Who’d have thought being stranded at the airport could possibly have some long term benefits?
Certainly not Tom.
But then he hadn’t bargained on meeting Rafael…
Rafael’s hand was very warm and his handshake firm.
“Where are you headed?” Rafael asked.
“Iowa. If I can. I’ve been on standby forever.”
Sadness flitted across Rafael’s face. “I know how that is.”
“Oh, you too? Where are you trying to go?”
“Nowhere.” Rafael sighed. “I just come here to watch the airplanes.”
Considering Tom’s admission about magic in flight and cell phones, he was in no position to judge. “Are you into planes? As a hobby, I mean?” He was vaguely aware that just as some people were obsessive about cars or trains, some had a thing for aircraft. Freud would likely have a good explanation for that.
Rafael gazed out into the darkness. Tom could see Rafael’s reflection in the window. He looked very far away.
“I used to fly,” Rafael said quietly. “But I… I made mistakes. I was grounded. Now I can only watch.”
“Doesn’t that make it worse? Like being on a diet and visiting a bakery?”
After considering this for a few moments, Rafael shook his head. “No. It’s a reminder. A small consolation. Is there something you truly long for, Tom? With all your heart?”
Tom’s chest tightened. He stared down at his shoes and gave a small nod. “Yeah.”
“And do you avoid any mention of it? Or do you seek it out because even a shadow, even a tiny taste is better than nothing?”
Fine. Tom might have spilled about his magic hypothesis, but no way was he going to admit to this stranger that he regularly sniffled over the kinds of movies where the main couple ended up clinging tearfully to one another. Usually in the rain, for some reason. Sometimes one of them was dying or had to go to war, or some other tragic circumstances intervened, but it didn’t matter because they’d found True Love. Tom would further not admit that his Kindle was filled with books whose covers generally featured two naked male torsos floating over a landscape, books in which an HEA—or at least an HFN—was guaranteed.
“I don’t avoid it,” Tom admitted to his shoes.
For five, maybe ten minutes, they sat silently beside each other in the empty concourse, looking at the motionless planes outside. Tom imagined they looked like a scene in a film. Not a rom-com, but something moody and artsy. Coen brothers. Kubrick. Sofia Coppola? Maybe even something French.
Finally, Tom had a question. “To get this close to the planes, don’t you need a boarding pass to get through security?”
Rafael laughed gently. “It’s not a problem for me.”
Perhaps he still had his old ID, or else the security people knew him from his pilot days and let him through.
Tom scratched the stubble on his cheek. “Um, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but… are you grounded permanently? Or just for a while?”
“I’m not sure. I keep hoping my superiors will reconsider, but it’s been a long time.”
“I’m sorry,” Tom said sincerely.
“Thanks. I guess I’m sort of on standby too.” Rafael patted Tom’s shoulder and a very strange thing happened. Right through the stupid sport jacket that had been all wrong for the interview and the pale blue button-down that had been even worse, Tom felt a jolt where Rafael touched him. It was a little like getting zapped by static electricity, but it was more painful and more pleasant. Way more pleasant, actually, in a way that made Tom’s khakis (also totally wrong) immediately feel far too tight.
Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.