Thursday, December 1, 2005

Ink: Chapter One

Six Years Ago

I was working the late London flight. As usual, I barely made it to the gate in time, sprinting from the distant crew room in high heels.

I’d been an international flight attendant for about five years or so, sharing an apartment with my fellow flight attendant (and best friend) Stephanie. Most of our paychecks went towards the ridiculous Manhattan rent, but who needs food when you live in the heart of New York and are always flying to the best cities on the planet?

Jenna, one of my other best friends, runs up the empty aisle towards me.  "BJ! I was wondering if you were going to make it!"

Just for the record, my name is not BJ. It's Brynn Johnson. Obviously, my parents have a sense of humor. When I've called my mom out on this, she insists it never once crossed her mind that she branded me with the worst initials ever, despite it never seeming to elude anyone else when I give them my full name. Go figure.

We make our way to the front to get situated for the pre-flight briefing with the captain and international service manager (ISM) to go over things like procedures, weather, flight time, special needs passengers etc.

Of course I find this part of my job a bit mundane; I always pretend to half listen while picking the lint off my dress. The ISM piques my interest for a sec when she mentions 32C will need an aisle chair -- those narrow on-board wheelchairs that fit down the aisle. I quickly lose interest, though; they’re almost always for elderly passengers. We’re not responsible for any transfers to and from the aisle chair and their seats; that’s the sky cap's responsibility. We are, however, responsible for giving them a special briefing and being as accommodating as possible while they are on our plane.

After we’re dismissed, I retreat back to the galley, since I’ll be working from the back. My position will be responsible for working the top of the bar cart, aircraft right. We specify sides because the wide-body Boeing 777, or Triple 7 as we call it, is huge and has two aisles.

We have just begun our initial setup on the ground when I catch a traffic jam in one of the aisles. Maybe someone’s unable to find their seat or the overhead space to stow their bag; maybe there’s a seat dupe, when the computer glitches and two people get assigned to the same seat.

I come forward down the aisle to the traffic jam and immediately find the culprit. “Excuse me, sir -- could you please step into your row while you get situated?”

He acquiesces, and soon the long line of people behind him starts to flow again as normal. I find a spot I can stand in, right in front of the wall that divides the two cabins -- the bulkhead, as we call it.

As my eyes wander around my area, they land upon the most gorgeous guy I have ever set eyes on.

Our eyes meet and I'm rendered speechless by the lightest blue eyes I've ever seen; such a pale baby blue that I automatically think of those sled dogs, with eyes the color of light blue marbles. I know, not the most flattering comparison but the eye color is uncanny.

I find myself instinctively moving towards him, not wanting to break our eye contact. He's also in front of the bulkhead but in the left section. This row has more leg room just like the emergency exit rows and it gives me just enough space where I can stand between him and the wall and safely out of the way of the aisle.

"Are you going home or away from home?" I ask, hoping to dazzle him with my warmest smile. Cliched, yeah, but handy for breaking the ice.

"Towards." He smiles. "I was visiting a mate that lives in the States on holiday. Now it's time to return to reality."

His words spill out in a thick, delicious British accent. Even though he has a black quarter zip sweater on, the white tee he has underneath peeks out and lines the collar contrasting his beautiful tan skin. Could this guy be any more perfect?

Well...

"I agree. It’s never fun to end a vacation." I’m stunned to find myself with nothing to say, still mesmerized by his beauty. "Guess I’d better head back," I say, finally giving in to the fact that I’m just too damn smitten to carry on any sort of intelligent conversation.

"Actually, could you do me a favor?” Just when I've taken a few steps away, I’m more than happy to return. “My bag is in the overhead; could you get it down for me?"

"Me?" Did I hear him right? He’s easily a foot taller, regardless of my damn heels.

"If I could do it myself, I wouldn't ask a lovely air hostess, now, would I?" He grins, easily outdazzling my recent attempt. No wonky British teeth here.   

I’m flattered at the compliment, yet still a bit thrown... until it clicks into place. For the first time, I notice his odd sitting position, both legs angled oddly to one side. His thighs and hips seem too narrow for the strong, broad frame above his waist.

Blindsided, I feel my knees buckle. I force myself to grab the bulkhead wall to steady myself. Am I dreaming, or is this moment really happening?

