Hurricanes and Suns
Author: Julia R. West

Chapter 1
Welcome, Flight 394

Zoe. Zoe Gates. Zoe Gates....?

Rachel's eyes scanned the crowd. Where was Zoe? The plane station was crowded, full of men and women Rachel did not recognize, but not her sister. LAX was no place for a lone girl of thirteen. A girl of thirteen with no mum or dad, only a nineteen-year-old sister.

Zoe'd come to pick Rachel up from the airport to take her from their grandparent's house and to the new place she'd bought, to take Rachel away from the pain she felt still deep in her heart after her parents had left. Both split up, both left, neither to take care of her. Neither wanted her.

A small, frail woman passed, using a walker and wearing a hearing aid, bumping into Rachel as she desperately scoured the crowd for some sign of the one person in the world who still cared about her indefinitely. Rachel barely noticed, tears welling up in her eyes. Zoe was over twenty minutes late, and surely Rachel had not been wrong, gran had said precisely two o'clock Zoe's flight would arrive.

Pausing to calm down on one of the dirty airline benches, Rachel caught her breath, which was coming in shallow gasps along with the tears that rolled gently down her cheeks. It was unlike her to cry over such an absence, but she sensed something was wrong and that Zoe's flight was stopped somewhere. That must be it, right?

"'Scuse me," said Rachel politely to the young woman at the desk, "When's flight 394 expected to arrive?"

The lady was clearly inexperienced and flushed red, pushing her auburn hair behind her ear. "Flight 394 was held up in Denver. They should be arriving soon."

"Thanks," said Rachel. So that was all. She pulled out her ipod to listen to it, sitting back in the chair but being careful not to brush against the armrests; they were grimy.

About ten minutes passed before random shouts erupted around the long, glass windows. Rachel tugged her earbuds from her ears and sat up, turning around. She pushed her way to the front of the crowd that had gathered around the window, her braid pulled out when it caught on a man's backpack strap, now hung down like the rest of her hair. She didn't notice that either, for when she caught sight of the glass she could hardly contain herself.

Her fingers were pressed, one hand against the glass, the other clenched in a fist so hard her knuckles were white. In the air, suspended like in slow motion, hung a plane clearly landing, however not headed for a runway. As it reached the ground, tourists crowded around Rachel at the window groaned in disbelief. Some had tears in their eyes as Rachel did.

The auburn-haired lady from the front desk was talking furiously into her walkie-talkie, her face growing redder and redder each minute. She looked flustered as the plane touched down, or better said, crashed down, a small fire licking up the sides of the plane from around the engine area.

Three robust men were keeping people from running outside, to their loved ones as Rachel longed to do. Zoe was out there. She sprung herself under the man's arm--how convenient to be a small girl--and past them with them barely noticing.

In one split second, everything was out of her mind but Zoe. Her feet carried her, she knew not how, towards the plane, out of the airport, towards her sister. Never before had she felt so utterly alone. Never.

The fire burned, it burned and not a single passenger got off the plane. It kept burning. Flames and smoke swirled around in Rachel's mind as she dove, dove away from the man chasing her, dove into the fray.

She was utterly alone, caught by his arms, pulling her back as in slow motion movies. She struggled and pulled and yelled as he carried her away from Zoe and watched that plane smoke and burn like the sun.

The sun, her only other friend, that she would sit in endlessly in Arizona with Zoe when she got there. When? She'd never get there now. Never before had she felt so utterly alone.

 

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