"Here are our seats," Ethan told me, stopping in the aisle to motion for me to enter. I shuffled in front of him and moved to the far inside so that I was next to the window. I could see the other planes on the runways and the little trucks carrying piles of luggage.
As I stared out the window, I recalled that Ethan had been in my room last night. I knew I had been talking to him, but I had been so tired that I couldn't remember anything about our conversation. Only bits and pieces. If only there was a way I could find my way into your dreams.
Ethan and I were not friends, not even close, but every once in a while I would forget to keep up my guarded, withdrawn visage. He made me forget about hating him sometimes, a lot of times actually, and it was starting to worry me. I couldn't develop anything for Ethan besides more hatred otherwise I would make both of our situations much, much worse.
As the plane detached from the airport and began to back up, I looked to my left. Ethan was sitting beside me, and an older woman sat on his other side. She was silent, reading a book, and Ethan was the same though he was staring straight ahead. He'd been quiet all morning, which I really didn't mind, but it was starting to get a little unnerving. Especially since I never did well with take-offs.
We were now making our way down the runway. The plane was picking up speed and I sunk back into my seat, already feeling my stomach flip. "Ethan?"
"What?" He sounded unpleasant. I cared very little, however, as the plane was now lifting off the ground and pointed straight up at the sky.
I wasn't quite sure what to tell him. There was no way I would admit that I hated flying, or at least this part of it, and I didn't want to ask him for any kind of help. I doubted he would be willing to give me any, not to mention he was already taking me a thousand miles away from home to keep me out of harm.
Somehow, though, he seemed to know what I was having so much trouble voicing. "Close your eyes," he grumbled, "and keep breathing."
I felt a little better as he answered, not because of his advice. I already knew to keep breathing, obviously if I didn't I would pass out, or worse, die. Just the fact that he had spoken, or offered some exchange of words, was a little comforting. Though, I'll admit, they didn't sound friendly in the least bit.
My head was throbbing but I shut my eyes and counted my breaths out evenly. My ears were completely messed up, but the plane was starting to level out and I was feeling slightly better. I forced a yawn and my ears popped, the noise of the people on the plane getting louder. A few moments later, the stewardess came on the intercom and explained that we were allowed to remove our seatbelts. I left mine on.
We still had over half a day until we landed in Hawaii. The sun was just beginning to come out which looked pretty breathtaking from this point of view. Ethan still wasn't talking, or moving even, and I leaned my head against the window with a sigh.
A few minutes passed and I was starting to get really tired. My eyes were staying closed on their own and my thoughts were starting to make little sense. I felt a crick in my neck and lifted my head, looking for something to use as a cushion.
The only thing I could find was Ethan's shoulder, which I was a little hesitant to use. Not only would he probably brush me off, but his shoulders had very little padding. They were strong and hard, which was great for appearances and fighting off well, whatever he had to fight, but not so much for sleeping on.
After a great debate, I leaned my head over and settled it atop Ethan's shoulder, which I was now realizing was actually wonderful for sleeping on. It was a little hard, but the crook that existed between his shoulder and neck was practically perfectly molded for my head. I even snuggled in a little bit, nuzzling my face against his soft sweater.
I waited for the shrug that knocked me out of my tranquil rest, but it never came. No witty quip, no insult in a biting tone, no nothing. After I got over my initial surprise, my breathing fell to rhythms and I fell asleep.
Ethan was so preoccupied with going over his plan in his head that he hadn't even noticed Audra was eyeing his shoulder in silent debate. The feeling of her soft weight on his shoulder broke him from his train of thought and he froze.
At first she just used the very edge of his shoulder, then as if she wasn't comfortable enough, shifted her position and moved in right to the base of his neck. Her nose was just barely touching his skin, her breaths coming out as warm wisps of air. Her hair smelled wonderful, he realized.
This was almost normal. Not only for humans, but for couples. Ethan looked at the other passengers, none of which were paying attention, and angled himself in his seat so that Audra didn't have to remain too uncomfortable in order to keep her face buried against his neck. Her light, warm breaths brushed over his skin.
An urge tugged at his insides while he looked down at her motionless form. It was unwelcome and completely ridiculous, but he wanted to kiss her.
