I stare out the airplane window until the fasten seat belts light turns off. Theoretically, we’re free now to walk around the cabin, but I’m resigned to being wedged in here for the duration. I pull my e-reader out of the tote bag that competes for space with my feet on the floor in front of me and crack open my novel.
I’ve barely read a page, though, when movement—specifically, tall, blond moment—catches my eye. I look up and stare.
Hollingsworth Not Junior himself is walking up the aisle. When he catches my eyes, he gives me a familiar smile, not apparently surprised to see me, and raises his eyebrows like he’s trying to tell me something.
I squint unhelpfully at him.
He switches his attention to the woman with the squirming baby in the middle seat next to me. We’ve been on the plane barely twenty minutes and she already has the sweaty, exhausted look of the damned.
Hollingsworth braces his arm on the row of seats in front of us and leans toward her, “Excuse me, ma’am,” he says in that surprisingly deep voice, “would you mind trading seats with me so I can sit next to my friend here?” He indicates me with a tilt of his handsome head.
The woman, who has just gotten her baby to accept a bottle, looks at him with polite dread. She doesn’t want to say no, but she doesn’t want to go through the trouble of climbing all over her other neighbor and rousing her baby, either.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine—” I start to tell her, but Hollingsworth cuts me off.
“My seat’s up in first class,” he tells her. “More room for you to spread out, and the flight attendants will look out for you. I’ve already cleared it with them.”
Now the woman is staring at him like he’s the angel Gabriel. “… Are you sure?”
He nods. “Do you have a carry-on up here?” He pats the overhead bins. “I’d be happy to take it for you.”
“Oh my God, thank you so much,” the woman breathes, already pushing herself to her feet.
I stare at Hollingsworth, who isn’t paying me the slightest bit of attention. He offers his arm to the woman as she climbs over Mr. Grouchy Pants in the aisle seat, who looks more put out than ever at having to shut his laptop again. I give a prayer of thanks that it wasn’t him who was sitting next to me; not that I want him in my row, but he doesn’t deserve an upgrade. Hollingsworth takes the woman’s bag down and leads her down the aisle to the business class section.
I watch them go, not sure whether to be charmed that he’s sacrificed a seat in first class or annoyed that he presumes I want him sitting next to me for the next five and a half hours.
Or to be weirded out that he’s doing this at all.
Hollingsworth strides back down the aisle toward me a few minutes later, looking smug. Turns out, charmed, annoyed, and weirded out aren’t mutually exclusive.
He steps over Grouchy Pants, ignoring the dirty looks, and folds his long frame into the seat next to mine, gracing me with an insufferable smile as he buckles his seatbelt.
“What brings you to steerage?” I ask. “Slumming?”
He gives the inflight magazine in front of him a dismissive flick with his fingers. “Wanted to see how the other half lives.”
“What do you think so far?”
He shifts, his large frame looking almost comical in the cramped seat. This boy was born for first class.
“A bit quiet,” he sighs. “It’s a non-stop party up in first class. Mariachi bands, champagne fountains, pony rides—I’m not sure how you peasants stand the ennui.”
“Damn. And you gave all that up just to sit next to me.” I fold my arms across my chest and raise my eyebrows. “What a waste.”
He tilts his head at me and gives me that lazy, rich-orthodontist smile. “Oh, I don’t know. I bet you’re a better ride than any pony.”