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Lizzie Ashworth: Holiday Journey
Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Hi Delilah fans –

lacropped-man-at-airportThe holiday season is upon us, and a bunch of us will be traveling to join family and loved ones for the festivities. For many, that means getting up close and personal with complete strangers. Depending on the stranger, that can be a good thing or absolutely awful.

I once traveled back to the States from Asia. We boarded at Hong Kong for the flight to Tokyo. From there I’d take a connecting flight to San Francisco and from there another connecting flight to Dallas. Finally we’re airborne on the big jet and I find myself sitting next to a very attractive man of Asian descent.

After a short time underway as the flight attendants are working their way down the aisle with drinks and snacks, this man nods to me with a big smile and introduces himself. Only I really can’t fully understand what he’s saying. Very heavily accented, his words finally process in my brain.

“Sato Kazuhiro,” he said, nodding and smiling. “Japanese.”

At least, I think that’s what he said. His eyebrows lift, questioning. My expression probably conveys my confusion because he laughs and says, a bit more clearly, “My name,” and hands me a business card.

The card is thick white stock with a minimalist design in black, a stylized lion on the upper left corner with the words ‘Sato Industries’ printed in English beside it and then some Japanese characters. In the lower right are his name in English and more Japanese characters. He’s watching me expectantly.

“Michelle,” I say, not quite comfortable with adding my last name. “American.”

I tend not to get into conversations when I travel. So I adjust my jacket and settle back in the seat, giving him the signal that as far as I’m concerned, introductions are enough chat.

He’s completely not picking up the signal, or he doesn’t care what I want. When the flight attendants stop beside us, he insists on buying me a snack. I politely refuse and sip my ginger ale. He’s making faces and sighing like I’ve inflicted a mortal wound.

I’m thinking this flight can’t end soon enough. I regret that I didn’t bring a book. I know better than to travel without a suitable barrier against such unwanted intrusions.

“I travel,” he says. “Business travel.” It takes me several minutes to decipher what he actually said.

“Traveling today from Bangkok,” he continues, nodding, smiling. “Are you traveling far?”

“San Francisco,” I say. There, that should be the end of it.

“Lovely city,” he says. “Not as great as Tokyo. You let me show you Tokyo?”

What with the delay in comprehending his words and my hesitancy to reply, he finds it necessary to repeat himself.

“Beautiful city, many wonderful things to see. Nice dinner?”

“Uh, no. Sorry.”

“All night before connecting flight, yes? You could take day or two, see Fuji. I show you.”

Another big smile. Very white teeth. Intensely black hair with a hint of silvering at the temples. I’m noticing how perfectly his gray suit fits, no doubt tailored. Manicured nails.

In fact, in my few glances in his direction in order to satisfy my ingrained need to be polite, I can’t help but notice how well built he is. And handsome in that distinctly Japanese way with high cheekbones and intense presence.

For the first time since his flirtation started, I give serious consideration to what he’s saying. I’ve never been to Japan. It’s a place I’d love to explore and he’s probably intent on paying our way to wherever I wanted to go. Not that I would let him. But the food would surely be fabulous. I’ve heard of the wild nightlife in this city, too.

On the other hand, what if this guy makes his money in the white slave trade? What if he gets me in a car and the next thing I know, my life as a free woman is over? It’s insane to even consider his offer.

I try to shut down the conversation and he kind of takes the hint, not pressing further until we’re circling Tokyo. It’s dark. The ground below is a sea of lights. As the wheels touch the runway and we taxi toward the terminal, he starts again.

“Pretty American lady,” he says. “Michelle. Please consider what I say. I want you to see our beautiful city. Japan has much to offer even for one day. Two is better. Please,” he says, gesturing, “let me show you.”

I shake my head. “I have people meeting me at San Francisco,” I said firmly. “I can’t delay.”

He rolls his eyes and inhales through his teeth. Evidently I’ve inflicted another painful injury. “Hai,” he says plaintively.

The jet lurches to a halt. The aisles become instantly crowded. As we stand up, I notice he’s slightly taller than me. Gorgeous, now that I’m really looking. Imperious in his bearing, he leans toward me in a slight bow. “Beautiful Michelle, it has been my pleasure to know you.”

I really don’t know what to say. His eyes convey grief that I have refused his generous offer. I’m wondering if this come-on has actually worked for this guy. I’m wondering how it would be to see him without clothes. How he would touch me. Whether he kisses like American men.

I can’t be the only one—he’s smooth, fully expectant that I’ll experience a last minute change of heart and take him up on his offer. Should I reconsider? My hands are sweating as I clutch my carry on.

Finally we’re slowly shuffling forward to disembark. His hand touches my back. Slightly, almost imperceptibly, as if it’s his unrelenting duty to escort me, see to my welfare. How differently men behave in Asia—I’d noticed it before.

