Rene debated on whether or not she could trust the officer fully for a moment. Despite her reservations and an extensive background of knowledge she’d acquired from binging true crime shows, she decided her best bet was to lie.
“My son,” she said. “Elliot… he didn’t make it on the plane! He’s still on the island.”
The gravity of the situation immediately dawned on the officer and he immediately reached for his radio. “We have a situation in customs, I need immediate assistance.”
The pilot of the small fixed-wing aircraft took hold of Rene’s hand and helped her into the passenger seat. Just moments prior he had received direct orders to get Rene to Owens Roberts International on Grand Cayman. While it was highly unusual for him to receive such an order, he gathered it was one of the rare child left behind missions.
“We’ll get to the island in no time, ma’am,” the pilot said. “I assure you that we will do everything in our power to ensure your safety.”
Rene pretended to hold back tears. “Thank you... I just want my baby back.”
When the small plane landed, the pilot helped her down and directed her to a special entrance of the airport building. She was whisked past customs and security checkpoints by uniformed officers. They brought her into a private room in a small police station just outside of the airport perimeter.
“Good evening,” a tall, middle-aged man dressed in a business suit said as he entered the room. “I’m Detective Curtis John. I’ve been assigned to your case, Mrs. Schuler.”
Rene was almost surprised that the man knew her last name, but she felt silly once she reminded herself he was a detective. It was all strange to Rene how she felt so peaceful yet unnerved at the same time. She was relieved to be back on the island, but now she found herself in hot water.
“When was the last time you saw Elliot,” he began questioning.
When was the last time she saw her child who never really existed in the first place, she wondered. “This morning, before we boarded the plane.”
“Didn’t the child board the plane with you?”
“Of course,” she feigned offense. “I wouldn’t just leave my child on an island by himself.” But she had, she remembered. “I mean… I made sure he had taken his seat and had his boarding pass with him.”
“When did you realize you had forgotten Elliot?”
A few situations bounced around in her head before she settled on an answer. The questions continued for nearly an hour until she felt completely spent. Despite her fear the detective might latch on that she was spewing a fountain of lies, it seemed he had taken the bait.
“I think he would have gone back to our resort,” she said. “He still had our spare room card. He probably went back there and waited for me.”
Detective John called up a car and drove Rene out to Crystal Cove Resort, a sprawling complex with ivory towers surrounded by swaying palm trees. The resort backed directly to the white beach and teal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
At the service counter, the attendant apologized to the detective and stated he had just begun his shift that afternoon, so he didn’t recognize Rene or know about a little boy. The attendant was able to pull up her room information and found out that she had indeed checked out earlier that morning. The only confusing part was that her room was only booked for one adult, no kids.
“There must be some mistake with your computers,” Rene said coldly. “I paid for two guests; one adult and one child.”
The young attendant apologized again for the system’s probable error. Rene was relieved they were speaking to such a timid young man. After several minutes of questioning and dead ends, Rene excused herself to the restroom.
Even though she was still under close watch by Detective John, she felt immediately relieved having the bathroom to herself. The restroom reminded her of an elegant, romantic beach hut. She recalled how just days earlier she was getting a massage in the resort’s island spa hut at the hands of a strong, handsome, tanned man whose name she would never forget.
“Sasha,” she sighed.
“No, I’m Lisa,” a voice responded from behind one of the stall doors.
Not alone. Rene flushed with embarrassment. But soon, she thought, she would be alone with her long lost love. Soon she and Sasha would run off into the tropical sunset together.
Rene convinced her husband to let her stay just one more night at the resort when he had to return home to Manhattan for a business meeting. The two agreed it would be better for the kids to head home early with their father to get back to school earlier. No one but her knew the real reason she had stayed behind.
It would have worked so well, too, Rene thought. Except for Sasha had taken off that evening she planned to confess her true feelings for him. She reluctantly boarded the plane that would take her back to her dreary life. But now, she knew, she could run off with Sasha at last.
Her daydreaming was interrupted by a sudden knock at the bathroom door.
“Rene?” the detective’s voice called from behind the door.
“I said this is Lisa!” the irritable voice yelled from within the same occupied stall.
“Dammit!” the detective cursed under his breath as she heard a series of footsteps fade away.
Rene sprinted for the other end of the restroom which opened directly to the beach. She swung the door wide open and ran for the spa hut on the other end of the resort property. Vacationers in their swim trunks and bikinis hardly noticed her as they reclined in the lounge chairs by the pool.
