“Happy Christmas, mum,” Arthur says to himself as he turns the computer off. Looks at the old brochure photo he had framed for his desk. He couldn’t imagine a more representative photo of his family. Carolyn is pretending not to smile, pretending that she doesn’t like Herc’s arms wrapped around her as he beams. Douglas is smirking, hand on Martin’s shoulder whose own hand is entwined with Theresa’s.
Arthur can’t quite remember where they had been, why they had taken the photo. Some time after Martin and Theresa’s wedding, perhaps? That feels right. He’s never been blessed with the best memory. It’s why he relies on the calendar on his phone so much, the notes app. He understands now why Carolyn used to live by the wallchart.
He’s smiling in the photo, wearing his old hat. If he lets himself think about it too much, it squeezes his heart. They really were the best of days.
Douglas is coming over later, down to the office to sit in on interviews for a new relief pilot. After all these years, Arthur’s decided that maybe it’s a good time to follow through with air safety practices. They aren’t struggling, any more.
The more Arthur learns about running a business, the more he loves and respects Carolyn. The more guilty he feels that she did it alone all that time.
Herc would have said that he should have waited until the new year for interviews, but Arthur wants to be able to have a new pilot in place before January. They’ve got a busy few weeks coming up with yacht fanciers and businessmen, and Arthur doesn’t like to push his pilots too far. He’s given them Christmas off, and because Christmas for him is most of December, he hasn’t booked a single thing for the rest of the month.
Carolyn would have said that he ought to have flown with disregard for holidays because you can charge a premium at Christmas. But Arthur likes Christmas and he’s planning on having all his friends over; Martin and Theresa and their son, and Douglas, and the new OJS gang of Helen and Tim and Hassan. If they want to come.
He hopes they do. He likes them. They bicker just like Martin and Douglas used to. Tim’s steward uniform is nicer than his ever used to be, but Arthur still misses the hat. He hasn’t worn a hat in a long time. These days, he tries to be as smart as possible when he represents OJS in any official capacity, just like Carolyn always used to be.
The office is messier than Carolyn ever used to keep it, though. Arthur tries his best to operate on a paperless basis, but Carolyn had stacks and stacks of paperwork in drawers, and Arthur’s never quite gotten round to sorting it all properly yet.
He and Herc had started, shortly after Arthur had taken over completely, and Arthur had been grateful for the help. Knew it was a way for them to both hold on to her. But Herc’s health had faded quickly too and Arthur had been left with stacks of boxes and papers and an airline with no pilots. He could have sold the plane. Douglas had told him that he probably should. For a change, Douglas had been wrong.
Carolyn would be proud of him, Arthur thought. She always had been.
He stands and glances at the photo again. They had been so happy then. Not that he’s not happy now – of course he is. He just misses them.
Over lunch, he’s going to text Martin. He’ll say hello to the ground crew, then settle into his favourite spot in the canteen where he can watch all the planes, and text Martin. It’s been too long since they last spoke, but Martin and Theresa are so busy now, operating Liechtenstein’s first ever flying school. They’re thriving off it. Arthur has been to visit, and it really is a brilliant place. Martin looks the happiest he’s ever been, even more than when he took the job with Swiss Air. That feels like so long ago.
They’ve named one of the buildings after Carolyn. Seeing that had made Arthur want to cry, a lot. But in a good way. It feels right.
He cross-checks the office as he walks across it. He’s had a nice chair put in, replacing the old one Carolyn used to have. She used to like how uncomfortable it was. Arthur may be his mother’s son, but he also knows how scary interviews are, and he wants people to feel safe in his office. He has no desire to watch them shuffle in fear.
Ground crew, lunch text Martin, text Douglas. His to-do list is always so long, these days. Not that he's complaining. He likes to be busy, and everyone seems to respect his leadership these days. It had been hard at first, persuading everyone that he could do it, that he was more than just ditzy old Arthur, but he had been paying attention to Carolynn for years and he could run an airline, he just knew it. If she could do it, so could he and he would prove it to everyone, mark his words.
They believe him now. Now that they’re thriving.
He wants to dawdle, to linger in his memories for a little longer, but he’s on the clock now. He told Douglas to arrive for 12:30, and it’s almost 1 now, so by Arthur’s reckoning, he has just over twenty minutes for lunch. The interviews won’t be until 2, but Arthur knows Douglas and likes to be prepared. It takes him a little while to put on the face of the CEO of OJS Air.
He looks around the room one more time. Then he turns off the light, and heads out onto the airfield, waving and smiling at people, packed lunch in hand so he can settle into his seat in the corner and watch the planes.