Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Mr. Barbicane Takes A Trip" Chapter Twelve

The aisle quickly filled with passengers anxious to leave the plane. Mr. Barbicane remained in his seat. He reached forward and took his complimentary meal bag from the seat pocket in front of him. The woman next to him stood and opened the overhead bin from which she pulled a bag he couldn’t see from this angle. The cabin door was opened and the passengers started filing out the jet way. He pretended to focus on the list of contents in his lunch bag…a croissant turkey sandwich with low-fat mayonnaise, a cheese-snax, another chocolate chip cookie, and an apple…until the young woman had folded herself into the march of passengers and was well on her way out of the plane.

Mr. Barbicane looked up as she walked away. He saw her back and her neck and watched as she shouldered her carry on bag and reached back with both hands to tighten the fabric securing her ponytail. She turned at the forward galley and left the plane and Mr. Barbicane never saw her again.

He was therefore unaware of the argument she had in the car with her boyfriend Rory who had driven in the rain to meet her on the other side of security. Rory was very happy to see her, but thought he could tell from her expression that she was upset by something. He asked her if the flight had been all right and she said it had she was just tired and she just wanted to get going. He tried to take her bag, but she wouldn’t let him have it.

The couple did not speak as they made their way out of the terminal and across the access road to one of the short term parking lots. Rory kept glancing over, to look at the side of her face, to try to get some sense of what was going on in her mind. But all he saw when he looked was her profile, as pretty as always, but disturbingly set. He’d seen this look before and it was usually brought about by some thoughtless blunder on his part. He was at a loss now. He hadn’t seen her in two weeks, but they spoke on the phone every day and emailed each other more often than that. All conversations and messages had been pleasant and she said she was looking forward to getting on a plane and seeing him and he had gone out of his way to get to the airport on time, leaving extra early, cutting out of the office dangerously early because he didn’t want the weather to delay him.

Now, she showed every indication of being angry at him and he had done nothing. This, he realized, was the only irritating thing about her character he could single out; the way she put him on edge about his behavior, the way she was ready to punish him for something he did or said or seemed to be saying or probably wanted to do or say.

She threw her bag into the back of his car and climbed into the passenger seat, still not talking. He got behind the wheel and drove the leased Mercedes convertible through the maze of the parking structure, paid at the gate and eased onto the loop road that would take them to the expressway. And all through this she was silent. He knew she was angry just as much as he knew, for certain this time, that he had done nothing to merit that anger.

He reached over and put his right hand on her left thigh. She said nothing. All right. Then he started to ease his hand along the curve and moving it upward, finally slipping his hand between her thighs, along the inner seam of her jeans.

That’s when she said, “Don’t.”

He left his hand there. She said “Don’t” again and started to cross her legs. He pulled his hand away.

Out of the corner of her eye he saw her cross her legs then uncross them and cross them the other way, tucking herself against the car door. He saw her put her hands on her thighs and then move them away as if burned. He watched her slide her hands under her legs and sit on them.

He had no idea what was going on inside her head at that moment. And if he did, it would have only served to confuse him further.


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