"Are you all right?" he asks, looking at me with a mixture of concern and just plain bewilderment.

I look down and quickly mumble something about a snag in the carpet. Trying my best to regain composure, I take a few steps behind him and pull a blue duffel from the overhead bin. He responds with a polite thank you, but I can't escape to the nearest lav fast enough.

I lock the door and plop myself down on the closed toilet lid, taking a deep and much-needed breath.

I have a huge, huge weakness for guys in wheelchairs. And one this hot is almost more than I can handle.

I mean, this is the type of guy that only appears in fantasies, yet here he is in the flesh. Best of all, neither one of us can go anywhere for seven hours!

Damn, Brynn, you're usually not rattled this easily! Now buck up, get back on the damn saddle, and show him what you're made of!

Despite the great pep talk I'm giving myself, certain negative thoughts and fears try to seep in through into my brain as I remember the last time I was this attracted to someone. Sadly, I remember all too well how that one turned out.

Stop it, this guy is not Brad! Aside from the wheelchair, there is no reason to compare them. Let all negative thoughts escape and get back to the present. And that is the key word here because it is the present that holds this amazing hot guy that is literally making your knees buckle.

With good thoughts taking over, I feel myself regaining control as I stand in front of the mirror, examining myself.

Physically, I'm pretty plain. Long brown hair and eyes, pale skin, nothing that really stands out. Okay, except for my boobs: D cups, which look even bigger due to my small stature. Hooray for not-so-small blessings.

I play with my hair a bit and place it just the way I like it, cascading down both sides of my shoulders. I pull my gloss out of my pocket and apply a layer to my lips. Once satisfied with my appearance, I exit the lav and actually decide to do some work by helping some passengers find their seats.

I help others stow their bags and shuffle some people around to get a family with small kids together but I'm aware that my focus is still on the guy in 32C.

Due to my obsessive nature, I decide I can't go another minute without seeing him, so I zigzag my way through the stream of people in order to check on him. I also figure that this is as good of a time as any to redeem myself by showing him that I'm not  the rambling idiot he probably thinks I am.

By the time I reach his aisle, he is reading his book with the bag still on his lap, just where I left it. "Do you want me to put you bag away?" l ask in order to get his attention.

He looks up and gives me a warm smile as he passes it to me, and I'm delighted at the fact he didn’t look away or go back to reading once I finished stowing his bag. This gives me the impression that he is up for more conversation, so I put my hand on his armrest for leverage and gracefully squat down next to him, flipping my hair to one side with my free hand.

I realize instantly that this was an ace move because not only did I think it was pretty dang sexy, it also brought me down close to eye level with him. Well, for the most part, because now I actually find myself looking up at him in order to meet his gaze, taking  into account how tall he must be.

His features are so striking that I have to focus on making conversation so I don't make an idiot out of myself again.

I break away from his gaze for a moment to look down at his book: a biography of some guy named Jonny Wilkinson.

"Good book?"

"It's all right." The way he's returning my gaze would typically make me blush, but I decide to stand strong and match his equally permeating stare. Sexual tension buzzing between us.

"So he’s a famous actor, maybe?"

"Only one of the most famous rugby players in the world," he laughs. “What do you fancy reading, then?"

I wish I could say something really smart here, like how much I enjoy reading about physics or geology or anything along those lines. But if he gets to know me better, which is looking more promising by the minute, it wouldn’t take him long to figure out that I’m clearly not connected with my intellectual side.

"I'm more of a Nora Roberts type of girl. I like my fairy tale endings."

"So you have one?" He smiles.

"What? A fairy tale ending?"

He gives a slow nod, his eyes sparkling.

"I'm starting to think it's possible." Man, I know I can be a flirt, but I can't remember the last time I came on this strong. "You?"

He shakes his head slowly. The way he looks at me sends shivers down my spine. I'm beginning to wonder if he can hear my heart thumping from where he's sitting.

"So... you were visiting old friends?" I ask, changing the subject.

"One of my mates moved to San Diego a few years back, so I went out for a visit. We used to be on the same team."

"Team?" Shit. Here we go again.

"I used to play rugby years ago. Now I coach kids at a secondary school."

