The wind blew hard along the stretch of runway. The engines ground to a whisper, and then quieted. The stairs lowered. Soldiers in uniform, others in fatigues, soon filled the steps.
Collars up against the wind, they smiled as they emerged in the twilight. A thousand-yard stare for some. Others squinted as they searched the tarmac, then the terminal.
A woman ran out through the glass doors, beyond the outstretched arms of security. Coat unbuttoned, scarf trailing. Her shoes scuffed on the hard black surface. She made fists to run faster. She crossed a yellow line, then another. She twisted through the sprawling crowd of men and women. She searched each face. A few she knew. Their faces seemed older.
She found him at the last step. A duffle bag in one hand, the opposite sleeve pinned to his coat. She stopped and stood before him. She reached out and stroked the empty sleeve. She grasped his lapels and slid her head inside his coat.