The phone buzzes against the side of the tumbler and sets the twin lumps of ice to a jittering dance.
“Trevor Hallam hello.”
He tugs the glass free of the suction pull of condensation and takes a sip of whisky before wedging the phone between his shoulder and ear to wipe the film of water from the wooden bar.
“No, I’m fed up actually Colin. I’ve been here since six and judging by the delays I’ll be lucky to leave this side of the afterlife.”
Trevor dries his hand on his chest and takes another sip.
“Brilliant Colin, I’m so glad you suggested it. Shall I just go and chat to them now and tell them we have a deadline? I’m quite sure that’ll get things moving. BINGBONG attention ladies and gentlemen we are pleased to announce that the delayed seven forty five flight to Stockholm is now boarding at gate nineteen. We apologise for the earlier delays but are reliably informed that the snow has disappeared because Colin fucking Christie has got a fucking deadline.”
A snort of female laughter draws Trevor’s head to the left. The dark haired woman two stools away smiles and raises both an eyebrow and a glass. Grinning, Trevor returns the salute and drains his whisky. He hands his glass to the barman and nods for a refill.
“Fine put her on.” He turns to the woman and rolls his eyes in mock exaggeration and then gestures towards the barman. The woman pauses then smiles and nods. Trevor sticks out his lower lip and gives her a thumbs up. “Yes Maggie I’m painfully aware that this is the most important feature since the last one…no I’m not being…Maggie…look I’m the one stuck at the airport drinking ludicrously expensive single malt which I will inflate further in my expense claim. I’m the one not getting any sleep and at some point or other I’m quite sure I will be on a plane to Björn Ulvaeus International whether I like it or not so in the meantime go back to playing with Powerpoint or whatever you two spend your evenings doing and leave me to my misery.”
Trevor puts the phone back on the bar and takes a decent swallow out of his newly filled glass.
Trevor coughs as some of his drink sticks in his throat and turns to the woman at the bar. “Sorry?”
“Trevor. Very nice to meet you Arlanda.”
The woman giggles and tucks some dark hair behind her ear. “Not me. The airport. You said you were flying to Björn Ulvaeus International? It’s actually called Arlanda.”
Trevor laughs, colour rising to his cheeks. “Ah. Not Benny Andersson?”
“No. Ella.” Her voice lingers on the first syllable with Scandinavian intent.
“I meant the airport.”
Ella laughs exposing rows of crystalline teeth. “Oh so sharp.”
“I have my moments although I suspect I’ve used them all up for today.” Trevor moves across to the next stool and holds out his hand. “Very nice to meet you Ella. Do you come here often?”
“Ha! As a matter of fact I do. I work ten days in London and then home for four. Project management. I feel like I spend half my life in airports.”
“I can relate,” says Trevor with a nod. “The airports change but they may as well be the same. Bit like hotels.”
“Ah now that I wouldn’t know.” Trevor holds up a hand. “Not that I’m doubting the validity of your claim of course.”
“Of course.” Ella finishes her drink and shrugs towards the bar. “Same again?”
“Well I suppose if you’re insisting it would be rude to decline. But they’re on me. The least the idiots who sent me here can do is pay for some drinks.”
“Yes, you sounded like you were having fun on the phone. What do you do exactly?” Ella raises her hand to the barman. “If you don’t mind me asking.”
“How can I refuse someone with such perfect green eyes?” Trevor manages to hold Ella’s stare for less than two seconds before dropping his head and laughing. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I said that. I’m tired and foolish and it’s been a long day.”
“It’s ok. I get it a lot. My eyes really are perfect.” Ella descends into giggles almost immediately. “I’m being such a pajas.”
“You’re being a what?”
“Pajas. I guess you’d say buffoon. It’s kind of an insult to someone you can’t take seriously. And I was being one.”
“Pie-ass. Love it. I’m going to file that one away for re-use.” Trevor sighs and scratches at his chin. “So what do I do exactly? I guess you’d call me a travel writer.”
“I studied journalism at Lund. A long time ago.”
“I doubt it’s that long ago but I’m very far from a journalist. At best I’m a glorified hack, but I’ve got a regular column in a Sunday paper along with the obligatory pie-asses and deadlines and it pays the bills. You said Lund university? It’s in the south right?”
Ella nods. “A glorified hack who knows his geography. Yes. It’s a lovely place to study, although I understand it’s going to change its name soon.”
“Really? I hate this modern necessity to update names. Everything has to be the bloody Drink-More-Pepsi-Dome or the This-Colonel-Sanders-Stuff-Really-Is-Quite-Tasty-Arena. Drives me mad. So what is poor old Lund being bastardised into?”
“The Agnetha Fältskog Institute.”
“Haha…ok I walked into that one. You’re a sharp one Miss Ella.”
“Sharp enough to predict that I won’t be going to a university or indeed another airport tonight.” Ella points to the board above the bar.
19.45 Stockholm Cancelled
“The force is strong in this one.” says Trevor with a sigh. “If I’m making Star Wars jokes it must be time for a final drink. Can I twist your arm?”
“Made of rubber. Thanks. I’ll be back in a moment.”
Trevor signals to the barman who is busy cleaning drip trays.
“Yes sir. Two for the road?”
“Thanks,” says Trevor and digs into his jacket for his wallet. “With a cancelled flight the road is the only option. Have one yourself and bring me the bill please.”
“Thank you very much sir. I’ll take half a lager.”
Trevor opens his wallet and takes out his credit card. The waiter returns with the drinks and the bill folded neatly on a leaf shaped silver plate. Trevor scribbles a ten percent addition to the total and drops his card on the tray.
“Did you miss me?”
“Like the deserts miss the rain.”
“Such a charmer.” Ella smiles but then her face grows serious. “Do you love what you do Trevor?”
“No. I don’t think I…no. You?”
“Some days I do. But mostly I hate it. I think I loved it once but I can’t be sure. I’m good at it and it pays the rent so that must count for something.”
Trevor holds his wallet up. “See that picture?”
Ella nods. “Your…daughter?”
“Maisie. She’ll be seven next month. When she started crawling I was in Alice Springs. When she took her first step I was in Hanoi and I took a train trip across Canada during most of her early teething. I heard her say dada on Skype while I was sitting at an airport bar somewhere in South America and by the time I came back from that trip she was no longer living at my house. I’m sick of airports and hotels and of dreaming up clever words for holidays I don’t want to be on.” Trevor closes his wallet and puts it back in his pocket. “But I’m too scared to quit and too old to start again.” He laughs with scant humour. “And now I’m talking the honest talk of the slightly inebriated. I’m sure you’ve got better things to listen to than my tales of…”
Ella places her hand on his arm. “You’re not old and you’re never too old.” She raises her glass and locks on to his eyes. “Let’s make this our last airport working drink. When it’s done, we’re done.”
“Just like that?”
“Why the fuck not?”
Trevor laughs and shakes his head. “How can I refuse a woman with perfect green eyes who swears? OK I’m in. Cheers.”
“So am I.”
Ella opens her purse as the barman clears away the glasses. “My last business card handout. Even if everything else is changing my cell number won’t.” She steps off the stool and puts her bag across her shoulder. “I think you and Sweden would get along fine.” She raises on to her toes and kisses Trevor lightly on the cheek. “And I know a great place nowhere near the airport to share an akvavit.”
Trevor watches her leave the bar and feels his phone vibrating in his jacket pocket. He reaches inside, switches it off and smiles. Why the fuck not Ella?
Header image: By Andreas Trepte – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=452385