‘What on earth have you got in this bag, Jackie?’ Don grumbled as he gave the bag another poke in an effort to squeeze it into the overhead locker.
‘Mainly your books,’ she replied with an apologetic smile at the man who was waiting patiently for them to take their seats.
‘You’ll have to go in the middle,’ Don was saying as he squeezed himself past her. ‘I’m going to be crippled as it is with the amount of legroom there is, or should I say, lack of. Every year it gets worse. I’m warning you now, Jackie, I’m not going charter again.’
Jackie hurriedly took her place beside him and then smiled at the tall, good-natured man who was gracefully lowering himself into the aisle seat. ‘Sorry about that.’
‘No problem,’ he said amiably.
‘Would you look at that,’ Don nodded towards the front seat where two young girls sat. ‘Why did they go and give two little shrimps like that the seats with the most legroom? I’d like to see one of them try to open the door in an emergency. I don’t know what kind of eejits run this airline.’
‘I don’t think they measure people before assigning the seats,’ Jackie said lightly, wishing Don would shut up.
‘They could use a bit of common sense,’ he argued. ‘I must be a foot taller than them and yet they expect me to squeeze into this ridiculously tiny space.’
Jackie glanced briefly at the jean-clad legs of their neighbour, thinking he must be at least three inches taller than Don. ‘Why don’t you relax and read your book?’ she suggested quietly to her partner of five years. Five years! Lord, where had it gone?
Don grunted but obediently opened his thriller as Jackie gazed past him to the tarmac of
‘Excuse me, Sir, could you fasten your seatbelt?’ A flight attendant smiled politely down at Don.
He smiled back. ‘Well, yes, only I was wondering if there was any chance of us moving seats. I don’t mean to be difficult, its just that I have a bad back and this,’ he gestured down at his legs jammed against the seat in front, ‘isn’t going to help.’
‘Let me see what I can do.’ The flight attendant said and went to talk to a colleague.
‘For God’s sake, Don,’ Jackie hissed, ‘it’s only for a couple of hours and since when did you have a bad back?’
‘Since trying to get your bloody bag up into that overhead locker,’ he said with a grin. ‘Ah, Jackie, sure there’s no harm in asking. You don’t get anywhere in this world if you don’t ask.’
She didn’t respond as the attendant, her smile apologetic. ‘I’m very sorry, sir, I’m afraid there’s only one seat available in the front row.’
‘He’ll take it,’ Jackie told her with a grateful smile.
‘Are you sure?’ Don asked, but he was already standing.
‘Sure, I’m probably going to sleep anyway.’
‘Alright then, see you later.’ Don beamed happily as Jackie and the Aisle Seat Man shifted into the aisle to let him out.
‘Sorry about that,’ she said again to the man as she slid into Don’s window seat, ‘but at least you get a bit more space now. Oh, would you like the window seat? Only I’m not bothered.’
‘Thanks for the offer but I have work to do,’ he said, gesturing at the file in his lap.
‘That’s terrible, the holiday’s not quite over yet,’ she joked.
‘Oh it wasn’t a holiday for me,’ he told her, ‘I live in
‘Really?’ Her eyes widened.
He chuckled. ‘Really.’
‘What a wonderful place to live,’ she said wistfully. ‘That scenery, the food and such lovely people.’
‘It is quite special,’ he agreed, smiling, ‘except for the more commercial resorts.’
She shuddered. ‘Yes, I hate them.’
He shrugged. ‘But they play their part. They bring money to the
‘True,’ she said, ‘but they’ve got so rough in recent years. And I can’t understand why people who pay to travel to another country then go out of their way to drink in Irish pubs, sing Irish songs and eat Irish and English food.’
He laughed. ‘To each his own.’
‘You must think I’m very judgmental,’ she said, thinking that for all she knew, he might work in an Irish pub.
‘Not at all.’ He held out his hand. I’m Carlos Magee by the way.’
‘Jackie Kane,’ she said, taking his hand, her lips twitching. ‘Carlos?’
‘My mother is Spanish,’ he explained. ‘I got a terrible slagging at school I can tell you.
‘I can imagine,’ she said. That explained his olive skin and those amazing dark, hazel eyes. ‘It must be wonderful to be brought up in a mixed culture family.’
