Disclaimer: I do not own any character in this story. They belong to Josh Whedon and whoever owns "The Office". I thank them for their creations.Brushing Past
She dropped her carry-on bag to the ground and slumped onto the banquette, sliding her drink down on the table. She could watch the screen from where she was. The last column was repetitious. Whatever flight was listed the latest information on it was: Delayed, delayed, delayed.
Delays? Of course, there are going to be weather delays when you send people to seminars in winter. She leaned her head back against the plastic seat and tried to clear her head of thinking about paper. How to sell it, how to market it, and the threats of a paperless society.
She could call her boyfriend—sorry, financé. He'd brought home a ring and said, "Hey, as long as we're living together and getting along, we might as well get married and get some tax breaks—but he hadn't answered her other messages, so he probably wasn't home. Probably.
She resigned herself to some people watching, always keeping an eye on the TV screen, in case it wanted to tell something more hopeful. The man at the table next to her had settled in with some newspapers. She debated with herself about borrowing a section; on the road as much as she was she learned some guys thought any woman alone was "fresh meat" or at least some sort of geisha, dying to hear their oh-so-boring stories. But this one hadn't given her that sleazy grin; she doubted he even noticed her. "Excuse me, I wonder if I could borrow some of your paper?" she said to him.
"Of course," he said and gestured to the spread out newspaper on his table, "which part would you like?"
"Oh, movies or life style. Something just to pass the time."
He handed several sections over, smiling slightly, and said, "The wonders of modern travel, hmm."
She noticed the delicious accent right away. Like that Hugh Grant. And the guy wasn't bad looking. Older, a little wrinkled and tired around the eyes. But with men, that didn't matter, did it? "Thank you," she said, added some conventional remark about the weather, then started reading. If she hadn't spent the last three days, talking, talking, talking, she might have continued the conversation, but now, she needed her quiet time.
After fifteen or twenty minutes perusing the reviews of movies she'll never have time to see (but was now able to discuss at social functions), she was restless. The television screen hadn't changed; there hadn't been any boarding calls over the intercom. Maybe she should go to the airline booth and hassle the chipper people there about when delay became cancellation. Or maybe she should have another drink, though something to eat would be a better idea. Okay, a sandwich, then.
She slid out of the seat bench, propped her small suitcase where she'd just been sitting and said to the newspaper man, "Excuse me, could you keep an eye on my bag while I go to the food counter?" Then added, "And can I bring you back some more tea?"
"That would be very kind of you. Mine has gone very cold. And of course, leave the bag."
There was something trustworthy about an accent like his and, really, if he wanted to run off with her clean underwear, bottle of Midol, and the brochures she picked up in her networking around the conference, he was welcome to. She kept her Valium, etc, in her purse.
She came back with a pot of fresh tea, coffee and a yogurt. The ready-made sandwiches looked more tired than she was. After she sat down again, she said, "Still nothing moving," with a gesture at the unchanging television screens. "Have you been waiting long?"
"A few hours. I've come from California. I was worried about making my connecting flight back to England. But we're all the prisoners of Nature, aren't we?'
Smiling, she said, "I suppose so. I was at sort of convention for work. I was really hoping I'd be back in Philadelphia in just a few hours."
"I have been assured that the weather is going to clear before this evening. My name is Rupert Giles, by the way." He waited for her to extend her hand before offering his own.
"Jan Levinson. I'm an account executive with Dunder Mifflin."
"Oh, I don't know if I've ever met an 'account executive'. What does one do?"
Jan used the ripple of laughter she always used in business settings, saying, "Mostly I try to get people to buy the paper we sell. Reams and reams of it."
"Oh, I see. I guess I'm at the opposite end of that spectrum. I'm a librarian."
It took Jan a second or two to get that but then she gave a genuine laugh. "And where would we be without you?" As they both began fiddling with their drinks, he adding sugar, she artificial sweetner, she said, "Were you visiting California? I've always wanted to go to Malibu, the beaches, I guess, and I like saying the name. Malibu."
"No, I was working, but my assignment is...finished, so to speak. I can't say I spent any extensive time at the beaches; I found I wasn't the perpetual sunshine sort of person. I'm quite looking forward to grey skies."
Jan didn't climb the corporate ladder by not listening. The guy didn't want to talk about California. Okay. "I've never been to England. I spent some time in Paris; I spent a college semester there." Which was almost true. She'd spent half a semester there and then developed some kind of hives that made her go home early.
So they talked about Paris, the museums, the architecture, the good food. Jan told him her story about being trapped in the Eiffel Tower elevator; Giles told her his about being chased out of the Pere Lechaise cemetery by dogs at midnight when he'd drunkenly gone to look for Jim Morrison's grave.
After a while, Giles suggested they walk around a bit to stretch their legs. Jan said that that was just she was thinking. They ambled down the airport's corridors, each carrying their carry-on bags like school satchels, chatting, not even noticing the crowd of disgruntled, stranded passengers they picked their way through.
They stopped at the big board listing destination cities. A list of faraway places spelled out in small red lights. Antwerp, Osaka, Cairo. Giles began to tell her stories about the cities: myths he said he read at university; folk tales he stumbled across in his work. Jan could remember anyone ever putting so much effort into entertaining her. When he began telling her sinister things about Cleveland, Ohio, she stopped him. "Oh no, enough! You're making me shiver. Suppose I have to go there and persuade the School Board or somebody to buy all their letterhead paper from us? You don't want me to be scared to go to Cleveland, do you?" She realized that she was clutching his arm as she laughed and leaned into him. She pulled away quickly, swaying a little on her high heels.
He reached out his hand to steady her and began saying, "I know lots of stories, maybe we should have dinner..."
Just at that moment, a woman's voice came over the P.A. system. The words began to echo around the building. "Due to the improving conditions of the weather, flights will be able to take off very shortly now. Please pay close attention to the flight boards and to the public address system announcements, if you are waiting to embark." The voice went on to repeat the message several times but it was drowned out by the people filling the terminal giving whoops of happiness and energetically chattering to each other.
"Oh," said Jan.
Even as they stood there, the electric signs began to change; actual flight times and boarding messages replacing replaced "delayed".
"Well, it looks as though we'll soon be on our way."
"Uh-huh," Jan agreed. "That's good. I'm really anxious to get home. I have to phone my fiancé to pick me up. I mean, when I know when I'll get there. He's probably worried about me."
They were being jostled by surges of people moving in all directions. Giles said, "We should, perhaps, sit down out of the way and get our bearings."
They made their way over to a row of chairs against a wall and settled themselves. They sat there watching the determined walkers for a moment before Giles spoke again. "I'm glad to have met you. You've made this time of confinement much more bearable. Thank you, Jan."
"Thank you, Rupert. I seem to talk about paper all the time. It was so nice not to, to, well, just talk about Paris. And things." She gave a little start as her flight number and destination showed up on the flight board. "Oh, we're ready to board now; all the way down the other way. They're really trying to clear everybody out."
She stood up and Giles did, too. She picked up her bag and extended her hand. Giles took and held it. Jan looked down at the joined hands, moved her eyes to his chest and finally looked in his eyes. "I have to go," she said, pulling her hand slowly away.
She walked off, giving a small shake to her shoulders. What a nice man, she thought. Nice. I should have given him my card. Not that anything would come of it. England! And a librarian! She was on the track for a New York job. What would she want with a guy poking around with dusty books? He's probably very dull once you get to know him. Despite his stories.
As she waited in line at the boarding desk, she started to think of the report she'd turned about this weekend's paper conference. She really meant to wow her bosses with it.The End