Chapter 1- The Man From The Country That Doesn't Exist
There was nothing like a love story in October. Even if it's a dark and stormy night in October. I press my hands to my forehead feigning embarrassment. I wasn't embarrassed though. Far from it. The airport is crowded when my crew boards the plane preparing the cockpit.
"Tell them the story about how you guys met again."
"I was the flight attendant. LA to DC. It was the redeye. It was a usual flight late at night when I lean over and ask a customer if he wants something to drink. I was impossibly attracted to him. He wasn't especially tall or dark which was my usual preference but he exuded this—the only fitting word is magical, no spellbinding—energy. He answered me with this real shrug . He kept ordering more and more drinks to the point that he had to use the bathroom often. I wondered if he was doing it just so I can walk back to him. Every time we passed each other on the plane, the sexual tension was unbelievable. A volcano of near euphoric erotic energy would erupt inside me whenever we made eye contact. Deep down I knew I couldn't possibly be alone in feeling this way, but hours went by and I maintained a purely professional demeanor.
"We had only an hour left in the flight when I came out of the bathroom and saw him standing in the doorway. It was 3 o'clock in the AM, so everyone else on the plane was asleep save another flight attendant in the front. I remember it was so dark. I had a terrifying chill when he stood at that doorway. He didn't have to say a word as he stepped me back into the bathroom and he closed the door behind him and walked towards me, loosening his tie. I stood and untucked my shirt, reassuring him silently that I was game. When we finally embraced for the first time, that volcano burst inside and seconds later I was pressed against the wall and his dick was deep inside me. We fucked, mostly clothed, like rabid animals for whatever time we had. It may have only been a few minutes but it seemed like a lifetime."
Gary is another flight attendant on the plane. We were waiting for the ramp rats. The ramp rats was the nickname we used for the ground crew. Him, Monique and our flamboyant friend Paris were on the flight together. Paris was known as the cockpit queen, because he loved to hang around the front of the plane. Gary was the only one that I had never worked with before. Monique had brought him around on a layover we had a while back and we became somewhat friendly but I still didn't know much about him.. He says he's straight but I notice a tent in his pants when he hears the story. He's definitely turned on.
I smile at the idea that I was even turning a straight guy on, "Then I told him to warn me when he was about to explode so I could hop down and drink his cum, something I've never actually done for my husband."
"Husband?" Gary Cones asks.
I didn't mean to let it slip out. It's Monique who is way too excited to offer some insight, "He was married at the time..."
I cover my face feeling the embarrassment of it all. This time the embarrassment was real. It was a whole different lifetime.
Paris smiles, "Five years later, you are married to Ezra Tate. Damn, he's perfect..."
Perfect Ezra. That's what most of my friends thought about him. That's how he carried himself. He always had been that kind of person.
"He's going to be on this flight right?" Gary asks.
I nod, "Yeah. We just had our honeymoon in London. He's flying on my buddy pass. You'll get to meet him. It was love at first sight."
The flight was from London to Detroit. Detroit was my hometown. I'm a newlywed, again.
"Is it love though?" a voice states, "Or is it still infatuation?"``
It's Monique. Again...
"Your ex-husband killed himself over this so-called love."
The cockpit gets quiet. Just at that moment we're told that they are about to start boarding. Paris grabs Gary. He's trying to make it less awkward by giving Monique and I a chance to talk. It's clear at this point that a talk is definitely what we need. Monique has been throwing shade on my marriage for a while now. Gary and Paris stay at the front of the plane as Monique and I move towards the back. Looking at her I can tell she's had a problem. I knew Monique for as long as I knew Paris, but she was always...negative. I didn't know how to explain it.
I don't waste any time, "Have you lost your mind bringing up Adrian's suicide?"
Adrian was my ex-husband. When I left him he became really mentally ill. He took his life. A part of me blamed myself. I had cheated initially. I had done him wrong. It was my greatest regret in life. The fact that my friend was now throwing this in my face was beyond anything I could ever imagine.
"You used to always wonder what was out there? Remember. When we would fly high into the sky together you'd look at the stars and ask me what's out there."
