Her plan had been to go to London, fall in love with a ridiculously handsome British chap and spend the rest of her life in his hip West End flat, going to clubs and strolling arm in arm down rainy London streets.
And did she succeed?
Obviously not, since she was on this plane to Los Angeles, wasnt she?
Despite himself, he laughed.
He wanted so badly to hate her, ever since he saw her saunter down the aisle towards him. Yes, she sauntered. She sauntered because she was beautiful, because she knew she was beautiful. She moved knowing she was beautiful and that every eye, male and female (although admittedly for different reasons), lingered on her as she went by. It gave her some kind of sick pleasure, he was sure of it. And thats why he hated her. Beautiful women are either one of two types: the innocent, lovely, unassuming and modest type, with shy eyes and a carefree smile, completely unaware of her charms; or the seductive, vain, manipulative, selfish type who was sitting next to him in the stale air of a coach cabin. Coach. What was she doing here? She looked like she belonged in first class, or at least business.
She wasnt supposed to be sitting next to him. Originally she was seated next to an exit door, but after watching the safety video she had come to the conclusion that she was not fit to operate the door in the event of an emergency.
Luke had been enjoying the rare and luxurious treat of having an empty seat next to him. Now he was free to get up and move about the cabin if he so chose, without disturbing who was nine times out of ten a grumpy and rotund older gentleman, or stretch languidly across both seats and fall into as deep a sleep as was possible, considering he was hurtling through the sky in a giant metal tube (a thought that had never afforded him much comfort). What was best was the window
As a child he had spent numerous flights with his nose continually pressed to the cold plastic, watching the miniature world pass slowly beneath him. There was something strange and magical about seeing things from so high up. This was what birds see, he remembered thinking.
I am so sorry to disturb you, but I was hoping that you wouldnt mind if I sat next to you. They had me by that emergency exit door, and I just dont think I can handle that kind of pressure. Thats a lot to ask of a person, dont you think? I dont want all these people to die because Im having a mental breakdown and cant function!
In her eyes was that look. That one that said I know you want me, but seeing as how you cant have me youre going to do everything in your power to make me happy, in the hopes that someday you might be able to make me yours.
Yes, I would mind if you sat next to me. Your vixen charms have no sway over me, succubus.
No, not at all, go ahead.
Did that sound disinterested enough? He tried to keep from noticing the thin strip of midriff that showed as she put a small leather suitcase in the overhead compartment. She was wearing just enough perfume so that every slight movement she made gave off the faintest hint of vanilla and musk. Surprisingly tasteful.
It was a few seconds before Luke realized that she still hadnt sat down, but was standing somewhat anxiously in the aisle. He looked at her expectantly above his magazine.
You know, I hate to be one of those people but I kind of have issues with flying, she confessed. It really helps if Im next to the window or I get very claustrophobic. Do you think
Would you mind if
Yeah, sure, Ill move.
Thus ended the bliss that was window seat solitude for Luke Gillespie.
He told her that his reasons for going to London werent nearly as exciting or far-reaching as hers. In fact, nothing about him seemed as exciting as she was and this made him a little embarrassed. He was a graduate student at UCLA, majoring in history, and had gotten the chance to attend a conference at Oxford. Stuffy old professors, hallowed halls
Oxford? She loved Oxford! She had spent a little time there, a day trip; but it was long enough to discover the large number of extremely charming male students in their school ties and cardigans; very picturesque. And did he know that Oxford meant ford of the ox and that was where the river was shallow enough for farmers to move their herds across? She knew lots of useless trivia like that. It was her hope that one day such useless trivia might help her win Jeopardy.
The plane jolted suddenly, sickeningly. Lukes stomach flipped, but it wasnt from the onslaught of turbulence. Her hand was gripping his on the armrest. She was touching him.
Oh, Im so sorry! she gasped, and immediately withdrew her hand. Im justI really hate flying. Especially turbulence. I get so scared the plane is just going to go down.
You knew exactly what you were doing.
But had he really minded? Despite the death grip, her hand was warm and fully trusting.
Its silly really, she continued. I mean, you have such a greater chance of dying in a car accident, and you get in a car every day. Of course, once I found that out I swore I would never drive again. She laughed and it was intoxicating. Damn her.
I guess I do a lot of silly things. Like thinking I could fall in love on a vacation
I dont know what it is about traveling that I find so romantic. Her smile was strangely candid, if indeed smiles could convey truth. Its like every time I go somewhere, I want to fall in love. It somehow makes it
Its not silly, Luke said suddenly. He had been listening to her go on, at first disinterested then rapt. His response surprised him. Its not silly at all. Traveling is romantic. The
thrill of a new place, new people. The very concept of the foreign and exotic
What the hell was he saying? He glanced at her quickly then returned to his magazine. As hard as he tried though, his eyes kept scanning the same sentence over and over, absorbing nothing. Ugh.
