Strangers on a Plane

She is dripping with gold, well-dressed, classy. The whole ensemble looks expensive: silk scarf, camel hair coat. She is attractive too; in her early forties I would guess. Her shoulder-length dark brown hair falls perfectly. The fingernails are such a dark red that at first sight they look black in the gloom of the cabin. I have the reading light on, but I’ve been dozing. I’m too tired to read; the bus journey to Aldergrove seemed to take forever. Her husband sits between us, looking at the paper. Her voice drags me out of my half-slumber: You didn’t get me what I wanted for my birthday. She has a middle-class southern English accent. I sit motionless, with my eyes open, realising that she is deliberately speaking louder than necessary. I can’t hear his reply. You’re skirting over the issue, she says. The bad grammar tickles me; she is letting herself down a bit here. He replies, but again I don’t catch it. Well? Are we going there? Are we? She is really going for him now. I glance round, only now noticing that her lips are thin and mean, pursed in a tight red line of dissatisfaction. He must have given the correct response, because the attack ends there. She opens a magazine.

At Temple Meads train station the cafe is warm and welcoming. It is nestled under one of Brunel’s arches, and I enter through an old-fashioned red-painted shop door. Inside, I hear gorgeous gentle West-Country accents. The woman behind the counter is going off-shift. She is balancing the till, taking different coins from battered old takeaway tea cups. She tells me she can never get the change right, but a couple of pennies don’t matter: couple of pounds is different. When she’s finished I order tea, and pie and chips from her colleague. The banter between the new server and her customers is familiar, homely, friendly. A taxi driver goes in behind the counter to leave down his plate and mug, and lifts his book before going back out into the night. After a short while my dinner arrives. I open the end of the pie with my fork. It looks disgusting. The soft pastry contains a glutinous grey slop with black lumps in it. But I am starving and must eat before I catch my train; there is a long weekend ahead. I slosh vinegar on my chips, eat a couple, and then take my first forkful of pie. I watch in dismay as the thick filling oozes slowly out onto the plate from inside the case. The food is so hot that it scalds my tongue, and I have to suck in air to try and cool it down. When I get over the stinging heat, I am astonished. The pie’s appearance was masterfully deceptive: it tastes delicious. Content, I take a swig of my tea.

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5 Responses to Strangers on a Plane

  1. DeafboyOne says:

    You’re ‘flying’ mate! 🙂 Temple Meads… ah the memories… I used to sit on Platform 11 after rehearsals with scalding coffee and cold pie (I’d learnt not to have it blast furnaced or else my tongue would melt in the heat…) You capture the moments my friend 🙂

  2. Rosie Pelan says:

    so enjoyable, a smooth read 🙂

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