"Don't try to change the subject now, Monique. I know you never liked Ezra but he's coming on the plane. Gary doesn't know him like that. I don't need the negativity. I just got married for godsakes. I thought you would be happy for me."
"I'm not changing the subject," Monique explains, "Look up in the sky. Do you still wonder what is out there? You ever wonder about the mystery. What else is beyond those stars. How far that blackness goes. Do you ever wonder if it ever stops? Is there any end to space? Is it really eternal and if it is eternal, then what does that mean? It's terrifying."
"I don't get what this has to do with me marrying Ezra."
"When you think about getting married, how do you feel?"
I could lie to her. It would be useless though.
"I feel safe..."
"That's the thing, Ontario Vaughn. You don't want to feel happy. Happy is safe. Happy is not exciting. I know you Ontario. You want to feel terrified. It's why you became a flight attendant even though you have a fear of heights. If it doesn't feel like that blackness when you look up in the sky, then how do you know it's worth it?"
10 years ago I would have agreed to everything Monique was saying. I woke up this morning with several strands of gray hair. I plucked them out aggressively. I'd never been in love. Not the way they talk about in the movies. Sure I used to dream of it but I was in the point in my life that everything was supposed to be coming together. It was time to make moves for myself and marrying Ezra was the best move I could make.
"I'm pushing 35, Monique. I can't wait for the man of my dreams to drop out of the sky. Not anymore. Ezra is enough for me..."
"Speaking of the devil..." Monique states.
Just at that moment I see Ezra walk on the plane. We start greeting our other guests. He gives me a smile when he walks on. It's a warm smile. Not that soldering stare from when we first met, but warm. What's weird is that the night after we had that smoldering sex, it was as though I met the real Ezra. The safe Ezra. He looked the same. Ezra had golden skin, wide set brown eyes and black hair that he cut into a low fade on the side of his head. He's always been handsome but he's always carried himself as though he was even more than that. His politeness was what I fell for. He was the type of guy who opened the door for you. He was the kind of guy who just smiled.
"I get to see you work baby," he states, giving me a wink.
He licks his lips. I can see Paris behind me more giddy then I am. Paris even elbows me as Ezra walks past me and takes his seat, "He's perfect."
"No one's perfect..." Monique states.
The flight takes off. It's going to be a long flight. I keep thinking about what Monique said to me. She acts like she knows me so well and I hate it. She hadn't even come to my wedding. Paris was there for godsakes, but Monique? Nope . She said he wasn't right for me. She said our relationship was boring. BORING! Who says that about someone else's relationship.
Sure, we didn't have sex often anymore.
Sure we had spent our entire honeymoon with him doing work for his company.
But he was a good man. He was there for me when Adrian died. He stayed there with me. He proposed to me.
"Are you OK?"
Paris is looking over at me. The plane shakes. It's heavy turbulence today. My stomach growls. It's never really done that. Paris is about to start taking out the cart and getting orders but he puts his hand on my shoulder.
"Don't let Monique get to you..." he states, "She's a hater. She just wants you single so she can have you to herself."
More turbulence. I hold onto something. We're flying over the Atlantic at this point. The storm in the sky is probably picking up. We all had expected it to be pretty bad. I sit down in the attendant seats. It doesn't phase Paris, not even a little bit. He just stands there and smiles as though this is an everyday occurrence.
Gary joins us, "What's wrong with him?"
"Having cold feet after the fact that they didn't fuck during his honeymoon because of Monique," Paris states.
"Paris, it's not just about us not fucking. And I'm not having cold feet."
Paris had a big mouth. That was an understatement. This was the same guy who told me stories about how he sucked on three dicks at the same time on a trip to the Netherlands. Yeah, he definitely had a big mouth.
Gary crosses his arms, "As the resident straight guy, what's the problem? I got the best advice."
I pause. Maybe Gary had a point.
"He didn't even give me a hug when he got on the plane."
"He knows you're working."
"I mean it would have been nice to at least give me a hug. He's always so antisocial."
"Antisocial? He's been having a lot of conversation with that guy who's sitting next to him."
I'm confused, "I bought the seat next to Ezra so he could stretch his legs and be comfortable. No one should be sitting in that seat."
"Someone's definitely in that seat."
