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by Daniel Dives

Her name was Penelope and she was the sort of female that stunned your eyes out or, if you didn’t succumb to her charm, would simply scratch them out. She had those classic features so many others fell for, wished for and most certainly dreamt of. No matter where she went, heads turned in awe and you’d hear flustered comments about her eyes, her stunning beauty and natural elegance. She was a famous model, currently on her way to one of the world’s largest shows and hopefully proving once more that she still had that winning edge. Fame in her trade was a merciless and fast-burning commodity.

She wanted to go out with a bang as a legend, not sizzle into obscurity and fill up the ranks of the long-forgotten and vilified. She looked to her left. Beside her sat Marge, a 46-year-old, unmarried woman who happened to be her manager and caretaker. Whatever had created the Universe had cruelly contrived to rob Marge of any attractive features, and whatever that ‘whatever’ was, it had done a damned good job of it. The end result could have easily passed through for one of Rodin’s earlier ‘Experiments with Falling Clay’.

Wherever Penelope went, Marge followed like a firmly attached shark sucker. Marge arranged everything: the bookings, the commercials, the flights, hotels, limousines, food, drinks, health checks, daily exercise and enough hours of sleep to stay ‘on top’.

Penelope looked at the seats across the aisle. Not one passenger was awake there, either. She repositioned herself. Being more of a night owl, she preferred to stay awake, something Marge would never allow. Marge wanted her to look good at all times of the day, no matter where they boarded planes, no matter what airport they arrived at.

Today had been particularly hectic, because their original flight, scheduled three days earlier, had been cancelled without prior notice and had sent Marge into one of her regular fits. The new flight schedule was so tight they would have no time to visit their hotel and freshen up once they arrived. They had no other option but to go straight to the city center to do the show.

Marge’s head had spun at the idea of jet-legging into the last and most important show of her life. She swallowed handfuls of aspirins and anti-depressants in an attempt to stay one step ahead of her pounding migraines and yet remaining on the verge of collapse. She lay back in her seat with her eyes closed, her grimly contorted face showing above one of those ridiculously thin and inadequate complimentary airline blankets. Exhausted and drifting away into sleep, Marge held the armrests of her chair so tightly that her knuckles shone white through her fairly dark skin.

Penelope closed her eyes, tried to wriggle her body into the most comfortable position possible and was ready and more than willing to sink deep into Orpheus’ waiting arms.

Nothing happened.

Nobody there.

Maybe he had an appointment with someone else?

Penelope kept her eyes closed and listened to the sounds of the airplane flying at a height of 37,000 feet. The gentle pressure shifts in her ears, the soft humming of the engines, the shiver that ran through the airplane every now and then whenever it hit an air ripple. It was all too familiar.

I need to walk around a little, stretch my legs, she thought. After three hours into a 14-hour flight, her body was beginning to feel stiff. She stretched her long and elegant legs out to loosen up her muscles and arched her back. She accidentally touched the door right in front of her. It opened up slightly. Curious, she leaned forward, but the dim light of the cabin helped very little. She pushed the door open some more and waited.

Nobody seemed to notice anything.

She looked at Marge who was sucked into one of those dead-log catatonic states. Her large DD breasts heaved in angry shadows, reshaping the blanket’s outlines in crumpling mountains and daunting valleys.

Penelope looked to the right, closed her eyes for a second and listened intensely. The airplane sailed in a silvery silence through the thin frosty air. Penelope stood up, her movements carefully measured, stuck one leg through the door, then the next, shifted her weight so that she slip-slided softly to the dark blue carpet. She froze when a strange humming sound tickled her ears, and she instantly scanned her immediate surrounding to find the origin of that noise. Nothing moved. The sound died down as quickly as it had begun before she could identify it.

She checked Marge’s silhouette one last time and moved on, silent as the night before Christmas. She passed by the central darkened pantry and felt her stomach twist at the smell of gently rotting food crawling out of the garbage bins and wafting up her sensitive nose.

She quickly moved forward into a small hallway that, much to her dismay, ended in a closed door blocking her way. She stood there juggling with her indecisiveness when the sound of muffled footsteps behind her made her hunker down behind a small curtain. Thank the great Whatever that she’d been blessed with such a slender figure. She made herself as small as possible. However, one of her feet stuck out from underneath the curtain’s edge, just a little. She held her breath.

A steward with a tray full of food and coffee cups made his way into the corridor. Luckily for Penelope he was concentrating too much on keeping everything in balance and getting it safely inside the cockpit to pay much attention to anything else.

The two female pilots turned their heads around and smiled broadly when they smelled fresh coffee and steaming food filling the cramped space in which they sat. The nightly view from their cockpit windows was breathtaking, and the glow of all the instruments gave it something magical and romantic.

“Here you go girls!” he said and put the trays down on either side, “Everything you’ve asked for: steamed salmon for you, Pat, and sushi for you, Flo. Enjoy your meals!” He smiled one last time before locking the cockpit door behind him.

The sound of loud pings and scared voices rudely awakened Marge. It pulled her back from the jaws of a nightmare into an even more brutal reality. Flight attendants were running back and forth, trying to comfort frightened passengers; air masks had fallen out of their sockets and were dangling in front of everyone’s face; the plane itself was violently busy trying to stabilize itself.

A voice came in over the intercom, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Please don’t panic. Everything is under control. Please sit down, stay calm, and follow the instructions of our flight attendants. We will return to JFK...”

Marge looked around the first class cabin and grabbed the arm of a young flight attendant who was passing by. “What on Earth is going on? You cannot return to JFK! We’ve an important show we can’t afford to miss!”

The flight attendant produced one of her standard airborne smiles. “The captain has everything under control, Ma’am. Now, if you’ll excuse me...?” She ran off.

Marge shook her head. They had the guts to call that ‘service with a smile’? A shock shivered up her spine whe she looked to the right. The cat carrier on the seat beside her was empty.

Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Dives

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