Illustrated by Alberto Pessoa
She’s devastatingly beautiful. She always has been. She never had any of those awkward phases that most people encounter at some point through their teens. Her eyes are naturally big, and brown like two perfect hazelnuts. She knows how to bring out their most striking features by the way she highlights them in various tones of grey. Actually, her entire face and gorgeous physique make people in the street turn their heads as she walks by. Even her hair is beautiful. It’s thick and luscious. Not a very dark brown but more like melted milk chocolate with some soft caramel swirls.
She glances at her limited edition Omega watch — one that she lovingly bought for herself almost a year ago. It was a bit extravagant but she smiles, knowing in her heart that she works hard and deserves such novelties — if only more people in this world would really follow their hearts and invest in whatever it is, that gives them most happiness and makes them feel content, she muses. There is still a while to go until her flight to London boards. She recollects how busy this year has been and how lucky she is to be able to have had things tie up in a way that still allowed her to go home and spend Christmas with her parents, in the home where she grew up — her home. Safe, cozy, fun and comforting, in a way that no other place on earth can be. Then she starts anticipating her flight. She has always been fond of flying — that’s never been a problem. Especially in the last little while, since finally having discovered the carefree and luxurious ways of travelling first class. It’s good to be treated like a civilized person, rather than a Neanderthal with a seat number. She has a contented air about her but that dissipates slightly when another thought comes to her mind — one that has fluttered through, for the last eleven months. Really, it was just a minor irritation at first and it all began just under a year ago, when she booked her ticket on this flight. But the curiosity, as curiosities do, had germinated over time.
She gets out her ticket and scans it for the umpteenth time. She surveys the print and her eyes fix themselves on the seat number — 2A. She is aware that in and of itself, this is a good seat by any standards but quickly starts reminiscing on what has bugged her since she made the booking — that it is not seat 1A. Having booked eleven months in advance of her journey, she thinks back to how the entire cabin had been empty — any seat was there for her to reserve for herself (one of the great perks of being so organized and savvy) — apart from seat 1A. Seriously, who on the planet could be that ahead of the game that they would snap up the seat, the moment tickets were available? This was a thought that had playfully come to her throughout the year. On her multiple flights that she had taken for business that year, she had unwittingly glanced at every single 1A of every plane she had boarded, to be able to contrive something of a profile of the kind of traveler that wound up in her ideal seat. But there was none. She’d witnessed absent-minded but serene looking older people, obliviously settle into 1A. She’d seen the crotchety and miserable younger people who looked like they wouldn’t have cared less if they were seated in the last row right at the back of the aircraft or even if they weren’t there at all. Then there was the grateful businessman/ women who were at peace knowing that they had the space and solitude to do what they did best — work. A few times, there had even been the self-righteous traveler, that bothersome person who made it a point to beam at everyone else in the cabin who passed them, to show that life had indeed been good to them. Without meaning to, she had spent the year trying to guess who would be sitting in her much coveted 1A. She has that unfortunate inkling that it would be someone who barely noticed or cared — the most annoying kind of 1A traveler. Probably some ungrateful person who doesn’t appreciate the richness of the experience at hand, she concluded. She’s wanted to be the 1A traveler since she was a child — a mini version of her current prim and proper, manicured self. Maybe it’s nothing more than a silly notion but she still longs to indulge her inner child on this particular journey. But alas not this time, she thinks, finishing the last sip of her brut champagne and gathering up her large Prada handbag. She is surprised that her curiosity about the occupant of 1A has culminated into a tiny knot of anticipation at the pit of her stomach.
She boards her flight and is temporarily distracted with the pleasantries exchanged between herself and the flight crew who would be attending to her every (champagne-related) need over the next seven hours. She gets to her seat and looks through the contents of the welcome bag she’s just been handed. Very nice, she concludes, surveying the various, quality skincare products. It is only when she’s handed an aperitif menu that she glances towards 1A which is now occupied.
As the plane begins to ascend, all she can make out from where she sits is a vague silhouette from the reflection in the window. She can’t even tell if it’s a man or a woman. All she knows is that sure enough, 1A has become occupied by some vague entity. Apart from the steady hum of the engine, the ambience is peaceful and relaxing. Maybe it’s her glass of champagne starting to relax her or maybe, it’s the knowledge that soon she’ll be home with her loving and wonderful parents. Somehow, it no longer matters as to who now occupies 1A. In fact, she feels light as a feather and so does her mood. In keeping with her philosophy of doing whatever brings her most happiness, she decides to indulge her inner child once more. She usually sticks to a strict regime of healthy foods — after all, it is the key to maintaining her delectable looks. But she reasons that she’s on vacation now and ushers over a flight attendant to order a gourmet fudge brownie sundae.
Her sundae is brought over on the most beautiful silverware with matching cutlery. She smiles with contentment that life couldn’t really get much better. As she is about to tuck in, the debonair, Ferragamo-suited stranger who curiously watched her sundae as it was carried past him, stands up to get a better look at the recipient of such an adorable and yummy order and that too, right before dinner.
The handsome man in 1A becomes instantly besotted with the beautiful woman (with the ice-cream-loving inner child) who is seated in 2A, right behind him. They can’t stop chatting and as she muses to him about her now funny story of her year-long quest for his seat, he starts to insist that nothing would make his journey more worthwhile than if she’d take her place as the rightful occupant of seat 1A.
But it’s love at first sight for both of them and for most of their journey, they end up sharing one over-sized seat (which happens to be 2A because he came over to her). They soon find that their most prized experience is to make this precious memory to mark the beginning of their lives together.
Seat 1A goes unoccupied for the rest of the journey.