When I walk into the aisle I see Ezra. He's talking to someone. It's a man. The man is at the window seat. He is one of the few people who have the window shade open and seems to be watching the rain pouring outside. When I walk out I can hear Ezra and this man immediately stop talking. It makes me nervous that Ezra would just stop talking to this man in the way he does.
"Good evening," I state, "Would you like me to put your suitcase in the overhead compartment?"
I notice the suitcase in the man's lap. He is holding it in this really weird protective way.
"I'm fine. Thank you," the man responds.
He holds the suitcase tighter.
"May I see your ticket?" I ask the man sitting next to Ezra.
"Just want to make sure you're in the right seat."
He stretches out the ticket to me. He doesn't make it too far so he gives it to Ezra. Ezra hands me the ticket. Sure enough, the ticket says the seat. It had to be an error. I was definitely sure that I purchased this ticket.
"Is everything OK?" he asks me as I hand him back his ticket.
I shake my head, "Everything is perfectly fine. Are you comfortable sir?"
I direct the question to Ezra giving him a kind smile and putting my hand behind his chair in a very flight attendant manner. He raises an eyebrow when I call him, `sir'. I think at this point both of us were feeling some type of way about the lack of intimacy in our relationship. When you start off a relationship having sex on the plane there is only so much more you can do to keep the spice up in the relationship. It was like we started on a high and we kept going down and down. At this point it would be nice just to stop sinking so low in our intimacy level.
Ezra nods, "I'm perfect."
We carry on an awkward stare until the man next to him interrupts.
"Sorry to interrupt but I'd actually like some Shimmer Weed juice if you have any," the man next to Ezra states.
I look over at the guy Ezra was just talking to. He's sitting there. He seemed neatly dressed. He has a beard. It's one of the neatest beards I'd seen. Something about a man with a sexy beard just drove me wild and it fit him so perfectly. It was well moisturized and full. He offers me a friendly smile as I scratch my head.
"Shimmer Weed juice?"
"Yeah you know...the good stuff..."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," I tell him.
Something about this man just seemed...different. The oddest way is how he looks at me. He looks at me as though he's trying to figure me out. It's the kind of look that someone gives you where you want to run to a mirror and make sure there's nothing on your face.
"Just some water then."
The look he gives me at that moment is intense. Real intense. It's weird. It's weird as hell. I can see the guy is uncomfortable but it isn't until he looks up at me that I realize just how ridiculously handsome the guy is.
He has this mystery to him. The kind of mystery that makes you just gasp. I'm nervous almost immediately looking at him. He's one of the most handsome men I'd ever seen in my life. It's not just the fact that he is painfully attractive to look at. He's also one of the most mysterious looking men I'd ever seen in my lifetime.
"Do I know you?" he states staring hard at my face.
His stare was...intense. I'm talking about the kind of stare that makes you take a step back a little bit because you feel pressure. He has a very prominent jawline. I can't tell what race he is. It seems as though he has the best from all races. He has emerald green eyes like a European but they are fully almond shaped as though he's Asian as well. His skin is a dark olive like an Arabian. It's perfectly clear. Not a flaw in sight. His hair texture is like curly and wavy like many Hispanics I've seen growing up in LA. His lips are full in a way that I've only seen on black men.
"No. No, we don't."
"Are you sure?"
"I do know you. You date my brother..."
Ezra raises his eyes at that moment. He looks shocked, "Is that right?"
The man must not even noticed how shocked Ezra is or had put two-and-two together to realize that Ezra was my boyfriend. For some reason he just keeps on going.
"Yeah. He said he was getting serious with a new guy. He showed me a bunch of pictures of him. It's you. You got to remember me. Ro. Remember? We spoke on the phone at least a dozen times when you picked up for my brother."
This had to be the absolute worst time for this guy to say something so ridiculous. My relationship was already volatile as hell. The honeymoon was a complete flop. The tension between me and Ezra was thick enough that you could cut it in half. Ezra has this smile on his face. It's not that he's entertained. When he's shocked he smiles, nervously. It was one of those uncomfortable smiles. It was one of those smiles that says he rather be anywhere but on the plane between this stranger and me right now.
"Sir. I assure you, you got the wrong guy," I state.
