“This is the all-American Boy’s dream trip, you know.”
He didn’t look at her immediately, busily stowing his suitcase, briefcase and a sheaf of papers in the overhead and in the seat-back pocket.
Ellen was not the sort who could turn away a conversation, but she intended to have a good night’s sleep on the red-eye flight back home to Chicago. Nevertheless, she turned away from her book and examined the tall stranger smiling down at her.
She noticed him folding his suit coat inside out to protect from wrinkles, but the stewardess took it from him to hang in a closet in some secret part of the first class cabin.
“I just said that this is the dream that all American boys grow up with, that they will travel to distant cities and have a beautiful girl for a seat companion. You can imagine how the dream runs from there, right?” He swung into his aisle seat without losing eye contact and holding the disarming smile.”
“Oh. That’s the dream, is it?” she laughed a quick little laugh and turned back to her book, hoping he would take the hint.
“A few minutes late, but not bad. We were to take off at 9:15 and it’s not yet 9:30.” He said, examining his watch.
They were quiet as the plane taxied in the waning sunlight and the dying sun cast the plane in a golden aura.
He sat quietly for a few minutes, glancing at his newspaper while the stewardesses went around efficiently closing bins and offering the first class guests the traditional glass of Mimosa. She looked up, then took the little stemmed glass and sipped.
“Your health.” He murmured, and insisted on clinking glasses with her. She smiled and nodded to him. He was handsome, she thought. “And you are, indeed very pretty.”
“Thank you. You’re pretty too,” she joked, and then turned again to the book. The smile lingered on her lips.
“You’re doing it wrong anyway.”
“I’m not doing anything!” she said pointedly but not unkindly. It wasn’t in her to be unkind to anyone, actually.
“Well, I assume you brought the book in case your seat mate was one of those people who just insist on talking. You have to bring a hard cover. Paperbacks don’t put anyone off.” He grinned at her, pulling the smile into a tight line but grinning with his eyes.
“Oh, this? A friend gave it to me as she dropped me off. Kind of trashy. You’re right, I should have brought a hard cover.”
“Oh, so you ARE trying to get me to shut up, eh?”
“You said it, I didn’t.”
“Kind of a hot cover. Is it a hot book?” he persisted.
“Well ... as a matter of fact, I am a little shocked at some of the scenes, if you want to know the truth. And the girl who gave it to me had a good Catholic upbringing! And I am sorry if my book doesn’t fit into your All-American boy fantasy!”
She laughed in spite of herself, uncertain if she wanted the stranger to stop talking after all. He was rather amusing ... and cute.
“Oh no, it fits right into it. I think my psychology professor called it the “Paradox of small places.’ When placed in a small place with strangers, at first we find things to avoid contact, looking into the distance, reading a book, anything to avoid any possibility of intimacy. But then a strange thing happens, as soon as the ice is broken by one person, we are likely to share even the most intimate thoughts or feelings or facts about ourselves to the stranger.” He smiled at her in a disarming way.
“When did you have a psychology professor? Are you putting me on?”
“No, in college, it was one of my favorite subjects. Favorite teacher, as a matter of fact. He was terrific.”
Ellen looked skeptical. “Really?
“Really! Haven’t you ever noticed it? In a taxicab, in an elevator, on a train? Or ... on a plane?”
She thought about it and had to admit that it had happened to her. “Yes ... you know, it does make sense. People are funny.” She looked off out the window, but it was pitch black now.
“Was it your major? Psych, I mean?”
“No. I thought about it though, but I didn’t think I could make a living at it, so I headed for business. I still think it’s interesting, though.”
“My name is Manny, by the way.” He held out his hand.
“Ellen.” She replied and let him take her hand. He held it longer than for a shake. Until she looked over her reading glasses inquiringly.
“Oh, sorry...” he said, letting go her hand.
“You are not!” she grinned.
“You’re right! I’m not sorry a bit. You can tell a lot by holding a strange girl’s hand, you know.”
“What for instance?”
“Well ... if she’s warm hearted, would she make a good mother, is she likely to put her elbows on the dinner table, that sort of thing.”
