Fools, Barbara thought as she watched the couple walk down the aisle.
The man, young and good-looking but unshaven, wore a Hawaiian print shirt and flip-flops. The woman, also young but less good-looking, wore a tiny sundress. She was perfectly tanned and when she smiled, her teeth were unnaturally white. She dragged a pink suitcase behind her that Barbara just knew would be too fat to fit in the overhead compartment. Barbara breathed a sigh of relief as they rolled past her. The seat next to Barbara remained unoccupied. Yes, she concluded, they were fools. With poor fashion sense.
To call someone a fool was Barbara's greatest insult. It wasn't that she was biased against stronger invectives. In her fifty-three years, she had known plenty of assholes and more that her share of douche bags. Fools, though, they were the ones that really got her goat. Mainly because her anger at them was diluted by pity, and anger diluted was anger wasted. Pity was just too close to sympathy, which Barbara truly had no interest in feeling.
Barbara removed her noise cancelling headphones from her purse and slipped them over her ears. She had just begun rereading her favorite Ronald Reagan biography, and she slid this from her purse as well. It was a 3-hour flight from Chicago to Denver, which could easily become insufferable with the wrong seat companion. With the book and headphones in place, her message was clear: leave me alone. The seat next to her was still unoccupied, but she was ready just in case. Though she was reading, she was still on high alert, which is why she saw the kid before he saw her.
The flight attendant was escorting a boy of about twelve down the aisle. A plastic folder hung from the boy's neck with a sign: "Unaccompanied minor". Barbara felt a prickly annoyance in her orthopedic shoes, but she pretend that nothing was a happening. For some reason, she always felt things in her toes first. Since this was a fair distance from her brain, she was able to avoid dealing with her emotions, at least briefly.
The boy and flight attendant were now standing next to Barbara's aisle. Barbara continued to ignore them, but she could feel the full weight of the flight attendant's aggressive perkiness directed at her, and she had no choice but to look up. She removed her headphones.
"Excuse me, ma'am," the flight attendant bubbled, "This is Chad. He'll be joining you for our trip. He's travelling alone, so I'm sure you wouldn't mind keeping an eye on him."
Presumptuous fool, thought Barbara, but the flight attendant had already moved on to whatever pressing task was next on her list.
To be continued.