"Ontario?" he asks, "Your name is Ontario right?"
My heart drops. I look over at Ezra. I had a name tag but I had shortened my name tag to just read Rio. How could he have guessed my full name from that? My mouth is hung open. I'd never seen this man before in my life. I would have noticed. I'd never talked to him. I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about. I had no clue what in the world he was going on and on about.
"I really, really, really don't know what the hell you are talking about---"
"I need something to drink," Ezra interrupts at that moment, "Something hard."
"Let me just clear this up," I am almost pleading at this point.
"Now! Please. Make it two drinks."
Ezra is pissed. He's usually a calm guy who never really shows his emotion. The fact that a guy like Ezra is showing his emotion right now says a lot. I look over at this stranger. I don't know what this is. I'm just shocked.
Is this some sort of fucking joke?
I get to the front of the plane. I can see the guy still staring at me. Something is weird about that guy. I can't put my finger on it.
Paris, Monique and Gary are all sitting as I approach. They are having some light talk. Gary's joking about some old lady who set her dentures down on the tray table in the back of the plane. Usually I'd join in. Usually I'd find it all funny but something is just weird.
"Guys...something weird is going down," I state.
"Probably just the turbulence," Monique responds.
"Yeah when there's turbulence my dick gets hard," Gary states.
"Everything makes your dick hard," Paris responds.
"You got a point," Gary laughs.
The turbulence was something. It was one of the most turbulent rides I've been on. The rocking of the plane was causing my stomach to rock, but that's not what was really freaking me out. My coworkers keep talking. They keep going back and forth. Monique starts talking about her date that she has planned when we get back in the states. Gary starts flirting with her. Paris starts implying that Gary is gay. They are completely ignoring me.
They all turn. I don't to raise my voice but something weird is happening in my gut.
"What's the problem?" Monique asks, "You're tripping Ontario..."
"You see that businessman sitting next to Ezra with the nice suit on that we were talking about. Did any of you guys actually greet him when he boarded?"
They look at each other.
"No. That's weird," Paris states after the first few seconds, "That guy is sexy as all fuck. He has to be what---6'3"---he's sitting like he has a big dick too. Ever see a guy who just sits like he has a big dick?"
"Yeah how they sit to the side?" Monique laughs.
"Right and keep adjusting because their dick keeps flopping everywhere," Paris states.
"PARIS! Focus. Please," I interrupt.
"Oh definitely didn't see him board. I definitely would have been all over that when he got on the plane."
"Exactly," I reply.
"So what? Because Paris isn't thirsty with a sexy customer, something weird is going on?" Monique asks me.
She irritates my soul when she gets like this. She doubts everything. First, it's my relationship and now she is doubting the experience that I'm explaining to her right now.
"He says he knows me. He says I'm dating someone that I'm not fuckin' dating. He said all that right in front of Ezra," I respond.
"He probably has you mixed up with someone."
"He knows my government name."
They all get quiet. Ontario wasn't an everyday name. It wasn't like John or Richard or something.
"This some sort of joke or something?" Gary asks, "Maybe Ezra is...fucking with you. You know? Some sort of practical joke for your wedding."
"I know you don't know Ezra like that but he's not exactly the kind of guy who tells jokes," I respond, "And he's pissed. This drink I just made is for him. I know when Ezra is really pissed and now is one of those times."
"I'll bring the drink to him and see what's going on..." Gary states.
I'm glad when Gary grabs the drink and walks over to them. Monique, Paris and I are standing at the front just watching the interaction. Gary walks over to Ezra and Ezra grabs the drink. Ezra is definitely pissed. Gary seems taken back by the strange guest as well. It's rare to see someone so striking in person, even if Gary was straight. I watch as Gary strikes up a conversation with the stranger.
"He's definitely cute," Monique states, "Your gaydar going off, Paris?"
"Nah, ma'am but my boy pussy is going off, hunny. You sure you don't know him, Ontario? Girl, I need you to hook me up," Paris is saying.
"You got enough hoes. Ontario, you need to hook me up," Monique states.
"I don't fuckin' know that guy," I tell them.
