Sign of the Times

by Mark Riding

"Take two caplets every six hours as needed" She flipped over the blue and day yellow box and continued reading quietly to herself, "Cold and Flu Non-Drowsy formulaI don't get this shit, I feel like I could pass the fuck out right now, and it says non-drowsy? Bullshit. Non must be Latin for extra." Her irritated thoughts moved sluggishly through her congested head. After yet another series of numbing yawns she read the box a third time checking the interaction precautions. Perhaps her multivitamins and ginko biloba pills had created some sort of reverse severe drowsiness reaction? She looked in the mirror; her hair wasn't acting right either. She tried to pull it behind her ears but the supposed to be layered part was being uncooperative, and just wouldn't lay the hell down. She hurriedly pulled the whole mess up and tucked it all in the back in a crude French roll; though a few delinquent strands refused to stay tucked. With her hair up too much of her face was showing and her big ass forehead was on display. Plus she didn't have any earrings, so her Dr. Spock ears just stuck out there looking fucking huge. She took a last look at her skin and dabbed a little MAC concealer powder under her sleepy eyes. "Don't you just look shitty?" She checked her nose carefully for anything hanging and stepped out of the lavatory. She picked up a magazine that was falling out of the rack and then moved into her greeting position. She forced an exhale and a smile, and pinned on the tag engraved with her misspelled name, M-Y-R-A.

Thirteen minutes later she was standing in the bulkhead of the plane midway through the emergency procedures spiel. Sitting just in front of her staring was this creepy, biscuit colored, greasy old man wearing a black turtleneck in early September. He had this slicked down, see-through hair and a sparse, peppered goatee with no mustache; he looked like some kind of old hippy pimp. She began to fidget. It was kind of a rhythmless dance, shifting weight from one foot to the other then back again. Anxious. She started to feel like her underarms stunk and he could smell her. He was staring directly in her face, and watching her every move, licking his lips like he wanted to eat her. Yuck. That's just nasty. Old man tongue with that thick white spit on it and hairy man boobs, and dear lord grey-haired old man balls. Gross. She instantly started to feel airsick. "and if you are unwilling or unable to perform this function please let a flight attendant know before we leave out. Ert-take off." Her face flushed ruddy and hot. She had never once stumbled on as much as one word in the rote-learned speech. She instantly blamed the greasy man, but then quickly added the eighth day of her lingering head cold, and of course that last conversation she had had with Kylie. "your seat cushion may also be used as a flotation device in the event of a water landingsimply cross your arms inside the straps in front of you" she drew on routine and continued without thinking or pausing and finished without flubbing again.

She continued performing the mindlessly routine duties, delivering 10 ounces of soda or juice in clear plastic cups, and little packets of cheese crackers. She otherwise occupied her time daydreaming about her smallish over decorated apartment-her home such that it was. There on her old sofa lived the comforting Mexican afghan that kept her warm in the overly air-conditioned living room. She saw herself under it balled up and shoeless watching movies. Her mind floated into her bedroom and nestled into the cloudy pillowtop bed, but then shuddered at the uneasiness that slept there. "Is Pepsi ok Sweetiegreat. Sharon could you get me more ice please?" She tried to re-focus on her current tasks but she had not been quite selective enough in her daydreaming; her stomach quaked at the awkward lies she told back in that bed.

"It will be fabulous Mira; you are going to be such a great mother." The voice was far too excited and echoed way too much in her left ear. Mira started to ease out of their spooning a little and clenched her pillow tighter. "we'll have such a darling little girland I actually don't mind changing nappies reallyof course we'll have to rent a larger flat. Or perhaps we should think about buying a little house, though that can be so bloody expensive." Mira cringed, she loved the view from her little balcony and the free off-street parking; she had no desire to move.

"Mira, Love, did you hear me, what do you think of the name Ryland Stephanie?"

"Huhoh Ryland? I don't care. I mean I don't really care for it." any of it she didn't care for any of that at all.

"No matter then. We'll find the just right name straight away won't we? We do everything so well together. I do hope she has your face; you have the most beautiful cheekbones and your eyes, I love your eyesI wonder if she'll look like me at all. But you've always said that Phillip and I could have been twins. We do have strong family features, this keen nose you know" Mira cringed as the too loud for bedtime voice still echoed painfully in her left ear and reverberated throughout her body. She shrugged the stifling closeness off her shoulder and repositioned, mashing another pillow into her perfectly flat stomach. "It's getting late, maybe we should talk about all this later." She muttered.

"Is there something wrong Mira, you seem so tense?"

"Well you know, I still have this cold and I, you know, have a flight tomorrow damn, ok? I'm just getting real sleepy; can't we talk about this later, huh?"

"Well I fly out tomorrow too Mira! That's why I'd like to spend a little time with the most important person in my life before we jaunt off to separate corners of the Earth!" Kylie's pitch rose to a high squeak.

