It was due to be a bumpy flight from JoBurg to Paris. Always seems to be when we cross the desert. No cloud. Thin air. I prefer the route straight up from Cape Town and along the coast but beggars can’t be choosers and I was begging a free flight back home.
No seats the previous day on a direct flight to London had left me with little choice so I swallowed my convictions and my pride and packed my bag. My current ” squeeze du jour” was flying a plane back to Washington but it had to make a stop over in Paris so I hopped aboard knowing I could get the Eurostar back to England easily from there.
I had no idea who the VIP was on the plane because we were never told and in fairness I probably didn’t need to be told. I was only jumping that ride and effectively nothing to do with the crew. I climbed aboard. It was mandatory on a free flight that I took a seat back in the crew quarters. I tried to settle down with a book; a gourmet dinner ( courtesy of the on board chef) and a film. Dinner done (and very tasty it was too) I snuggled down in the bunk and tried to sleep. It had already got a little bumpy and so I gritted my teeth and remembered all of my relaxation techniques. Nothing worked.
Having tossed and definitely turned for nigh on an hour I got up and made my way to the Salon. No one was in there. The lights had been dimmed so the secret passenger had probably already
“ turned in!” I thought it a good place to try to read. As I was bunking in crew quarters, I had a room mate and I didn’t want to disturb her as I knew she would have to be back on duty early that morning to serve breakfast with care and a smile. I looked out of the window. Dark. Black and with no lights shining below even though it was a very clear night. We must be going over the large open sandy expanse now, I thought. Oh dear…..
“Hey” a voice sounded through my thoughts and there before me stood a tall sandy hair chap with an open and engaging smile. ” How ya doin’?” he enquired and seemed genuinely interested in what my answer might be
” Just bracing myself for the turbulence ” I replied feeling stupid for actually voicing my thoughts
” Hey you dont wanna worry about that” His deep southern drawl was very attractive. Soothing and almost mesmeric. He continued, ” I have been on more flights than I care to remember and not once have I been in trouble. Got no reason to think it might happen tonight!. …Drink?” And from what seemed out of nowhere he pulled two tumblers and a bottle of Jack Daniels.
I wasn’t sure who this gentleman was and he didn’t offer an introduction. ” Cards?” he smiled and I felt my stomach flip. ” Nothing like a game of cards to take your mind off things eh?” and he picked up the pack on the table and started to shuffle. “
Whaddya play then honey?” he asked and I mumbled something along the line of Patients, Chinese Patients or even Crib. I suddenly felt like a Novice. I wish I could have replied Bridge or even Poker!
” Cribbage? Great. I love that” and he started to deal.
Conversation with sparse but the playing was frantic. Both of us determined to win each hand. Both of us concentrating. A few lumps and bumps from the turbulence which by that time had faded into insignificance but unexpected larger ones were rewarded with him taking my hand and stroking the fingers or simply holding it. An oddly intimate gesture but certainly not offensive – but maybe made easier by the copious amounts of spirits we seemed to be drinking, whilst intent on our card game.
The night wore on and we both wearied. We had not spoken about ourselves or our lives but concentrated on the game and by the time we were finished the turbulence had ceased and we were both weary.
” Well now little lady. I’m all done here and frankly bushed. I’m off to bed and think you should be as well. Thank you for the game”.
He stood up and stretched. He looked at me ” Oh I’ve forgotten my manners. I don’t think I introduced myself. ” He took my hand and whilst I thought he would shake it, he bent down and kissed it very gently. He looked up and smiled. ” I m Bill” by the way and with that he smiled, gave a short bow and wandered off back to his room.
He didn’t look back but he must have sensed, or probably just known, that I was watching him for he did a backward wave and disappeared from sight. I smiled and then broke into a huge grin.
Bill? Bill – you may just ask …..