I'm not surprised they are both being thirsty. The guy was literally this mutli-cultural looking guy that I'd never seen before. We are both looking at him so hard that I almost forget about Gary. It isn't until Gary is returning that we realize something is off with the expression on Gary's face. Gary looks...concerned. Concerned to say the least.
"What happened?" Paris asks him.
I didn't know much about Gary but what I did know was he was this positive guy who was always smiling. He was a plain looking guy but his smile always lit up the room and made him look somewhat attractive even when he looked pretty basic when he wasn't smiling. Right now, he wasn't smiling. Right now, Gary looked like he had something serious on his mind. Something that really bothered him.
"Ezra wants more liquor."
"Not Ezra," I respond, "What's up with the businessman?"
"His name is Ronin Wright," Gary responds, "And I think you have a point, Ontario. He's weird. Something's up with him. Something's...off..."
"Well, he kept saying he's headed to the states for business. He had a special package. Went to London to pick up a package. That was normal and all. So, we just start talking about little shit. You know? Shit that don't really matter. And then. Man. Shit. I feel like I'm tripping. Fuck it. I'll just tell you guys. Don't judge me. Paris---I'm looking at you when I say that. I'm going to need you to not fucking judge me OK? Aight. Here it goes. We are talking some normal shit. But then he said something. He said the weirdest thing."
"He said he's going to go see Michael Jackson in concert, after he dropped off his package."
"Like the pop singer?" Paris asks, "Like the dead pop singer?"
We all look at each other.
"Maybe he's talking crazy," Monique responds.
The guy didn't seem crazy. At this point Gary and Paris are staring at her and I feel like I'm not the only one who is just annoyed at the fact that she doesn't get it.
Gary crosses his arms, "I wanted proof. And...well...he showed me his tickets. They looked legit. When I told him Michael Jackson was dead, he thought I was joking. He laughed."
"There has to be some explanation," Monique tries to interfere.
Fuck an explanation at this point.
"Listen he's not a threat to anyone. The guy seems nice," I state, "We'll just...you know...keep an eye on him."
Paris is scared. I can tell. He's nervous. I want them to believe it's some sort of Youtube prank for now so we remain calm but I think all of us, maybe with the exception of Monique, had a feeling that really wasn't the case.
Something odd was going on here.
And it had to do with this stranger.
The turbulence is getting bad within the next hour. It's become almost unbearable. I find myself throwing up on the front of the plane in a gag bag. Paris is asleep right next to me. Gary is up and he's making some coffee. The smell of it is the only thing making me not gag so badly. It doesn't help with the vomiting though from the ridiculous turbulence. As I'm doing it I see Monique returning.
"Your new husband is dead drunk," Monique tells me, "Most of the people on the plane are asleep and he keeps pacing up and down the aisles."
I roll my eyes, "Great we have a weirdo on the plane next to my angry drunk lover."
"And to top it off you're turning purple. Are you really OK?"
"Is this turbulence normal?"
"Hell no. This is the worst I've ever felt," she explains.
I shake my head, "Reminds me why I hate flying."
"If you want to go to sleep, you can. Paris is knocked out. We can handle this. Hardly anyone is up anyway."
"I got to deal with my husband. Ezra is just mad about what the weird guy said. I'll go check on him and let him know he needs to stop drinking..." I state at that moment.
I get up. It's the middle of the night at this point. Real late in the middle of the night. Walking down the aisle is a chore. I always wonder how people could sleep in this kind of turbulence but almost everyone is knocked out at this point. It feels so weird. Does no one else feel that shaking? Aisle after aisle it just seems like everyone is fast asleep as though it doesn't feel like God is literally about to rip the plane straight out of the sky.
I walk up to the aisle that Ezra is going to be on. Neither Ezra nor the stranger are in their seats. I look down and see the suitcase that the stranger was protecting so hard. He left it there. I reach over to grab it but feel a hand grabbing my wrist to stop me.
"Excuse me," the man states.
I look up and see the stranger there, coming back to his seat.
"The fasten seat belt sign is on sir," I state.
"I just had to check on the guy sitting next to me. He kept going to the bathroom to pee so I wanted to make sure he was OK," the stranger says.
"I'll check on him, please have a seat sir."
"He's fine. Come here for a minute."
