A One-way Ticket
to New York
- Let me say
it again, Madame, your booking is non-existent. You cannot take this
Disorientated at her lack of understanding, I strived to remain calm, despite the murmurings of impatience rising in crescendo among the passengers in line waiting behind me. I had been talking for more than ten minutes with the hostess about my booking for the flight from New York to Paris, a booking that seemed to have vanished.
- Listen, there must be a mistake!!! I booked that flight on your internet website two weeks ago, even my credit card has been debited.
Impassive, the hostess retorted:
- I'm sorry once again, Madame, but your booking does not appear in my data base. You must have made a mistake, that's all!
With relief, I finally found amidst the mess in my traveling bag, the printed receipt attesting to my good faith, an unusual precaution from my part, which was a welcoming hand at the moment.
- I have something to prove the contrary!!!
Skeptical, the hostess took the receipt I was holding out and read it quickly. Her haughty look subsided as she continued to read.
- Indeed! - she emitted, embarrassed. A stupid smile drew itself on her lips. She gave a sign to one of her colleagues who joined us with a determined tread. My interlocutor explained my situation to someone who appeared to be her superior, recognizable by the austere look she displayed. I wondered if being unpleasant was a main criteria for advancement in the company... The person who just arrived took the sheet, read it carefully then started to drum her fingers on the computer keyboard. After several minutes and a few phone calls, she finally lifted her nose, forcing a tense smile on her mouth.
- You are well registered on our company, Madame! It seems that a bug happened on the day of your booking on the Internet, which caused some interference in our data base.
- Ah!!!... There is an explanation then!... I can take my flight now, can't I ?
- Well... There are no more seats in economy class...
- Hold it!!! I have a connection for Toulouse an hour after my landing at Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle !!! I have to be at my destination on time. I'm attending my brotherís wedding in less than 24 hours. I'm one of his witnesses!
Suzan Bauman (that was her name hung at her jacket) retorted with a schoolmistressís tone:
- Let me follow, Madame! As there are no more seats in economy class, I will offer you an outclassing in the last available category...
- Which is?...
- In the First ClassÖ
Worry struck down my blustering look when I realized that I had just paid my apartment rent and that I had no more money left!...
- Heu?...Do I have to pay for this?
- Of course, no, Madame! Since this misunderstanding is our fault, it is with pleasure that we offer you travel in our First Class-- with the price of the ticket you had booked!
With the angelic manner she addressed me, I suspected a touch of irony for a second, but my suspicions quickly flew away when she granted me a knowing wink, while giving me back my flight ticket and papers.
- Please, do go to the First class lounge, Mrs... Andrey! And "Bon voyage!Ē
I answered with my prettiest smile and chided myself for classifying her so easily as a shrew.
With my luggages registered and my travel bag on my shoulder, I went through the strict customs control, then headed for the lounge reserved for the first class members. There was no need to say that the economy class waiting rooms with their immense hangars swarmed with standard iron seats, lined in endless ranks, were nothing compared to the luxurious room I was entering in. It felt welcoming and intimate, thanks to the soft lighting arranged around the ceiling. I remembered that same feeling I had felt before, along several years, when I had the opportunity to attend this kind of place. The grayish brown walls exhibited highly-colored modern paintings that contrasted with the refinement of the surrounding decor. Standard lamps, with long and cylindrical lampshades, spread their diaphanous light around a group of leathered armchairs arranged in little circles aiming to respect the travellerís tranquility. Each box-calf had at its disposal several computers connected to the internet, a very pleasant little accessory for the web-addict that I was. I sat down comfortably into the rare armchairs available and started to drum my fingers on the keyboard of the computer that faced me to check my mails. One little click on my yahoo mailbox and a message from William, my husband, or should I say, my future ex-husband, made my stomach overturn from the coffee and pancake that I had quickly swallowed early that morning...
My lawyer just called me. Forms are ready, we can sign our divorce's papers when you come back.
Please, be sure that I'm really sorry about this situation.
Under shock, I stared at the screen without seeing it. A feeling of rage melted with despair took over as an extreme violence possessed my entire being. It was done now, our break up was inevitable!... Overwhelmed, a flow of tears jostled themselves on the border of my eyes. Rather then collapsing in front of everyone, I decided to head to the bar at the bottom of the room, in search of a little "tonic". The barman didnít wince upon hearing my order. He was probably hesitating between classifying me in the category of established alcoholics, or one of those people terrorized by planes. I was at the point of seizing my recovery beverage when my gaze crossed one of the passengers sitting down at the other side of the counter bar. He was watching me in perplexity, while giving me a sign with his head towards the clock, behind the barman. It shamefully showed 8:00 AM!... I was really passing myself off for a true drunkard!!! Though red with shame, I nevertheless, lifted my chin with pride and feigned ignorance. I then began to content myself by twirling the ice cubes that floated in my whisky...
- Why doesnít he mind his own business! - I muttered inwardly.
With my mind unoccupied, bad thoughts started to emergeÖ
- What a beautiful mess! - I sighed, my head plunged into the hollow of my hands - How did we come to this?
