Row 23

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Photo courtesy of Unsplash user Tuce. The story below was originally written as an entry to Ad Hoc Fiction Issue 152, requiring the prompt ‘Gum’ be used.

The cruelty of assigned seating cornered me against a wing. At her boarding, I feigned a nod of greeting, but acted astonished by the majesty not yet below while ignoring her struggle to store her luggage. She ultimately managed as I marveled at the baggage handlers’ utter ennui beneath us and how the window’s reflection divided the task and tedium between us in Row 23.

She took her seat with a smile and I attempted to reciprocate, lifting at least my ears. To my relief, she declined the unintended invitation to talk. Instead, she wordlessly proffered a piece of gum. I meant to dismiss the stick, but the sincerity in her eyes stalled my cynicism. Though I was heading in search of warmth, I knew no climate would match the kindness expressed in her almandine irises, so I cherished our conjoining by the margins of our armrests in Row 23.

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