- The Eric Hoffer Awards – Commercial Fiction – Honorable Mention. The Hoffer Awards spotlight “…writing of significant merit.”
- The National Indie Excellence Awards – The New Fiction Finalist
- Dan Poytner’s Global EBook Awards-Bronze Medalist Suspense
- Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards-Triple Genre Finalist- Suspense, Thriller and Romance Sizzle
- Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards-Honorable Mention Suspense
Ethan grabs my hand and squeezes it softly, leaning over to plant a kiss on my forehead. I gaze at his face, bags frame his red eyes. I look out the window to distract myself. It’s a sunny cold day, the sky clear of clouds and full of promise for flight.
“One step at a time, Sofia. We’re closer than we’ve ever been. Remember that,” he says soothingly.
Turning back to him, my body becomes rigid as anger spills over me like hot molten lava. “You’re thinking the same thing I am! We should be overjoyed at the prospect of meeting our son! This is a time for celebration, a time for effervescent bottles of uncorked champagne! But this do-it-yourself adoption is a nightmare! How much longer can we handle disappointment after disappointment? The closer we think we are—the farther away we are,” I vent.
The conversation with Natasha on the phone last night burns in my brain.
“Adoption very risky in Russia now. The ban make Mafia watch money very close.”
How could she say that on the eve of our trip?
I play back what Natasha said. “This trip big gamble for you. l work to keep adoption away from Mafia. If I do not, police arrest you for human trafficking or Mafia take you. Better to go to prison. My name not appear anywhere, only yours. Phone will be disconnected. And I never know you.”
“Hello, folks. This is your pilot I apologize for the delay. The maintenance crew is working diligently to insure the safety of our trip. Thanks again for your patience.”
I glance over at Ethan, who’s dozing now.
“Honey?” I place my hand on his arm, but he doesn’t stir. Guess the fatigue finally caught up with him. If he had a drink, he’d be comatose. I think I’ll go to the restroom before the plane takes off. “Be back in a minute.”
I carefully unclasp my seat belt and try to skitter by him without disturbing him. As I walk past the rows on either side, I glance at the tendrils of ear plugs reaching upward like small sun-seeking plants, and the hand-held devices, passengers attached to them like farmers admiring prized vegetables pulled from the fields.
As I reach the door, the occupied sign forces me to pause and begin to turn around.
Suddenly, I hear the click of the door unlocking.
What luck! I’ll just dash in and dash out. Hopefully, I won’t have to hold my breath to stay in there. My face twists in repulsion at the thought. A haggard looking middle ̶ aged man with a large paunch emerges and smiles too brightly at me.
That look—that look of recognition like I’m a favorite relative, but I’m not. His lids half close as he squeezes past me taking his slow sweet time. And he looks back at me before he stumbles down the aisle way.
I push the door open and inhale a shallow breath. The smell of pump soap greets me. All clear. I can breathe.
Ting, Ting. The strained voice of the stressed-out flight attendant echoes through the tiny bathroom cabin.
“Within the next twenty minutes, The Captain will be turning on the fasten seat belt sign. Until then, you can use your electronic devices. We apologize for the inconvenience”
Turning from the sink to the opposite side to grab paper towels, all 5’2” 115 pounds of me twists like a corkscrew to move around. A quick swipe of the towels, a glance at my nostrils, a push of the lever, and I’m free to escape into the main cabin.
As I near my seat, I notice that “Mr. Too Brightly” is sitting next to Ethan.
Damn! I have to sit next to him! Looks like comatose Ethan has just re-positioned himself to face the aisle way. Why doesn’t this plane offer two across seating instead of three?
My steps slow, but I don’t want to wake Ethan up to swap seats since he’s so tired.
As I stand next to our row of seats, Mr. Brightly realizes with a dazzling repugnant smile that I’ll be seated next to him.
“Don’t tell me you’re with that guy,” he says, gesturing at Ethan. “He’s out cold. Between the screaming baby and me trying to wedge past him, he hasn’t moved an inch.” He smirks, his smile now a beacon of light.
I grit my teeth and carefully squeeze by Ethan’s knees grabbing the headrest of the seat in front of me for support. Glancing back over my shoulder, I see him looking at Ethan. I focus on the seat space next to him, zeroing-in on the instructions on the pocket pouch for my seat. Someone scribbled in red pen, HELL A MILE HIGH. As I wiggle into my seat and grope for my seatbelt, he watches my every move.
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