Of course he’s an athlete. Every damn guy who catches my gaze always is -- and always breaks my heart. Why couldn't I just fall for a nice, calm computer geek who could just love me and treat me well?

Whenever I imagine these conversations with myself, my brain tries to reason. My foolish heart wins out every single time.

Just then the lead flight attendant's voice comes across the p.a. with the final boarding announcement, asking us to close the doors.

I snap back to attention just as something occurs to me. We’re required to brief any passengers who might require evacuation assistance. The idea of calling attention to his disability is the last thing I want to do right now, but I can’t skip the federal regulations.

"You know...” I clear my throat. “I actually have to give you a special safety briefing."

"I’ll save you some time,” he interrupts. “I have to evacuate after the main flow of traffic. I have to sit here and watch everyone evacuate this burning airplane until you rescue me and drag me off -- which doesn’t sound awful, by the way. How did I do?"

I can't help but laugh. "I don't know if I would have used those exact words, but you know the spiel quite well." Wow: hot as hell AND a sense of humor. Lethal combination. This could be bad. Really, really bad.

With that I stand up and smooth my dress out. Once I get back to the galley, I’m met with an overwhelming amount of approval as well as a huge interrogation by those that know me.

I feel like I'm not quite ready to divulge any information about him just yet. Not that I've gathered a whole lot this far, but there was just this combination of raw sexual attraction combined with equal parts of humor and great conversation and I get this crazy feeling that it may not be as magical if I let anyone else in right now.

So I laugh and try to be as vague as possible when met with their questions, which I know drives them crazy because typically I am not one to withhold information.

"So who’s the Becks clone in Row 32?" asks Theresa, nodding towards the torn out pages of Mr. Beckham adorning the galley, courtesy of the previous crew.

If only; although there’s definitely a resemblance. "Except my future boyfriend's eyes are bigger and lighter than David's." I tease.

As I look at the picture I can't help but wonder if his chest looks that good too. Somehow I get the feeling it must.

"What were you guys talking as about for so long?" asks Tom, folding his arms across his chest, as if he's waiting for me to divulge something really good and juicy.

"Oh, you know, just stuff," I shrug casually, still not taking my eyes off the picture.

"Hmph..." he snorts, not believing a word I'm saying. Like the majority of male flight attendants, Tom is gay and always has something to rant about. I'm friends with a lot of the guys because can relate to them on levels a most of them don't even realize. I mean, they are wired differently than most men, just like devs are wired a little differently than most people too. So there is this common ground we share and I connect them with them in a weird way.

I remember growing up in Catholic school. Before I had ever met, much less hung out with, any gay guys, I blindly believed what Ms. Brown said about homosexuality. She was our psychology teacher my senior year and indoctrinated us with the ideology that it was a choice and that the church funds these special seminars where gay men go to get 'turned around and live the life God wants for them'. I will never forget one example she told the class about a specific man who profusely thanked for 'setting him free from a life of sin.' So of course as a naive seventeen-year-old I completely trusted this must be true. Now I know it's complete bullshit.

Believe me, having a strong religious upbringing and attending a private Catholic school, my belief in God is undeniably strong. The difference is over the years I have acquired the philosophy of 'hate the sin, not the sinner.' I mean, I don't have to go beyond myself to see this. Being a dev is something I have wondered about my whole life, and it's something that is clearly hard-wired into my DNA. I mean, I have tried to go back a million times, pick it apart, analyze it and always come up with absolutely nothing.  It is just who I am.

I remember always being fascinated with disability. I was probably about eight when I saw a girl about my age without legs in a wheelchair in a grocery store. I can still remember how her mom was in the checkout line next to mine and the little blond girl looked straight at me and gave me a warm smile as if she wanted to say hello or talk with me. I think I smiled back but then hid behind my mom, which was very uncharacteristic of me since I was outgoing from the day I was born. I thought about that little girl for days, wishing I would have befriended her and would have had the courage to strike up a conversation with her.

Then when I was in 2nd grade, one of the girls brought in a set of leg braces for show-and-tell. Her mom had been in a car accident and I believe was recovering from a broken back, but I don't remember the exact details of the accident. What I do remember was that we all got to come up and touch them; I can still recall my larger than life fascination with them.

