As her dad's life is ending, Suzanne is beginning when she finds romance in St. Lucia.
Fifteen-minutes later, I emerge from the troubling experience of unseasoned travelers dressing and redressing in a much too public place. Frustrated but with my spirits not dampened, I wander the unfamiliar concourse for a moment before finally stumbling upon the entrance to the "Concierge Lounge." In front of me is a set of smoky white retractable doors. The Eifel Tower is etched upon one, and the San Francisco Bay Bridge upon the other. Next to each hangs a gold plaque that bears the airline's name.
With a single step I solicit the doors to open. Like torpedoes released from a silent cocoon, they thrust in opposite directions. I have but a mere moment to make my move, so hastily I step forward. Then, without warning, the doors eagerly close, leaving me to stand alone in the lobby.
The delicately lit room is simply magnificent. Upon a rose and cream swirled marble floor stands a long arc-shaped mahogany desk illuminated by a crystal chandelier with waterfall cascades. Fresh floral arrangements the size of boulders rest on each end and behind it sit two women furiously typing while conversing in linguistic shorthand. Their nameplates read April and Mae.
Looking as if they have been clipped from the pages of a fashion magazine, both women have long, slender necks and their postures are perfectly erect. Their straight hair hangs a half-foot below their shoulders, partially pinned back in a bouffant that from the front resembles a Mohawk. Black eyeliner and mile-long lashes perfectly define their cat-shaped eyes, which peer out from behind wispy bangs. Peacocks come to mind.
"May I help you?" they simultaneously solicit.
I relinquish my boarding pass to April. "Yes, thank you."
Without hesitation, her cotton candy pink nails swipe the innocent piece of paper like a wild animal's claws claiming its prey. Deliberately, she taps a few keys, scans the computer screen, then taps a few more. Looking up at me, her face is nondescript.
"Your flight is on time and your seat is confirmed, Miss Styles," falls from her artificially genuine smile. "We do hope you enjoy your brief stay in the lounge."
With my tote in hand I quickly turn toward the well-guarded doorway, breaking the threshold of the private yet amply traveled three-room social hub.
In the first room, a series of high-top tables stand pinned between a snack bar and a ceiling-high wooden barrier that accommodates a handful of built-in televisions. At nearly each location, a collection of short-statured patrons dip carrots into small tubs of salad dressing while their excited scissoring legs rock the stools. Jovially, they pay uninterrupted vigil to the assortment of broadcasting cartoons while their parents' converse with their mobile devices.
I don't get it.
The second room is littered with children like those I just passed, only years later. They have become their parents. Comfortably seated in leather couches and chairs, the now business travelers sit in cluttered isolation, rambling on cell phones and typing on laptops. Multi-tasking, they now pay interrupted vigil to the assorted news broadcasts and flight updates that clutter their matching barrier of built-in televisions. Noticeably absent are their elders.
I don't get this either.
When the hallway comes to an abrupt end at the third and final room, the mystery of the missing parents is solved. Lounging in high back chairs around cocktail and coffee tables sit the older crowd. Laughing at a volume that clearly conveys they have little time or regard for judgment, they sip libations from glasses that would clearly fit into the palm of their grandchild's hand and they gladly pay far too much for them. Evidence that youth is often times wasted on the young, they are the perfect decorations in what is arguably the most interesting room in the house.
The bar area is a cozy yet amply sized space, far too extravagant to be located inside an airport. The focal point of the room is a copper crescent-moon shaped modern art form, atop which lay an exquisite slab of gold and ash-colored granite. A firm yet comfortable black leather wrist rest hugs its every curve as six high-back black leather matching bar stools standing before it. The wall behind this masterpiece is consumed by an oversized seamless mirror that reflects an assortment of nearly drained bottles resting on glass shelves. To my delight, the Sunday football pre-games shows are playing on two flat screen televisions hanging just off to each side.
Now this, I get.
Setting my handbag in front of a stool just off center, I allow my pashmina to dramatically drip from my arms like chocolate syrup. Before it brushes the floor, I whisk my drape to the side, leaving it to hang over the chair back. With my legs crossed and the stool slightly angled I come to rest seated next to the most handsome man I have ever seen.
This man of my dreams has short ginger red hair and pastel baby blue eyes. He's casually dressed in an untucked blue pin-stripe shirt with the sleeves rolled up flows directly to his pressed navy jeans. His socks are noticeably absent from his tan loafers. With his arms resting in a triangular position, he's postured forward.
In a single fluid motion, he empties his partially full frosty mug.
"Another beer, Max?" propositions the bartender before the glass touches the bar. She's leaning toward him, her shoulder tucked sturdily below her chin. Though she's blushing like a schoolgirl, she tries her best to act casual.
Max is clearly preoccupied with the television hanging over his left shoulder; still, he responds to her with a single word. "Yes."