In a flash, those five years elapsed in Uncle Sam's country paraded before me: the mutual love at first sight which had hit us, William and me, at the cafeteria of the animation studio, Anim'Box, located in the open quarter of Manhattan. I had come there to perform a training improvement course after terminating my formation as a designer at the Gobelins' art school. Maybe our fate would never have crossed if he hadnít pushed me and made me drop my tray while I was going to sit down at the table. I think I would have noticed him anyway... He looked so attractive, so elegant, and so different from all those guys dressed in slovenly sportswear that I was familiar with. I saw him push aside one of his blond locks which had half covered his face. His almond-shaped blue eyes were looking at me with curiosity. When he helped me to pick up what was still retrievable, he said in a soft and confused voice:
- Iím very sorry. It was clumsy of me! - He said with the most sheepish look - Let me offer you another meal.
- Please don't, itís not worth it! Anyway, I wasnít very hungry...
- In that case, let me invite you for dinner! I would really like to make amendsÖ
- Well...I don't know... - I hesitated, turning red, as I noticed the inquisitive eyes of the other employees who werenít missing any of our discussion.
- Please! - He added, his hands clasped in a plea.
An elbow hit from my colleague, Nila, whom I had sympathized with since my arrival in the company, startled me. Clearly, the insistent gaze she was sending me stating loudly: "SAY YES, YOU IDIOT!" seemed to be yelling in my ears.
- Since you insist... I agree!
- Iím so delighted! How about tomorrow night, Saturday?
- Tomorrow night... - I said in a monotonous voice - Why not...
I realized then that I had nothing to wear! I couldnít go to this rendezvous dressed in a pair of jeans and sneakers!!! What a disaster!
- Where can I come and pick you up? - He asked, oblivious of my state of panic.
- At Hell's Kitchen, 242, flat number 44, between the 10th and the 49th! - stepped in Nila, delighted to play the go-between Ė Thatís where I live, but Pauline is going to stay at my place. My old roommate just left me hanging.
I threw her an astonished gaze, discovering at the same time as my interrogator, my new situation.
- Itíll be better than lodging in Brooklyn at your aunt's home with her five cats!!! - she added, lifting her eyes to the ceiling.
Clearly entertained by our half domestic scene, he emitted a cluck of satisfaction.
- It's a quarter swarming with restaurants. Thereís no lacking of choice!...
He uttered a sigh of contentment.
- Let's do it this way, then... 7:00 tomorrow evening... Pauline... - he followed as he held out his hand to me, a malicious smile sketching itself on his full and handsomely shaped lips. (As a designer, I couldnít help but notice it!)
As an answer to his firm grip, I could only offer him a poor shake, so paralyzed I was by the emotion. Suddenly, it was love at first sight: an extreme feeling that left me feeling ridiculous and completely awkward!!!
-By the way, my name is William! William A. Andrey !... - he said, waving to me as he moved away, while his other hand moved into the pocket of his velvet trousers.
- Knock, knock, knock! Anybody there??? - knocked Nila against my brain, sneering before my stunned look - Sit down, everybody is looking at you!!!
Crimson-faced, I did as she ordered. A dozen pair of eyes, the majority of them female, were examining me insistently.
-I would never have believed it if I hadnít seen it with my own eyes! - clucked my friend who, far from being in my troubled state, as she cheerfully swallowed her hamburger with tex-mex sauce Ė Do you realize that you are going on a date with one of the best men in the company, and moreover a play-boy before the Eternal, nothing less! Every woman here would do anything just for a glance from him, and you, you make your tray fall, and suddenly you get a date! Youíre not going to get any girlfriends, I'm warning you!
Before my downcast look, she layed a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
- Come on, don't make that face. We all dream to be at your place! But beware, he doesnít have a very good reputation...
- Is he a hooligan?
- No, heís not, so thereís no risk there. However, he does come from a good family. It's his "devastating" side that sticks to himÖ
- Well, I think I'm going to refuse to go on this rendezvous. Don Juans are not my cup of tea...
- Are you joking?!!!! If you don't, youíre not only going to have the entire female staff against you for being the chosen one, but especially for chickening out!!! Those girls are going to have a grudge to death against you if you donít fulfill their fantasies that haunt their days and nights: To dine (and maybe even more...) with the handsome William A. Andrey!!! If you don't go, Iíll get on your back, you know!
- It sounds worthy of a 007 mission! - I exclaimed in a nervous laugh.
- How right you are! As a good agent, will you know how to keep your self-control? - she said, with a touch of irony in the corner of her eye.
For an answer, I sighed in my disarray. Nila's voice tried to sound more reassuring.
- Anyway, we talk and we talk, his seducer's repute could be just a faÁade! He could be gay!!! Oh my God!!! - she cried out, her eyes wide-opened as if a revelation hit her.
At this announcement, I almost choked on my coffee. The noisy laugh she emitted at seeing my reaction had a communicative effect. Shaken with uncontrollable hiccups, we left the cafeteria, under the disillusioned gaze of all the employees.
© Leia - October 2006