Still today, I find my fascination with the metal braces pretty odd because even though I've read that there are devs that are attracted to the hardware like crutches and wheelchairs, I honestly don’t care much for those things. For me it's all about the guy in them.

I don't remember a whole lot of details within or immediately following those years except for the fact that if any character with a disability was featured on TV, I was glued to the tube and then created fantasy sequences regarding that character for days on end.

I don't think I ever had any personal encounters with any disabled people until meeting Brad at twenty-three, five years ago, during my first year of flying. Flying has actually broadened my horizons on so many levels - including meeting a lot of hot wheelers! I have buckled-up and set out tray tables for a few sexy quads, which coincidentally also happened to be my first interaction with Brad.

Aside from Brad and now Jason, these guys have always either been in relationships or it's just been impossible for me to flirt, like family or friends traveling next to them. There was one guy who was by himself and really cute, but despite trying my hardest to let him know I was interested; he was either not interested in me or just too oblivious to the fact that I was shamelessly flirting with him. I choose to think it's the latter in order to keep my self-esteem from taking a nose dive.

I've had enough conversations with my gay friends who have all confirmed that there is no way their lifestyle is a choice any more than being a dev was my choice. It's something I've lived with my whole life, I'm comfortable with, and given the chance I don't think I would change because it's all I know. So take that, Ms Brown. You can stuff your analytical and psychological fundamentalism where the sun don't shine!

"Hey, so where's Jenna?" I ask, bringing myself back to the moment, looking around for my sidekick. How ironic is it that the one person I do want to talk to more than anyone else about my encounter is nowhere to be found?

"Who knows? Haven’t seen her in a while, that stinkin' slacker," Theresa jokes, but I can tell there is an obvious undercurrent of annoyance there as well.

I know exactly where to find her;  I head to our favorite lav - one in between the cabins. It’s actually roomy and has a full length mirror hanging on the inside of the door (which is perfect for those of us that like to do our primping).

In order to get there I have to pass my hopefully soon-to-be-boyfriend. I make a point of not stopping at his row and instead head straight to find my friend; pounding on the lav door. "Jenna, open up!"

She quickly flings it open and I see her mess of make up spread out all through the sink where clearly she's made herself at home. I would normally tease her at this point about her typical slacker fashion but I have important news to share.

"Okay, I'm in love," I announce, shutting the door behind me.

"What seat?" she asks, turning her attention back to the mirror as she carefully and deliberately continues brushing on her mascara. Obviously this isn't big news to her;  we tend to fall in love at least once on every leg.

"No, Jenna," I insist. "This is him! This is the man of my dreams!"

"Wait, you mean like 'bend-you-over-the-wood-pile' hot'?" she asks, turning her attention back to me.

Okay, let me explain our inside joke.

A few months ago we had this really, really, hot dad with two young kids, flying over to Glasgow. He was wearing one of those plaid flannel wood-cutter shirts and no ring on his finger. So after all of us drooling over him for some time, we decided one of us had to take initiative and find out if he's single.

With Jenna gladly up for the task, she went over  and talked to him for a few minutes then returned to the galley to give us the full report. "Damn it! He's married," she lamented.

"That's okay," I said, trying to raise her temporary broken spirit. "We can still fantasize about him. I mean, with the shirt he's wearing it's easy to imagine him out in a forest chopping wood. You stumble across him and....well...you know..."

"He bends you over the wood pile?" she interjected and we all broke into laughter.

Ever since that day, that phrase has stuck, and been used to represent the pinnacle of hot studly males.

"Yes, over-the-wood-pile-hot! Like I was saying, it's as if this guy walked right out of my dreams and on to the plane. Except he didn't walk, he rolled because he's in a wheelchair. So technically I guess the wood pile wouldn't..."

"WHAT?" she screams, cutting off my rambling. Jenna is one of only two female friends that know about my huge inclination towards hot wheelers.

"Brynn, oh my god, why didn't you say that from the start? Where is he?" she says, packing all her crap back into her make-up bag at warp speed as I stand there laughing.

"Okay, he's in 32C, so we are going to go right past him on our way to the back. Don't say a word to him to embarrass me, please! Just check him out, okay?" I plead.

