I slowed my pace and tried to take in as much of the luxury as I could – futuristic armchairs, adjustable displays, champagne glasses.
A bulbous man in an ill-fitting suit was struggling with a seat belt. He cursed loudly in a gargling voice and the old lady behind me tutted. I didn’t have far to walk – I had been assigned a seat in the first row of economy, just beyond the curtain that separated the two worlds. It was the middle seat: the one built for people with no elbows or hands or bladders. The row was empty so I took the window and placed my water bottle and sudoku book on my lap. There were still twenty minutes before take off and the cabin crew were chirping up and down the aisles with paper cups, fending off demanding parents. A phone rang in the row directly behind me.
“Hello?” A woman’s voice. Mellow and deep like Tracy Chapman’s.
The answer came from the other side of the curtain. The man in the suit.
“Karen? It’s Brian.”
“I was just thinking about you,” the woman finally said. I wedged my ear into the gap between the headrests.
“The numbers are in.” It sounded like good news.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“It’s not as bad as it looks.”
“I’m not sure. Will you still want me?”
“I think we need to terminate the deal. Even my wife thinks so!” Brian chortled.
“That’s not what you said in London.”
“The Thai are fickle about such things. Don’t worry. Something will pop up sooner or later.”
“I just don’t know. After all the-” Her voice reduced to a whisper. “After all the hormones, my moods have been a little up and down. Please, just tell me that everything’s going to be all right.”
“Let’s look at it tomorrow when I’m in the office. We’re still waiting to take off.”
“I want you to say it now!” The woman hit the back of my seat.
“What? And lose all your miles? Are you joking?”
“You can be such a bitch sometimes!”
“Look, I have to go. There’s a nice looking stewardess who wants to help me put on my belt.”
“I’m hanging up. Goodbye.”
I wanted to turn around and tell Karen to forget him; to tell her that Brian was a swine in a cheap suit and that he had bad manners; but the plane jolted forward and a pretty stewardess appeared before me. She inspected my stomach and my sandals – checking for unrestrained items of clothing, covert electronic devices and other death traps. I got the nod of approval. When she reached the row behind me, Karen’s row, she stopped and leant down.
“Excuse me, sir. Can I take your hat for you?”
“No, not just now, thanks” Karen said. “But, maybe on the flight home… Sandra. What a pretty name you have.”