This story is my contribution to a flash fiction challenge, the Steve Weddle Memorial Airport Flash Fiction Challenge, hosted by Dan O´Shea.
”Hurry up now, Urquhart, let´s go to the tax free. I want to see what they have here. I must have that new Elizabeth Arden deodorant and perhaps the Chanel lipstick Priscilla wore at her last garden party. Maybe we can also find a little something for Shirley. She told me specifically that she adores the whole Yves Saint Laurent range. And there´s your sister´s birthday next month …”
He switched off the sound but followed in her wake, carrying her shopping basket and paying with his master card without batting an eyelid. Keep them busy and happy as his father used to say. He was a seasoned traveler and knew that if you had seen one duty free, you had seen them all. London, Paris, Amsterdam, you wouldn´t know where you were unless you checked your boarding card. There was no point in trying to tell her, though.
“ … just stand there!”
He realized he had not paid attention to what she was on about for too long. He stared in confusion while she nearly cracked one of his ribs with her razor sharp elbow.
“Darling, could you please repeat that?” he groaned. He pulled himself together, thinking of Kitty who was waiting for him in California.
He suggested they have a drink shortly before boarding time. She hesitated, but he knew she could not say no. He had been married to her for sixteen years. She dropped down on a chair and kicked off her shoes, before she began rummaging for a mirror in her voluminous handbag to check that her curls and the plum-coloured three-piece suit sat where she left them in the morning. He asked for a whisky and one of those pink cocktails with strawberries and an umbrella.
They drank to a wonderful holiday, and in a jiffy she had drained her glass. Alcohol used to mollify her, but today sweat broke out on her forehead while her complexion turned from ruddy to a pale shade of green. He could see doubt and anxiety in her eyes when he escorted her to the ladies and offered to hold her bag so she would have her hands free. He heard retching sounds behind the door.
The boarding process began, and though time seemed to move in snail-mail mode, it was all over in fifteen minutes. He leant back in his seat, flicking through the pages of his morning paper. The seat next to him was empty. The cabin crew were running up and down the aisle, checking that the passengers had stowed their hand baggage away when an old granny sat down next to him. The door was locked, and the flight taxied out to the runway while a pretty stewardess took them through the safety procedure.
So far so good, yet Urquhart Malahyde would have paid through the nose to be able to see her leave that toilet in Amsterdam, flustered and dizzy, only to realize that her husband and her handbag had gone. Marcia had an eye for details, so she would spot her bag which had been discarded on top of the nearest trash can straight away. As soon as she discovered that her purse and her passport were not there, she would scream murder and theft all over the place. Or perhaps she would see the boarding card immediately and think she still had a chance. That old boarding card from their last holiday together would not take her far, however. She would really need her glib tongue to talk her out of that one.
And Kitty would appreciate his thoughtfulness when she opened one tiny parcel after the other, carefully wrapped in glossy paper by the staff in the duty free shop.