This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
To be Plegian is to be late.
Or at least that’s the excuse Robin Delahaye makes to himself as he stares at his I-Ocean X7 smartphone for the fourth time today. The phone keeps ringing, but he’s not in the mood to come up with excuses on why he only made it to the airport now or why he accidentally drove to the wrong side of Euro Airport Ylisse from where he’s supposed to pick her up at.
Her flight was supposed to be here by 5:30, right? The phone keeps ringing, and his heart beats faster the longer he waits. Or was it five o’clock?
For someone who brags about how good he is at strategy games, he sure screwed up his planning this time. The snow blowing outside already got his 2007 Volkswagen Touran stuck on the road once, and it froze him all over despite wearing his usual heavy coat. If he’s late today of all days, he’ll miss his girlfriend’s arrival. And if he misses his girlfriend’s arrival…
Airport security, please don’t let her bring any weapons onboard.
After the sixth ring, he sucks in a breath and picks up the phone. “Hey, sweetie.” Though he swears at himself in the inside because, gods, his voice cracked just then. A quick peek over the crowds of people with luggage passing by and good, she’s not here yet. However, the carpet floors, white walls, and rounded windows surround him as if he’s inside a fishbowl.
Maybe Naga does have her eyes on him.
“Sweetie?” she says. “Why did you call me— oh. You came to the airport late, didn’t you?”
Shit. “Okay, before you say anything, Chrom made me stay behind late and the snow slowed the drive on the way up—”
“It’s okay,” she says, and Robin lets out a sigh. “They made the flights delayed, so I’m still at Euro Airport Altea. They say it may take more than six hours, but I’ll try to get there soon.”
That means there’s more time to prepare his surprise before she gets here. He fist pumps— “Yes!” —until he realizes he said that aloud. “I mean, that’s terrible. You got a place to stay at in the meantime?”
“You’re lucky I’m not there already.” But at least he hears her laughing at the other end of the line until she continues. “The storm over here is really strong though, so I have to wait. No hotels, no taxis.”
Which means she can’t hitch a ride down here either.
The Gods bless. It’s a sign.
Quick time check, 5:47. If he’s lucky, he should have at least an hour to spare if he heads home now. No worries, he’ll return to the airport before midnight. “Alright, call me as soon as you manage to get on a flight—”
“Wait, Robin, I checked the weather for Ylisse. Is the storm really bad over there?”
“Ah, not too bad. Had a hard time getting across the bridge to the airport earlier, but it’s nothing I can’t…”
His voice drops. Looking out the window, three lines of Toyota Prius V taxies, lots of cars, and airport shuttle vans fill up the icy roads. As snow continues to pound down on their cars, angry drivers shout and honk loud enough for the sounds to travel through the airport’s twenty metres of tall glass windows.
Robin’s shoulders slump at once, almost dropping the backpack he has on. “…Actually, I’ll wait at the airport for you. How does that sound?”
“Are you sure? Do you drive your car? What about the parking fee?”
He lets out a nervous chuckle. “Car? Yeah, just the VW Touran. Parking fee’s 3.50 CHF every fifteen minutes, no big deal.”
“No big—?” she groans. “Does your phone have enough battery for the night? I may call later if something bad happens or if I leave for my flight.”
Robin glances at the screen. “Yeah, like I said, no big—” Forty percent battery left. “How many hours did you say it’ll be again?”
“Six hours. Robin, it’s— I will call when— wait, are— there? You are— I can’t—”
Then her voice cuts off, forcing Robin’s phone to sound with a repeated dial tone. The storm must be pretty strong on her side if the reception got bad enough to break the call.
He checks the time on his phone again. 5:55. Thirty-eight percent battery life. Man, he should’ve remembered to bring his charger. Plus if the storm keeps up, he may have to stay at the Mariott Courtyard Inn hotel overnight.
“Too bad, though,” he mutters to himself. Sure, he’ll get more time to prepare the Christmas party, but now that he thinks about it she might not make it in time to even enjoy it. Not only that, he may even stuck at the airport too for the next six, maybe nine hours. But he’s willing to give up hope yet—she’ll have that party some way or another.
He dials Chrom’s number on his phone, waiting for Mister “Yeah, let’s have a party! A party would be a great idea if her flight makes it back on time!” to pick up.
“Robin?” He hears Chrom yawn at the other end of the line along with the sound of fishsticks scraping against each other in the Nordsee 10 bucket special. “What’s taking you two lovebirds so long? Food’s getting cold and everyone’s already here.”
Robin glances up at the status board above the check -in counters to Lufthansa and Qantas. “All the flights got delayed thanks to the storm, but Chrom, quick favour. I need you to bring my girlfriend’s gifts to the airport.”
“Wait, seriously? What about everyone else—”
“Get them to wait.” Thirty-five percent battery life. “Just bring everything.”
“My Nissan Qashqai can’t plow through the snow and we’re in the middle of a freaking —”
“Just do it. I owe you one.” Robin closes the call.
Chrom better not bring any of his memers with him though.
Now first thing’s first, either steal a charger from a store or from someone else. The entire airport’s starting to fill with people anyway, especially by the check-in counters where the attendants have to deal with people complaining about flights possibly getting canceled. Contrary to popular belief, yes these flight company capitalists actually care if you die inside an airplane so they won’t have to pay holiday rates for damage fees.
Probably best to leave the area before the crowd builds up.
Another check on his phone.
ϟ [•••–––––––] ϟ
Thirty-two percent battery life.
ϟ [•••–––––––] ϟ
Barely enough juice to last an hour.
Reflet Sharan Lancia sighs and shuts off her phone, ready to lean against a wall and sink to the floor.
