Emma watched with giddy excitement as the passengers sauntered down the airplane aisle. She thought about her Tarot card of the day, the Ace of Cups, a promise of new beginnings and new emotions. Her leg joggling and her fingers fidgeting, she inhaled and tried to calm the nervousness that threatened to bubble over. The line stalled, and Emma wondered why. Didn’t people want to arrive at their destination? Some annoyed expressions told her they did.
A deep melodious ‘hello’ caught Emma’s ear, and her heart skipped a beat when she glanced in its direction. Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome stepped into the plane and greeted the flight attendants as they flashed sheepish smiles. Emma hoped he’d sit in the empty seat beside her. Maybe his final destination was also Rome, the Eternal City, and maybe it would be the start of the summer romance she’d always dreamed of, a fling like in the movies.
Emma held her breath and fixed her face into a close-lipped smile as he approached. He didn’t notice her as he read the signs above the seats. Emma suppressed an excited giggle when he stopped at her row, which had only two seats on her side of the plane. She sat at the window, a seat she’d chosen to gaze on Rome as they landed. Handsome nodded and slid into the seat beside hers. Emma’s heart beat a mile a minute and she thought her chest would burst. The butterflies in her stomach morphed into hummingbirds and Emma regretted drinking that pre-flight espresso. Emma glanced at Handsome out of the corner of her eye and pondered what to say.
The flight attendants closed the hatch and announced the flight over the intercom. They parroted the security measures and danced the Macarena while pointing to the emergency exits. The airplane whooshed for takeoff.
Handsome laid his head back and closed his eyes. Emma surveyed him. He was the man of her dreams incarnate; black hair, broad chest and bulging muscles. She’d glimpsed dreamy brown eyes as he’d sat down. Handsome squirmed, then settled in his seat. Emma’s heart sank, she hoped he wouldn’t sleep the whole flight, but she didn’t want to be the annoying neighbor who talked nonsense, so she shrugged and reached for her book. She was halfway through the chapter when her nose picked up a scent. It was faint at first, but it made her cringe. Perhaps it was the in-flight meal? She made a mental note not to eat anything raw.
Time dragged on and the odor grew stronger. She detected hints of body odor and feet. Emma snapped off her seatbelt and rose above the seats like a prairie dog peeking out of its burrow and sniffed. She couldn’t discern the source. She glanced at the other passengers but no one seemed perturbed by the stench. Emma pinched her nose and returned to her book. She read further, but the scent turned into a downright stink, heady with a bouquet of sewer.
Handsome woke with a snort. He stretched and glanced around the cabin. His gaze settled on Emma and she smiled. He grinned and nodded, then unfastened his seatbelt and headed down the aisle toward the restroom.
The air cleared and Emma took a deep breath. Emma closed her book and shut her eyes. Maybe if she catnapped… She rested her head against the window and resolved to sleep.
The pang hit her like a ton of bricks. Handsome was fastening his seatbelt. It was him! He was the fount of the ungodly miasma of armpit, dirty laundry, funky feet and sewage sludge!
Emma’s horror rose when she realized they still had more than half of the transatlantic flight to go. She was in a bind, the flight attendants had announced early on the plane was full and there were no empty seats. Should she say something? She didn’t want to be that obnoxious nag who causes a ruckus mid-flight.
Emma turned her face toward the window, pinched her nose, breathed through her mouth, and cursed the TSA for not allowing perfume bottles in the cabin. She heard an ominous rumble from Handsome’s direction and waves of what could only be rotten egg enveloped her like a thick reeking cloud around her head; she stifled a laugh when it happened again. He was farting, every fart like a whiff of Hell, and it was all Emma could do to keep from laughing out loud like the crazy hag that guffaws at nothing.
The restroom would reprieve her for a few minutes. She unbuckled her seatbelt, murmured an excuse and squeezed between Handsome’s legs and the seat before him. She faced the seat in front as she scooched by. He didn’t bother to stand up and let her pass as she made a beeline down the long aisle.
She slowed her pace; a young woman in an aisle seat stopped her as she dawdled by.
“Excuse me, would it be possible to switch seats with you? I’d love to have a window seat as we land in Rome.”
The young woman’s naughty grin told Emma she’d also noticed Handsome and was trying to finagle a seat beside him.
“Sure!” Emma beamed, “I’ll just get my stuff!”
Emma snickered as the young woman slithered past Handsome with her boobs puffed out and sat down beside him.
The old lady by the window beside Emma smelled like jasmine and peach. Emma was glad of the change of air, even if it meant foregoing an aerial view of Rome.
“I told the young lady we could switch seats as we landed,” the old lady said, “but I think she had her eye on that handsome young man.”
“I wonder you gave up that seat? He’s a savory dish.” The old lady grinned with an elfish twinkle in her eye.
“Oh, he’s handsome all right, but he stinks to high heaven.”
The young woman lifted her head above the seats and, with scrunched up nose and puckered lips, looked daggers at Emma.
“Careful what you wish for…” Emma muttered.
“Damn right!” The old lady replied.
They roared with laughter.