“You are a con man, aren’t you.”
“Yes, but I rarely admit to that.”
“You better buckle up, or the stew is going to remonstrate with you.”
The engines roared and the plane lurched onto the main runway and began its takeoff roll.
They climbed at a steep angle and soon leveled off with Ellen gazing spellbound at the golden glow of the sunset.
“Beautiful this time of night, isn’t it.”
“Yes.” She replied.
The lights twinkled along the shoreline, bordering the black ocean below.
“Are you a movie star?”
“What would make you ask that? Of course not!” She looked back into her book, but couldn’t fight off the tiny smile.
“Well, you look the part, of course, but who else can afford First Class?” he laughed.
“I fly for a living, I get upgrades for my millions of miles.”
She pretended to be engrossed in her book then said “My husband has lots of airline miles, too, he was able to arrange this as a treat. I’d like to get accustomed to it, though.”
“Has the heroine bared her bosom yet?”
Ellen shook her head, smiling into the book.
“Will you tell me when she does? I like that part!”
She shook her head still smiling to herself and pretending to be engrossed in the book.
The plane leveled out and the Stewardess offered them drinks.
“I’ll just have another glass of champagne...”
“Oh I was going to have a Manhattan, but I don’t want to drink alone. Sure you won’t join me?”
“No, better not.” She said.
The stewardess brought the drinks and he offered to clink glasses again.
“You don’t approve of the hard stuff?” he asked.
“It’s not that. Manhattan’s are my favorite ... but they make me wild ... so I am careful,” she laughed.
“Ohhh, how wild?”
“Just wild ... that’s all.”
“I could take care of you.” He offered.
“Yes, I just bet you would.”
“Mmmmmm, this is gooooood,” he grinned.
Ellen turned another page and sipped her Champagne.
“Are you going all the way? I didn’t ask, before.”
“I am willing if you are.” He said quickly.
“Oh god, you are making me blush again. I meant all the way to Chicago? You know we stop first in San Francisco. I thought you might be getting off there. I mean you have a nice suntan and might be a native out here.” She stopped as she realized it was nervous talk.
Instead she laughed and waited for his reply, her book open on her lap.
“Oh, Chicago. Disappointed! Yes, I am going all the way to Chicago. You’re stuck with me, I’m afraid, now that you have befriended me.”
“I haven’t befriended anyone.” She protested, picking up her book and putting her nose in it pointedly.
The two-hour flight to San Francisco went quickly and the two became more and more involved in bantering back and forth with occasional sexual allusions pieced in between other subjects,
“The sight of the city lights from up here always bowls me over.” he said, pointing out the window the cabin lights had been turned off and the city looked like a jewel on such a clear night.
“Yes, it’s the best part of the flight, isn’t it?”
“So far ... yes, but there’s a long way to go. I have hopes.” He said, tucking his tongue in his cheek.
“Stop!” she laughed, punching him on his bicep.
“Hey, not so hard, you have a terrific punch there...” His fingers gripped her bicep and she realized that he was quietly copping a feel. The back of his fingers slipped easily along her brassiere until he could feel the beginning of her breast. She allowed it patiently, then looked at him and rolled her eyes. He took the hint and slowly withdrew, enjoying the soft beginning slope of her right breast as long as he could.
“Do you know you have a run in your pantyhose?” he asked.
Ellen looked down at her leg, holding it out to examine it. “Yes, I know. Someone ran over my foot with her suitcase in the terminal. A gentleman would have pretended not to notice. And wouldn’t be looking there in the first place.” She dabbed at the run in the rich medium shade of her stocking.
“Guilty! Sorry ... I couldn’t resist.”
“Besides, they aren’t pantyhose, mister smarty.”
“You are kidding! You mean you are an old fashioned girl and wear real honest to god stockings? I don’t believe it.”
“True. But it’s none of your business, anyway.”
“I don’t believe it!”
She looked at him, shook her head and pulled her skirt up until the dark band of the stocking top peeked into view.
.... There is more of this story ...