"Okay, okay," she says, already opening the lav door. I lead the way and smile as I go past him, Jenna trailing right behind me in order to give me her seal of approval.

I don't turn around until I reach the back galley, that's when I discover she is no longer behind me. My heart races as I look down the aisle and there she is; standing right in front of his seat, despite the fact I begged her not to. Aarghh!

Just then we start pushing back off the gate and the ISM makes the announcement that we will start our safety video demonstration. I walk towards the front to stand in the aisle over the overwing exits, which is my demo position. Jenna has to walk towards me to get to her position, which enables me to throw daggers at her with my eyes while she just gives me the biggest shit-eating-grin ever.

I stop when I get to my designated spot and turn around to face the passengers while the TV screens play the demo. This usually entails me standing there daydreaming, and receiving the occasional glances from equally bored passengers.

I think I'm lost in a daydream, when I hear a low whisper in my ear, "Will you go already! I'll fill you in on everything he said." Apparently Jenna has already caught up to me in the aisle and is waiting for me to move so she can get to the back.

"I can't believe you did that," I hiss back at her as we start walking towards the back. Of course we are ensuring seat belts and tray tables are up as we do our final cabin check before take off, so our conversation has to remain very discreet.

I have to admit, as angry as I am with her at the moment, I am also extremely curious at the same time. As soon as we step in the galley I whip around, "Spill it, sister. It better be good and you better not have embarrassed me!"

"Okay, I just asked him if he needed anything, then I asked him what his plans were for the next twenty-four hours because I have a friend, who he's conveniently already met, that wants to fuck his brains out!" she is laughing hysterically by the end of her recap.

"Jenna! You didn't!" I find myself laughing along because I know at this point she has to be messing with me.

"Okay, maybe not in those words. But I did ask him what his plans were because we want him to come out tomorrow night with us for a drink or dinner or whatever. He said he would so, um....you're welcome!" she smiles triumphantly.

"Okay, nice work. You're forgiven," I say, as we strap into our jump seats and get ready for take off.

When reach ten thousand feet, we're ready to start our pre-dinner beverage service.  I'm dying to see him but I practice good restraint because I don't want him to think I'm a stalker, although admittedly my behavior is probably bordering that already.

As luck would have it,  I'm not only working the side of the airplane he is sitting in, but also will be working the position at the top of the bar cart. This means that I will always start on the first row and work towards the back, so he will always be my first passenger on my right.

We do all our final prepping and the galley flight attendant loads up our meal carts, we roll down the aisle to get started. I'm standing next to him once again and he looks up from his book and smiles at me, anticipating the question I am inevitably going to ask.

"Something to drink?" I smile back.

"No thanks, I'm good."

"Have something, it’s on me," I say, icing down some cups.

"I'm really okay," he says again, this time with an obvious hint of annoyance.

"Oh, you don't drink? I have plenty of other stuff too...sodas, juices, what would you like?"

"I do drink. Now, what sort of Brit would I be if I didn't? I think you may get your citizen card revoked over that sort of thing," he says, his voice softening and offering me a soft smile, much to my relief. "I just don't drink on airplanes. The not getting to the toilet thing is just too annoying," he explains.

Shit! You moron, what the hell is wrong with you? How could you forget about the toilet thing?

"I'm sorry. Just let me know if you need anything, I won’t ask again. Promise. " My apology heartfelt.

"It's okay. I may take a drink before landing, so don't feel bad," he says, clearly sensing the fact that I feel like an asshole, trying to smooth things out.

I take everyone's drink orders around me and serve a few aisles until Theresa rolls down with the meal cart.

"I'm guessing you don't want to eat either?" I ask casually this time. He shakes his head and declines politely. I think we're both relieved to be moving on with this conversation.   

We finish the meal service, pick up the trays then do one more bar cart. Once everything is completed, we break down the carts and put everything away, dimming the lights so the passengers can sleep until we are close to landing. With everything complete, it also gives us a few hours of down time until the next service, which starts an hour before landing.

Of course I've already planned how I want to spend my down time. I head off to check on my favorite passenger and much to my disappointment find him sleeping soundly in his seat.

I take full advantage of the moment and just take him in for a minute, which is nice without having the pressure of having to keep a conversation flowing.

