TITLE: Exploded on Impact
By Jenna Dawn
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“Your wife’s plane exploded on impact.”
John awoke in a sweat. Four years later the scene continued to play in his head, the day he was informed Sophie’s single-engine plane careened into the side of the Rockies.
John’s hope that the nightmares wouldn’t follow him to his new home in California was crushed. Turning on the shower, he contemplated what a skilled pilot Sophie was. His heart ached over such a senseless loss.
Today offered a distraction from his grief. His favorite author, James Welling, was at the Wrigley Book Convention signing copies of his yet to be released novel.
Upon entering the crowded convention center, John meandered among various vendors, perusing their offerings. He spotted James Welling’s booth and twenty minutes later was near the front of the line, where the author sat behind a table signing books.
Glancing to his left, John caught a sight that caused a ripple of hot and cold flashes to shoot up his spine. The chaotic world around him vanished. He stood mesmerized, gaping at a woman.
“Sophie,” he whispered.
She was speaking nearby with a man. Her features were exactly Sophie, yet her look was quite different. A polished platinum blond hairstyle replaced brown flowing locks. Darker and more glamorous makeup superceded light and natural. A sophisticated pencil skirt took the place of casual style. It was as if she was a Marilyn Monroe version of his outdoorsy wife. John stood transfixed. It was Sophie. It had to be Sophie.
Shaken from his trance, John turned his gaze to James Welling, who was attempting to greet him. John’s mind raced with confusion. He peered back toward the woman. She had vanished. His pulse spiked. Frantically, his eyes searched further down the concourse between vendors. Then he spotted her. Her feminine form strolled away.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted and darted off.
Determined not to lose her, he kept a keen eye on her blond hair and clambered through the throng of people.
When she stepped into a vendor’s booth to the right, John veered left. He huddled near a publisher’s booth where he observed her slipping behind a table next to a young man, who was finishing a sale. A large poster displayed the cover of a book, Jumping Into Destiny by Julianne Thatcher.
“Would you sign my book?” A teenager held out her book to the blond woman.
John’s eyebrows lifted at the revelation that she was the author.
He scrutinized her, noting every detail … the brown eyes, the mole on her neck, the sound of her voice, her mannerisms. They all shouted “Sophie”.
Yet none of this made sense. Sophie was dead. How could she materialize four years later at a book convention, looking like a page out of a magazine and signing autographs?
“I loved your book.” Another female admirer approached. After an autograph and short discourse, the young lady left. John followed her to a food court, where she sat down with some coffee, glancing at the autograph in the book.”
“Excuse me, ma’am. Have you read that book?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Could you tell me about it? I’m considering stocking it in my store.”
“Sure. Have a seat.” She sipped her coffee. “You want the whole plot?”
“The whole plot.”
“It’s about a battered wife named Samantha. Samantha attempts to leave her husband several times, but he always finds her and beats her, one time with a bottle of vodka. Samantha devises a plot. She tells her husband she’s volunteering at the shelter, while she actually takes flying lessons.”
This perked John’s attention.
“She also learns to skydive. After getting her pilot’s license, she takes the plane up, aims it toward a mountain, puts it on autopilot and parachutes to safety. The plane crashes into the mountain, exploding on impact. Samantha fakes her death and gets away from her abusive husband. It’s very compelling.”
John was stunned. Blood drained from his face.
“Thanks,” he managed to utter.
Spotting a drinking fountain, he staggered over, splashed water on his face and leaned against the wall. He grappled with the outrageous thought of Sophie deliberately crashing that plane and faking her death. But why? He was not the abusive husband portrayed in her book.
He had to know.
With adrenaline surging, he rushed back to the booth and charged up to her, ignoring the nearby couple.
“Sophie?” John blurted. His breathing was heavy, his neck wet with sweat.
At the site of John, her eyes widened and she drew in a sharp breath.
“Why did you do it?” His eyes pierced right through her.
Attempting discretion, she stepped toward him, lifted her red lips to his ear and whispered, “Follow me.”
She led him to an empty meeting room and closed the door after him. Turning around she faced him with tears in her eyes.
“What’s going on, Sophie? Am I correct in assuming that you jumped out of an airplane and faked your death to get away from me?”
“No,” Sophie lamented. “I mean yes. I mean …”
“You better start talking.”
“I did fake my death, but not to get away from you. I did it to protect you.”
“I used to be married to a brutal man. I finally got away from him, changed my name and started a new life.”
“You were so loving and so opposite of everything he was.” She caressed John’s face and looked into his eyes. “I love you, John.”
“Then why did you put me through hell?”
“Because he would have killed you. I saw him poking around town one day and knew he was close to finding me. He would have killed us both, John. I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You could have told me.”
John placed a finger on her lips. “Shhh … I don’t need to hear anymore right now.” He wrapped his arms around her, drew her to his chest and together they wept.
His Sophie was alive.
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