Read Oceans Apart Online

Authors: Karen Kingsbury

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Domestic fiction, #Fathers and Sons, #Christian, #Religious, #Christian Fiction, #Birthfathers, #Air Pilot's Spouses, #Air pilots, #Illegitimate Children, #Mothers - Death

Oceans Apart (2 page)

BOOK: Oceans Apart
4.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The bitter pain of angry hate.

Might but they stop and here forgive
Would break the bonds to breathe and live
And find that God in goodness brings
A chance for change, the hope of wings
To rest in Him, and self to die

And so become a butterfly.

—Karen Kingsbury


This page is intentionally left blank


Fear was an owl that rarely lighted on the branches of Kiahna Siefert’s heart.

Especially in the light of day.

But it was nine o’clock on the sunniest morning of spring, and Kiahna couldn’t shake the feeling—the strange gnawing in her soul, the way the skin around her neck and chest felt two sizes too small.

What is it, God . . . what are You trying to tell me?

No answer echoed back at her, so Kiahna kept busy. The passenger briefing was nearly finished, and the pilots were in their seats. She anchored herself against the service wall and found her smile, the one she used every time she flew.

Flight 45, Honolulu to Tokyo, was a nine-hour flight. With a layover in Tokyo, the roundtrip gave Kiahna eighteen flight hours.

Five times a month she made the two-day turnaround, and after a decade with the airline, her pay was better than any she could get anywhere else. Out the door at seven and, with the time change, home before dinner the next day. Kiahna had earned the route after ten years with the airline, and it was perfect for one reason.

It allowed her most days to be home with Max.

“Movie today?” The man was a light traveler, briefcase and a carry-on, a regular in first class. Whatever his worn leather bag held, it took him to Japan at least once a month.

“Yes, sir. Mel Gibson’s latest.”

“Good.” He smiled and kept moving. “Gets me over the ocean quicker.”

One by one the passengers filed in, same as always. But still she couldn’t shake the feeling.


– Oceans Apart –

It took fourteen minutes to seat the cabin, and Kiahna worked the routine. The flight was nearly full, which meant the usual re-adjusting to make people and bags fit comfortably in the cramped quarters. She greeted passengers, sorted out seat assignments for confused travelers, and poured a drink tray for first class.

A family with four children was seated over the wing, and already their baby was crying. Kiahna found a package of crackers and coloring books for the couple’s older children. With every motion she tried to sort out her feelings.


She jumped and turned to face her partner. Stephanie was working the back part of the cabin. “We’re waiting.” The announcement. She’d completely forgotten. A quick breath. “They’re all in?”

“For two minutes now.”

Kiahna snapped the drink tray into place on the small service counter and edged past the other woman. The announcement was hers that morning; she should have remembered. She took hold of the microphone and began the routine.

“Welcome aboard Flight 45. We’re expecting a full cabin this morning, so if you have two carry-ons with you today, please store one of them in the space beneath the seat in front of you.” She paused, her mouth still open.

What came next? There was more to say, something about oxygen and masks, but the words scrambled in her mind and refused to come. She stood unmoving, her heart slamming against her chest.

“Here”—Steph took hold of the microphone—“I’ve got it.” Kiahna’s arms shook as she backed away, up against the closed front cabin door. What was wrong with her? She’d given that announcement a thousand times; she could be in a coma and say it.

Steph finished, and the copilot came on. “Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff.”


– Karen Kingsbury –

They pushed their jump seats down and buckled in. Usually this was Kiahna’s favorite part. A few minutes of power and thrust while the airplane barreled down the runway and lifted into the air, minutes where she wasn’t needed by anyone for anything, when she could think about the day and all that lay ahead.

This time, though, was different.

All Kiahna could think about was the part of her day that lay behind, the part with Max.


At seven years old, Max was both brilliant and beautiful, a wonder boy streaking through her life like a comet at breakneck speeds.

