Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Pasay City, Philippines
Day 1 6:00 AM
This particular morning, I was simply tapping on my phone and eyeing every person that walked by. I was checking each one, careful not to miss the friend I was waiting for. I was in an airport. Rows of large white tiles adorned the floor and a long glass wall separated me from the people coming and going.
To my right, there were a few stores selling clothes, souvenirs, food, toys, and even items for comfort on the flight. And on my left—if you walked a few steps forward—it seemed to be an area where only authorized people could come in, and it was guarded by two armed personnel.
One of them was holding a rifle— an M4 Carbine pointed down while the other was holding a shotgun— a Remington 870 that was slung on his back. Both of them almost had the same getup, including the items on their belt though the one with the 870 had a German Shepherd lying by his feet.
It was wearing a vest that had "K-9 Unit" written on the back along with the name of the airport, and it was seemingly relaxed, eyes just scanning around, though it would follow something with its gaze when something caught its attention.
At this moment, I felt a couple of vibrations from the phone I was holding and when I looked at the screen, it said that my aunt was calling me. However, as I was about to answer it, the call suddenly ended and a notification for a missed call popped up. After that, it was followed by a text that said:
[Heyo! I know u don' lyk to ans cals so I txt u pz plz buy me tjos sweet peenut thins u used to buy wit de nips on it! O! Ths is Aya!]
'What in fresh hell is this?!'
It took me a bit to figure out this hidden mumbo-jumbo transcript that was probably sent by my little cousin, but I just shook my head in amusement before I replied:
[You're talking about 'Trailmix', right? I'll buy a bag but they are not 'Nips' they are called 'M&Ms'.]
After I pressed the send button, I stood up and walked toward the store that was selling them. I'm guessing my friend was running a bit late so it wouldn't matter as much if I do a little shopping.
However, walking a few steps forward, on my left, I noticed someone very, very familiar.
'Is that her? I thought—'
The person I was referring to was this young lady on her phone, wearing a flight attendant suit, and she was sitting in one of the chairs in this store right next to the one I was about to go into. Furthermore, a small red bag with a cross sign was sitting on her lap, and seeing that somehow made me think that it was the right person.
With that said, a large coffee in a to-go cup was sitting right in front of her table and it was accompanied by a small plate and a fork that had pink bits on its prongs.
I remembered her from high school.
In my head, I could say that we were good friends and I remembered that we even used to compete with our grades among other things. She was very beautiful, downright gorgeous I'd admit—even more so now—but back then, she seemed to be disinterested in dating and like me, was just more focused on studying.
I could even remember that almost all of our classmates—even other students from other sections—tried asking her out but all they got was a simple flat-out rejection.
To be fair, she wasn't introverted like I was and she had a lot of friends but let's just say that something brought us together but not in a romantic way, as far as I know.
With that said, I contemplated greeting her but I just walked past the table she was on because I thought that she wouldn't be able to remember me since it had been years since we had last seen each other.
'It's good seeing her though…'
However, as I pushed on the glass door of the store I was about to head into, I saw her reflection behind me. She seemed to be trying to figure out who I was but unlike me, what better way to confirm her suspicion was to tap on my back a few times and simply introduce herself.
"E-Excuse me, Sky? Sky Ishiyama? From high school? Remember me?"
As I turned around, I tried to look like I wasn't staring at her earlier and figured out it was her already but she removed her cap and her black hair untangled and landed on her shoulders before she let out a bright smile and pointed to herself.
"It IS you! It's me, Kaley! I almost didn't recognize you— you look so different!"
"Oh, hi! Ahaha… I thought—"
Before I even had the chance to finish my sentence, Kaley leaned close and she just stared at me while cutely pouting with a raised eyebrow. She even placed her hands on her waist while lightly tapping with her heels.
However, it didn't take long before she went back to the same bright smile again.
"Stop doing that, you doofus! I know what you're doing; you already knew it was me! Hmph! You have the best memory out of all the people I know!"
