Leo watched as the polite lady on the other side of the counter took his suitcase and put a sticker on its handle. God, he hated flying. He could already feel his palms sweating and his stomach forming a knot. The idea of being up in the air, above the clouds may sound beautiful or relaxing to some but just picturing the endless white puffs made Leo’s heart beat faster. He didn’t even hear the lady calling his name:
“Mr. Messi? Mr, Messi, please head to gate 25. “
“Oh, yeah, sorry. Thank you, have a nice day!”
He sat himself on one of the hundreds grey seats at the gate. There was more than an hour until his flight so he decided to buy a magazine or two.
“Why the hell did Pilar choose Mykonos for her wedding?” thought Leo as he was paying for the magazine and bottle of water he bought. “She could have easily made the celebration in Barcelona, there is also a beach there. But no. It always has to be something fancy.”
Pilar was his beloved two years older cousin. Leo always used to play with her when they were little. She was the only one who agreed to play pirates with him in the back yard. She was like a sister to him. Pilar had met Sergio on a trip to Amsterdam last year and claimed it was “love at first sight”. Leo had nothing against the guy, he was polite and he could really tell that he loves his cousin just as much as she loves him. On their 5th month anniversary, he had proposed. Pilar was on cloud nine, and Leo was also happy for her. She was really glowing when she had first shown her engagement ring to him. Leo was really delighted that Pilar was finally settling down, and with an actually nice guy. So delighted that he almost missed the notice on the loud-speaker: “Flight 2331 to Mykonos boarding, flight 2331 to Mykonos boarding. “
“Shit”, Leo thought. He had flown more than ten times in his life already, but each time he got on a plane he just got so terrified that he almost didn’t move during the whole flight. This time wasn’t anything different. As he started walking around between the seats, looking for his one, his heart started beating so fast he thought he might actually faint. Thank God he found 45D easily and plumped himself on the leather seat. “Great, fucking great” he thought. It was a window seat, the one he hated the most. He always got dizzy when sitting there.
More and more people were getting on the plane, and in a few minutes it was almost full. The seat next to Leo was empty and he thought that he would swap seats after the plane takes off. This idea quickly became impossible because a tall muscular guy seated himself next to him, slightly bumping his shoulder with Leo’s.
“Oops, sorry” the stranger said and shot Leo a shy smile.
And God, what a smile. Leo surveyed the man closely. He looked the same age as him, probably one or two years older. He was wearing ripped jeans and a plain Nike shirt. He also had a diamond earring and an expensive looking watch on his right wrist, as well as a ring on his forefinger. As far as Leo could judge, he was also travelling alone.
As the plane set for taking off, Leo got more and more scared with the second. He grabbed his knees and gripped them tightly, exhaling loudly in the process.
“Are you okay?” the stranger asked, looking concerned.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine it’s just…it’s just..I’m a little afraid of flying, that’s it. And I’m also sitting by the window which scares me just as much.” Leo replied, looking at his shoes, clearly ashamed.
“Hey, look, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Here, let’s swap seats. Come on, before the plane takes off, come on.” the man urged.
“Look, you don’t have to, I am a grown man, I can handl…” Leo trailed.
“Shut up. Stand up. Sit in my seat.”
After a minute of fumbling with his stuff and a “Please sit down, sir, we’re taking off in a minute” from the stewardess Leo managed to swap seats with the good-looking stranger, looking better and not so pale already.
“Thank you so much, I mean, it’s so much better now that I won’t be seeing all the scary clouds out there and so” Leo mumbled.
“Ah, no problem at all. So what’s your name, Mr. afraid-of-the-sky?” the other asked, clearly amused with his new nickname for Leo, shotting another cute smile at him.
“Don’t call me that.” Leo giggled, “I’m Lionel, but everyone calls me Leo. And yours, Mr. I-swap-seats-with-afraid-of-flying-strangers?”
“Ha-ha, nice try. Mine was better though. I’m Cristiano. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Leo.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Cristiano.”