The girl gaped at him.
A lock of her brunette hair fell over her eyes like a thousand times before.
Still no sign of it being a good news or a bad news, he waited.
Silence filled the room that was usually filled with noise.
For an odd moment, he took the time to be grateful for the atmosphere.
Everyone else had gone home.
Everyone except them.
At least that way nobody could see him stand rooted on the spot, sweating bullets like he had a fever.
‘Are you well, child?’
His eyes jerked open at the concerned voice from the seat right next to him. The afternoon sun penetrating the thick airplane window hit his face at once, making him wince. He heard a chuckle. Silently cursing his temporary blindness, he blinked a few times and glanced aside to see a rather old lady smiling at him. Why, he must’ve fallen asleep during take-off.
He shot the old lady a dry smile. ‘Sorry to disturb you,’ he croaked, shifting in his narrow and stiff seat. He had always hated long flights, especially the “affordable” ones paid by the hellhole of a company he worked for.
But the old lady waved her hand dismissively. ‘Nonsense,’ she replied, turning her head back to whatever book she was in the middle of. ‘Bad dream, eh?’
This time, he chuckled. ‘Not necessarily.’
She brushed the stray lock off her face in sudden nerve.
‘If – if this is your idea of a joke-‘
His jaw dropped at her reaction, some kind of lump in his throat almost choking him. He did wish for any reaction, but it sounded like the worst the universe could slap him with at that moment.
‘Do you see me laughing?’
Her hand flew up to cover her mouth. ‘Sor-‘
‘Don’t say sorry,’ he cut in, ‘please.’
She fell silent.
He waited patiently.
Just like the last few months.
He saw her pondering for a few moments before closing the book and extending her hand, showing a wrinkled palm and fingers under his nose. He merely stared at it. What exactly-?
‘Don’t be scared, boy, I’m not a lunatic.’ She laughed. ‘Let me read your palm.’
He raised his eyebrow. And she said she wasn’t a what?
‘Come on,’ she insisted, ‘we still have four hours and Santiago is going home soon.’ – he glanced at the cover of her book. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Ah. At least he got the drift. – ‘Might as well pass the time doing something productive, yes?’
Wishing she wouldn’t charge him for anything later, he lifted his hand reluctantly and let her run her finger on his palm lines, muttering inaudible things.
After a few ‘ha’s and a couple more ‘hmmm’s, she looked up and tapped the back of his hand fondly, pushing it back to his lap. Funny how he only knew the old lady for a few seconds, yet she oozed the aura of that weird-yet-kind grandma everyone had in one’s family.
The man of twenty-four wasn’t a believer – not in God, not in superstition, and especially not in things he couldn’t see the logic in. Like palmistry. He made his own way through everything, and being quite a known businessman in such a young age gave him the confidence of an older man in his profession. But the nice old lady didn’t seem to mean any harm… so he decided to play along and entertain her.
‘Well?’ he grinned, expecting her to lecture him about his long life line or anything that others had told him before.
‘Such an impatient soul!’ She exclaimed, picking up her book once again and turned a page as if nothings happened. Her twinkling eyes didn’t leave his mischievous ones. ‘You don’t really believe in this kind of things, do you?’
He shrugged lightly. ‘Doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear what you have to say about a life you’ve only seen through a puzzle of life lines and money lines or what’s-its, does it?’
After what seemed like ages, she finally leaned back against the wall and slowly asked, ‘Why now?’
He sighed in relieve at the lack of the word “no”. He shook his head. ‘I’m not saying it has to be now.’
Of all people, he should know that it wasn’t as easy as anyone else would’ve thought. He was young. She was a year younger than him. No matter how good they were in what they do, still there would be a long way for both of them. He knew her priority, and she knew his. Mere romance wouldn’t be enough to feed anyone in reality. Being realists that they were, they knew better than to act recklessly and put everything they had in their work. Which is why her question didn’t surprise him.
‘This is more like a… future plan.’ He explained, trying to make sense of everything. ‘You know that stupid future plan sheet we have to update every month? The one where we have to think and write every single point we need to do to achieve it?’ He nodded at the said sheets stuck on every employee’s cubicle partition. ‘It’s the same, isn’t it?’
She raised her eyebrows, obviously confused about where he was getting at. He chuckled, trying to ignore the stupidly noisy heartbeats resonating in his chest.
‘Well, in my future plan, what I asked of you a few minutes ago is the first thing on my to-do list. And your answer would determine my next step.’
The old lady rolled her eyes. ‘Good point. How about I just tell you about your health, then?’
‘I’m perfectly healthy.’
‘Ah, but in where we’re going, there would be a moment when you’re not going to be perfectly healthy.’
He frowned. ‘What, I’m going to catch a cold in a tropical city?’
‘No, silly boy!’ She laughed. ‘But you will have that moment of… well, you could say it feels like a cold. Like… a fever. Cold sweat, tachycardia, and dry throat… You’ll probably think your life lies in what comes after, but don’t worry. You will be just fine, because what comes next is relieve. Something you prayed for will happen, and you’ll be perfectly healthy again within minutes.’
She burst out laughing at the inside-joke analogy, her cheeks a shade darker. He chuckled, the tip of his fingers already cold as ice even though he was sweating in pure nerve, in the same time hoping it was a good sign. He could’ve sworn other people in his shoes would’ve had a massive heart attack and die on what happened next, but he wouldn’t be him if he reacted like everyone else does.
‘So I’m going to have a fever for a few moments… and it’ll go away just like that?’
‘Not just like that, of course! Someone will play a big part in healing you from the temporary illness, but it doesn’t mean that person is a doctor.’
‘…you saw all that from a bunch of lines on my palm?’
‘No,’ she smiled, ‘I saw all that from the little velvet box in your other hand.’
The young girl didn’t stop laughing for quite some time, but once she did, his fever and the lump in his throat went away – because the only words that mattered to him escaped her lips just like that.
‘Why, I’m going to approve your future plan and say yes,’ she grinned, ‘yes, you idiot. Now go ahead and plan your next step.’
Maybe being a believer for that one time is not too bad.