"That's just silly. Ooh, you're so immature sometimes! You're acting like a fucking lunatic! We'll be apart all of three days corners of the Earth; so fucking dramatic." Mira never looked up from her pillow as she spoke. No eye contact.

"Mira you never understand my point of view. Everything that I say and feel is always so irrational and unreasonable to you. You obviously don't know what it feels like to be here." Kylie's squeaky yelp was grating the inside of Mira's skull. Mira squeezed her eyes tightly and held her breath wishing mightily this would all just go away. She opened her eyes to yet another unfulfilled wish and took a deep breath. "I mean do you have to get into all of that? Is it really that big a deal? You should just let things go easier; I mean, I know that this is just flaring tempers and I'm ok with it. We can always get over things quickly. I have already." She blurted as quickly as the thoughts came.

"Well's justit's justare you sure that's your cold is all this is really? Or are you getting cold feet about us getting married? You know I don't want to pressure you, Love, I just can't imagine my life without you in it. I need you; I need to be with you forever. I love you so very much, Mira, so very much."

"Oh here you go again, of course. Damn, you're always making everything some big thing. Now you're turning me having a damn cold and being sleepy into some relationship issue. There is no connection there I'm sleepy as shit and now I'm pissed 'cause you just won't let me do that. Shit, just let it go for once."

"How can you say such things? I'm just trying to love you. I was only concerned about our future"

"I know, you were just trying to tell me how much you love me and the big mean bitch won't let you. I'm a horrible mean bitch I don't know how you live with me. Fucking Saint Victim herself."

"Oh I can't believe it you are" Kylie was overcome with heaving sobs, she wanted to run and hide but was stalled by the pain. Minutes passed.

"Fuck..." Mira puffed a choppy exhale into her pillow and reluctantly rolled over to face the backside of Kylie's fetal ball. "Ok listen, at the end of the day I've said nothing to you that should have turned into this. I love you too and I'd like to get back to us as soon as possible but sometimes you push me and push me until I fucking snap and zap out on you. I think we both could have done things differently. You shouldn't feel like you've done anything wrong, I've done nothing wrong. I just think we both could have handled this whole thing differently." Mira rubbed Kylie's shoulder instinctively; Kylie shrugged Mira's hand away. Mira seethed, "I'm not the one with any issues here except trying to get some sleep. Now you're making me feel guilty and that's so unfair. Can we just make up and get back to the real us? I said okI said I know you love meme tooI'm just too sleepy to be getting all deep into all of this tonight, ok? Thursday. I'll be back late Thursday night ok? I promise I'll make it all up to you then"

After her perfunctory service in her rear section of the plane, Mira wheeled the beverage cart back into the rear galley. When she pulled back the velveteen curtain Kylie was standing there with arms crossed, mock pouting and obviously suppressing a smile.

"Damn were you fucking hiding in here? You scared the shit outta me!" Mira whisper-yelled through gritting teeth.

"That's a fine hello. I haven't seen you in two days. You've been avoiding me since the airport. You didn't answer your mobile or even try to ring me last night, and this is the best greeting you can offer?" Kylie's response was in far too public a voice; Mira quickly pulled the curtain closed behind them making the space between them even more claustrophobic.

"Hel-lo I've been on planes in two countries since thenand you just surprised me that's allwhat are you even doing on this flight?" she whispered tightly, unable and somewhat unwilling to mask her irritation.

"I was trying to surprise you; I thought you'd be pleased to see me. Evidently you are not."

"Didn't I tell you I had a cold? Damn, I'm having a tough enough time breathing through this stuffed up nose. Why you gotta smother me too? Day after tomorrow I was coming back, day after tomorrow." Mira's patience had all but dissipated after that disturbing daydream, and this pop up stalker shit wasn't helping.

"So that's it? You feel that I'm smothering you? So that's it then. Next you're going to tell me that you don't want to marry me?"

"Need a man to get married. Now hmmwhich one of us is supposed to be the husband? It damn sure won't be me. So unless you plan on growing a dick" Mira's voice was icy, her expression numb.

"What about our baby? I thought we were planning to have a baby together." Kylie's voice and heartbeat were starting to quiver.

"Now you just sound stupid, how the fuck are we supposed to have a damn baby together. That's just fucking ridiculous even if you do grow a damn dick."

"Mira?! We've only just spoken about this, why? You're acting so aloof. And you're swearing at me do you have to speak to me that way? Oh Mira we've only just spoken about all of thisabout Phillip and" Kylie's voice further lilted off with her lack of confidence. She was pressing her left hand over her mouth as she did during sad movies, hoping to restrain any eminent sobbing.

"That shit is just sick! I'm not fucking your goddamn brother and if you want to fuck him then you are just one sick ass, disgusting bitch." the odor of fear in the tiny room had drawn Mira's venom.

