Latest Flash

Airplane Mode

Whether it's in a crowded restaurant, or on the jumbotron at Yankee Stadium,

The best way to get her to say yes is make sure she can't get away.

Airplane Mode by S.W. Lauden

I bought the engagement ring on my way to the airport. She never told me exactly what she wanted, but had dropped plenty of hints over the years. I couldn't wait to see the look on her face when I showed it to her.

In the end I settled on a simple gold band with a three-carat diamond. It looked like something that Archie might pick out for Betty. Classy and beautiful, just like her. Three months salary is a lot less painful when you're buying on credit. The money she made as a flight attendant would come in handy once we were married.

My carry-on bag was light because I wasn't really going anywhere. Just part of a disguise that included wraparound shades, a trucker hat and three-day stubble. There was a pretty good chance that she'd spot me eventually, but that wouldn't matter once we were up in the air. Thankfully they board planes from the front and back at Burbank Airport. I figured my odds were fifty-fifty.

If nothing else, I knew it would make a funny story one day.

I chose a window seat and immediately slumped into a sleeping posture. The tray table and seatback stayed in their locked and upright positions. The seatbelt was strapped low and tight across my hips. My phone was in 'airplane mode'. There wasn't a single reason that anybody should bother me.

We were cleared for take off and started rumbling down the runway. I listened carefully to the attendants above the familiar blast of the engines. Nothing about the emergency evacuation speech had changed since the last time I gave it myself. I had to resist the urge to stand up and pantomime along with them.

It was a red-eye flight, so the plane was half full. That meant I only had one other passenger in my row, a lanky fifty-something businessman who took the aisle seat. He was a typical road warrior, with a rumpled suit and double scotch that screamed "leave me the fuck alone". I couldn't have asked for a better screen from the rest of the plane. The only time we interacted was when I climbed over him to use the bathroom.

Once inside the cramped space I fished an electric razor from my bag. It wasn't easy to shave with the plane bouncing around, but I still had my sea legs. My loud Hawaiian shirt went into the bag with the rest of my get up. I buttoned the dark blue oxford and tucked it tight into my khakis. The reflection in the mirror was the man she would marry.

Donna was standing in the galley filling a drink tray when I emerged. I pulled the velvety ring box from my pocket and dropped to one knee. Her beautiful blue eyes opened wide in surprise before filling with tears. I was practically shouting to propose above the roar of the turbines.

"I have never loved anybody as much as I love you. I want us to spend the rest of our lives together, whether that's one minute or one hundred years. Will you please do me the honor of marrying me?"

The few nearby passengers who were still awake craned to look. I could feel the warmth of their smiles on my back as we all awaited her answer.

"Oh my god. What the hell are you doing here, Jake? And why are you dressed like a flight attendant?"

I managed to force a smile, but my hands were trembling. It already wasn't going like I'd been planning for twenty-three long months.

"I want things to be like they were between us."

She shook her head, struggling to keep her voice to a professional whisper.

"There was no 'us'. We were just co-workers, until you—"

"Don't go dredging up the past. I'm here now, asking for your hand in marriage."

"But how? I always check the flight registry. Your name wasn't on there."

I dropped my voice to a growl and fixed her with a stare.

"I learned a few tricks while I was away, sweetheart."

"I have a restraining order!"

Donna started shrieking. The other attendants began excusing their way down the aisle from the forward galley. I stood up and shoved her into the corner. Time was running out fast.

"Keep your voice down."

"You're insane, Jake. You need help. "

"All I need is you."


I wrapped my fingers around her neck to keep her from screaming. The first attendant jumped on my back and yanked at my hair, but I didn't release my clutch. Donna's eyes bulged as I dug my thumbs deeper into her collapsing windpipe.

A second crewmember and a couple of groggy passengers piled in behind us. They clawed at my arms and tore at my clothes, but nobody was getting between us. Donna's body went limp, eyes rolling back in her head. I put my face close to hers until we were almost kissing. She was still wearing the same perfume that I dreamt about every night in prison.

"It's not too late to change your mind."

But it was too late, for both of us.

If only she'd said yes.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.