Flight 116: Cancelled

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A peek into the life of Michael, a business man on a flight home. How is a simple flight transformed by the memory of a fateful night so long ago?

This is the first of a series of stories in which I will attempt to connect the main characters in the most subtle and inconsequential ways.

Submitted: November 08, 2013

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Submitted: November 08, 2013

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The flat tone sounded throughout the pressurized cabin – an order more so than a warning. Turbulent winds battered the small aircraft. “Sorry folks, we’re experiencing some rough air. Please remain seated with safety belts fastened.” The speaker clicked, and the seatbelt sign flashed overhead.

Michael gazed at the clouds through his tiny window. His white knuckles relaxed as he imagined himself enveloped in the vast plushness extending to the horizon. The plane shook a second time. Michael renewed his grip on the armrests. He hated flying. He hated the sound of children screaming while exhausted mothers begged forgiveness. He hated the cold coffee and flat soda being handed out by apathetic flight attendants. He hated screaming through the air in a hollow metal tube, miles above the earth –

Michael stopped himself. He felt sick. His heart leapt as his stomach was pulled by the plane’s rough navigation through the turbulence. The shaking ceased, and Michael took in a deep breath. Had he ever enjoyed flying? Once maybe. Once with her.

Before he could remember, Michael’s reverie was cut short by the tap of a stewardess. She wore a haggard expression as she offered him a diet cola. Michael shook his head, “No thank you.” She muttered something in replied and continued pushing her cart up the aisle.  Michael paused to collect his thoughts – recalling what he could of what mush have been his only fond travel memory. How could he forget it? How could he forget her?

She fumbled with her carry on as she struggled to close the overhead storage. Michael looked on, mildly interested. “Just… gotta… really… slam it,” she said, giving one hard final shove. The door clicked into place. Two fortunate travelers, upgraded to first class, locked eyes for the first time.  “That should hold fine.” It didn’t. No sooner than the words left her lips, the plastic door burst open, and her bag came tumbling down – open. Michael would have had to suppress a laugh, had he not looked to his lap where a single pair of red, lace unmentionables had fallen. Funny, how time seems to stop at the most inopportune moments.  And there they stood, two strangers at an impasse where neither words nor eye contact seemed an option. Seconds ticked by, and Michael swallowed while his cheeks burned. He avoided looking at her face, though he was certain she was looking at him. Without meeting her gaze, he took the fabric between his thumb and index finger and offered it back. She squeaked out a quick “Thanks,” before she collected the rest of her belongings. She took her seat next to Michael, and they sat in silence. From a few furtive glances, Michael could tell she had long, shimmering ash brown hair. Her cheeks, Michael noted thankfully, were as red as his. Her eyes were green. They sat for a few moments more, and apologies began to flow from two cherry red faces.

Michael drew a sharp breath as another patch of turbulence rattled his seat. After regaining his composure, he smiled. The mere recollection of their incident brought a slight blush to his face. He looked up. The seatbelt indicator was no longer glowing. Willing to brave the aisle for a much needed stretch, Michael rose from his seat. He started towards the lavatory one step at a time. He shuffled down the aisle past sleeping old women, petulant toddlers, and adults who sat plugged into their smartphones – all packed together and not a smile between them. The plane rocked once more. Michael lurched forward and nearly tumbled into the lap of a less than cheerful man. Some people need to smile more, he thought. She smiled. He remembered two sets of lips, both stained with wine, drawn back and grinning in the dim mood lighting of an airport bar. Rachel. He rolled her name over itself in his head.

Michael reached the lavatory – occupied. Another flight attendant stood nearby while she refilled her cart with sodas and stale pretzels. The calming whir of the engines was interrupted by the crinkling of plastic. Her hair was done up in a messy bun. She wore a white button-down blouse with a navy skirt, red heels, and sheer black nylons. Michael rubbed his sore neck. Where had he seen those stockings before? His frown quickly melted as her giggling danced through his head. He remembered the subtle glint of incandescent lights against Rachel’s legs – her supple curves encased in nylon. Her designer heel balanced on her toes as she daintily bounced her foot while they discussed their flight cancellation and subsequent marooning in Salt Lake City.

The lavatory opened. A gruff, old man pushed past Michael to his seat. Michael muttered, “Excuse me,” as he stepped into the tiny confinement. The strong sterile scent of cleaner filled his nostrils. It barely masked the stench of urine. He looked about the tiny room. His eyes glossed over the mirror and –

Wait. What was that? Michael stared into the mirror as his hand crept to his cheek. For an instant he thought he spied that faint print of lipstick. He remembered now. He sighed and let his mind be flooded with memories; sights, sounds, scents, and sensations ran together in a symphony of reverie. He remembered a dizzy head, a hastily booked hotel room, and a hassle counting out cab fare. He felt the warm rush of Rachel’s lips and cheek as they giggled in the doorway, fumbling with the room key. The lock clicked, and they stumbled inside. Michael fell backwards onto the bed. The world spun around them as Michael watched her disrobe in the glow of nearby street lamps. His eyes tracked her every movement and finally fell on her finger, upon which she twirled what appeared to be red lace. Time slowed once more as the fabric fell to the floor and crashed against the carpet in deafening silence. Funny, how time seems to stop in the most opportune moments. Everything blurred together – the smell of her hair, the warmth of her skin. The night trembled ever so slightly as Rachel’s delicate voice called out, “Michael… Michael… Michael….”

Michael opened his eyes. He gazed into the mirror and noted the pinkness of his cheeks. Someone knocked on the door. Michael stepped out to find a disgruntled young mother and her toddler on her hip. “Sorry, excuse me,” she said as she tentatively stepped past him and shut the door. The aisle was empty, and Michael started back to his seat, unaware of the slightest grin which crept onto his lips. He looked about the cabin. Toddlers shrieked, adults sighed, and old women shifted in their sleep as the plane soared onward. He took his seat and gazed out the window. The plane shook, and the seatbelt light flashed. Michael felt the gold band around his finger; he smiled. 


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