Sample: What Happens in Europe

 

Pete’s shoulders sagged when he saw the crowded boarding area. Was all of Chicago flying to Scotland? It sure seemed like it. One of the overhead lights flickered, which, combined with the constant blare of the announcements, just upped his irritation. He scanned the area for open seats and didn’t spot any. Several people sat on the floor, their carry-on luggage arrayed around them. Many of them wolfed down fast food, purchased from one of the various airport vendors. The loud babble of voices just added to the mess.

“Come on.” Mom pointed to a single open seat at the end of a row. The floor space next to it was mercifully free.

He trundled toward it, and then lifted the carry-on off its wheels to step over an outstretched foot. Mom smiled at him sympathetically but didn’t say anything. He forced a smile back. Next time he should insist on going through Atlanta or New York. O’Hare was a nightmare.

“You can have it.” Mom gestured toward the hard plastic seat.

“That’s okay,” Mike replied. “I’d rather stand for a bit.”

“Sorry about the flight from Denver.”

He shrugged. “Next time you get the middle seat.”

“We should be fine on this next one. It’s only two seats on the side.” She rocked on the balls of her feet and looked over at the gate agent.

That’s when the intercom called her name.

Pete groaned and followed his mom to the counter.

His gut tightened with the woman at the counter said the flight was oversold, but he relaxed when she continued by offering a free upgrade to Business Class for one of them.

“You take it,” he told Mom. “It is your birthday.”

“But it’s your graduation,” she said.

“Nah. You’re the one that needs to be rested for the conference.”

“No, you should take it.”

He huffed in exasperation. “Take it, Mom. You can do something nice for me later.”

“You sure?”

He put his hand on top of hers and squeezed. “I’m sure.”

She smiled, and then turned to the ticket agent. “I’ll take the upgrade. Thank you.”

* * *?

Pete stood in the aisle and blinked. He checked his boarding pass. Yes, he had the correct seat. But the woman in the seat next to his was a MILF, if there ever was one.

A brunette his mom’s age, she looked like a young Sophia Loren. Except bustier. And with higher cheekbones. She raised an eyebrow when she looked up at him.

“Uh, excuse me.” He gestured at the seats. “I think I’m the aisle.”

“Oh, do you mind?” She nodded toward the adjacent window seat. “I’m going to be up and down and I’d hate to disturb you.”

Her smile made his pulse jump.

“Sure.” He stepped back and let her move out of the way so he could get in.

“Long flight,” she said once he’d gotten settled.

“That’s what I’ve heard.” He gave her a friendly smile.

“Oh? Your first time?”

“To Europe? Yeah.”

“Vacation?”

“Sort of,” he said. “Mom’s got a conference. Then we’re going to play tourist for two weeks.”

“Ah.” The woman smiled. “That’s nice. Where are you going?”

“Well, Edinburgh, obviously. Then London, Amsterdam, and Paris.”

“I love Paris! You have to visit the French Quarter. Oh, and Montmartre, of course. That’s where the Moulin Rouge is.”

“I’d love to,” Pete said with a grin. “If I can talk Mom into it. She’d spend all her time in the Louvre if she could.”

“Oh, I would, too. I’m Jenna, by the way.”

“Pete.”

She smiled. “And I was worried this flight would be boring.”

* * *

?Jenna laughed, loud and full. She grinned at Pete, and wiped a cracker crumb from the corner of her mouth. Pete sipped some of the complimentary Coke and grinned.

“That’s wild,” Jenna said. “Did you really do that?”

He smirked and shrugged. “I may have left out how scared we were, but the cop let us go, so it worked out okay.”

Jenna chuckled and shook her head.

“What about you?”

“Never anything like that. But… this one time, back in college, my friend’s boyfriend—he was this huge animal rights activist—decided he wanted to break into the biology building and free all the mice.”

“Uh… those mice can’t survive outside of captivity.”

She smiled. “I know that now.”

“Oh, boy!”

“No kidding.”

* * *?

“No, no, no,” Jenna said. “Sunsets are far better in San Francisco than sunrises.”

“The one we saw was pretty spectacular,” Pete said.

“Where’d you see it from?”

“Coit Tower.”

She snorted. “Well, everything’s spectacular from Coit Tower. No, you need to be on the beach. That’s where you go to watch the sunset over the water. There’s this one beach…”

* * *?

Jenna leaned back in her seat and sighed. They waited until the flight attendants had finished giving out blankets. She’d demurred, but accepted a pillow.

“Yeah…,” she said. “I’m better off without him. I got so tired of him always doing that damned Sudoku when I wanted to talk.”

“He could’ve at least put it down for five minutes.”

“Yeah!” she said. “Five minutes. That’s all I was asking for.”

Pete nodded. “My girlfriend… toward the end there, she’d spend all her time on TikTok when we were together. It makes for a really boring date.”

“Mmm.” She nodded. “I got tired of looking at the top of his head across the dinner table.”

“She even did one of those stupid dances in a restaurant once.” When Jenna laughed, he rolled his eyes. “Said there was a time limit or something.”

“Boy, that must’ve been embarrassing.”

“Yeah, but thank God it was mostly empty.”

“Yeah… well, speaking of restaurants,” Jenna said. “There’s this one in Edinburgh you really must try…”

* * *?

“I love the French.” Jenna rested her empty champagne glass against her breast as she smiled into space. “They understand refinement.”

“Mmm.” Pete sipped his own glass, amused they hadn’t requested ID when he’d asked for it.

“There’s this hotel in France. The Mandarin Oriental. So romantic.” She smiled at him. “You must stay there if you can.”

“I’ll keep it in mind. What do you find romantic in Edinburgh?”

“I love to drive out into the countryside,” she mused. “There are some places that take you back. It’s easy to imagine the highlanders in their kilts, riding across the land…

* * *?

Pete stowed his tray and shifted his seat to the upright and locked position. He smiled at Jenna, who returned it.

“This has been delightful,” she said. “Usually these long flights are so dull.”

He laughed. “I’d been planning to sleep or read.”

“This was so much better,” she said warmly.

He nodded, and then an idea hit him.

“What about continuing over dinner?”

She chuckled. “I’m old enough to be your mother.”

“So?”

She raised an eyebrow.

“It’s just dinner. Besides… you did say you were in Scotland for pleasure.”

She rolled her eyes and then smiled. 

 

To be continued…

Cover for the book Friends and Benefits

 Want more of  What Happens in Europe?

A trip to Europe. A mistaken identity. A taboo line crossed.

The question facing Pete is not “will they/won’t they?” but “will they do it again?”

If you like thoughtful taboo stories, you’ll love the story of Pete and Diane as they explore Europe, where no one knows them at all.