He shrugged. ‘It was the norm for me, I didn’t know any different.’
‘So you speak fluent Spanish?’
He nodded. ‘Yes, my mother made sure of it. She wasn’t able to afford to bring me to Spain that often when I was a child but she made sure I knew everything there was to know about her family and their customs and we spoke both English and Spanish all the time.’ He laughed. ‘And then when I started school, she insisted that I teach her Irish!’
‘She sounds like a wonderful woman.’
‘She was,’ he said with a sad smile. ‘She died last year.’
I’m sorry,’ Jackie said gently. ‘And your Dad?’
‘Oh, he’s still going strong although he misses her terribly,’ he chuckled, ‘especially her cooking.’
‘Did she cook Paella?’ Jackie asked, in an effort to distract him and chase the sadness from his eyes. Why did she care? She’d only just met the man.
‘The best,’ he assured her. ‘Sorry, I must be boring the hell out of you.’
She shook her head vehemently. ‘Not at all, I adore
He slapped his thigh and smiled. ‘Still, enough about me; tell me about you.’
‘Nothing to tell really. Born in
‘I don’t think so. Presumably you’ve stayed because you’re content.’
‘I suppose,’ she said doubtfully. Content? That wasn’t really a word she would have used to describe herself. ‘So do you live in
‘Yes but I go back to
‘He must have loved her very much.’
‘Yes, yes, he did. Anyway, we’re supposed to be talking about you,’ he reminded her. ‘Is your husband from
‘Oh, he’s not my husband,’ Jackie said hurriedly, glancing at where Don was in animated conversation with the two young blondes.
‘He’s my partner,’ she explained. ‘We’ve been together five years.’
‘That’s quite an achievement in this day and age. I don’t think I’ve managed to get past eighteen months myself.’
‘Too busy being a high flyer?’ she teased.
He made a face. ‘On the contrary, I’ve been so busy trying to get my business up and running that I’ve made very boring company.’
‘I find that hard to believe,’ she murmured. Jackie Kane, what the hell do you think you’re doing? You’re flirting! She assumed what she hoped was a look of polite but detached interest. ‘What business are you in?’
‘I own a small aparthotel in Portals Nous. It’s one of the smaller resorts-’
‘Oh, I know it, it’s beautiful!’
He smiled. ‘Yes, I think so. You must come and stay the next time you visit the
She laughed. ‘Somehow I doubt if I could afford to stay in your hotel.’ She had been very aware of the expensive restaurants and hotels around the small port, stuffed with huge yachts and stunned at the style and glamour of the clientele when she’d stopped for an Expresso in one of the pretty quayside cafes.
‘My hotel is one of the smaller ones and quite affordable,’ he said modestly. ‘Of course we don’t have many facilities; nightly entertainment or pool tables or slot machines. Our target market is the tourist who’s looking for some peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings.’
‘It sounds like heaven to me,’ Jackie replied.
‘What hotel did you stay in?’ he asked.
She made a face. Some huge anonymous place in Alcudia. It was very noisy but it was near the golf course and very central. Don likes to be in the centre of things.’
‘And what do you like?’ he asked, watching her steadily.
‘If he’s happy, I’m happy,’ she trilled, realising that it wasn’t true.
‘Would you like something to eat or drink, Madam?’
Jackie looked up in surprise to see a flight attendant standing over them. Goodness, she hadn’t even noticed they’d taken off, never mind that the seatbelts sign had been switched off and food was being served. ‘Just coffee, please.’
The attendant handied Jackie her drink and the turned to Carlos. ‘Sir?’.
‘Two bottles of champagne, please,’ he said, pulling a fifty Euro note out of his jeans pocket.
Jackie sipped her drink and stared out of her window.
‘I hope you don’t mind but you’re making this a very enjoyable flight and I just wanted to say thank you.’
Jackie turned to find him proffering a glass at her. ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have.’
‘Like you said, the holiday isn’t over yet.’
‘But you’re not on holiday,’ she reminded him, smiling. ‘In fact, shouldn’t you be working?’
‘I should,’ he said, his eyes locking with hers, ‘but I’m not going to. Cheers.’
‘What’s all this?’
