The plane touched down in the same manner it rose. Roughly, and without a shred of grace. It sent her hands into clammy fists near her thighs.
Vienne had taken dozens of flights over the past three years, never once had her old anxieties pushed through her usually stony resolve. Perhaps it was the over-cologned corporate executive seated next to her. The one she had to spend a solid hour politely shutting down as he tried to engage her in small talk.
Pretending she didn’t speak english wasn’t as effectual as usual. The handsome bastard began speaking to her in a French accent so perfect she winced when it was her turn to comment. For an American, she spoke well enough, but it would never be the same as native born speakers.
Seven years in Paris taught her that.
After a while, the man stopped speaking. But she could feel his eyes on her, sense the movement of his gaze as keenly as if he were using his hands. Wearing the dress on the plane had been a mistake. It was black and modest, except for the way it was cut to her body, not an inch of fabric out of contact with her pale skin.
A legacy of style from Theo that was hard to shake. Hence, the fleeing of a country she loved, just to escape his hold that still, even now, made her chest ache with loss.
“Excuse me ladies and gentlemen,” the stewardess said into the microphone as the plane sat idly on the tarmac. “It seems we have an issue with the gate assigned to us. We will be refueling and transferring luggage while we wait.” A collective groan settled through the cabin. At least, it did with those that traveled well enough to know what this would mean.
Mainly, that they would all be stuck for a good while.
Plastering a wide and fake smile on her face, the stewardess set about trying to calm the cabin the only way she knew how. The only way it ever worked.
“What can I get you miss? Champagne, wine...”
Vienne smiled, a knot unfurling in her gut at the thought of getting some liquid courage before what she was about to do. And then, she heard him speak over her, as if this were some restaurant, and he, her date. “She’ll have a vodka, rocks, two large olives.”
As the girl walked away to fill the order, Vienne turned her gaze to the man next to her. Artur, he told her hours before, was his name. Haitian born, moved to France as a small child and never left. Would never leave, except for business.
A very lucrative business, if his immaculately cut Italian suit was any indication. His voice was as rich and as dark as his skin. She admitted to a small part of herself that she liked it, enjoyed, almost, the way he pronounced English words and then shuffled elegantly back to French.
If he hadn’t reminded her so much of Theo she might have tried to make some kind of play. Now, it seemed, Artur was making his.
“That is a very specific guess,” she commented, this time, in English. Vienne didn’t want to continue in French, it unnerved her too much.
Artur considered the young woman before answering. There was something hypnotic in the play of her skin against her dark hair, so dark it nearly matched her dress. A dress that, in Artur’s estimation, shouldn’t look like sin even as she sat in an airplane. “I’m afraid it’s been too long since I’ve paid attention to what a woman drinks.”
Vienne smiled, briefly, at Artur’s lack of bluster. She liked honesty, found it more attractive than every other quality a man could possess. And one had to control the truth, Vienne had taken to understand this the hard way.
“I didn’t have a drink during the flight.”
When Artur smiled she thought it was lucky for her she didn’t talk to him sooner. “Then let’s just say it’s been a while since I have paid attention to a woman.”
There it is, she thought darkly, the ubiquitous pick up line. Though it had to be said that the man did it without the usual slimy aftertaste. The stewardess came back with her order, placing it directly in her hands.
She glanced sidelong at Artur, who seemed to enjoy watching Vienne receive the drink. The simplicity of his pleasure surprised her. Just before the stewardess walked away, Vienne said, “he’ll have a scotch. Neat.”
“We don’t have scotch, miss.”
Vienne turned and faced Artur, reading his face. She had a decision to make. To continue the charade, the little games that occupied time until someone grew the balls to ask what was necessary.
She had never been on this side of the coin before. The opportunity was always taken from her. Everyone had a role to play, she had learned in Paris. Some did it with magnificence, some with fear, most without the knowledge of what and how to do it. But for Vienne, she would no longer allow what had happened in the past affect her future.
“That’s fine,” Vienne concluded, not once addressing the woman. Her eyes were on Artur. “He can have some back at my place.”