Why did she just say everything’s gonna be okay? Her Cosmicgate Discovery E4 is more than halfway from dying, her flight’s been delayed for who knows how long, she lost any traces of cellphone reception, and she doesn’t even know if she’ll have to cancel the surprise present she prepared for the holidays if she doesn’t make it back to Euro Airport Ylisse on time.
Unlike Euro Airport Ylisse’s fishbowl design, Euro Airport Altea reminds Reflet of a grid. The airport itself is shaped in a square, the floor tiles under her feet assemble like a giant navy cross on top of a white background, and the charging station by Gate 13 is a pole designed like a rook piece in chess.
Reflet leans over the service counter, not wanting to face the entire lineup of people pushing behind her. “Do you know how long it’ll take for the wifi to get back up?”
The service woman doesn’t even bother looking up, only typing away at a computer that shouldn’t even be working. “We have the Sky team fixing the service tower. The storm’s calming down a bit, but it’ll be at least an hour before we’ll get the reception back.”
“You’re kidding me…” Reflet sighs, leaving the counter as she checks her phone. 6:19. First the plane, then the cell reception, now the wifi. Late coming home, late to the party as always.
Gods be damned. Not even Plegians are this bad.
First thing on the list: find a plug to charge her phone. Simple enough. Probably should be at least a hundred outlets and a few charging stations in this airport.
But the moment she looks up from her phone, she finds herself blocked by a wall of loose luggage and panicked people.
A quick glance at the status board behind her, and she pales. It’s not just her flight that’s been delayed—every flight from 4:30–11:15 have [DELAYED] flashing in red beside the air carrier names. Reflet shoves her way through toward the rows of seats by Gate 13 where her flight is supposed to be at. Even there, most seats have an accompanying butt to fill their spaces. All one hundred something seats full of business people, college students, or families with children on their cellphones either playing games or just checking their cellphones for no reason since even the Wifi is down.
Not that she’s any better. She scans the area for the closest charging station, her eyes striking a blue pole with a round counter fifteen metres to her left—and how lucky is she! By some miracle, one of the five outlet spots are free too.
Wheeling her luggage over, she sets down her phone on the counter and digs in her purse for the charger.
“That one is broken,” a woman says.
But the woman’s sharp Ylissean accent makes it hard to understand her words. Reflet turns to the figure beside her, “Excuse me, say that again?” only to pause for a second to take in the sight: a young woman with a round face, smooth skin, full lips— damn—and eyes as stark blue as her sleek long hair. Gods, she’s gorgeous.
Though looking down at her outfit though…Oh whoa…the woman’s wearing a red and green Christmas sweater coupled with the blue leggings, a few too many colours for Reflet’s—or anybody’s—taste, along with light blue Crivit sneakers.
“The holes you’re trying to use.”
Reflet blinks and shakes her head, trying to strain her attention back on what she thinks the woman said. “Holes? What about holes?”
The woman groans. “I say the holes are broken. That one you want to use.”
Reflet snorts. The woman’s Ylissean accent makes her sound more urgent than she means. Reflet plugs in her charger anyway, but then she realizes what the woman’s trying to say the entire time —oh man—when her phone drops a battery percent instead of gaining one. Stealing a quick glance to her right, the woman’s using the plug beside hers to charge her own phone.
“By any chance, could I borrow yours?”
“No, I still need it.”
Excuse me? Maybe this woman isn’t quite the beauty Reflet had in mind. “I don’t mean right now, but—”
Twenty-nine percent battery.
Well, Reflet can always go look for another outlet. Reflet takes her bag and leaves the pole. The storm outside doesn’t look as bad anymore compared to a few minutes ago, but the crowd pushing around almost makes her trip into the floor.
“Wait!” Reflet hears the woman call for her. “You in purple coat, you forgot your charger!”
She turns around, spotting the Ugly Sweater Woman waving her way. Reflet tries to push through the crowd to get back only for bags to block her path and people to push her back. The woman steps forward and tries to get as close to Reflet as far as her charger cable extends.
“Just toss it,” Reflet says.
However, someone knocks the woman forward and the shove ends up pulling her charger out of the outlet in the process. The woman gasps, immediately turning around to re-plug it, but a tall man already steals her spot before she can get it back.
“Excuse me!” she says. “I was still using that!”
Though the man ignores her.
Reflet can’t help but smirk as she shoves her way through the crowd and stands next to the woman, dropping a hand on her shoulder. “Tough luck, dear. I’d say you use the other outlet, but that one’s broken.”
“Westerners.” She starts muttering what Reflet assumes are curses in the Ylissean-german language hinted in a Aquilan accent. Then the woman resorts to a sigh. “I still need to charge my phone.”
Reflet snorts. “Well so do I, but somebody didn’t wanna share.” She stands on her toes to try to find a spot, maybe by a corner or something, but she’s too short and everyone’s too tall, like she’s trying to look over a dam made of strangers’ heads.
“What about the washrooms?” the woman kindly suggests.
“How could the washrooms have a—” Reflet pauses. Wait. Sometimes they do. Usually inside, by the entrance hallway, or just outside that. She gleams. “Miss Christmas Sweater, you are perfection.”
“Who is Miss Christmas Sweater? My name is Lucina Fukoro.”
“Name’s Lucina? Great! Name’s Reflet.” Reflet grabs her arm. “Get your bags—let’s go!”
Reflet proceeds to charge her way through a forest of people and luggage bags, one hand dragging her own luggage bag and the other pulling Lucina. Maybe Reflet should’ve left her behind—Lucina stumbling along like a sidekick school girl—but she doesn’t care. It’s the least she can do for Lucina for at least giving her the washroom idea.
As she pushes her way through the crowd, she wonders about how the storm is over at Euro Airport Ylisse.
Hopefully not as bad as here.
But the night’s only started.
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FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."