“Excuse me. I’m sorry,” Jackie mumbled under her breath as she knocked fellow passengers in the head with her 2-ounces-over-the-limit carry-on. She was glad the checker had let it pass. It would have been a miserable day without anything to entertain her after the early morning flight cancelation.
Jackie finally found 27 B. The adjacent seat was empty, but she was certain it wouldn’t remain that way.
She put away her bag and watched as the passengers loaded. Most were seated before they made it to the back of the plane. She sized up those that made it past row 18. She hoped that whomever she shared the row with had remembered to shower. Her last long flight had not been pleasant. Rubbing elbows with a stranger was outside her comfort zone, but losing an armrest to a sweaty man with beer breath was another thing all together.
Anything would be better than that.
Each person found their assigned seat. Just as the doors closed, a woman got on carrying a screaming baby. Just Jackie’s luck.
Two rows shy, the lady stopped and talked to a man. She pointed to the woman next to him and mumbled something. The man stood and looked towards Jackie.
His green eyes peered at her behind silver-framed glasses. Jackie sat a bit straighter as the surprisingly handsome man approached.
“I have been reassigned apparently,” he said. “I believe I’m sitting here now.”
“Hi,” Jackie blushed. “Jackie Owens.”
“Hi, Jackie Owens, I’m Jason Martin.” He shook her hand and sat. He buckled himself in and then leaned over and whispered, “You smell a lot better than Row 25 did. Somebody needed a diaper change, and I’m hoping it was the baby.”
Jackie laughed. “Thank you for saving me from a headache. You smell much better than my last seat mate too.”
“It was my plan all along, “ he said as he flashed a smile that made Jackie stare at his lips a bit longer than she intended.
“Where are you headed Jackie Owens? Home, business, or pleasure?”
“I actually live in Dallas and I’m headed to Seattle to lead a conference. You?”
“Small world, I live outside of Dallas and have the same agenda. What conference are you with?”
“I am speaking at Women of Leadership. I’m guessing yours is a different one.”
He laughed. “Yours actually sounds like one I’d like to attend more than the mandatory Discrimination and You talk that I’m heading to.”
“Discrimination, huh?” she said. “What did you do to be flown across the country to be straightened out?”
He laughed. “Actually I’m the speaker. I’m an attorney that handles discrimination cases.”
“An attorney? Why aren’t you in first class?”
“Just because I’m a lawyer doesn’t mean I’m rich. Just ask my ex. I do this because I love it, not for the money.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Not at all, it’s a common misconception that all us ambulance chasers are rich. Susan learned that the hard way.”
“Tough breakup, huh?”
“Three years ago, and still a little bitter. Can you tell?” His wink broke the tension. “So that’s my story. What’s yours?”
“I’ve actually just published my second leadership book.”
“So you’re kind of a big deal, huh?” He flashed that smile again with a slight cock to his head that made her wonder what his brain was throwing around.
“In some circles,” Jackie said as she combed her fingers through her recently- colored brown hair. She was so glad she covered her grays.
“An author,” he said, “why aren’t you in first class?”
“Writers don’t make that much money either,” she laughed. “But life’s not always about money.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” he confirmed.
The two spent the next several hours talking about everything from work to travel to their ultimate life goals. It had been awhile since she had really talked to someone rather than talking at them.
“If you’ve never been to the ball in downtown Dallas, I’d love to take you there sometime,” he said. His face was down, but she could see a tinge of a blush. “I mean, if that’s not too forward of me to ask.”
“I’d really like that,” she said.
As the stewardess asked everyone to prep for landing, Jason excused himself. He walked two rows up and held the now-quiet baby while the mother situated for arrival.
Jackie tried to hide her confusion, but she knew she was failing. When she blushed, her whole body blushed. If her arms were any indication, her face was as red as a fire engine.
Had she just set a date with a new dad? He had said he had divorced three years ago, but he didn’t say anything about his current status.
“You know them?” Jackie asked when he returned to his seat.
“That’s my sister. The other lady I was sitting with had a kid too and she thought I’d be more comfortable back here.”
“Your sister is going on a business trip with you?”
“My grandmother lives in Seattle and Jessica’s scared to fly alone. Two birds.”
“If I’d known she was your sister, I’d have let her have this seat,” Jackie apologized.
He flashed that smile again and said, “Are you kidding me? You’d have taken the baby that’s testing the limit to its diaper over a flight with me?”
“Well, no,” she said. “I just mean…”
He smiled. “I can talk to my sister anytime. I wouldn’t trade the last few hours for anything. I’m getting to take a famous author out to dinner.”
Jackie’s entire face with covered with a smile bigger than she had worn in quite awhile. “Sounds like we both got a good deal.”