"Not a great flyer, huh?" Asked a voice on his left. Ethan looked up, slightly embarrassed at being caught in the act of pining over his companion, and shook his head at the elderly woman.
"She was up very late," he explained, and with a crease in his brow added, "She doesn't sleep well."
"I bet she'll sleep fine in Hawaii," the woman smiled, her wrinkled cheeks dimpling. "Are you celebrating your honeymoon?"
Ethan almost choked on the breath he didn't even need in the first place. Honeymoon?! What in the blazes?
However, the warmth in the eyes of this woman as she looked between him and Audra messed up his better judgment. At first it seemed so preposterous…
For some reason, Ethan found himself smiling and nodding and answered, "We are."
"How sweet," she gushed. "My name is Patricia, but you can just call me Pat. There's no harm in getting to know each other, right? We're going to be here for a while," she laughed.
"Ethan," he reached out and shook her cool hand. "This is Audra," he introduced the sleeping beauty on his shoulder.
"Congratulations on your marriage. My husband Bill and I were together for 62 years before he passed."
"I'm so sorry," Ethan said sincerely. The hint of sadness in her eyes called out to him and he imagined outgrowing Audra. He'd grown so used to having her at the house. His heart ached for Pat.
"Oh," Pat swatted her hand. "I'm alright. It was great while it lasted." She again peaked over at Audra and smiled. "So, how did you two meet?"
Ethan faltered for a moment. "We met in the city, unexpectedly." Well, it wasn't a lie.
Pat grinned, "How romantic." Ethan felt the corner of his lip turn up. If only Pat knew, he thought wryly.
The plane had been flying smoothly up until that point. The pilot came over the intercom system and explained that there was a bit of turbulence up ahead. Ethan had never been nervous in that kind of situation before because of obvious reasons. If the plane crashed, he would most likely survive. Audra stirred against Ethan's neck and moaned.
Seeing that Audra was waking, Pat whispered, "I'll leave you two alone for now."
Ethan nodded in gratitude and turned back to Audra, who was lifting her head and blinking her eyes.
I looked over at Ethan, who was watching me carefully. The plane was shaking, not too violently, but it was unsteady nonetheless. "What's happening?" My voice sounded timid from my short nap.
"Turbulence," Ethan answered. His face was no longer stoic and cold, instead it was soft and his lips were quirked up with the ghost of a smile. "Nothing is going to happen to you. You should lie back down and get some sleep."
So… he wants me to lay on him? Something about that doesn't seem right. "Why are you being nice to me?"
Ethan cocked his head to one side and then his mouth split into a blinding smile. He had such a beautiful mouth, a beautiful everything. My heart beat spiked and my hands itched to touch him. "Because we're on our honeymoon, darling."
For a brief second, my heart stopped. The surrealism of the scene in front of me was mind-boggling. Ethan's wide smile and twinkling eyes made me think he was laughing at a joke I hadn't taken part in. At his left, the elderly woman glanced my way with a warm smile and then returned to her book.
"I'm dreaming then," I deduced, feeling myself deflate a little. I hadn't been so completely out of it to go as far as believing Ethan, but I'll admit, I did lighten up at the idea. However, I was still fairly tired, and he was offering his very comfortable shoulder for my sleeping needs, so I shrugged. Dream Ethan took the cake over normal Ethan. After looking around the plane for any immediate danger, I yawned and lay back down on Ethan. He shifted so that his shoulder was just a little bit lower and I could easily fit right back into that crook of his neck.
I could feel his breath hitting the top of my head and knew he was resting against me. Maybe I was just too tired still, but my heart was bursting into millions of tiny, excited butterflies so I brought my arm up and put it around Ethan's neck. It was easy to forget that he'd been mad at me earlier and that I was harboring a grudge against him. I closed my eyes as I relaxed, feeling safe as long as he was with me.
Ethan looked down at the small hand on his chest right over his heart. For the first time in a very, very long time he felt the need to take steady breaths in order to calm his frenzied nerves.