Jackie looked up to see Don looming over them, a frown on his face as he took in the champagne. She shrugged and smiled. ‘I thought I’d treat myself.’
‘Very extravagant,’ he replied, his eyes flickering to Carlos’s glass.
Carlos bent his head over the document he’d pulled from his file and sipped his drink.
‘Are you more comfortable up at the front?’ Jackie asked politely.
‘Yes, its grand but I feel bad about leaving you.’
‘That’s okay, don’t worry about it.’
‘You didn’t sleep, then,’ he said, his gaze sliding from her to Carlos.
‘No, maybe this will help.’ she said, raising her glass.
‘I’m sure it will,’ he muttered. ‘Right, just off to the loo, see you later.’
She nodded. ‘Yeah, see you.’
‘Sorry about that.’ Jackie shot Carlos a guilty smile. ‘I’m not sure he’d have liked it if he knew you’d bought the champagne.’
‘No problem. So, he’s the jealous sort, is he?’
Jackie thought about it. ‘No, not really, more possessive than jealous.’
Carlos nodded thoughtfully. ‘How do you feel about that?’
‘I never really thought about it.’ But she had. It annoyed her when Don marked his territory, for that’s exactly how it seemed to her.
‘Do you love him?’
Jackie met his eyes, startled. ‘That’s a bit direct considering I we only met an hour ago.’
He shrugged. ‘Sorry but I feel as if I’ve known you a lot longer.’
She smiled. ‘Yeah, me too.’
‘So, do you?’ he persisted.
‘Are you always this pushy?’
He grinned. ‘Yeah, which probably explains why I’m unattached.’
Jackie thought the women of
‘Pardon – oh.’ His eyes widened as he realised she’d answered his question. ‘I see.’
She wriggled in her seat and wondered why she was confiding the details of her personal life with a total stranger.
‘So what are you going to do about it?’
She looked up. ‘Do?’
He shook his head. ‘Forgive me but I’d say you must be close on thirty.’
‘Close enough,’ she said with a smirk wondering if he’d deliberately shaved five years off her age. She wasn’t complaining.
‘So don’t you feel you’re wasting your life with someone that you’re not even sure you love? Incidently, you don’t.’
‘No.’ He was adamant. ‘Even I know that you either know or you don’t. There’s no maybe.’
‘You’re an idealist,’ she said, with a sad smile. ‘We can’t all be swept off our feet and fall madly in love. Anyway, companionship and friendship are much more important.’
‘Ah, I see. And you have those, do you?’
Jackie thought of her solitary holiday while Don played golf and sighed. ‘If you’re trying to depress me you’re doing a very good job.’
He shook his head. ‘I’m sorry, that’s not what I intended to do at all.’
She raised her eyes to meet his. ‘So, what exactly are your intentions?’
He hesitated for a moment and then clearing his throat he set down his glass and turned in his seat so that he was facing her. ‘I suppose I just want to make you see that sometimes you need to take chances. Sometimes you have to dive right in and see what happens. Sometimes, it might be worth taking a risk.’
She studied him closely looking for any sign of a smirk or twinkle in the eye but Carlos looked deadly serious. ‘Why are you saying this?’ she asked slowly.
For a moment he looked almost sheepish. ‘Well I’m beginning to realise that it’s time I took a chance. I’m nearly thirty-four, Jackie and I’ve spent most of my adult life building up my business. I’ve achieved some success but that’s not going to mean much if I’ve no one to share it with. My parents had an amazing relationship, a wonderful marriage and I suppose that’s what I aspire to.’ He sighed. ‘I think it’s time I put as much as much effort into my personal life as my professional one.’
Jackie nodded silently. So that was it. He was just using her as a sounding board as he worked through his midlife crisis. She was surprised at how much the realisation upset and disappointed her. ‘And you think I should too? You know it’s a bit presumptuous of you assuming that we are in the same situation.’
‘Maybe but you told me you weren’t sure if you loved Don. Don’t you think you should try something or someone else before you settle?’
She rolled her eyes and faked a yawn. ‘Yes, well, much as I appreciate your words of wisdom, I think its time I caught up on my beauty sleep. Thanks for the champagne.’ She drained her glass, reclined her seat and shut her eyes.
