BHM, Romance - You can meet the nicest people in the confines of an airliner cabin Flight & Re-connection by One Shy Writer I was returning home from a business trip I had never wanted to take. The meetings that my office had sent me to were for software training on a program I had helped write. It was senseless, like sending God to a training class on creation -- not that I had an ego about it or anything. It just felt like a waste of my time, and it wasn't as if the trip was to anywhere exotic, either. They sent me to South Dakota. They said the trip would be cathartic, relaxing. I just wanted to go home. I was flying economy class, because my boss was a tight-wad. He called it 'frugality for the sake of the greater good;' I was not concerned with the greater good of anything other than my knees on the three hour long flight. At five feet and seven inches and a textbook average body type, I'm not terribly tall or girthy, but even my knees ached from the lack of available room on a lengthy flight. I couldn't imagine what a taller individual would have to go through. Although, if I really wanted to know, I could have just asked the fellow sitting beside me. The plane wasn't full by any means. In fact, more than half the seats remained empty. I had the middle seat in my row, and had in fact changed my seat to an empty row so I would have the whole row to myself. I hoped to stretch out a bit and relax on the trip back home. So, I was rather disappointed when I heard a voice at my left shoulder asking if he could squeeze by. Before turning around, I heaved a sigh. I didn't want to share my space with anyone, much less some guy who was bound to try to make small talk with me. Or, more horrifyingly, would try to hit on me, as I had experienced in the past. But as soon as I turned to look at him, my irritation faded. He had large, gorgeous blue eyes; that was what I noticed first. Big eyes, very expressive. What I noticed second was that those eyes looked supremely apologetic. I couldn't help but smile up at him as I gathered my belongings to scoot out of his way, since his assigned seat was beside the window. "I'm sorry," he began. "I tried to get my seat changed, but there weren't any rows with two open seats next to each other." I looked at him questioningly, and then he stepped into full view. He was wearing an untucked striped button-down shirt of massive proportions, mostly because his body required it. If I had to guess, I'd say the shirt was at least an American size 4x. And, much to my dismay, I stared. At least I had the decency not to drool outright. He saw me staring, and his face flushed. "I'm sorry," he said again, this time in a much quieter voice, as I moved out of his way and he squeezed into the much-too-small seat. I looked at him for a second, trying to form intelligible thoughts and make them come out as audible speech. He was beautiful. As he moved past me, I caught a wiff of some sort of cologne, not designer but still very appealing. He looked around the same age as my 23 years, maybe even a little younger. He had shaggy brown hair that hung just over his ears, very trendy and not uncommon in Florida, and extremely flattering on him. As he sat down, the shirt that was barely loose on him while standing was filled out gloriously by the sweetest round belly I'd ever seen up close. And the poor guy was absolutely wedged into that seat. I bit my lip as I moved out of the aisle, but I didn't sit immediately. "Hey," I said, in my friendliest tone, "I think the arm rests move up. You'd probably be more comfortable." He looked up at me, shifting a bit, trying to make himself comfortable even though it was clear that comfort was not going to happen. "Eh, I'll be fine. Besides, it kind of reins me in so I don't crowd you out of your seat." I smiled genuinely at him as I sat down in my seat. "I don't mind," I said, then grabbed the arm rest and gently pushed it upward, tucking it out of the way between the seats. Unrestrained, his bulk creeped over into my seat space, pressing warmly against my side and my right arm. My throat went dry, and I had to consciously keep myself from gasping. He looked at me through eyes narrowed out of concern. "Are you sure? You know, you could probably move into the aisle seat, if you wanted. Not saying you have to. Just... you know..." His voice trailed off, and he tried to lean even harder against the wall of the plane. Just then, a small elderly woman plopped down in the aisle seat, buckled her seatbelt, and immediately dozed off. So much for having room to myself. I looked over at my blushing seatmate and smiled apologetically. "I guess not," he said. The poor guy looked supremely uncomfortable, moreso mentally than physically. I turned my body sideways a bit to face him and extended my right arm awkwardly, aiming for a handshake without rudely leaning on his belly. "My name's Alex," I said with my brightest smile. He stared at me suspiciously for a moment, then smiled back. "I'm Derek." "Derek," I said confidently, "it is a pleasure to share a seat with you." He laughed. "Literally, sharing it," he said, prodding at the left side of his belly in a vain effort to create a little more room in the seats. "Don't worry about it. Planes are always cold anyway, right? A little shared body heat would be nice." I was doing my best to dazzle him with friendliness. He stared at me again for a long second. "I saw you staring at me, you know. I mean, I get that a lot, but there's not much I can do about airplane seats." I gave him a lopsided grin. "I liked your shirt," I said honestly. I did; it was stylish, maroon and cream striped with a crisp collar, and it looked especially fabulous hugging his soft body. He laughed out loud, a genuine chuckle. "You're a real piece of work, you know that, Alex?" I shrugged, pretending to be sheepish when in fact I knew precisely what I was doing and regretted none of it. "Well, I guess if I'm forced to confine myself to a single seat, I'm glad I'm sitting next to someone who likes my shirt." Beaming now, I replied, "And he's witty, too. Be still, my heart." Derek stared at me incredulously, shaking his head, but grinning from ear to ear. The stewardess walked by then, and informed me that I should buckle my seatbelt for departure. I looked over at her, then wriggled back into my seat and buckled my belt. The woman then looked over at Derek, and it became clear that her smile had gone from friendly to forced. "I'll be right back," she announced, then scuttled off. I watched Derek's smile fade. He turned his head to look out the window. I pursed my lips. The attendant returned with a seatbelt extender and handed it over with a smile, though I noticed she was holding it as one might hold a snake if one was not fond of snakes. I took it from her, smiled, and told her thank you. She returned to her work without acknowledging me. I handed the nylon strap over to Derek with a little smile and a shrug. He dug around for the clasp end of the attached seat belt. "I knew I shouldn't have flown," he muttered. "Should have just driven." I put my hand gently on his arm. "Don't worry about her." His shoulders fell, the loose end of the belt flopping down onto one leg. "You don't have to be nice to me, you know." I leaned over to see his face, and he didn't appear upset. Maybe just a little tired. "I didn't wake up fat this morning; I've dealt with this all my life. I'm used to people looking at me like I'm a leper." I stared at him quietly, trying to think of what to say to disarm his defenses. He went back to struggling with his seatbelt, and I noticed that he was inches away from reaching the end he was seeking. I watched for half a moment, then grabbed the elusive belt and placed it in his hand. "I'm not being nice to you because I feel charitable, Derek. I'm being nice because I think you're worth being nice to." He looked down at the seatbelt for a long moment, then fastened it, then shifted to face me a little more. "And why do you think that?" Score. "Well, we've already established you have a sense of humor. That's always a plus." A hint of a smile returned. "Anything else?" "Your fashion sense," I said, testing out my smile again. He smiled more in response. "Go on." "Being attractive helps." He arched his eyebrows. "I'm attractive, eh?" I nodded. He relaxed visibly, which made my heart soar. "Well then. Maybe this won't be such a bad flight after all."