All flights are grounded due to the storm…
Regardless of when the flights took off, it was going to be bedlam, a fact
that did nothing to improve Trish’s state of mind. Her two-day business trip,
the one she had to take because Sanders couldn’t, would now be a
three-day one. She would fall yet another day behind in reports, paperwork, mail
and the other minutia that kept her wheels spinning without ever getting her
ahead. Goddamned Sanders; if that wife of his tightened his leash any further
he wouldn’t be able to leave home.
Her boss knew his cards and played his hand thoughtfully.
Hey, you want to be treated equal – you would be the number two for this
trip. But if your kids take precedence…of course they take precedence, you
prick. This should not be unique to my sex.
But, as he dangled her promotion in front of her, she made her arrangements
and booked her tickets. And now, here she was, wherever here was. She
and the rest of the population that flew this airline; the entire hub was
grounded. Son of a bitch.
After a few calls, ensuring that her ex was able to keep the kids, her
assistant could rearrange her appointments and all crap coming through for her
should be directed to Sanders, she sought shelter. There were economy places
along the airport perimeter but she and her corporate cards checked in here.
Four stars and a fancy clientele – take that, Sanders.
The room was beautiful: plush robe, oversized tub, all the amenities. Trish
set up her laptop, turned it on and watched the screen come to life. As soon as
it was loaded, she turned it off. Forget it, I’m off duty. Her sour
mood gave her confidence.
She perused the room service menu, but what she really wanted was a drink.
The bar was as highly rated as the hotel – why not? She made a quick call to the
boyfriend – the reliable, predictable boyfriend – telling him she was fine. He
said everything she knew he would, he missed her terribly, even though it had
only been 48 hours. Of course he understood. Don’t rush getting back. Just take
care of you. Who says that? Nice, reliable, predictable boyfriends –
that’s who. The boyfriend was a carbon copy of her ex; you would think she would
have gone in another direction. But kids need reliable; predictable helped,
What did she need? A drink at a grown-up bar, that’s what.
Finding a bar seat between two businessmen, she parked herself on her stool,
ordered a scotch – old and single – and started a tab. Expense report be damned,
she was reclaiming something tonight; what that was, she’d determine later.
Most of the heads in the bar turned when he walked in, hers
included. She had seen his last film, thought him quite good. Ironically, he had
played an airline pilot. What was his name? She hadn’t fully appreciated the
pilot’s appeal before, but in person it was a different story…his confident
gait, wolfish expression, his lingering, engaging stare. She looked away when
his gaze fell on her, an immature reaction. What flight had he been on? He
seemed unconcerned at being stranded.
Trish ordered another scotch.
A pair of fans – groupies? – made their way from a back table before his
first drink was served, enthusiastically vying for his attention. Trish thought
she remembered her friend mentioning a rumor, that the pilot had been one corner
of a triangle. Seeing him made it seem a lot more likely.
She checked her phone. There was nothing new, she knew there wouldn’t be. Her
family was getting farther away with each sip of scotch. A mirror lined the wall
in front of her, allowing her to see everything happening at the bar. She
surreptitiously watched the groupies’ progress; he’d probably have both of them
tonight. Trish imagined the pilot didn’t mind the layover, and then smiled
ruefully at her own choice of words.
She must have at least a decade on him.
Trish watched the mirror as he ran his fingers through his hair and wondered
if random acts like that were practiced. His eyes met hers in the mirror. He
lifted his glass in a small toast as his lips pulled back into a smile that hit
her in the knees. She looked away, again. Jesus, what was she, 13? When she
mustered the courage to glance back at the mirror, it was Groupie Two’s glare
that met her this time. Trish reddened and looked back at her drink. The
groupies chirped out laughter from their corner of the bar.
The bartender pointed to her glass as the pilot’s laugh flowed along the
bar’s surface. She nodded; the corporate card had no limits and she had yet to
start enjoying herself.
The businessman to her left had abandoned his stool for a phone call. The one
to her right had tried to remove his wedding ring covertly while looking at her
legs. He engaged her in banal banter; she feigned interest. A conversation, even
one as insipid as this, gave her an excuse to stay. Her phone buzzed with a text
from her kids. Good night, my loves. See you soon, she replied. A loud
quintet entered the bar. Their boisterous celebrating caused some of the more
practiced drunks to surrender their bar seats. Trish contemplated following
suit; they were awfully loud. But the pilot and his groupies generously moved
down the bar to make way for the newcomers.
He was so close. Sitting with his back to the bar and his long legs extended
in front of him, the groupies giggled and used any excuse possible to place a
hand on him. The married-but-hiding-it businessman to her right nudged her in
the arm and laughed. She missed the joke but laughed anyway. He ordered them
more drinks; she put hers on her tab. Her phone buzzed again. Her eyes glanced
down and she typed her return text. Yes, you can have ice cream. She
looked up to find the pilot facing her; only Groupie Two between them.
Her married businessman asked her a question. She could barely pretend to
care what he was saying. He produced a room key and waved it at her. Trish
stared at it with shock. The pilot’s soft laugh reached her; she felt a fool.
She shook her head, staring directly in front of her. Her married businessman
muttered some weak insult and left her to pay for his drink.
Trish took a deep breath, keeping her eyes on the bar. She’d allowed the
alcohol to convince her of impossible thoughts and now she must slink away,
leaving her ego at the bottom of her glass. She pushed it away from her. Two
long fingers stopped the glass mid-push while two more indicated to the
bartender to bring another round. The pilot’s heat bled through her blouse where
he stood. Not just yet, he said (whispered?), and slid into the married
businessman’s vacated spot. She started to speak but he smiled and she lost the
ability. They touched their glasses and both took long pulls on their
She seemed unable to make conversation and he didn’t seem to require it. The
groupies reappeared without Trish realizing they had gone. They tried to edge
her out. One leaned across the pilot to order a drink, something Trish would
have done in college. Groupie One whispered something in his ear. He shook his
head, his eyes never leaving Trish.
The groupies evaporated.
The pilot’s leg rested up against hers; a silent tremble ran up her thigh.
What was his name? Her phone buzzed; the boyfriend checked in; guilt pulled her
from her trance. How was she getting on? Did she want him to tuck her in?
I’m fine. All’s well. Thanks.
The bartender came round for another order. Trish stared at her phone. The
boyfriend didn’t deserve this – he was a good man. She hated him for being
decent. She turned to the pilot. The bartender asked again. No, we’re
finished. She stood as her tab was presented. The ticket conveniently
listed the information in duplicate, one for the bar to keep and one for her
expense report. This would be a hard one to put through. Trish separated the two
and wrote what was necessary. The pilot’s stare stayed on her as she turned to
face him. They smiled and nodded at each other. Trish shouldered her purse and
walked away slowly, hoping he was watching.
In her room she pulled the soft robe around her and regarded her view of the
city. Being good was easy when all you’ve ever done is play it safe. Her phone
buzzed from the table. She took her time retrieving it. Good night, the
boyfriend wrote. Good night, darling, she replied, and slipped the
phone into her suitcase, where it could not be heard. She pulled the pins out of
her hair and let it fall to her shoulders.
Downstairs at the bar, the groupies were flitting around the pilot once
again. He thanked them for their compliments and bid them good night.
In the elevator he removed the bar receipt she had left for him, and punched
the button for her floor.