I start to panic that I’ve not given serious consideration to the idea of letting this guy squire me around this amazing city. The terminal hums with activity as we step into the well-lighted space. Music filters through the cool air.

Sumimasen,” he says with another deep bow. “Sorry.”

“Thank you,” I say, inanely. “You’ve been very generous. Perhaps another time.”

He looks at me and in his dark eyes I see another world, a mysterious culture that I could never fully understand no matter how many years I might immerse myself in its history. What stunning revelations might he offer? I have to admit that he attracts me physically. I flash on how it would be with him over me and flush.

Hai,” he says again, smiling. “Take care.”

I watch him stride briskly through the exit and disappear into the night. The shuttle takes me to the airport Hilton, convenient for my early morning flight. After being in Sato’s presence for four hours, I feel unexpectedly alone.

Dinner in the hotel restaurant surprises with its perfection. I drop my bag in the tiny room. A nicely folded robe waits for me on the bed. Its soft cotton fabric feels wonderful on my skin after a steamy shower. White rice paper panels cover the window glass. I lapse into ‘what ifs’ as I watch Japanese programs on television, listening to the flow of their words and observing their body language. Some of it reminds me of Sato.

Mysterious. Intriguing. An entirely different universe. As the tension of the flight and Sato’s demands and my internal conflict about what to do start to subside, I find myself regretting my lack of courage to take up his offer.

I’ve thought of it often since. What if I had risked it? Would you?

~~~

For all my times in airports before and after this trip through Japan, I’ve put together a short story that plays on the possibility of meeting someone and actually acting on the impulse. It’s fiction, so there’s no risk of harm. Except maybe to the heart.

Here’s an excerpt from Holiday Journey:

laHoliday Journey

“I assume you’re stuck here like the rest of us,” a man’s voice rumbled.

Giselle startled and turned. Chatting with other passengers ranked near the top of her ‘never’ list. Today especially she wasn’t up to social niceties. She bit her tongue, resisting the urge to unload on this guy. Whoever he was.

The man stood just a couple of feet away, pushing the boundaries of her personal space. She assessed him with her practiced cold once-over, normally enough to send the offender on his way. This guy gazed back defiantly and had the brass to smile.

Why oh why did she spontaneously smile back? It wasn’t her norm, but there was something about him. Disarming. Curious.

Damn fine.

Even as she dragged her gaze away, her mental once-over slowed to a closer examination. As strangers go, he didn’t fall into the sicko or predator category. Tall and well-built, he dressed in a hard-to-read style with jeans, white polo shirt, and dark blue sports jacket. In comparison, she seemed overdressed in her short pumps and smartly tailored gray suit.

Her pulse increased ever so slightly. Whatever consideration she might be giving him must have to do with her absolutely wretched mood, because there was no logic in it. With a lift of her chin, she suppressed her smile. Give him an inch, he’d never quit.

“Flight 289?” she said. “Yes, I think all of us at Gate 12 have that in mind.”

His cocked eyebrow and knowing smile caught her off-guard. “You’re annoyed.”

His expression yelled ‘meet your bet and raise you.’ She huffed and shifted, turning slightly away from him. “Nothing personal,” she said.

“It never fails,” he mused in a conversational tone, turning to look out on the stream of people passing by and releasing his grip on a small bag to drop it by his feet. “Worst possible time of year to travel. And then weather.”

“Hmm,” she replied, not wanting to encourage him. Surely he’d wander off soon. She’d definitely appreciate him wandering off. Heat rose up her chest, an unwarranted reaction to something about him—maybe his aftershave, a scent she didn’t want to acknowledge much less analyze. It reminded her of autumn in the woods, slightly sharp, a hint of musk. And hell, she was analyzing.

“Going or coming?” he ventured, turning his face back toward her with a quizzical expression. “If you don’t mind me asking.”

Yes, I mind you asking. I mind you intruding into my privacy. I mind you thinking what you’re thinking.

Which was absurd, she corrected herself. She didn’t know what he was thinking. But then, she really did. There was no way to miss the husky tone of his voice. This jerk was trying to pick her up.

A flash of him kissing her shot through her mind. She couldn’t avoid a quick glance at his mouth. Firm lips, a teasing smile—damn it. Of all the… This was absurd. Whatever little fantasy had wormed its way into the back of her mind, it could just worm itself into the trash bin. Why did she let this guy get under her skin? She was a strong self-assured woman, not some giddy teenager on her first date.

“Going,” she said briskly. “And you?”

~~~

Nab your copy of Holiday Journey at these links. Only 99¢, this short story is a sexy little escape from your holiday stress. Enjoy!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B019VLNZUU

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/675289

About the Author

lalizzieD+editedI live in the wilds of the Ozark Mountains with three cats, two hound dogs, and whichever child has taken up temporary residence between grad school and relocation. I’ve been writing my entire life and can’t express how wonderful it is to share stories with readers like you. Every book comes from the heart in the hopes that you will find a bit of pleasure within the pages.

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