A wet figure stood on the sidewalk, near the street. Jeff shivered in the cold rain. “Where is the promised snow?” he thought. The rain was slowly sinking through his coat. He looked up the street again, this time spotting a vacant cab. He hailed.
“To the airport,” he said as he entered the cab. “Sorry about the wet,” he added as an after thought.
“Sure thing, pal,” the cabby replied as he turned his head back to traffic. The cab hummed from the curb into the rainy night.
Jeff pressed his head back. His thoughts turned to the meeting. The east coast business was faltering. The marketing data showed it shouldn’t. The demographic was right. The advertising was spot on. The sales said otherwise.
“Jeff,” burled his boss. “Get back to the coast tonight. Get to the bottom of this!” The Boss stormed out of the conference room. He slammed his office door behind him.
Everyone looked at each other, then Jeff. A look of terror and bewilderment was upon their faces. Jeff knew that look. Jeff knew the Boss’ actions. It didn’t have to be said, but it was there: turn it around or everyone is fired.
The cab bounced over a pot hole and brought back to the present. The cabby was asking him a question, again.
“Hey buddy. Arrivals or departures? I see you ain’t got no grip, but I thought I’d ask.”
“Departures,” Jeff replied. Seeing the confused look on the cabbies face, he added, “I have a place back east. No need for luggage today.”
“Sure thing, pal.”
Jeff looked out the window. The drizzle had turned a bit harder. The lights of other vehicles elongated in his mind. They were lines of light to him. How would he turn this around? How could he? The late night flight to the coast. The lack of sleep. He had to be in the office first thing. He knew the drill. He tired of it.
“Hey buddy. We’re here. That will be 65 credits.”
Jeff pressed his thumb to the pad. He was tied to the company account. He was tied to the company. They owned his thumb. They owned him.
“Thanks. Hey add 10 more for yourself. Seems fitting on a night like this. Cover the mess back here.” He half smiled to the cabby as he got out.
“Sure thing, pal.”
Jeff watched the cab drive off into the night. He could hear the hum of people around him, but he paid no attention. He walked toward the airport steward station as if by memory. Well, it was by memory.
“Hello Mr. Gregory. Where you headed tonight?”
“Company jet to the east coast. It should be expecting me. Uhm, Bill, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir. Bill it is and you are correct. Jet ready at lot 6. Says here Samantha will meet you at the gate.” Bill fumbled behind the counter. There was the sound of paper tearing.
“Here’s your pass and your ticket. Formality I know, but you know the government rules these days. Have a good flight.”
“Thanks, Bill.” Jeff took his papers and gave a slight nod. Not more talk, just sleep. If his mind would let him.
His state was a mix of thought and tired. Through security. Scan briefcase. Questions about no luggage. Answers about a business trip, flat back east. Oh the dreariness. His step lightened as he approached the gate and saw Samantha’s smiling face. She could warm the coldest heart. Tall. Flowing dark hair. Underneath that uniform, Jeff knew was the body of a trained killer. He remembered well the self-defense class. She was fit, trim, sexy and military trained. He tired to look at her shoes.
“Good evening, Mr. Gregory.” And so formal. “Flying to the coast, I’m told. Once we get out of this weather, it will be clear flying till landing. May I take your coat?”
“Yes, Sam. You may.” Oh, he felt like a dweeb. She did it to him every time. She was everything he every dreamed of in a woman: tall, dark hair, gorgeous, fit, sexy, smart, fantastic, toned and nothing artificially added. But she was all business. No matter when. The time they were trapped in the mountains. The time overseas when war broke out. Every time. She was more his bodyguard than anything his fantasies could imagine.
She brought him back to the present. “Jeff, you are doing it again.” His eyes focused again. Slowly he raised his head. My goodness, did she come straight from the club? High heals, legs leading to a short, tight skirt, low-cut blouse, hair done up. What the?
“Time is short. Get moving,” she scolded. “And stop staring at my feet, Bashful Chicken.”
Jeff hurried down the ramp to the plane. “This was not going to be an easy flight,” he thought to himself. “Those legs. Those hips. Those…” He interrupted his thoughts there. Up the jet’s ramp, hit the wet bar. Pour something strong. Get some sleep. That will help.
His was barely half-way into some thrown together alcohol concoction when she appeared in the doorway. The company jet was large enough that even she in four inch heels could stand straight. He stared as she walked so gracefully to her seat across from his. He didn’t want to. He could not help it. Her presence so overpowered him that he froze. He forgot the crap that was his life as he became lost in her crystal eyes. As she sat down, her toned legs again came into his view.
“What?” she asked.
“What?” he echoed.
“You said red,” she replied.
“Oh, your underwear. It’s red,” he fumbled out before he could stop himself. He became lost to constraint. “The most beautiful shinny red I’ve ever seen. Red like Love.”
He sank into his seat. “Why don’t I just ask her to marry me,” he thought. He downed his drink and stood to get another. Two steps from his chair, the plane lurched as it pulled from the terminal. Jeff went to steady himself on a chair where there was none. Before his startled face hit the floor, she caught him. Turning to face her, his gaze upon her eyes again. Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the stress. He never remembered them being so deep; never remembered being so lost.
“Marry me,” he said.
“Marry me. I don’t care if you don’t love me. Damn it, Sam. We’ve literally been through hell and back. Marry me.”
“I put this one to your condition,” she said as she stood him up and took the empty glass from his hand. “Now sit down and buckle in. We are taxing for takeoff. Besides, you know what the Boss will say.”
Jeff returned to his seat, surprisingly not despondent. True, he could not believe what he had just asked of Sam, yet something in her eyes did not say no. Surely, he imagined it. He looked at her as she sat down again. She was smiling. Wait. Sam never smiled unless she was about to kill someone. Not a smile like that. Jeff gulped and look forward, remembering how much he hates the take-off.