Finally, Hello New Zealand!
I wake up with a sudden jolt, my body jumping into full consciousness in a second. My neck is stiff, and as my eyes open I need to blink a few times to adapt to the dim light.
I turn to the left, and see that Em is asleep, a cute eye mask in the shape of a panda bear now over her eyes. I slowly open the blind to peak out, and a jolt shakes the plane a little: a thunder rumbling in the distance.
“That explains why I woke up,” I say to myself in a tiny murmur.
Peeking through the window, I see that it’s still dark outside. Another lightning illuminates the sky, and I can barely see the shape and shadows of land underneath us. I check the screen quickly as the thunder makes the plane rumble again. We’re slowly entering into New Zealand, the local clock showing it’s 5:07am. We will probably start descending soon.
I look out the window again as another lightning cuts through the air, lines of light drawing a picture in the sky. My heart races. I hear the thunder and it makes my insides shake. My fingers are fidgeting with the end of the blanket, my pulse suddenly raising. I’m staring wide-eyed out the window, waiting. When the next lightning strikes, I’m so sure I can see the same shape again, as if the bolts were drawing a picture in the sky over and over again... A huge human form among the clouds.
Maybe I imagined it, maybe I’m losing my mind a little. I wait, hoping that if I see it once more, then I’ll be able to tell if I’m crazy or if I’m really seeing a shape there.
But as the seconds turn into minutes, the grey sky stays still. The clouds slowly part and dissolve. And then the sun shows in the horizon, a big firey orange ball that takes all of my attention and seems to make the remaining storm clouds recede. As the light sips in, I can see the green land below, the mountains and plains, rivers and lakes. I shake my head, almost laughing to myself. What an oddball, I probably just imagined it all.
“Em,” I say, shaking her arm lightly. “Wake up Em, we’re here.”
An hour passes before we’re finally off the plane, through the security checks and waiting for our luggage.
“We actually made it,” says Em as she grabs her bag from the luggage belt and sets it on a trolley. Then she slumps over the handlebar and rocks back and forth, covering her mouth as she yawns.
I yawn too at the time I finally spot my suitcase. I run over to grab it, balance it on top of Em’s on the trolley, and then join her by the handlebar so we can push together.
We make our way outside, and a cold morning greets us with a purple sky. I take a deep breath, and fresh air fills up my lungs.
We walk a few steps until we get to the shuttle stop, and I approach the gentleman standing there.
“Good morning, we reserved a shuttle to go into the city center,” I say.
“Kia Ora, do you have your tickets?” He asks. His accent is nothing like the english I’m used to from movies and songs, but after talking with a few clerks at the airport, I’m almost used to it, and I realise I actually really like it.
When we stepped into the airport and I heard the first person greeting me by saying ‘Kia Ora’, I realised I never really thought much about the Maori language. I didn’t realise people would still be using it on the daily, and now I’m feeling super curious.
I show the guy the ticket, and he points to a van. We jump on board, and he tells us we need to wait 5 minutes for some other passengers before we go.
“Okay, so, we’ve only lost a day,” I say to Em as we wait. “And we’ll just take that off from the end of the itinerary so we don’t have to change anything else, which simply means we’ll have one less day in Christchurch.”
It took me a long time to accept this, but now that I’m saying it outloud, I notice that missing our first plane wasn’t actually as bad as I thought at first. I can work with just one less day in Christchurch, as long as the rest of the itinerary stays the same.
“Right-o,” replies Em with a mocking smile. I feel like I’m drilling her ears talking about this again, but I need to make sure.
“Oh my, I almost forgot! How did everything go with the rental company? Did they reply? Did they say it was okay to pick up the car today instead of yesterday?” I ask.
Em looks a little pale as she turns over to look at me. “Oh, that-”
“That… what?” I can feel my heart racing in my chest.
“Well, I may have, kind of, maybe, just… fuck. I never sent the message.” She says as she looks at her smartwatch.
“You what?!” I scream, and then I cover my mouth with a hand, the company guy looking at me weirdly. “Sorry,” I mutter.
“Don’t worry,” says Em as she sets a hand over my shoulder. “I promise it will be fine!” she says quickly, “With all the excitement of being in Dubai and seeing so many amazing things, I guess I never contacted them. I mean, I started writing the message, and then, I don’t know, sorry, I was meant to do it before we boarded in Dubai, and… I’m sorry.” She smiles sadly, and I need to take a deep breath not to strangle her. “Anyways,” she adds as she smiles at me. “I’m sure they’ll have plenty of cars available! I’ll just head there and get it all sorted as soon as we’re settled. Don’t you even worry about it.”
She smiles once more, but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes.
“Oh, you are lucky, that was the last one we had available today,” says the clerk at the car rental company as she hands some car keys to a sexy-as-fuck looking guy.
My heart drops to the floor as I near the desks and hear the exchange of words. I look back and forth between the hot guy to the left and the second desk next to him on my right. I promised Sam to sort out the rental car, my only task, and I completely forgot. With everything that happened with Lucas that night, my mind was just muddled, arranging a car rental was the last thing I was thinking about.
But I promised I'd fix it, and that everything was going to be perfectly fine. I can’t have heard it right, a car company without cars is like... a sushi train without sushi. I rush over to the counter next to the good looking dude, who’s now signing some papers, and I approach the lady behind it with my best smile.
“Hi, sorry to bother, is Emma, Emma Moon, I had a booking made for yesterday but our flight got cancelled so I am a bit late,” I say as confidently as I can. I feel the guy glancing at me, but I keep my eyes to the front, trying to seem more confident than I feel.