He wore red tennis shoes, and his best friend was his yellow Labrador retriever, Buddy. At school, Max had a reputation for being the fastest—and sometimes the silliest—boy on the play-ground. And his mouth ran faster than his legs. Kiahna liked to hold court with Max on dozens of adult topics. The death penalty—Max was against it; more money for public schools—he was for it. Max was fiercely patriotic, and at school he sometimes organized red, white, and blue days in honor of the U.S. troops in the Middle East.

But this morning he’d been quiet.

“When do you finish working?” They lived in a two-bedroom apartment, and he slipped into her room while she was still pressing her standard-issue airline navy blazer.

Kiahna studied him. “Dinnertime tomorrow, same as always.”

“No, not that way.” He hopped up on her bed and sat cross-legged. “When will you stay home in the daytime? Like Devon’s mom or Kody’s mom?”

“Max.” She turned from the ironing board and leveled her gaze at him. “You know I can’t do that.”

“Why?” He anchored his elbows on his knees.


– Oceans Apart –

“Because”—she came a few steps closer and sat on the edge of the bed—“those moms have husbands who work.”

“So why can’t we have a husband?”

“C’mon, Max.” She cocked her head and brushed her finger against the tip of his nose. “We’ve been through this, sport.” Buddy padded into the room and sank in a heap near Max’s feet.

“Yeah, but . . .” Max brought his fists together and rested his chin on them. His green eyes caught a ray of morning light. “Forever?”

“For now.” She crooked her arm around his neck, pulled him close, and kissed the top of his head. His dark hair felt soft and damp against her cheek, still fresh from his morning shower. “Until something better comes along.”

“Like a husband?” Max lifted his face to hers. He was teasing, but beyond the sparkles in his eyes was a river of hope, a hope that ebbed and flowed, but never went away.

Kiahna smiled. She tousled the hair at the back of his head and returned to the ironing board. Max knew better than to push. A husband had never been in the picture. Not a husband and not a daddy. Kiahna couldn’t trust a man with her own heart, let alone her son’s. Besides, it wasn’t God’s plan for her to have a husband.

At least that’s the way she’d always felt.

Max slid onto the floor and looped his arms around Buddy’s neck. The dog rewarded him with a solid swipe of his tongue across Max’s cheek. “Buddy understands.”

“Yes.” Kiahna smiled. “Buddy always does.”


A soft bell sounded, and Kiahna sucked in a quick breath. They were at ten thousand feet—time to prepare the beverage cart and make the first pass through the cabin. Steph approached her from the other side of the aisle.


– Karen Kingsbury –

“You okay?” She had one hand on her hip, her eyebrows lowered into a
. “What was the trip about the announcement? Never seen you freeze like that.”

Kiahna stood and smoothed out the wrinkles in her navy cotton skirt. “I don’t know.” She gave her partner a smile. The feeling, the strange restlessness, had plagued her ever since her talk with Max.

“Busy morning, I guess.”

“Yeah, well”—she rolled her eyes—“you wanna talk busy? It’s four o’clock, and Ron . . . you know Ron, right?”

“He moved in last month?”

“Right.” Steph grabbed a piece of gum from her skirt pocket, slipped the wrapper off in a single move, and popped it into her mouth. “Anyway, he gets this call at four this morning, and it’s the—”

A sudden jolt rocked the aircraft so hard Steph fell to her knees.

Gasps sounded throughout the cabin, and somewhere near the wing one of the children began to cry. Kiahna fell back against the service counter and reached for a handful of soda cans that had fallen to the floor.

“What the . . .” Steph was struggling to her feet when the plane tilted hard in the other direction. The motion knocked her back to the floor. In the tenth row, a handful of screams and shouts rang out from a group of college kids, journalism students heading back home from a convention.


Kiahna grabbed hold of the nearest wall and felt the blood drain from her face. The air was always choppy over the islands, especially in spring. She was about to help Steph to her feet when the copilot leaned out from the cockpit.

