NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Entry
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Location: An airport smoking lounge
Object: A bandana
She didn’t realize she was allergic to cigarette smoke until she took a job at the smoking lounge in the airport. Now, she spent all her time fixing drinks, wiping at her watering eyes, and cursing the tobacco companies. Well, that and staring out the glass window to the rest of the airport waiting for him to walk by.
Him. The too-handsome-for-words pilot who walked by several times a week on his way to one exotic destination after another. Destinations like Bali, Tahiti, or….Phoenix. Places she could only dream of going. The ridiculously tanned, toned, and lean athlete who would probably never sacrifice his respiratory health by stepping foot in an airport smoking lounge.
She glanced at the clock. He hadn’t passed yet today and would probably be going by any…any…”achoo!” Ugh. Damn this smoke. She glared at the one oblivious patron at the end of the bar as she reached for a cocktail napkin and swiped at her dripping nose. Who still smoked anyway? Didn’t he know it would kill him? Maybe if it did she would get to go home early. And just never come back. And try to find a job that wasn’t slowly killing her. She blew her nose into the napkin, not even bothering trying to hide it from him. Let him be as grossed out by her snot as she was by his disgusting habit. Still wiping her nose, she looked up to the window and saw…him. Just standing. Not walking, not hurrying, but standing and staring. At her? Couldn’t be. She looked behind her but the man at the bar didn’t seem to know handsome pilot. He was definitely looking at her. Cocktail napkin still pressed to her nose, she watched in horror as he stepped through the glass doors and into the lounge.
He approached the bar. “Are you ok?”
She threw the napkin behind her. “Uhh…” but before she could respond with actual words, he reached down into the front pocket of his suitcase and pulled out a bandana.
“Here, it’s the closest thing I have to handkerchief.” A handkerchief. He was adorable.
“Thanks…” she whispered and dabbed at her eyes with the cloth. There was no way she was blowing her nose on anything this man could possibly put anywhere on his body.
“I couldn’t just walk by a crying woman without stopping to see if she was ok.” He was a goddamned gentleman.
“That’s sweet,” she was still whispering.
He tipped his head to the side as though he were studying her, his blue eyes meeting hers and not letting go. “You seem sweet. Too sweet to be working in an airport smoking lounge.”
She giggled. Yes, actually giggled. Was he real?
Still not taking his eyes from hers he let go of his suitcase and leaned across the bar, motioning with a crook of his finger for her to do the same. She looked around. Was she being punk’d? Her breath stuck her throat, she placed her forearms on the bar and leaned her face toward his. Now their noses were only inches apart.
“Would you like to go somewhere with me?” he whispered, his hot breath reaching her lips and causing her to shiver. It smelled like spearmint.
“Somewhere?” she squeaked.
“Anywhere. Let’s just get on a plane and go somewhere warm. All you’ll need is a bathing suit. I’ll buy the Mai Tais.” She just stared, too stunned to respond. “Oh yea,” he leaned even closer, until his lips were practically pressed against her ear, “I don’t smoke.”
Sold. She nodded. “Ok.”
He reached out a hand. She took it and let him lead her around the bar, out into the lounge, as the smoker down the way looked up to see why there wasn’t a fresh drink in front of him. Pulling off the black apron they insisted she wear, she threw it onto the floor and raised her hand in farewell to her one customer. Hand in hand, they stepped through the glass door, ready to take flight together.
“Hello? Excuse me, are you sure you’re ok?”
She blinked. She was back behind the bar. Handsome pilot was still standing in front of her and the smoking man was ready for another drink. She looked down. She was still holding her hand around the bandana he was trying to give her, her fingers resting against his soft wrist.
“Where did you go there?” he asked.
Away with you, she thought. “I’m sorry,” she said.
He laughed. “Don’t be sorry…” he trailed off and looked down at her chest, to her nametag. “Liz.”
She smiled at the sound of her name on his lips.
“Well, hey. I hope you’re ok now. I have to catch a 7:00 to Austin. It was nice to meet you.” He’s lying, she thought. All she’d done was stare at him and now he was leaving. No plane, no Mai Tais, no glorious future filled with tiny, adorable, pilot babies.
He turned toward the doors and she sighed at his retreating back, ready to go back to admiring him from afar. She looked down at the bandana still clutched in her hand, wondering if it smelled like him. But, before she could press it to her nose, she heard her name.
She lifted her head. He was still in the doorway, looking back at her.
“Can I stop back by tomorrow and see you?”
She nodded. Hell yes, she thought. “Sure,” she said.