An Unexpected Friendship
On a flight home to Boston, Chris meets two interesting women, one older and one younger
Warnings: Fluff, Language, Adult situations
Word Count 1430
Exhausted from a week of meetings, Chris pulls the window shade down and nearly collapses against the wall. Moments later he is caught between awake and sleep when he feels his seat mates approach. He keeps his head low and does his best to ignore them, pretending to be asleep.
The sound of a small child’s whispers, a jumble of unintelligible sounds is heard as ‘it’ crawls into the space next to him.
“Shhh, Lilly, don’t wake him,” a soft feminine voice whispers, a hint of an accent.
Oh, great, a kid. Chris wishes he’d put in his ear buds as soon as he’d sat down, but it’s too late now. He’ll have to listen to kid chatter the whole way to Boston, and won’t get any rest.
Mother and child shift and settle themselves. “Mummy,” the child addresses, as the distinct sound of a tiny British accent fills his ears, “he’s quite handsome.”
“Shhh, Lilly,” the woman replies, obviously tired from travel and her child’s quips and comments. “Here chew this gum so your ears don’t pop.”
Chris relaxes as the child seats herself, calm and quiet. He’s sat next to adult passengers who have been more noisy and annoying than this child. He recognizes that this time maybe he lucked out.
“Mummy, he has a beard.” The child shifts in her seat, kicking her foot against Chris’s leg. He grits his teeth silently, determined to keep up the pretense that he’s asleep.
“I see that darling. Shhh… let the poor man rest. He seems very tired.” She buckles in the child and hands over a beloved toy. “Now, please, snuggle Dolly and let’s rest. You want to be alert when we get to Grammie’s.”
Chris finds he struggles to fall asleep now. The lilt of the little girl’s accent plays tricks on his mind, but eventually he drifts to sleep as the plane reaches flying altitude.
He wakes with a startle when he feels a hand on his cheek, softly playing with his beard. His eyes pop open to find the little girl standing in her seat next to him, gently touching his face. His anger swells, but he knows better than to snap at a child. He sees the worn out woman is sleeping, but he reaches across and shakes her shoulder.
“Hey, lady,” he says, his voice gravelly from interrupted slumber. “Wake up.”
He shakes her again, while the child rests her tiny hand on his broad shoulder. “Dammit,” he mutters. “Wake up.”
“You said a bad word,” the little girl scolds him, her ringlet curls bouncing as she points her finger at him.
“You woke me up. How’d you get out of your seat belt?”
“I wanted to touch your beard. I loosened it and crawled out.” Her small grin shows she’s quite proud of herself.
“You sneaky little shi-”
“Sir! Do not swear at my child!” The young mother mumbles in confusion, anger in her obvious tone with him, waking to find a strange man scolding her child. “What is going on?!”
“Your kid woke me up, touching my face. It’s creepy! If you’re gonna travel alone you need to keep an eye on your kid,” Chris informs her gruffly. “She’s not even buckled up.”
The woman shakes her head, rubbing her eyes and pulling herself up from her slumber. Looking to her child, she sees that indeed the young girl has escaped. Her tone is exasperated. “Lilly! Why are you out of your seat?”
The little girl’s eyes fill with tears, confused by her mother’s anger. “I just wanted to know if his beard was soft like daddy’s was before he went to heaven.”
Ah, fuck. Chris pinches the bridge of his nose and runs his hand down, stroking over his beard, tugging the scruffy ends in thought. “Shit,” he mumbles. Why me? He rests his head back against the seat and sighs.
Struggling against her mother’s efforts to sit her back down, the little girl taps his arm. “Sir. You said another bad word.”
Seeing the little girl’s eyes fill with tears, he clears his throat, gently rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb. “I did. Sometimes I do that. It’s not nice and I’m sorry. I think you need to sit back down so you’re safe. “
He looks over to the young woman, a combination of irritation and relief on her face.
“Lilly, right? Let’s get you back in your seat. Did you need a snack?”
Chris reaches up to the call button before shifting in his seat to help settle the little girl. He smiles as she squirms back into the seat belt she had loosened and crawled out of, all without her mother’s knowledge.
“Yes, I’m Lilly Potter! How did you know?” she asks with wonder.
Before Chris can reply an attendant appears, “Yes, Mr. Evans, how can I help you?”
“Bring us lots of snacks and apple juices please,” he replies with fake warmth, trying to mask his sleepiness, feeling guilty for responding rudely and cursing at a small child. It’s like he can feel his mama smacking him up the backside of his head.
She looks down at the young girl and grins, oblivious to the glare of the child’s mother. “Yes, sir. I’ll be right back.”
“We have snacks. You can’t just go giving food to strange children,” the woman reproaches him. “She has food allergies,” the woman explains curtly.
“Fine, then when the food gets here you can pick out what she can and can’t have,” his tone holds to his ice as well. Something about this woman is off putting. Although he feels bad for the fatherless child, the widowed woman doesn’t garner his sympathy.
It dawns on Chris he’s heard the child’s name before. “Lilly Potter? Like the book?”
The little girl beams with pride, “Oh, yes! Those were my father’s favorite books and I’m my mummy’s favorite flower!”
Chris tightens the buckle and lowers the tray for their shared snack. The child continues to chatter away. Although exhausted, Chris resigns himself to now spending the remainder of the flight as her new best friend. “You have pretty eyes. What’s your name? I’m almost five.”
“I thought you were five! That was my guess! I have a niece who is about your age,” he replies.
He bites back a sinister laugh when the flight attendant bumps the mother in the head as she hands the snacks to him and he arranges them on the tray. “Mummy?” the child asks, her voice unsure. She leans to whisper to her mother, who is rubbing the top of her head ruefully, “I don’t think I can eat these.”
The woman sighs, “Oh, Lilly, darling, you can’t. I’m sorry. That’s why strangers shouldn’t offer food to children they don’t know,” she says pointedly, so Chris can hear her verbal jab. “But I have your special crackers in my bag and-”
“But mummy, I want to share my snack with the cute man,” the child whispers loudly. At the tender age of ‘almost five,’ the child has not developed the skill of whispering yet. Chris can see the child’s repeated comments about his good looks are grating on the young mother’s nerves.
The woman laughs, “Oh, dear, sweet child! You will be the end of me!” She drops her voice, hoping only her daughter will hear her scolding. “You can’t keep talking about his looks. It isn’t polite.” Raising her voice again, she continues, “You can share your crackers!”
Chris acknowledges to himself the sound of her laugh is rather nice. “Excuse me. Lilly? I’m sorry you can’t have those snacks. Ask your mom if you could have the apple I have in my bag instead.” When the dark haired woman smiles her thanks and nods her head yes, Chris notices her hazel eyes are filled with worry and concern, and mirror his own sleeplessness.
“Lilly, I might like some of your special crackers too,” he says as he swipes the unsatisfactory snacks from the tray into his bag under the seat and pulls out a large ruby red apple. Special crackers probably have no flavor and taste like cardboard. Yea! The mother places a small packet of crackers on the tray. Chris leans to the small girl and whispers “Maybe your mom can nap while we snack? It’s nice to meet you, Lilly. I’m Chris.”
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