It is dark when we drive onto the ferry in the morning. There are only four cars heading to the mainland. The air is chilly, but the captain has a pot of coffee brewing on the enclosed deck. We leave the car and go up to drink the coffee and watch as we pull away from Ocracoke. Soon the lighthouse is a speck and the waters of the Pamlico Sound rock the ferry ever so gently. The sun comes up as seagulls and other water birds follow beside us.
The ride is just two hours, and soon we are heading to the airport in New Bern. It is once again time to leave my second home and return to Indiana. Philip and I say farewell, and for a split second I waiver in my decision. No, I say to myself, I must return … family, work, responsibilities, community. I watch him leave until I can no longer see him, and then straighten my shoulders and prepare for my flight.
I am early but check in anyway. It is good to be rid of my bag. I find a seat and pull out my book. Soon it is finished, and I am about to start another when I receive a text from Delta telling me my flight is delayed. It is strange because I am sitting by the Delta counter and can see the board right in front of me. It does not say delayed. I take a stroll over to the counter and ask them about the delay. Indeed there is a delay so I go back over to my seat. I pull out my tickets and realize that with the delay I may not make the flight from Atlanta to Fort Wayne. I am now in a panic. Talk of the storm begins to fill the airport and I need to get home tonight or I won’t make it. The TV in the corner continues to show weather maps and speaks of the “polar vortex.” I go back over to the counter.
The Delta folks behind the counter are kind, but honest. “You won’t make your flight,” they tell me. They insist I take the flight to Atlanta where they will put me up. I feel bewildered. I am thinking I will be there until Wednesday, and it is just Saturday. “I have to get home,” I tell them. They nod.
It is finally time to board and I leave New Bern. I watch the landscape change and I settle back into the seat that I share with a young mother and her baby. By the time we land in Atlanta everyone knows my situation. We land at 6:50 and my Fort Wayne flight leaves at 7:12. I am ushered off the plane first and scramble into the airport. The woman at the counter says, “Are you the Fort Wayne passenger?” I nod and she points to the gate across the way. “The coffee pot broke. Hurry, I think you can make it.”
Who would guess in the Atlanta airport that my flight would be one gate over? The door is about to be shut when they see me coming. I show my ticket and hurry through the door. I make it to the plane as the flight attendant is about to shut the cabin door. There is no time to find my seat so I take the one in front, and we leave. The flight attendant and I chat about the situation. “You were so lucky,” he says, “we had to get a new coffee pot or we would have been gone.”
It is dark, but I can begin to see fields of white from the air. We arrive on time in Fort Wayne, and I receive my usual greeting and the cookie. I wait for my bag, knowing it can’t possibly be there, but it is.
I walk outside and someone is there asking if I need a ride to my car. I am numb with gratefulness. We find the Jeep, and he shovels me out from the previous storm and makes sure the Jeep starts. He tosses my bag in the back as I hand him a 10 dollar bill.
Home is waiting and the polar vortex has yet to come. Sleep is deep in my old house, and I am awakened by the sound of Larry’s snow blower in the morning. I put on the kettle and settle back into my Indiana life.