It isn't often that Rachel is left completely speechless. She prides herself on her ability to know innately what to do in any given situation, to know what to say, how to react. Her instincts were razor sharp, gleamed from years of sitting at the helm of a corporation, years of detaching from human emotion.
But this. She was not prepared for this.
It is a night flight to Paris. The sky is starless and Rachel has gotten herself a window seat, first class, of course. She is looking forward to quiet, the flight being the usual departure from the mundane business trips. There were no emails to answer or phone calls to make. She had been looking forward to this trip for months, even if she couldn't physically unlock her muscles to relax.
Instead she had been seated next to a bubbly blond creature who talked incessantly the entire flight and who had not been at all deterred by Rachel's monosyllabic answers and ice stares. In the span of less than an hour, Rachel learned she was a manicurist and won a trip to Paris in a contest and who did Rachel's nails because her cuticles were amazing and how she'd never left the country and on and on until Rachel ordered them both extra strong Manhattans, the other woman wrinkling her nose when she tasted it. Rachel had hoped the drink would cease the woman's irritating chatter or at least make it slightly more tolerable but it seemed alcohol only intensified her ability to talk and on it went until Rachel knew her entire history.
And now she is asleep, which under normal circumstances, would have been preferred but she is asleep on Rachel's shoulder, mouth slightly ajar, drool wetting her Alexander McQueen suit jacket. One minute she was prattling on and the next she was slumped over onto Rachel, the weight of head pressing down on bone.
Rachel shifts in her seat but the woman does not stir. The polite thing to do, she reasons, would be to gently wake her, shake her a little, perhaps. Better for her to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of passing out on a stranger. Or she could give her a hard shove, raise her voice, make a scene so that the woman wakes and is mortified, rightly so, by her actions. It's what her mother would have done.
She realizes she never got her name. She was content to tell her about her job and her childhood and her ex girlfriend but never once did names come up. And now she is snoring lightly, the strands of her hair brushing Rachel's nostrils and not appearing like she's going to wake up anytime soon.
Rachel studies her. If she had any social graces, she would know to watch someone while they were sleeping wasn't polite but since she didn't, she looks down at the woman, her expression a hybrid of curiosity and disgust.
She is attractive, if Rachel had been drawn to that sort of type. Her cheekbones are high and sculpted, her lips full and pouty. She wears too much make-up for Rachel's liking and her clothes look like hand-me downs from a stripper but there was something about the way her mouth softened as she slept, the tiny ski-slope of her nose. She was almost pretty, in her own way.
In her sleep, the woman sighs and buries her head into Rachel's neck, exhaling contently.
Immediately, Rachel stiffens. She should stop this before it gets even more ridiculous that it already has. Letting a stranger snuggle into her like they were a couple. She suddenly desperately wishes she had brought her laptop. At least it would allow for a distraction.
Floral notes of perfume sit in Rachel's nose and inadvertently, she finds herself inhaling the scent of her hair, detecting grapefruit or mango or some fruit she could never be bothered to eat.
It had been a very long time since she'd had any physical contact at all and never any contact that didn't involve sex. Still, as the woman curled her body toward hers, Rachel had to admit that the sensation wasn't entirely unpleasant.
"Fine," she mutters, more for her own benefit. Heaving a sigh, she closes her eyes.
Rachel's eyes fly open and she blinks rapidly, swallowing against the terrible taste in her mouth. She places a hand against her face only to draw back it back in horror. Had she been drooling?
The woman is smiling. "I am like, so sorry I fell asleep on you. I'm usually not that rude." She riffles through her purse and thrusts a piece of foil toward Rachel. "Gum?"
"No thank you." Apparently her ability to speak had been imparied when she'd fallen asleep.
"I just want you to know I don't go around and like, fall asleep on people. Especially like, girls that are so beautiful."
Rachel feels her cheeks pink at the compliment and she clears her throat. "No apologies are nessacary."
She grins again, a big toothy one that has Rachel looking away. "It's my first time on a plane," she stage whispers. "I was so nervous and you were really sweet, ordering me that drink. Even though it was a little strong," she giggles. "Oh my god, I'm like, so rude. I didn't even get your name. Like, duh, Krystal."
Krystal offers her one manicured hand and Rachel shakes it, feeling entirely like she is on some kind of reality show with hidden cameras. "I'm Krystal."
"I gathered." Rachel straightens, smoothing back her perfect bob into place. She glances out the window. "It appears as though we'll be landing soon."
Tentatively (and Rachel is never tentative about anything), she says, "Would you care to look? The Effiel tower at night is quite a sight to behold."
Krystal lets out a high pitched squeal that causes more than one passenger to glance in their direction and switches seats with Rachel, who is not unaware how their knees brush.
"Whoa," she breathes, eyes wide. "This is incredible. Like, really incredible."
"Yes," says Rachel quietly. "Paris is a breathtaking city. I've never really had time to appreciate it. I've only been here on business."
"That sucks." Krystal turns from the window. "But now you're not though, right? You're actually gonna have fun?"
Rachel smiles, a sad little upturn of the corners of her lips. "If I'm being honest, I'm not sure I know what that is."
Krystal's eyes sparkle and for the first time, Rachel notices them, allows herself to notice. They aren't amber, like her own, more a rich honey. She looks away.
"Okay, so you probably have like, tons of plans...but in case you don't." Krystal grabs a pen and piece of paper from the in flight stationary, scribbles something, and presses the slip into Rachel's hand. "My number. I know we just met but I've been told I make everything fun. I mean, if you would want to."
She looks at Krystal again, takes in the overly coiffed hair, the terrible outfit. Looks down at her own perfectly pressed suit, heels that cost more than Krystal's plane ticket. When she glances back up, their eyes meet and Krystal is grinning that grin again. Something warm sits in her chest.
"Yes," Rachel finds herself saying, in a voice she's not sure is her own. "I would like that very much."