Phenomenal X

By: Michelle A. Valentine


“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”—Matthew 5:5





There’s no better way to ruin a perfectly peaceful flight than sitting between two complete strangers. I always request an aisle or window seat if I can, but this flight was booked solid and the unhelpful lady at the check-in desk told me there was absolutely no wiggle room to change seats.

The older gentleman on my left keeps turning toward me and smiling, probably hoping I’ll strike up polite conversation with him, but I’m just not in the mood to be nice. I’m leaving Portland, leaving behind the only life I’ve ever known, and the only thing I feel like doing is keeping quiet and praying that I’m making the right decision.

This morning my father went into one of his lecture-filled rages, telling me what a horrible person I was when I sprung it on him that I would be on the ten o’ clock flight to Detroit to go live with Aunt Dee, his eccentric sister. My parents, especially my father, have always been great at controlling my life. Which is exactly why I’m leaving now.

I’ve followed his plan for the last twenty-one years, and it’s brought nothing but heartache. I’m ready to make my own decisions about what’s best for me.

While the other passengers settle in around me, I quickly flick through my text messages. The anger in Father’s messages is crystal clear. The same thing said a million different ways: for me to stop this nonsense of starting my own life, and come back home where I belong. Where I’m safe.

I shake my head and shut my phone off before slipping it into the seat-back pocket in front of me. “No can do, Father,” I mumble to myself.

A mother and her twin sons fill the three empty seats in the row ahead of me. They are sitting in the first row, directly behind the wall that separates the first class patrons from the rest of us lowly coach passengers. If I had to guess, I’d say the twins are about twelve or so. Their brown hair pokes out from underneath the matching baseball caps they have firmly pulled onto their heads. The hats match their red shirts with some wrestling guy on it. I can tell it’s wrestling from the logos. I remember sneaking around to watch the televised show with my younger brother when he went through a phase of loving that sort of thing.

Just then I notice an extremely tall, broad-shouldered man wearing jeans and a blue button-down shirt, with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, board the plane. Even with his shirt on I can tell he’s all muscle underneath it. The definition in his chest and arms is undeniable as the fabric strains against his pecs and biceps. Intricate tattoos cover every inch of exposed flesh on his arms, and I immediately know he’s the kind of guy my mother always warned me about—which does nothing to decrease his appeal.

I bite my lip as my eyes scan further up and take in the dark hair on his head. It’s got a little bit of length to it and is styled to messy perfection. His strong jawline has some light stubble, like he forgot to shave this morning, and the fact that his nose isn’t perfectly straight—indicating it’s been broken a time or two—only adds to his rugged good looks. The way he carries himself, chin up with a daring expression, exudes confidence. Everything about him says he doesn’t take crap from anyone, which is a highly attractive feature in a man. And that body…yowza! It’s absolutely delicious and belongs on the cover of a magazine. It’s designed for masses of women to enjoy devouring with their eyes because in the flesh, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

And I’m loving every minute of it.

My heart pauses for a beat the moment this man locks eyes with me. When I don’t immediately turn away, a slight hint of a smile plays at the corner of his full lips. Briefly, I’m mesmerized, and then realize I’m still thinking about his body, and I’m biting my lip.

He winks at me like he knows exactly what’s on my mind before he slides into an empty row of seats in first class. A short, thin man with a mullet and a beard takes the aisle seat next to him.

I lean my head back against the seat and sigh, feeling the heat in my cheeks. That man is dangerously sexy and way out of my league.

The two boys in front of me begin waving their arms above their head. “X! X! Back here! Can we get your autograph?”

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