I lightly chuckled as I scratched my nose, "Ahaha…"
"I caught your glance earlier when I was checking my phone. I'm pretty sure you thought that I wouldn't remember you earlier, am I right?"
'She read me like a fucking book.' I thought to myself as I pursed my lips to a smile.
Kaley chuckled when she saw my reaction, "I got that right, huh?" then she looked at the store we were right in front of, "What are you buying here anyway? Is it those dried cranberries you used to munch on back then? You're buying those, right?"
I replied, "Sort of, I'm getting a bag of Trailmix for my cousin at home. Hmm, now that you mention it, I guess I'll be getting a bag of those too. It has been a while since I have eaten those."
"Oh, I guess I'm half-right then! You're still eating those, huh?" Kaley chuckled.
"That reminds me, you're still eating those strawberry shortcakes too, huh?"
"Well~" Kaley trailed while wearing a faint smile.
There was a short moment when we were just looking at each other but her cheeks were a little red, probably embarrassed or maybe happy that I also remembered what she liked back then— well, even now. After that, she just suddenly linked her arm with mine before she pushed the door in front of us.
"C'mon! Let me join you then, I'm gonna grab a few things too before I head back."
"Okay, my treat!"
"Really?! Thanks! I'm only gonna get a few things that are not too expensive, I promise!"
With that said, I grabbed a small basket from the stack on the side before I followed after Kaley who was waiting for me in one of the aisles.
We were casually browsing the store but then Kaley nudged me, "So, I'm pretty sure you won't talk unless I start, so... how's life been treating you? I remember you said that you wanted to be a programmer?"
I nodded, "Yeah, I've become one but in the end, I've only worked for a few years before I decided to continue the family business. How about you then? I remembered you were studying to be a nurse, what happened? Ah— Not saying being a flight attendant is bad or anything— but, you know… The uniform really looks good on you…"
Kaley's face turned a shade of red for a moment but she lightly chuckled, "Oh, um— thanks for the compliment! I don't really mind though but yeah… let's just say that umm… life happened. To be fair, it's not like I really wanted to be a nurse, but if your heart's not in it, most of the time, it wouldn't work out. Remember when a lot of people here tried to be nurses because the pay is really good overseas?"
"Yeah… not as much now but back then it got crazy…"
"Uh-huh, maybe I just went with the flow not thinking if I really liked it or not…"
"So… a flight attendant, huh? Must be cool to travel all around—"
"Right?! It's really~ fun. Well, to be fair— I did shift a few times before I found out what I really wanted to do but it just clicked when my mom told me to take it easy. We traveled to Indonesia, Spain, and Paris then it happened. I told myself that one of my dreams is to travel all over the world but I wanted to get paid too, so here is the best solution! Win-Win, right?!"
Kaley was still smiling brightly as she told the story and she walked a few steps closer to me before she placed a few candies in my basket. We looked at each other briefly before we continued shopping for sweets. As we walked a few steps, I was rearranging the ones she placed inside our basket but she turned to me once more.
"Right, why did you quit being a programmer? It pays well, right?"
"Yeah... Well, as you said... life happened… To be exact— I hated my boss and might have done something irreversible!" I chuckled as I scratched the back of my head.
Kaley let out a faint smile then it turned to a pensive look, "Haven't changed I see… I remember you always doing things your way."
"Well, I really hated working at that place, and get this, I can finish the work they've given me for half the time because the way they're doing it is so roundabout and outdated, and they kept on doing the same old method because it's what they were told to do. Stupid, right?"
"Why does this sound so… familiar… hahaha…"
"And one time, I asked for a raise because I showed them my performance and told them about ways we could do better but you know what happened? Those old fucks decided to pile more work on me while they let the other guys who follow their 'system' do the same boring shit they've been doing for years. I might have— no, I said something that definitely ticked them off and the rest is history. God, why am I so fucking pissed right now? It's your fault, Kaley! Why'd you make me remember all this shit?!"
Kaley started laughing while covering her mouth, "Hahaha! Remember that one time when you snapped at our teacher for teaching the flowcharts wrong."
