Short story by Lola Gentry-Dey. All rights reserved.
I awoke from my nap and remembered I was on a plane home to San Diego. I glanced around the low-lit cabin of thirteen other passengers, most of them asleep and a few with their heads bowed over some reading material. Across the aisle, my mother snored like our boxer Max. I leaned forward for a magazine when the top of my low-cut jeans pressed against my bladder and sent me off toward the restrooms. Along the way I swept some hair from my eyes, but it returned and tickled my nose. I almost sneezed, which caused me to almost wet myself. I sprinted to the toilet and did my business, releasing some gas and sounding like my dad’s truck when it had a bad carburetor.
After washing my hands at the sink and wiping my face with a lemon scented towel, I headed back and met a pretty flight attendant coming my way. She wore the typical flight attendant uniform that reminded me of my aunt’s Coast Guard one—a starchy white blouse and dark blue skirt. The attendant was my height—5’5”—and had soft auburn hair pinned up in a bun on her head.
“Hi,” I said as she approached. “Got any magazines other than People and Reader’s Digest?”
She stopped in front of me and shook her head. “Sorry,” she answered.
I shrugged off my disappointment while she glanced at the red curtain behind her that separated coach from first class. Then she looked at me slyly with warm blue eyes. “Would you like to take a look in first class?”
“Sure!” Like a child offered free sweets, I followed at her heels past the curtains and into a small, well-lit kitchenette where a taller flight attendant stood at a counter and dumped paper packets from a box. She ignored us as we entered first class on the other side of another set of red curtains. The place was lit low like coach, but the lighting seemed sharper and the seats were spaced farther apart. We passed a male attendant sleeping in a reclined, gray leather seat on our right. The rest of the place was uninhabited. She stopped while I looked around, which caused me to collide against her backside and send her turning and falling onto one of the seats to our left. She came to rest with her legs draped over an armrest and her pink knees hiding the lower half of her face.
“Have a seat,” she said and laughed after I apologized for my clumsiness. She pivoted her body like a gymnast and took the window seat, and then patted the seat she had fallen onto. “Go ahead, it’s okay.”
I sat and felt the first class cushion hug my second class ass. I released a pleasant sigh when the flight attendant stuck out a hand and said, “I’m Angie.”
I grasped her warm, soft hand. “Lola.”
She released my hand, leaned at me and pushed aside those errant strands of hair out of my eyes. She smelled freshly scrubbed and wore a fruity scent mixed with sandalwood and jasmine that blanketed me and made me dizzy.
Suddenly, her mouth was very close to the side of my face. The tip of her nose skimmed the edge of my cheek as she drew closer. Her breath warmed my earlobe when she whispered, “I want to play a game. Close your eyes.”
I hesitated. She said, “I want you to relax and put everything out of your mind until all you see is a blank wall in front of you, and all you hear is my voice.”
Again I hesitated.
“Trust me,” she said. “Imagine you’re a great artist painting a self-portrait on the wall. You’re wearing your favorite outfit.”
I closed my eyes, saw a blank wall in front of me, and pretended I was like the landscape painters I’d seen at the beaches near my home. I wore my favorite yellow and strapless summer dress that fit me like a soft caress.
Angie said, “Paint me next to you wearing clothes like yours.”
I did that, too, so easily.
“Now paint us a world to live in, to run in, to do in whatever we want. Make it our world, to share with no one but each other.”
In an instant I created a sunny day around a flowery hill. Angie and I ran on the fragrant hill, laughing and shouting like children. Along the way, Angie took one of my hands in hers and led me up and down the terrain, singing a song about magic, and swinging my arm with hers, our hands clamped together all the while.
We did this for a long time until we came to a brook and stopped. There, Angie let go of my hand.
“I must get ready,” she said. “The plane lands soon and I have to get back to work.”
Her statement confused me; I’d forgotten we were on an airplane. She told me to relax, to stay with her at the brook. I did.
“This place you see is real,” she said, as though she knew my thoughts. “You have created a place for us to visit whenever you want, Lola. Never believe it’s not so.”
I looked around at the hilly meadow, beautiful and tranquil. When I turned back, Angie was gone. A faraway male voice said that the plane would land soon.
My sunny world vanished and the first class section of the plane came into view.
Alone, I wandered back to my original seat. When the plane landed, Angie said goodbye to my mother and me at the exit. Before I followed my mother to the tarmac, Angie winked and tapped her forehead. “See you at the brook later today,” she said. “If you’ll paint me.”
I did. Since then, Angie and I spend wonderful times together in our secret, private world she helped me find that night in first class.