I'm confused when he calls me over. When I walk over to him it's so weird how he just stares at me. I hate it. He's so fucking handsome and my heart is beating so fast just looking at him. Our eyes connect in this way I can't explain. It was scary. It was terrifying. I don't' know what about him just seemed to scream danger. It seemed like he had the sign tattooed right across his perfect forehead. As I approach our eyes lock and I don't feel safe anymore.
And for some reason I stay, feeling nervous and living in that feeling.
I couldn't put my hand on it. When you look at him besides that fact that you couldn't tell what race he was and he was incredibly handsome, Ronin seemed normal. It's that obscured normality that seemed weird. The fact that he just seemed like a normal business man but also felt like he wasn't. The fact that he had a normal suitcase and was looking at his normal watch, but there was still something off about him.
"I feel like we got off on the wrong foot earlier."
He smiles at me. He has a dazzling smile. I don't smile back even though I want to. I have to remember my new husband is down the aisle in the bathroom and he already feels some type of way. Besides, this guy, as strange as he is, still is beyond the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my life. He was beyond my league. He was beyond all of our leagues. I was pretty sure Ezra saw it. He wasn't blind after all.
"Did you need anything?"
"It'd be nice to see that handsome smile of yours again," he states.
I clear my throat, "Um..."
"What, can't a guy flirt with you and get away with it?" he asks.
"But you're not dead. At least not yet. God knows with this turbulence," he laughs.
He's a flirt. He knows he's attractive and he could probably get anyone in the world if he wanted to. He probably did this often. I could only imagine looking like him what he was able to get away with.
I don't laugh with him, "Is there anything else you needed, sir?"
"Yeah. Well. I tried to swipe my card for the Wifi. It didn't work. I used the phone of the guy was sitting next to me. I tried to look up my bank. Couldn't find it."
"Maybe they don't have it in the United States."
"I'm pretty sure they do. I'm not from the United States but I've been to DC before. Never flew these airlines before but I don't get why my wifi wouldn't be working."
"Maybe. So where you from?"
I stop. Was this guy serious?
"Never heard of that."
He laughs, "That's impossible."
"Is that in Europe or..."
"Taured is on the border of the United States and Canada."
I start to laugh. It's not a light laugh either. I'm serious. He doesn't find it funny. Ezra isn't laughing either. Ezra is really serious.
That's when I see Ezra reappear out of the bathroom, "It's no joke. He's serious. I emailed the company he's going to see. They never heard of him. The hotel he had reserved a room at has no reservation for such a person, and the bank listed on his checkbook appears not to exist..."
"This has to be some sort of joke," the stranger replies, "Don't you think?"
He looks irritated if anything.
"Is everything OK here?" Gary asks.
Him and Monique are joining us. They look concerned.
"Monique, gimme your phone."
"Because you're on WIFI."
Monique hands me her phone. I give it to the stranger.
"Point to your country."
I'm hoping he's confused. He seems to speak perfect English but maybe that was just some sort of façade. Maybe he wasn't really understanding what we were saying to him.
He points at the map, but when he realizes that there is no Taured between Canada and the US he just shakes his head. The man became irate, saying that all the states in the upper portion of the United States didn't exist but it was right where Taured should be.
"Taured has been around for a thousand years..."
"He's crazy," Monique says not caring if the guy is close enough to listen, "I need you to move away from him, Ontario. The guy is clearly not mentally stable and we can't associate ourselves with that kind of shit. I just want to wait out this flight."
I get up. I look over at Ronin. Something was off.
Something was very off.
"Wait. I can prove it," Ronin states.
He opens up his jacket. He reveals his passport. Sure enough it says that the country that the passport was issued from was named Taured. He also had a wallet with a legit looking driver's license that also said Taured. As though that wasn't enough he has a picture, stuffed deep in his wallet. He shows it to me.
"This could be fake..." I state.
"Here this is a polaroid I took two days ago...in Taured. You can see the flag in the background of the state's building."
I look at the photo.
"This...this is impossible."
The photo on the floor, "You couldn't have taken that photo two days ago. The man in that photo is Adrian. That's my dead ex-husband."
"His name is Adrian, but he's not dead," Ronin states, "Adrian is my brother...and he's very much alive in Taured..."
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