Seat 13C, Flight 221 by J.S. Graustein

Jolted by adrenaline with each dip, she grips both arm rests as the wheels grind into the belly of the Airbus. Her swollen cheek aches with the change in cabin pressure, but she smiles anyway. I'm free.

Then she feels the knocking under her feet. Through her shoes. She looks around. No one is tapping feet or dropping large-print novels. She readjusts her bruised rib cage, then tries reading People to escape her shredded nerves during the bumpy ascent.

But again she feels knocking. Different this time. More insistent. She asks 13B if he feels anything. He shakes his head and apologizes. She shoves her hands into the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt, wraps her fingers around the plastic bottle of tranquilizers, and rubs her thumb along the worn-soft label. That last dose should have been enough.

Yet she still feels it, under the ball of her right foot. Frantic knocking, pummeling the underside of the deck plate. She presses her arches into the vibrations, pays six dollars for a thimbleful of red wine, then glides to sleep before the captain snuffs out the seat belt light.

13B rouses her and retrieves her carry-on from the overhead bin. She struggles to pull it to the baggage claim and decides that pushing hurts less. At the carousel, her oversized Samsonite is the last one to emerge from the black-flap curtain. She wonders why she waited. I don't need anything in it.

At the exit, she looks back to see her bag jiggle past a group of Korean businessmen. A familiar fist—his fist—pokes out from the zipper, blue and stiff. And still.

Copyright 2009

Author's Bio: When J. S. Graustein isn't writing, she plays Managing Editor at Folded Word Press. Her path to the writing life is best expressed in mathematical terms:

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