In the middle of the night he'd heard her voice. At first he thought it was a dream, or even a hallucination, but when he quickly realized he was wide awake and alert, he rushed to Audra's bedroom. Sure enough she had been calling for him, but she was safe in her bed asleep and completely unaware of how terribly frightened he'd been.
For a moment or two he simply watched her sleep, troubled by how worried he was for her. It had been so long since he'd cared for anyone besides himself, even when he had been in that "relationship" with Vivienne. Yet, as he watched Audra's delicate eyebrows bend and her bottom lip jut out, he couldn't help but want to help. Not only did he owe it to her, but he genuinely wanted her to be carefree.
So after he'd persuaded her to get back to bed he resolved to once again assume his indifference toward her. He knew it would be difficult, since he was actually everything but indifferent, but he could never have known how impossible it would be. Maybe it had to do with her soft breaths, her willingness to be so near to him, or because of Pat. She was breaking his resolve without even trying.
"Audra… wake up." I pouted and snuggled further into my pillow. "The plane has landed already."
Plane? Airplane? I blinked my eyes open and looked at my surroundings. Sure enough, I was sitting in a seat beside Ethan. The "pillow" I'd been using was actually Ethan's shoulder; I'd forgotten about that. Outside the window I could see a bright blue sky and… palm trees?
"You slept through the entire journey," Ethan said, his voice still very close as I hadn't moved away from him entirely.
I blinked up at him. How could I have slept over twelve hours? Maybe I hadn't been getting as much sleep as I thought I had. The nightmares definitely kept me awake at night, but… "I didn't have the nightmare."
Ethan's expression was confused for a moment until someone called his name. I looked over at the elderly woman who smiled at Ethan kindly. "Could you please help me get my bag down?"
Ethan obliged immediately and I watched in a sort of fascination. He even smiled a little at her when he handed her the small, brown piece of luggage. "It was nice meeting you, Pat."
"You too," she peeked around him to smile at me. "Congratulations on your marriage. He's a fine, young man."
My eyes widened and flashed to Ethan. He was gesturing towards Pat, as if urging me to respond. "Uh, th-thank you," I squeaked, forcing myself to smile despite my confusion and surprise. Pat nodded and turned down the aisle to follow everyone else out.
"Are you going to get off of this aircraft on your own or would you like me to carry you off?" Ethan's mouth quirked up at the edges and it pushed me over the edge.
"Please explain to me why that poor woman is so confused," I hissed, avoiding his eyes as I reached up for our luggage. Ethan grabbed my bag from my hands though, and I glared at him. "You are not 'young' or a 'man', and we are definitely not married!"
Ethan simply raised an eyebrow. "You wish for me to tell her my true identity?"
I scoffed as I realized he was right and stomped down the aisle. I couldn't hear Ethan's footsteps behind me, but I knew he was there. As I crossed through into the airport terminal I suddenly remembered that I was in Hawaii. Immediately I made my way toward the doors, desperate to get outside into the warmth and sunshine.
I stepped through the automatic doors and onto the sidewalk outside. Everything was so bright I had to squint my eyes in order to see. There were people all over the place; some were obviously tourists and some presumably natives. I let my head fall back in ecstasy as the sunlight washed over my face.
When I finally looked over at Ethan, I noticed he was watching me with a strange expression. It was something I'd never seen on his face before. "What?"
He shrugged. "Shall we get to the hotel?"
I nodded once, slightly self-conscious, and followed behind him while he stepped up to a shiny, black car I hadn't noticed before. Ethan opened the back door and looked at me expectantly. I looked around reluctantly for a moment and then sighed and fell into the seat. Ethan shut the door in my face.
"Here we go."
As Ethan opened the trunk and threw the luggage inside of it he glanced around at all of the faces. No one seemed to be paying them too much attention. A few women lingered on him but he was used to that, so much so that he almost expected it.
But he wasn't interested. This was not a vacation, it was business. All of his attention had to be focused on Audra in order to keep her safe. The idea didn't seem too horrible.
Ethan glanced over his shoulder once more before slamming the trunk and walking to the driver's side door. The black car pulled out away from the curb and took off.
A pair of dark, narrowed eyes obscured by white-blonde hair followed the car intently. Her pink lips picked up in a smirk as she vanished from all sight.