All of her cares melted away as she neared the wooden boardwalk which led to a series of stilted white beach huts. She raced past the first several huts, where couples were having their tense muscles relaxed by trained massage therapists, and kept her focus on the furthest one which seemed to stand alone over the crystal clear ocean waters.
Rene stopped in her tracks at the entrance of Sasha’s hut. Her face burned red from a combination of exhaustion, lust, sunburn and rage. There was the most beautiful man she had ever known. The man she had traversed oceans for. Sasha. But there was also another woman. A blonde haired, blue-eyed, perfectly tan tramp, Rene thought.
“Sasha!” Rene exclaimed.
Sasha looked up from his client and smiled, baring his perfectly white teeth which only drew Rene in deeper.
“Oh hi, Rene,” he said. “I’m with a client right now, can you come see me later?”
Rene regarded the woman, who was now facedown on the massage bench.
“But Sasha, I’ve come back for you.”
“Okay,” Sasha nodded. “You’ll have to book an appointment, Rene. I’m busy with other clients today. Maybe come back tomorrow.”
All of the passion built up inside Rene suddenly retreated from her body. She would have collapsed were she not held up by the intense adrenaline which replaced that same passion.
As if she had lost control of her own body, Rene grabbed ahold of the blonde woman on the massage table and yanked her away. The woman gasped in shock and grappled for a towel to cover herself.
“What the-” the woman saw the intense rage in Rene’s eyes and stepped backward.
Rene took her in her arms and carried her out of the hut as the woman kicked and screamed. With one great heave, she tossed the woman several yards out into the clear blue Gulf waters. The woman’s screams were cut short with a giant splash as she hit the water.
Rene’s rage now turned to Sasha, who stood motionless in his hut. She took hold of him in her arms and held him tightly. Sasha ripped away from her and put himself on the other side of the massage table.
“Rene! Rene, calm down, you are acting crazy!”
Rene tried to climb over the massage table, but Sasha held her at arms length by placing a firm hand on the top of her head. “Don’t you see that I’ve come all this way for you, Sasha? Don’t you know I love you?”
Sasha suddenly burst into a fit of laughter. Rene’s adrenaline began to fade as she grew embarrassed by his lack of passion for her.
“Sasha, what’s so funny?”
Sasha couldn’t look at her. He just kept on laughing hysterically for several minutes. Rene finally realized that it was all in her head, this love affair. Sasha would never run off into the sunset with her. He wasn’t in love with her like she had fallen for him.
She sulked back onto the boardwalk and walked back toward the resort building where she had left Detective John. As she passed the huts that flanked the boardwalk, she looked on with envy at the couples who were receiving massages together. How romantic, she thought.
Rene stopped in her tracks. At the end of the boardwalk, she saw him standing there. He looked flustered and hot in his business suit. The tropical breeze pulled at his navy blue tie. She had never really taken a good look at Detective Curtis John before, but now she was certainly glad she had.
“Detective,” she said.
She felt her legs spring into action and she threw her arms open wide as she raced toward the detective. He moved to her with open arms. If it couldn’t be Sasha, she thought to herself, she would be more than obliged to run off into the sunset with Detective John.
He took hold of her in his arms and she leaned her head back, ready for him to take her then and there.
“You’re under arrest,” he said plainly.
Rene smiled, eyes still closed in pure bliss.
“Take me, Curtis,” she replied.
Detective John tackled Rene to the white sand beside the boardwalk and grabbed her arms, placing them behind her back. He slapped on a set of handcuffs and fastened them tightly behind her so she had no chance of breaking loose.
“I love you,” Rene added.
“You’re under arrest for tampering with a police investigation and for falsely reporting a missing child,” Detective John said. “You have the right to remain silent.”
He hoisted Rene up from the sand and led her back toward the parking lot of the resort. She looked back to see Sasha standing on the boardwalk behind them.
“Goodbye, Sasha,” she whispered. She looked to Detective Curtis John and smiled seductively at him. “Where are you taking me, Curtis?”
“Prison,” he replied.
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I was not expecting Rene to have completely fabricated her relationship with Sasha! When she spun directly into the detective's arms, I laughed. I laughed again at the ending line. Loved this description: "enough rum punch to relax Captain Morgan himself"
Thank you, Fawn! I'm so glad you got a laugh out of it! I appreciate the kind words!