I noticed her mother first. Stylish and attractive, she was better dressed than most of the churning mob in the Phoenix airport terminal, waiting for their Memorial Day weekend flights. She sat six seats away crammed in with other passengers listening for their boarding calls. An unintelligible announcement barked over the loudspeaker and she stood, leaned down to a woman in her early twenties, who I figured was her daughter, and handed her a carry-on bag. The girl accepted the bag without taking her eyes from the book she held. She continued to read as the older woman made her way through the aromas of food concessions to the restroom area.
In the seat next to me, my wife tapped my arm and pointed to a message on her phone. Our son and his family were meeting us at the Austin, Texas airport.
I glanced back at the young woman who still intently read her book. What concentration she had. Amidst all this terminal turmoil, she appeared focused on the pages before her, repeatedly touching a finger to the lips, then with the same finger turning a page.
When she paused and lifted the book, I saw the cover. It looked very familiar. Looked very much like the cover of my book. My debut novel. Had some other author used a similar design? Then I realized it was my book this stranger was reading. I whispered to my wife to look and motioned with my head toward the young woman.
“Don’t you dare!” my wife said.
“Ask if she wants it signed.”
“Never occurred to me.” I said unconvincingly.
The girl returned to the book, that is my book. I tried to study her expression for some indication of what she thought about the novel, but saw only focused attention. She turned the pages at a steady rate so she was into the story—maybe. It looked like she was about mid-way through the book and I tried to imagine what scene she was in. Was it an action scene? Too early for the love scene.
The young woman was a complete stranger. Never saw her in my life. How did she come by the book? Where did she buy it? At a bookstore or over the Internet? Did a friend recommend it?
The older woman returned and spoke to the girl while looking at her watch. She pointed to the book and asked something. I watched to see if I could pick up what the girl said, but couldn’t detect anything positive or negative. She could have been talking about the weather.
“Stop looking at her.” My wife nudged me. “Get your things, our plane’s boarding.”
I put my laptop back in the case, found my boarding pass, and then looked back in the direction of the two women. They were gone.
And any chance to know what the young woman thought of my book.
Just as well.
Arthur Kerns is a retired FBI special agent and past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. Diversion Books, Inc. published in March 2013 his espionage thriller, The Riviera Contract and this month the sequel, The African Contract.
You can visit him on www.arthurkerns.com