It was the same thing every time the janitor tried to sweep this section of the floor.
Automatic doors opened, Atlantic winds whipped in, and wrappers and dirt and travel detritus eddied about, as if teasing the broom.
It was the same thing every time.
And he hated it.
He swore a little under his breath and waited for the funnel to peter out. He took a step back and bumped into someone. He turned quickly and saw her.
“Whoa. I’m so sorry.”
He stared a little longer than he meant to.
The woman was lovely. A brunette the way it was meant to be done.
The woman was with a man.
And the woman was sad.
The woman managed a little smile. The janitor shyly looked away.
His tiny white whales had settled, for a moment, so he swept them away from the doors, and the couple, quickly.
He kept sweeping.
The stewardess stepped over the janitor’s broom. He smiled the smile of someone who recognized but did not know her. She smiled the smile of someone in too much of a rush to change that.
She checked her phone.
No messages. No texts.
It’s not as if she was asking for something from him.
She was doing HIM a favour, she told herself.
She was keeping him in the loop.
It had taken two of them to get in this situation.
She knew that he didn’t like it enough to put a ring on it, but…
She checked her phone again.
For the time this time.
She had to work the 7:30 to Rome.
She twirled her hair. It was an old habit. It wasn’t one she was particularly proud of, but as far as bad habits went, she’d take it.
The curl remained, after she took her finger away. But not for long.
She figured people watching would keep her mind quiet for a bit, and spotted them immediately.
The man was tall and intense. The woman, a brunette, was… beautiful, you know, if you liked that type.
She watched the man drum on his knee with his thumb, his gaze never leaving the woman.
She watched the woman turn away periodically, as if it was necessary for her to break the stare to really breathe.
The stewardess stood up. She straightened her uniform.
A college-aged boy approached her. She put on the oft-practiced smile.
“Yes?” she forced.
“I– uhm… The flight to LA?”
She recognized that she was probably the first woman he had talked to in ages and relaxed a little herself. She gently took him by the shoulders and turned him towards the large screen, just barely out of his line of vision.”
“Well, sweetie, looks like there’s been a little delay. I’m sure an announcement will be made soon. Just take a seat.”
With that, she was off.
Checking her phone as she walked away.
College boy sat down and opened his netbook.
He had new mail.
He turned quickly to tell someone, but realized he was alone.
He felt lonely. For a moment.
But then he felt vindicated.
There had been so much pressure to go into the family business.
For so long
From so many.
But he was doing it. On his own.
Still… he wished he wasn’t completely on his own.
And that he wasn’t such a geek cliche.
He could still kind of smell the stewardess’ perfume.
Reminded him of someone.
From some time.
A road not taken? He laughed. He didn’t even get in the car.
Maybe it was phantosmia.
Olfactory hallucination, he said to himself, being so used to having to explain words he used.
He wondered who else was waiting for the flight to LA.
And the first people he saw were a pretty couple.
Well-dressed. The woman was in her mid-20s. The man was probably older.
He knew nothing about relationships and even he saw the tension.
Still, he’d trade places with the man in a second. No matter how great the e-mail he just received.
He turned and saw a little girl. Maybe 7 years old.
“Hi,” he replied.
The little girl pointed down at the floor.
He noticed a red rubber ball next to his suitcase.
He picked the ball up and mimed throwing it to her as a question.
She nodded excitedly.
He tossed it — which wasn’t exactly in his wheelhouse — and she caught it.
And the little girl skipped off.
She dropped the ball.
She picked it up.
And she bounced it.
She’d show Sarah. Sarah said she couldn’t bounce it good. But she could! And Sarah also told Stacy something about her. She didn’t know what, but Sarah was mean. And Stacy was mean for not telling her. And it was Sarah’s fault for telling Stacy she wouldn’t be her friend if she told. Her mommy told her not to listen to Sarah and not to worry about what she said. Her mommy also told her to “forgive and forget.” So she forgave Sarah
She bounced the ball again, but it hit her foot and went rolling.
It bumped into some man’s foot. He looked a little angry. The pretty brown-haired lady with him smiled though. Sort of.
The man gently tossed the ball back to her. She caught it. Better than Sarah could.
She skipped off back to her mommy.
“So,” the man started, pushing one rebel strand of the woman’s hair aside, “are you staying or going?”