The flight attendant approached with another scotch and soda. She leaned over and placed it on my tray, lingering a little too long. I looked at my watch for the third time in as many minutes. My flight out of Atlanta was delayed. No word on when we’d be leaving the gate. I fingered my cell phone, contemplating whether or not to call Jade. She’d be pissed. Her birthday party was starting in ninety minutes, and there I was stuck on a plane.
The pilot announced, yet again, that we would be taking off momentarily. His definition of momentarily did not sync with my own. An hour had passed since I boarded the plane; his promises of swift takeoff, unfulfilled. Thankfully, I was sitting in first-class and not crammed into coach. My six-foot frame didn’t fare well in the smaller seats. The gentleman next to me was quietly snoring, having fallen asleep within minutes of taking his seat. I unlocked my phone and prepared to call Jade to tell her the last thing she would want to hear. I scrolled through my address book for Jade’s name and then something wonderful happened. The plane started to back away from the gate. My prayers had been answered. I exhaled audibly and powered off my phone. I’d be late, but I was finally on my way.
Jade had been my lady for the past year. We had known each other for quite some time before we started dating. She was one of my biggest competitors when we met. In fact, she still held the distinction. We’re restaurateurs. Our establishments are two of the most popular places to dine in Long Island. Jade owns Rituals and I’m the proud proprietor of Eden.
I hadn’t done too bad for myself for a little Black boy from Brooklyn. In addition to Eden, I owned a technology company, a few franchises, and had an extremely lucrative career in real estate. No, I hadn’t done bad at all. Growing up, I had been taught that hard work pays off. I lived by those words and they hadn’t failed me yet. My pops drilled it into me that if I worked hard enough, I could have whatever I desired in life. He was right. I had gratifying careers, homes in New York and Atlanta, and a woman I loved. What else could a man want or need?
The pilot assured us that we would be taking off in two minutes. I checked that my seatbelt was fastened and finally relaxed. I should have called Jade to tell her I was running late, but I didn’t want to upset her on her special day. If we actually took off within the next couple of minutes, I’d only be an hour and fifteen minutes late. Only. Jade certainly would not consider being over an hour late for her birthday party as only an hour. Especially since she asked me to return to New York the day before in order to prevent this exact situation from happening. I shook my head. I should have listened to her.
I was hoping that she’d be preoccupied with last-minute arrangements, or having a celebratory drink with her girls, and not notice that I didn’t get myself there on time. I’d have to head straight to Rituals for the party. No going home to shower and change. As soon as we landed, I’d jet through the airport and meet my car service at the curb at arrivals. Only then would I give Jade a call—once I was in the car and on my way. That would be a much better time to do any explaining, rather than while I was sitting at the gate on a plane in Atlanta.
We were finally in the air and the flight attendant returned to deliver a fresh drink. She had taken my last untouched one before we took off. She touched my shoulder and smiled as she handed me the amber liquid. I politely thanked her and took a swig. I think she thought I was going to say something more. She stood over me, still smiling, with an expectant look in her eyes. I nodded and thanked her again. She turned and went back to the galley. I knew that smile well. It was an invitation. An invitation I had received many times over the years. Too many times to count, in fact. It was an invitation that would go unopened and returned to sender. Jade was the only woman to whose inviting smile I responded.
I loved that woman. Loved her in ways that surprised me, even after a year. Jade wasn’t the first woman I had ever loved, but I could see her being the last. She was the type of woman that you’d give your last name. Smart. Savvy. Sexy. A good girl, but bad when it counted. Beautiful inside and out. She wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect for me. When we first started dating, her knucklehead ex-boyfriend was hanging around, having a hard time understanding it was over. It took a major conflict on the island of Antigua for him to finally get it; but that’s ancient history now and Jade is my woman.
I smiled to myself. I had been in Atlanta for a week interviewing chefs for my newest restaurant, and I missed my lady. I was looking forward to celebrating with my baby; however, I was more excited to get to our own private after-party. I glanced at my watch. Damn. I would’ve been on time if my flight hadn’t been delayed. No, I knew better. I had no one to blame except myself. Airlines are unpredictable. I’d been flying long enough to know that. I should’ve given myself more of a buffer instead of scheduling my departure with only a few hours to spare before the party.
I reclined back in my seat and stared at the one in front of me. No matter how fast the plane traveled, it wouldn’t be fast enough. I closed my eyes and prayed for very little turbulence.