As the frosted fluid pours unrestrictedly from the tap into the chilled mug, the bubbly bartender pops her head out to the side of the taps. "Good morning, miss" she greets me.
The young woman in her mid-twenties is tall and slender with an untamed pixie haircut that showcases her triple-pierced ears. Under the startling recessed lights, the purple highlights in her chocolate brown hair are a stark contrast to her artificial spring green eyes. Though she comes across cute and sweet like the girl next door, I suspect she has a bit of a wild side.
Quickly scanning her name plate, I respond as if we're familiar acquaintances. "Good morning, Mandy. A glass of champagne, please."
"Are we celebrating today?" she pries.
While I wait, I remove my journal and pen from my handbag, then begin to write.
I'm in the Concierge Lounge at the Atlanta airport, waiting for my flight to board. I ordered a glass of champagne and raised it to the idea of gaining perspective. I know in my heart that selling my house and quitting my job to move back home was the right thing to do. I'd do it a million times over for the time to spend with you. But all things considered, I'm still not sure that the timing is right for this trip. I imagine you and Mom would say it's perfect!
Love you bunches
I return my journal and pen to my handbag when my glass arrives. Instinctually my eyes to drift to the TV on my left. It seems Max redirected his attention to the right. As our eyes cross paths, I notice a ticker tape displaying the game day injury reports scrolling across the screen. An uncontrollable smile breaks across my face.
"A football fan I take it," Max shoots inquisitively in my direction.
Though I can talk football for hours, I deliberately wait to respond. "Yes. I was actually just making sure my line-up is set before I board my flight."
Noticeably interested, Max sits upright in his chair as the last syllable falls from my lips. His mouth opens but not a single word escapes. Rather he simply takes a long deliberate sip of beer. "Fantasy football, huh? I dabble in that a little myself," he finally shares.
I nod my head though I have no idea why he's sharing.
"If you don't mind me asking, who do you have on your team?" Max volleys in my direction with a smile that would stop traffic.
As I rattle off my team roster, Max listens attentively. Noticeably, his facial expression changes with each name he hears.
"You made some good picks," he validates when I'm done speaking.
I flash him a sideways grin, sarcastically happy he approves.
"I think so."
"Maybe, a little risky here and there," he goes on to warn me.
I smirk for though he's right, the risks are paying off. "Well, sometimes a girl just has to take some risks."
"And how are they working out for you?" he asks.
I take a long, slow sip of champagne before replying. "Quite well, as a matter of fact."
Max is now sitting with his right arm draped casually across the back of his chair while his left rests comfortably on the bar. His posture exudes an air of judgement.
Turning in his direction, I drape my left arm casually across the back of my chair, mirroring his stance. So, I extend my right hand. "I'm Suzanne, by the way."
He extends his hand to meet mine. "Max" is his simple yet sufficient response.
"Okay, Max, so who did you draft this year? If, you don't mind me asking."
What starts out as a casual small talk, quickly transforms into what looks like two old friends laughing and bantering. Our ten-minute conversation is as endless as the tides and as intense as an erupting volcano. So, I order another drink.
"Right away, Suzanne," Mandy confirms.
"I'll have another beer as well," Max interjects into the conversation. "And, Mandy, put both drinks on my tab," he insists.
I turn to him with a look of appreciation. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," he returns. "So where are you headed today, Suzanne?"
There is an odd contraction of his facial muscles as he acknowledges my response.
His answer is noticeably vaguer. "I'm headed to the Caribbean, too."
Before I can ask to what island, my cell phone chimes. It's the airline confirming an on-time departure.
"Mandy, can I get my tab, please?" I call out, leaning my chest over the bar as I look in her direction.
With a few keystrokes of the register, a slender scrap of white paper oozes from the printer, which Mandy then creases before sliding in my direction. Her hand steadily remains in place as I reach for it. Locking eyes, she talks to me without saying a word.
I withdraw a crisp twenty-dollar bill from my wallet, then lay it across the tab. "Keep the change."
An extravagant smile breaks across her face. "Thank you and safe travels," she returns.
As I drain my nearly empty glass before draping my pashmina around my elbows, I can feel Max watching me from the corner of his eye. So I turn in his direction, extending a delicate hand with a smile that he's certain never to forget. "It was nice talking to you, Max, and thanks again for the drink."
He shakes my hand, perhaps a little too long. "Nice talking to you too, Suzanne, and safe travels."
As nonchalantly as possible, I claim my handbag from the bar, then turn down the long stretch of hallway. When I reach the lobby, it's vacant but for a laid-over flight attendant gossiping about a pilot with whom she would fly next. It's evident the dynamic duo behind the front desk know him but just as they are about to reveal exactly how well, the conversation comes to a screeching halt.
"Thank you and have a great day," April calls out in a stern voice, directing me not to stop. Reading her loud and clear, I reply with an over-the-shoulder wave never once breaking my stride.