“We’re going back.” The man’s upper lip was twitching. His whispered words came fast. “Something’s wrong with the tail.” He swallowed hard. “The whole bloody aircraft wants to nosedive.” 17

– Oceans Apart –

Kiahna stared at him. This wasn’t happening, not this morning. Not when every fiber in her being had warned her something wasn’t right. The copilot was gone again, and Kiahna shifted her gaze to Steph. The girl was a New Yorker, twenty-two, twenty-three tops. She was cocky and brash and had a quick tongue, but now her face was gray-white. “What . . . what do we do?” Kiahna reached for her partner’s hand and helped her to her feet. “We work the cabin. I’ve done an emergency before.” Her voice sounded familiar, but only remotely so. “We stay calm and everything will work out fine.”

“But what if we—”

.” She took the lead and headed down the aisle. “We have to work.”

They weren’t through first class when a strange popping sound shook the plane and propelled it downward.
It’s the descent,
Kiahna said to herself. And then again for the benefit of the passengers.

“We’re making our descent. Cover your heads and assume a forward roll position.”

Kiahna didn’t dare turn around, couldn’t bear to meet Steph’s questioning eyes. The truth had to be written across her face: the sharp angle of the aircraft didn’t feel like a normal descent pattern.

It felt like a nosedive.

Panic worked its way through the rows in a sort of sickening wave.

“Jesus, help us!” a lady shouted from row eight. She had an arm around each of her children.

something!” The scream came from an area near the back of the plane, and it set off a chain reaction of loud words and frantic cries for help. No one had any doubt they were in trouble.

Still Kiahna moved forward. At each row she demonstrated the crash-landing position. Hands clasped at the back of the neck, body tucked as far forward as possible. “Assume the emergency position,” she said over and over again. “Assume the emergency position.” 18

– Karen Kingsbury –

“What happening?” An Oriental man grabbed her arm; his eyes locked on hers. “What, lady? What?”

Kiahna jerked herself free as the nose of the plane dropped again. The aircraft was almost entirely vertical.

The captain’s voice—tense, but steady—filled the cabin. “Prepare for an emergency landing. I repeat, prepare for an emergency landing!”

Babies were wailing now; parents grabbed their children to keep them from falling toward the front of the plane.

“Lord, have mercy on us,” a woman screamed.

The voices mingled and became a single noise, a backdrop that grew louder and then faded as Kiahna caught a glimpse of the ocean out one of the windows. In that instant time froze.

Kiahna was back at home again.


“Come on, Max. Get your backpack. We’re running late!” Max rounded the corner, Buddy at his side. “I can’t find it.”

“Check the coat closet.”

He darted across the kitchen and toward the front door. She heard him yank the closet open. “Here it is!”

“Grab it; let’s go.”

The whole scene took a fraction of a second to flash across her mind, all of it routine, mundane. No subtle nuances or hesitations, nothing to indicate that this morning could be their last. Nothing but the strange pit in her stomach.

She closed her eyes . . . where was Max right now? He stayed with Ramey Aialea mornings until the school bus came, and again in the afternoon and through the night when she had a layover.

The woman would see him off to school the next day and take care of him for an hour or so when school got out. Ramey was in her late sixties, a weathered grandmother in poor health who took in Max 19

– Oceans Apart –

as a way of staying young. She lived just a block away and felt like family to Kiahna.

Max had been with Ramey since he was born.

That morning, as happened so often, Kiahna and Max had piled into Kiahna’s old Audi and made time to Ramey’s first-floor unit.

Ramey and Kiahna both lived in the same modest residential section of the island, the place where apartments filled every available square inch, leaving room for only an occasional palm tree. The place where the island’s food servers and hotel maids and resort staff lived.

The apartments weren’t much, really. But Kiahna’s complex had a fairly clean pool and a patch of gravel with a swing set. More amenities than some. That, and paradise every day of the year. It wasn’t a bad place to raise a boy. A native to Honolulu, Kiahna wouldn’t have lived anywhere else.

BOOK: Oceans Apart
4.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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