Even though the lights are dim and the cabin is dark, I see his head is leaning to the right and his luscious lips are slightly parted, reminding me of when one is coming in for a kiss. I also can't help but notice his broad shoulders and long arms; one lies on his lap and the other on the armrest.  I wonder how those arms would feel around me.

Of course this sets off a whole new set of fantasies.  I imagine sitting on his lap and pressing my lips against his. This sets off tingles all over my body as I take it a step further and imagine what his touch would feel like on my skin. I force myself to walk away because if he wakes up and sees me standing there checking him out in the dark I'm pretty certain he'd be a bit creeped out to say the least.

The night passes slowly. The crew and I enjoy the time in the usual way -  conversing and eating appetizers, salads, entrees, cheese plates and desserts from first class. This is the reason why I've packed on the few of the pounds - just one of the many occupational hazards of flying international - grazing both ways over the Atlantic.

The light begins to break through the slits of the window shades, our cue to set up for the last service prior to landing. Once the drink and breakfast carts are set up, we roll down to start our last and final service.

My man is still sleeping and I'm starting to wonder if I'm even going to get enough time to persuade him into take my number.

With the last service complete, we break our carts down one last time and pass out the necessary documentation prior to landing.

I head to the lav to brush my teeth and hair and to reapply my makeup. Once out and looking as presentable as I possibly can after flying all night without sleep, I walk past 32C again and to my pleasant surprise he is finally awake.

"Morning, sunshine!" I greet him with a big smile.

He is still rubbing his eyes but manages an adorable smile right back at me. "Morning. Wow, how do you manage to look so good this early in the morning?" he says trying to focus his eyes but still squinting in the now bright cabin.

"Years of practice?" I shrug.

I watch as he shifts his upper body, pressing his palms against the arm rests. Then he stretches his arms behind his head.

"Need anything? Well, you know, besides my phone number?" Okay, so I told myself I was going to let him make the move and bring up Jenna's invite, but I think it's pretty clear the attraction is mutual and I have to admit that it was a pretty sly way of slipping my number into our conversation.

"I would love a coffee, but your number sounds even better.” A smile spreads across his face. “So, your friend said you're in town for twenty-four hours?"

"Approximately, yes."

"You think you could squeeze me in for dinner?"

"Oh, I'll consider it."

"In that case, I will take your phone number and some white coffee."

"Coffee? Thought you guys were tea drinkers?"

"I do drink both, but prefer coffee in the mornings," he explains.

"Be right back," I tell him.

Once back in the galley, I brew a fresh pot of coffee for him while writing down my number in New York. Then I pull my trip pairing out of my pocket and copy down the hotel name and phone underneath it as well.

Once finished brewing, I pour the hot liquid into a styrofoam cup and watch the black liquid turn into a tan creamy color as I pour in the milk. I return to my favorite spot on the plane and hand him the cup and napkin.

"Nice to meet you, Brynn" he says looking over my writing.

"Thanks. And you are?" I ask.

"Jason."

"Nice," is all I have to say.

"So I'll meet you at your hotel? You guys stay at the Hilton in Kensington?" he confirms, still reading it off the napkin.

"Are you familiar with the area?"

"I am. I live just outside the city in Malling."

"So you drive in?"

"When I come into the city I usually do, which really isn't that often. But if I'll be drinking I'll plan on taking a taxi; so what time shall I meet you?"

"Well, there is a pub around the corner, you want to meet there around six?"

'Well, not sure how accessible it would be. How about I meet you in your hotel lobby and we just find a place together?"

"So are you saying we're ditching my crew?" I ask, a smile spreading across my face.

"Is that okay? I mean, if you're not comfortable..."

"Sounds perfect!" I cut him off, overjoyed and so excited that our plans are laid out. "I have to get ready for arrival but I will see you when we land."

I'm smiling ear to ear. We do our final cabin check and soon I'm back in the galley helping to lock everything up so we can get to our jumpseats for landing.

"God, that guy would be so stinkin' hot if he wasn't in a wheelchair!" Lisa, one of the flight attendants that is working in first class, comes to the back and blurts this out as she's getting into her jumpseat. She must have been standing around the main door when he came in and is probably the one that helped him settle into his seat during boarding.