“Miss Moon, let me have a look,” says the lady. I stretch my neck a little to read the lady’s name tag. “I’m so sorry to inform you that the booking was automatically cancelled, we did send an email stating that if the car wasn’t picked up in time, it’d go back to the system for rental.”
They sure did, I should’ve checked my damned emails. Who even uses emails nowadays? I make a mental note to set up email notifications on my smartwatch. This is why I’ve hired someone to deal with the emails from Moony, maybe I should get her to do my personal emails too.
“Well, Catherine,” I say as sweetly as I can, “I’m sure there’s something we can do about that, I can get another car, right?”
She looks over the screen for a few moments, typing away and then she looks back at me, frowning a little. Her eyes seem slightly unfocused and cloudy, and for some weird reasons, it makes me shiver.
“I’m terribly sorry Miss Moon, but there’s a big event this weekend and it seems like we’re booked out. We genuinely don’t have any more cars available for at least,” she drifts off as she checks the screen again, “two days from now.” She sounds so emotionless that it makes me want to punch her.
This can’t be happening!
I can’t disappoint Sam like this. If we lose another day on our itinerary, she is literally going to hang me. She already changed all our bookings and activities to push them forward a day. Fuck, I’m dead meat, I’m so dead. I fucked up. Bad. This is bad.
No, it’s just a problem, like all, it needs to have a solution. I’ll find a solution.
“Are there any other rental companies around where I can ask, Catherine?” I try to smile sweetly as a little spark of hope lights up at the idea.
I’ve got this.
“You could, but I don’t think you’ll have much luck to be honest, if we don’t have anything, I doubt they will, we’re one of the biggest companies. You might have better luck in a private rental, which will be much more expensive. Or maybe try in a smaller city.”
The spark dies a little. I’m most likely dead. And this lady definitely doesn't give a fuck about her job, she's being so unhelpful. She didn't even smile at me.
“Thanks,” I mutter.
I turn around to leave, but find myself glued to the spot as I think it all through: I will go to every single rental company in town until I find a car. There needs to be a car somewhere. I can’t go back to the hostel and face Sam if I’m not holding some car keys in my hand. Thinking about the bright side, I’m so glad Sam decided to stay at the hostel to call Antonella, as it gives me some time to sort this out on my own.
“Thanks, that will be all,” I hear the guy next to me say as he puts the keys away in his pocket. For a second, I think about snatching them and running away.
“Enjoy your trip,” says the clerk. “Just hand in your paperwork and keys back at Christchurch’s central once the journey is over.” When the guy turns around to leave, he catches my eyes as I’m staring at him, still glued to the spot while trying to come up with a plan.
Our eyes meet, and I can’t look away. He is probably at least a whole head taller than me, and he’s got deep dark green eyes that are looking right into mine. His skin is of a beautiful dark-brown, and he’s got even darker hair, a bit curly and messy, half falling into his eyes. He’s got a little stubble that I’m sure he’s only been growing for a couple of days, and even under the sweater and jacket, I can imagine the amazing chiseled body underneath.
A man is probably the last thing I should be thinking about right now, considering the fact that I’m buried in deep shit. And I probably need to stop objectifying this guy too, but seriously, he looks like he’s freshly out of a magazine! And I’m a woman with needs, with a sexy male standing in front of me, and my mouth is watering. Okay Emma, that's enough.
He nods and smiles a little, and we both start walking towards the front door at the same time. I can’t help the heavy sigh that makes my shoulders raise and then drop. I need to fix this as soon as possible.
“Sam will kill me,” I mutter under my breath.
“After you,” the guy says as he holds the door open and points for me to go first. Oh, wow, a gentleman too? I need this guy’s social media contact right now.
“Thanks,” I say as I smile up at him and push a curl of my hair behind my ear. “Seems like you won the jackpot with that last car, such a shame we don’t all have that kind of luck.” I say as I try to stretch our conversation even as little as I might. Old habits die hard, you know.
“Sorry about that, I overheard what happened to you,” he says. “I hear you lost your flight,” he adds, and then he seems to notice my raised eyebrows, cause he adds: “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop.”
We’re still standing by the door, and there’s a lot of people walking past as this is one of the busiest streets in the city, so I push myself to a side and lean against the building’s wall, trying to leave space for the throng of people to flow freely. For a moment, I think he might just keep going, say a curt goodbye and move on, but his eyes are still on me as he takes a step closer. It takes me a second to realize someone just bumped on him from behind, and he’s just trying to stay out of the way. Still, I push myself a little tighter against the wall, and crack my neck up to look at him.
“Yes,” I say, not really knowing why I’m about to tell all this to a stranger, “Our plane got canceled due to a terrible thunderstorm.” At this, his eyes seem to widen, and he mindlessly scratches his chin. “So we lost a day, and with that day, we also lost our rental.”
“Do you have a plan B?” He asks.
“Not really, but my friend is going to freak out if I don’t come back with a car, Sam has our road trip planned to a T and I’m scared to disappoint her,” I say, surprising myself by the level of honesty in my own comment. I’m not one to throw so much information at a stranger, but… Okay, who am I kidding? I am. If there’s one thing about myself I sometimes reproach myself for, is my loose tongue.
Some people think, and afterwards they talk. I talk, therefore, I think.
“Come,” he says as he points with his head to the side. “I have an idea that might help you, maybe we can discuss it over a drink?”
Walk away with a stranger? ...
In a city I barely know? ...
In a country I only just got into? ...
The adrenaline rushes through my veins as I turn around to follow him.