She was soaked in sweat. Her handbag was rebelling against her as it kept on falling off her shoulder. And the broken wheel in the suitcase didn’t speed up the run to the gate. She knew she was going to get checked by the guard – by now she learned that her chocolate shade of skin was only useful for free drinks at a bar. NOT at the airport.
She dragged the last of her dignity up the stairs and after squeezing through the smallest corridor between seats she found her one.
Middle seat. Of course, this day couldn’t go worse for her. But the seat beside the window was empty – so there was a chance. Surely she was the last to get on board. She wanted to get the handle down but it got stuck. She kept on pulling at it, up and down, up and down, up and suddenly it was no longer attached to the suitcase. Instead, it was flying around the plane as if in search of a new, better path of life.
“Need any help with that?”, said a deep voice behind her.
“No thank you, ugh!” she began turning towards it. “Ugh why is it always me?!” she whispered under her breath as she squashed her bag into the overhead compartment.
“I have a tiny bladder and I’m at the window, maybe your situation isn’t that bad, huh?”
He had dark hazel eyes that emitted this specific warmth and kindness. She smiled.
“Yeah, I’ll still have to get up every time you do, 10E, nice to meet you.” They shook hands, laughed and fitted each other in their seats. It was nice to know that at least this once she wasn’t surrounded by a mother with a baby and a sweaty hairy pig, that ALWAYS decided to use her sleeve as a napkin for his drool.
“So, 10E, what brings you to the great land of Britan?” he asked. As soon as he took out his car magazine she felt like grabbing it and looking at the comic section.
“Umm,” she looked at him hesitantly, “I live there?” she giggled. “I am just coming back from a holiday.”
“Oh, very good. Did you enjoy Italy?”
“I mean, it is beautiful.” she hesitated.
“Well, I was there on my own ..” she said.
“Me too actually! I like those kinds of trips. You can really do what you want you to know. Meet new people. Eat where and what you want to eat,” he paused clearly seeing she was not that interested. “Use the bathroom with the door open!” he laughed.
“That last one is my jam.” she joined him. But her laugh was orderly. Although she was glad he wasn’t an annoying mother with a baby, she didn’t feel like remembering the worst two weeks of her life.
“How come you were alone?” he pushed.
Did she really have to reveal all her depressing secrets to an aeroplane stranger?
“The person I was supposed to go with cancelled,” she said.
“Total shame! Well, at least you got to do whatever you wanted right?”
“I suppose.” she looked at him flicking through the magazine and couldn’t help herself. “Sorry, do you mind if I just quickly read the comic on the back?”
His eyebrows flew to the top of his wrinkly forehead, but without hesitation he passed the magazine to her, smiling softly.
She giggled. Those comics were the one thing in the world that made her smile even at her worst.
“You like dogs?” he asked after she finished reading about a puppy eating a goldfish.
“I love them!” she looked as if she remembered one of her own ones. “I have a German shepherd. I will never forget the time he was just a pup!” she giggled.
“Oh yeah! They’re sweethearts but if they want something the devil in them comes floating to the top!” he said.
“Did you ever see any of those stupid videos with dogs on TV? Where they act, ridiculous?!”
“I love them! I used to spend hours watching them as a kid.”
“Yeah, me too! But that would be Charlie. She would manage to speak, dance, break stuff, fix stuff and probably perform a show of her life for that one tiny piece of sausage!” she laughed.
“Sounds like a gem! I actually own a shelter and as much as I love German Shepherds, I need to say nothing beats a pug!”
“Wow! Pugs! They’re adorable. Once I heard that they are invincible at snoring.”
“Oh God yeah! If you are a light sleeper and live within 10km of a pug you’re doomed to have an awful night!”
“Aha! But you see unfortunately I’m not a princess.”
“Did you do the pea test?”
“Actually, as a matter of fact, yes. I did.”
He laughed. She believed that it was because she wasn’t as special as he thought. But there was something about that laugh that she found comforting. Like she heard it every time I was about to fall asleep.
“Welll, not everyone can be a princess. But you know once in a while you will find yourself sitting next to one in the aeroplane.”
“Too bad all that I have is you!” she laughed.
“Auch!” he laughed and shifted in his seat so that we would be more-less facing each other. “So, now that we’re friends will you tell me why you were alone on that trip?”
Why was he so persistent, she thought. But then again she would never see him again. It’s just she didn’t want the pitty in his eyes. She didn’t want him to think wrong of her. But was a lie in this situation appropriate? As he said they were friends. Newbies but friends. And was she ever going to get a chance like this? To tell her story and just have it off her chest?
“My husband,” she started. He tensed up a little but didn’t interrupt her. “he umm, we used to come here for our anniversary every year. But he passed away three years ago. So, now it’s only me.” she forced her tight lips to curl up.
As his shoulders slowly went down, he smiled with large loving eyes at her. “I think it’s a sweet tradition you have. But I doubt he would want you to be sad every year during this time.”
“Heh, yeah. I suppose easy to say.”
“I lost my mother less than a year ago. Trust me I know how it feels.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “How about when we land we get a real coffee – not this shite?”
She didn’t know what to answer. She was supposed to never see him again. “Umm I don’t know, I’m really not looking for any .. umm .. you know..” Did she say it right? What if she offended him?? She looked down at his magazine and her fingers suddenly were entwined in each other.
“It’s okay, me neither. Friends.” he held out his hand.
After short consideration, she shook it. “Friends.”