Deciding not to say a word, I busy myself wiping down the counter where some coffee has settled in the corners,  figuring they will all figure it out on their own anyway.

"What guy?" Theresa asks.

"The guy Brynn was talking with earlier."

"What?" I have my back to them but can visualize the look of confusion or maybe even alarm that passes through their faces.

"Oh, did he break something?" Tom asks, trying to make sense of it all. I'm certain this question is directed to me so I turn around and face them.

"Yes, either his back or his neck. I would say his back though because his hands seem just fine."

See? This is the very thing I often wonder about! Why is everyone always so uncomfortable with disability yet to me it's like an exigency, maybe not quite a requirement, but a really strong preference for sure.

"Well, good for you. I'm glad you won't let that stop you from dating him," Theresa's condescending tone comes through loud and clear.

I feel myself getting defensive,  the claws starting to come out, which is probably the other reason I didn't want to say anything to them earlier. Then again, I realize, it's better that they get the scoop from me. Otherwise when they see him deplaning using the on board wheelchair they probably won’t be able to hide their shock in front of him, which would be worse.

"Why should it, Theresa?" I ask, stiffening up as I narrow my eyes at her awaiting her response.

"I don't know, Brynn. I'm not saying there's anything wrong. On the contrary, I think it's great it doesn't bother you. Maybe some girls would feel different."

"Trust me, I'm fine with it," I say, still feeling like I'm on heavy defense. Why do I even owe them an explanation at all?

Nothing else is said on the subject and we land, disarm our doors and wait for everyone to deplane. When I see it's only down to a couple of people I go up to keep Jason company while they bring the onboard wheelchair.

"Hey." I smile and plop down in the chair next to him since we are officially off the clock.

"Hey yourself," he grins back. Of course at that moment Theresa and Jenna walk forward and stop right in front of us.

"We brought your bag up from the back, Brynn," Theresa smiles.

"My, how thoughtful of you!" I grin back, completely aware that they are just hanging around in order to check Jason out further.

"So? Aren't you going to introduce us?" she smiles smugly.

"Oh, where are my manners? Theresa, this is Jason. Jason, meet Theresa. And I know you two have already met," I say, my eyes jumping  between Jason and Jenna. They exchange greetings - it couldn't be more obvious that the girls are checking him out.

I'm wishing they would keep going to the front so I can get a few more minutes of alone time but it's pretty clear their intentions are to stay and torture me as long as possible.

Lucky for me the conversation stays light, nothing personal, until two skycaps show up with the aisle wheelchair.

One of the guys asks Jason the standard PC question we're taught: 'What would you like for us to do?' So Jason simply suggests to line the aisle chair up with his seat and raise the arm rest. I watch the skycap jiggle the armrest, but after a few seconds it's obvious he doesn't know how to operate it.

Believe it or not, this is a common occurrence, which always baffles me because it's a pretty obvious part of their job.

"I got it," I say, already reaching across Jason and running my fingers along the bottom of the armrest feeling for the releasing device.

As I'm doing this I realize that I am way into his personal space, my body crossing his so closely I can smell his delicious scent and hear his soft breath as he exhales. I feel everything tingling within me but try to be professional and focus on the task at hand, however difficult it may be right now.

My middle finger encounters the raised button right underneath the hinge as I realize what an awkward position I've put myself in. This operation will require both hands since one is needed to press the button in while rotating the armrest up with the other. I guess I should have thought this out before I started because it would have been infinitely easier to do this from the aisle.

Until this point, I've managed to avoid touching or leaning into him. I'm thinking now it may be inevitable.  As I bring my arm across his body, my shoulder leans gently across him and I feel his strong, muscular chest under me, only confirming the thoughts about his chest from earlier.

I'm there just long enough to raise the arm rest, but it's enough time to feel the soft rise and fall of his chest under me as he takes a breath. It's also just enough time to feel the heat rising up on the back of my neck.  I reluctantly move myself off of him in order to let him get out of his seat. Already missing the feel of his body so near mine.

I can't help but watch as he effortlessly transfers himself onto the aisle chair then pulls his legs over by placing his hands behind his knees, doing pretty much all of it in one swift motion. Gauging from the ease and control he has while doing this, I can only assume that he has had plenty of time to adjust to his injury and it's probably something that happened a while back.