"Wait— Yeah! I remember that! He was a fucking biology teacher, why the fuck did they let them teach a computer subject?! That's nuts! I really couldn't help myself at that time..."
At this point, Kaley and I shared another laugh and we continued to remember and share a few things from our past.
After a short bit, we eventually found the aisle where the bags of Trailmixes were and I grabbed two, and right behind that aisle, Kaley found where the bags of cranberries were and I asked her to get one for me. And after that, we went through all of the aisles again to see if we'd get anything else then we went for the cashier to pay.
I slid my card onto the cashier's device and the cashier gave us a bright smile before packing our items and sending us off.
"Thank you for shopping, please come again!"
We just gave a prompt response before we went outside.
"So, heading back now?" I asked as I handed Kaley her items.
"Ah— no, I meant heading back earlier as going home."
"We were supposed to fly to Japan but our pilot was sent to the hospital. We were told to wait for his replacement after delaying the flight but in the end, the flight was ultimately canceled. So, we were told to go home—and most of us already did—but I happened to see a slice of cake in the shop you saw me in."
"I see, heh."
"So, wanna hang out a bit more?"
"Right, that reminds me, why are you here anyway? Waiting for someone?"
We had just arrived at the bench we were sitting on earlier when I remembered why I was here in the first place.
"Ah, crap—" I suddenly checked my phone but seeing that there was still no message from my friend, I turned to Kaley to answer her question, "Sorry, I was waiting for my friend earlier but it seemed like he's still not here. I was waiting here when my cousin asked for a bag of— you know, what we bought in the shop."
"Oh? So, what's your friend like? Is he scary-looking or something or is he like you know what? Hmm?"
"Hah! You'd be surprised. He'd look like an old guy you'd see feeding pigeons on the street but he's a US Veteran. He's still strong as an ox despite his age but surprisingly enough, we had a lot in common."
"What?! A Vet— How'd you two meet?!"
"Ah— Well, we met at a convention in San Diego and we became friends when we figured out that we watched the same TV series, 'The Pacing Unliving'."
Kaley slapped her forehead as she began to laugh, "Yeah, I can totally see that happening! That is so like you. Wait— What's up with that title though? Is that a parody— Nevermind… Well, it's nice to know that you made a friend—a veteran to boot. I remember the first time I saw you, you'd always sit by yourself and mind your own business. I even thought you were mute at that time!"
Hearing that, I gave a laugh and remembered back. It was just as she said, I used to be almost invisible—"avoided" the better term—until she was the first one that talked to me. After a certain event that happened, she introduced me to some of her friends and I started to open myself up bit by bit.
However, I would speak my mind without filter and it would almost always prompt a reaction or catch everyone off-guard. It would even seem like I was a blunt asshole but most of her friends—and the friends I made myself—preferred that compared to a lying prick that says just about anything so they'd be liked. I was really thankful that we crossed paths at that time and what she did for me when she first transferred.
As we started talking about our current situation, my phone vibrated once more.
[HeYo! By me 2 bags! 4got 2 tellyou, I'll pay u bac]
'As if!' I just chuckled inwardly but I received another email from the person I was waiting for, Oscar.
But I might've just spoken too soon.
[Hey kid, I just arrived but there's something you need to see. Take a look, Code: Zulu Alpha?]
At the bottom of the email, there was a link that directed to a news article about a person that was 'drug-induced', attacking hospital staff as he was just brought in from an ambulance.
It played a video of a man dressed in a pilot's uniform with bandages on his arm, getting held down by several security guards. As the video continued, Kaley leaned in to watch as well but as I glanced at her, her expression was suddenly replaced by a look of discomfort.
"Kaley? Something wrong?"
"T-That's our pilot that got sent to the hospital earlier…"
A cold wave of air washed over me as I felt something horrible churning in my gut. However, I slowly exhaled and the blurriness of my vision caused by fear cleared up.
"What do you mean?" I turned to Kaley as I tried to get more information.