‘Now I’ve pissed you off,’ he muttered.
‘Not at all, I’m just tired.’
‘You can’t go asleep now.’ He nudged her elbow. ‘We’ve only got about fifty minutes left.’
She opened her eyes. ‘I can’t imagine you have anything left to say.’
His eyes twinkled. ‘You’d be surprised. Oh, come on, sit up, talk to me! We’re having fun, aren’t we? If nothing else, we’re making your other half insanely jealous.’
Jackie followed his gaze and, right enough, Don was craning his neck so he could see them, a deep crease between his brows. She smiled. ‘Good.’
‘That’s better. More champagne?’
‘Are you trying to get me drunk?’
‘It’s a thought,’ he mused. ‘You might reveal all sorts of interesting things.’
‘I usually just fall asleep and snore,’ she confided.
‘Okay then, no more champagne. You are not going to sleep, you are going to tell me all about Jackie Kane. What do you do?’
‘Guess,’ she teased.
‘Brain surgeon? Teacher? Stripper? Professional thief?’
She laughed. ‘Close, I’m a bank manager.’
‘No,’ she agreed, ‘Actually I’m a chef.’
‘Oh, I don’t know; it’s not really up there with brain surgery.’
‘No, you don’t understand. It’s fate; my chef just quit. When could you start?’
She shook her head, laughing. ‘I have a job and I live in
‘Like I said, maybe it’s time for a change.’
‘Please, don’t start all that again.’
‘But you just know you’d love to,’ he persisted. ‘You obviously love Spanish food and you love
‘Please stop,’ she groaned, ‘or I’m definitely going to sleep.’
‘Okay, okay, I’ll behave myself. Tell me about your family.’ He sat looking at her expectantly.
Jackie shook her head in resignation. ‘I have three sisters and two brothers.’
He smiled. ‘Cool, it must be wonderful to be part of such a large family. I’m an only child and I would have loved a brother.’
‘The grass is always greener,’ she told him. ‘I would have given anything to have a bed to myself never mind a room.’
‘We’re never happy,’ he agreed. ‘What about your parents?’
‘My father died eight years ago but my mother is still going strong, though, like your Dad I suspect there’s an element of going through the motions. Is that really what you want for your future?’ she added, curiously.
He looked at her astounded. ‘Haven’t you heard the saying ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all?’
She nodded. ‘Tennyson.’
‘And regardless of how sad your Mum might be now or how much she misses him, I’ll bet she treasures every moment they had together.’
Jackie’s eyes filled with tears and she nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
‘I’m really not handling this very well at all, am I?’ he muttered. ‘First I make you angry and now I’ve made you cry.’
‘You’ve made me laugh too,’ she said with a shaky smile.
‘So there’s hope?’
‘For us of course.’
‘Us?’ she repeated.
‘Us, you and me, as a couple. Going forward into the great unkown or simply back to
‘You’re kidding, right?’
He shook his head. ‘No, I’m deadly serious.’
She blinked. ‘Are you saying you want to be with me?’
‘Isn’t that what I’ve been saying for the last couple of hours?’
He shook his head apologetically. ‘Obviously not very well but then, you’ll have to forgive, I’ve never fallen in love at first sight before. Don’t worry,’ he added quickly, ‘I don’t expect you to marry me straight away. All I’m suggesting is that you give it, us, a go.’
‘Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has switched on the seatbelt sign as we begin our descent into
‘Well?’ Carlos took her hand and smiled hopefully into her eyes.
‘I don’t know a thing about you,’ she prevaricated. ‘You could be an axe murderer.’
He grinned. ‘There’s only one way to find out. Come back to
She stared at him. ‘Or I might not.’
His smile faltered. ‘I suppose that’s a possibility too.’
Excuse me?’ A flight attendant interrupted them with an apologetic smile and Don released Jackie’s hands and sat back. ‘I’m sorry madam but your partner wants to know if you’d like him to come back and sit with you for the landing.’
Jackie looked past the attendant to where Don was watching expectantly. She turned back to Carlos and slipped her hands back into his. ‘No, thank you,’ she said to the girl but not taking her eyes from his. ‘Please tell him that I’ll be just fine without him.’