"Oh that's just hateful, Mira really it is. I can't believe you are behaving this way. You told me you loved me." Leaded pools welled in the lower lids of Kylie's kelly green eyes; her words quivered. Then the soft squeak of the lavatory door just outside the curtain startled them; reminding them both of their unfortunately public place.

"Will you just shhh? Just shut the fuck up. Does every fucking body on this plane have to know all of my fucking business?" she whisper-barked through tightly creased lips. Kylie straightened up and summoned calm with a deep cleansing breath. She spoke in a hushed half-voice, "Listen Mira I know what this is about. I was scared at first too. This isn't easy. But we love each other and we're together. You can't keep shutting me out. I know I can show you how beautiful being an in love lesbian can..." Mira grabbed Kylie by the soft underside of her arm and yanked her close, nearly pressing their noses together. "Bitch, I told you about that shit. I ain't no fucking lesbian. I ain't having no two mama babies with youand you know what? I don't fucking love you either, I'm moving the fuck out." Her voice had grown even deeper, near snarling, and her rage spat out in foamy drops that flew from her tightly clenched mouth. She released her grip and Kylie stumbled back into the food service cart rattling the soda cans and clinking tiny cocktail bottles of liquor. Mira yanked the curtain back and tromped back to the middle of the cabin and closed herself in the lavatory. Kylie was too injured to move at first, but she forced some adopted British composure, straightened out her blouse and began adjusting the bottles in the shaken beverage cart. Then, without her permission, murky mascara soiled tears drizzled down her face. She pulled the curtain closed again and feebly attempted to dam her eyes with blue and white service napkins.

Neither woman was able to escape the internal pull of her emotions. Kylie took deep shuddering breaths, found some professionalism to hide behind and served baked chicken or tortellini and miniature salads to the first class customers with grace. Mira wasn't as proficient at wearing the mask and the passengers got much more curt sandwich service in the coach part of the cabin.

"Folks, from the flight deck, we should be on the ground in about 20, 25 more minutes. Uh, sunny skies, a little hazy. Temperature ... temperature's, ah, 77 degrees. Wind's out of the west around ten miles per hour. Certainly 'ppreciate you choosing us for your travel needs today. Hope you enjoyed the flight. Hope you come back and travel with us again. This time we'd like to ask our flight attendants to please prepare the cabin for arrival. Also ask you all to check the security of your seatbelts. Thank you."

Uncertainty was gnawing at Kylie's state of being, and reservation was increasingly more difficult to muster. She'd be happier if they never landed, but knew that she and Mira needed a private place to talk out their differences. She had traded a choice three-day's holiday in Thailand next month and wasn't even receiving her pursers pay just to be on this flight hoping to draw closer to her sweetheart. Instead she had chased Mira off. Mira wouldn't even look in her general direction. Kylie feared that they'd have to give up the family planning for now, though she so desperately longed to mother. Her soul stirred and echoed emptiness. She closed her eyes and breathed in as deeply as she could seeking the calming depth of her center. "Perhaps I'll arrange a temporary flat when we land; I can cook her favourite meal there. We'll have port wine and sit to eat together and I can apologize for pressuring her. I'll tell her how important she is to me and promise to give her the space our love demands." Kylie sighed and nodded at the proposal of resolution. "I'm sorry for what I've done let me make you feel good about us again. Let's make love." She quickly squeezed her knees together; the moistening was beginning and she had no knickers on beneath her skirt to absorb any wetness.

Mira sat strapped into her fold down seat in the right side bulkhead of the plane. She had to beg Sharon to swap seats with her to avoid that creepy ass man. There was no way she could take feeling smothered and eye raped at the same fucking time. She clenched her eyes tight trying to squeeze the entire memory of Kylie out of her still congested head. How did it get to all this? Having babies and marrying girls. This was all supposed to be fun but it now was so fucking heavy all the time. She didn't even want to have sex anymore and that clearly was not something she planned to marry into, that was for damn sure. She was marrying an actual man with a real dick and hair on his chest, just like she was born to. She was having kids with her own husband the regular way, not in some damn sick ass, arranged fucking somebody's damn younger brother, surrogate father bullshit. That was just fucking gross. People go to hell for doing shit like that. "No matter what happens when we hit the ground, I'm not seeing that bitch; I'm through with all this dumb shit. Plus I told her I was moving out. Dumb ass it's your apartment." She shook her head. She'd have to pack up Kylie's shit for her. Lord knows that girl wasn't leaving on her own. The rent was going to be a pain in the ass too. But this was the right thing to do; she had really let everything get out of control. Better that she was leaving it all before it got so messy that she couldn't, or her mother found out. No, this felt good and right she was going to start living the life she was supposed to live and leave all that other nonsense the on the plane.

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