What? she prompted. You didnt finish your thought.
Nothing. Its nothing. I dont know where I was going with that, sorry.
He attempted a few more times to read, to no avail. His mind was playing that last bit of conversation on a loop and each time Luke wanted to punch himself in the face for being a bumbling idiot. She undoubtedly thought he was a bumbling idiot. She probably thought shed done it again: gotten a guy to fall for her in just a few minutes. He had to take control of the situation
By the way, Im Luke. I dont think I caught your name, he admitted.
I didnt give it, she replied with a coquettish gleam in her goddamn brown eyes. Im Chloe.
Chloe: 1. Luke: 0.
There was this one guys attention that shed caught when she was in the Tate. He was so gorgeous, and impeccably dressed. She first passed him on the stairs to the third floor, and then noticed him absorbed in a Magritte (Magritte was her favorite artist). She began as she always did, staring at him until their eyes locked. Then shed demurely look away and the chase was on. They played this game for a good thirty minutes, and at one point he was standing so close to her she could smell his cologne (she loved it when men wore cologne. Luke was not wearing his cologne today. Hed had to rush out of the hotel to catch a cab and forgotten it. Damn). It was one of those moments where shed wanted to say something really clever, but she couldnt think of anything. Now, she could think of about a billion really charming and witty things. Didnt he hate it when that happened?
It would have been so amazing
She would have said something perfect. Hed agree, or suggest an equally perfect contradiction. Then hed offer to take her for drinks, or dinner. Then hed be completely enchanted with this beautiful and quirky American birddare he say in love? And eventually theyd get married. Wasnt that so romantic? Wasnt that so wonderful?
Yes, he supposed it was. But that wasnt real life. Things like that didnt happen to people, except in movies and supermarket stand romance novels.
Youre setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment if you keep expecting things like that.
Lukes first girlfriend cheated on him. He was fifteen. She said she loved him, and he said he loved her, but she still cheated. She kissed Will Summers at the movies. Shed gone to see a movie with Will that Luke had been looking forward to for a whole year. They were supposed to see it together. Hed wanted to be angry with her, but he loved her too much. And he knew who the real culprit was. The media. Society. Telling us how love is supposed to be: romantic, wonderful, forever. Telling us that love even exists. Its just a chemical reaction in the brain.
Add that to your Jeopardy trivia.
Youre such a cynic! she cried. You sound like a bitter old man! Lighten up, Luke.
She punched him playfully in the arm and laughed her intoxicating laugh.
An announcement in the stewardesss East Anglian accent informed them that the in-flight movie was something C-rated and family friendly, neither of which interested him. It didnt seem to interest Chloe either, since she put in her iPod headphones and disappeared into
He didnt want to make it too obvious that he was trying to see what she was listening to. The action simultaneously gave the impression that he was trying to see down her blouse, so he resigned himself to guessing. Her eyes were closed. Something soothing? Something hip? Something hed probably never even heard of. He considered getting his own iPod out but that seemed too unoriginal.
His guessing turned into full-blown speculation about her life, most recently her time in London. That little anecdote had given him only a meager insight into Chloes activities. What had she done, this single, beautiful woman? And with whom? How many hearts were broken and bleeding in her wake, the cold seductress? Apparently none in London, not even the handsome guy from the Tate.
Luke was suddenly aware of a disgusted smirk on his lips, and Chloe staring bewilderedly at him.
He forced a frantic smile then dove back into his magazine.
She can read my mind. She knows I was thinking horrible things about her. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit.
In the very extreme edges of his peripheral vision, he could see her smiling at him.
Do you like Talking Heads? This is one of my favorite songs ever!
She handed him one of her earphones.
Some people dont like the 80s so
Hah, well I lived through them, he said as the music started.
It was really stupid to think about, but he couldnt help it. They were
connected. Literally and figuratively. Her earphone was in his ear. She was sharing her music, her interests, herself with him. He settled back into his seat and turned his head to look at her. Chloe was mouthing the words to the song and doing a very contained dance in her seat, completely uncaring if Luke or any of the other passengers thought she was crazy. He guessed it was the privilege of her beauty to do whatever she wanted, like ask for the window seat and make eyes at a man in a museum. Maybe he had given her too much already. Maybe he should stop playing her game. Or at least play it to win.