I grab his bag from the overhead before the skycap can beat me to it because I want to be the one to hand it to him at the top of the jetway, if anything just to get one last interaction with him. Besides, I have grown quite acquainted with his bag by now.

He straps himself in like a pro and lets the skycap push him up since there's no other way to move the chair up the aisle; aisle chairs only have those small caster wheels underneath, not the standard large wheels that come up the sides, so pushing yourself is not really an option. I suppose having the large wheels would defeat the purpose since our aisles are narrow and the wheels in the average chair is what makes it too wide to fit down the aisle to begin with.

I follow them up to the jetway where his chair is already waiting for him at the top. I am relieved that his chair looks great because unfortunately I have witnessed some horror stories - recently where the rampers absolutely mangled an injured soldier's wheelchair coming back from Afghanistan.

I feel a pang of guilt because most of the crew is already there and waiting with eyes on him, no doubt their interest piqued because of my own absorption of him.  He transfers back to his regular chair with such ease that he gives off the impression that he's completely unnerved and unfazed about all the attention. I pass him his duffel bag which gives me the perfect angle to whisper discreetly in his ear.

"See you tonight."

He looks up at me and gives me a knowing smile before putting his hands on his wheels to begin heading up the jetway. My crew begins to descend down the air stairs  but I stand frozen just watching the back of him for a quick second. I take in the way his hands push off the wheels, his arms doing all the work as they move his whole body forward, each movement so fluid and deliberate just like they were with his transfers.

As crewmembers we can't leave the aircraft until every last person is off, which means that we have to wait on the jetway until every last wheelchair, stroller and passenger have gone up into the terminal.

In London, the passengers depart down the jetway towards immigration and customs while we get air stairs pulled up to the jetway leading down to the tarmac where a crew bus picks us up. The bus takes us to a free standing building where our passports are checked then we are free to sleep on our one hour drive to central London.

I drift off within minutes, but naturally the last thought is of Jason - running my fingers along his golden skin and soft blond hair. Then he presses those pillowy lips against me, brushing them softly up and down my neck while my body awakens and responds with such intense fervor, bringing me to that height of passion that only a few certain people have been capable of ever bringing me to. And there's just not a shred of doubt in my mind that he will be one of those exceptional ones.

I awaken when the bus comes to a full stop at the hotel. Once in my room I wash my face, change into my sleep shirt, and set my alarm for 3pm.

It's just after 8 a.m. - I would normally only give myself three or four hours of sleep because otherwise it's too hard to fall asleep at night, and we always have an early van time in the morning. Today I'm making an exception because I just have that feeling I will not be getting much sleep tonight (if I'm lucky!).

11 comments:

  1. It feels like Christmas is today! A wonderful story. Cannot wait for the next chapter.

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  2. Thank you so much for your encouraging comment, I really appreciate the feedback!
    I just want to thank all the talented writers on here that helped turn my somewhat passable writing into an amazing well written story. You ladies are wonderful, I can't say enough. Thanks for all the feedback and editing you guys did to help bring this story to life!
    -Jen

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  3. Oh, I can already tell this is going to be incredible!

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  4. 0o0o0, I had missed this one until Lee did his moderator thing. And I love it and look forward to much more!

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  5. All I Can say is - WOW. What a great story. Please post again soon.

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  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all those wonderful comments! Eleanore can vouch that I was absolutely nervous about posting a story that is so close to my heart and scared that it would not be well received!! I have most of this already written so as long as these wonderful girls keep editing we will keep posting! -Jen

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  7. Great story! I love the little details about being a flight attendant.

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    1. Thanks Annabelle! You are one of my favorite writers on here and your groundbreaking story inspired me to contact all you powerhouse writers and see if we could get it blog ready. I never laugh so hard as when I read your stories and the whole dev perspective is what have me the courage to present my own.
      Jen

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  8. Thanks, Jen... I liked it a lot and I'll be waiting for a new chapter.
    Love the characters so far!!

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  9. I love this!!! Thanks so much Jen and please update soon!!!
    Tina

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  10. I too feel a kinship with gay and lesbian people! BTW this chapter isn't coming up on the table if contents link and it appears as if Eleanore wrote it.

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