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The anxiety was evident in almost every part of her. It was obvious in the way she was picking at her fingernails, studying them intently in a futile attempt to appear bored. Yet every so often, she would glance up at the entrance to the men’s restroom across the airport walkway. She held her arms close to her body and leaned up against the wall behind her with her legs crossed, making her uncomfortableness almost as blatant as a blinking neon sign.
There was no denying that Austin was intrigued by this girl who looked so out of place in the bustling airport. He had been watching her from his seat near Gate B for the past hour. Not in a creepy way, mind you, but rather, in a curious manner. Up until three minutes ago, she had been sitting a couple of seats away from him, next to a dark-haired man with wild eyes, who looked to be about in his forties. They had sat there, silently, until the man had laid a hand on the woman’s knee and leaned over to whisper something in her ear. She had nodded softly, then stood up and followed him over to the restrooms.
Austin looked down at his watch and contemplated whether he should go and talk to her or not. But the question nagged at him. Who was that man? He looked much too old to be her lover. Her father, maybe? Either way, Austin decided it would be best to leave himself out of the equation. He turned his gaze back toward the woman, and was surprised to find her already looking his way. She immediately returned her focus back to her fingernails, causing her dark hair to slip from behind her ear and shield her face.
A sense of urgency began to creep into Austin’s thoughts. He now felt this pressing need to talk to the mystery girl. Following the impulse, Austin stood up and walked toward the woman. As he neared her, he began to panic as he realized he should have some kind of excuse for randomly walking over to her. Luckily, he noticed a drinking fountain a few feet off to her right. As he pressed the button on the side of the box-like structure and watched the water gurgle out of the spout, he felt the woman’s gaze rest on him. After drinking his fill, he stood up and turned toward her. His face split into a smile as he shoved his hands into his jean pockets and walked closer.
“As much as there is going on in this place, it gets quite boring after a while, don’t you think?”
A small smile tugged at her lips as she replied, “I take it you’re on the flight to Baltimore too?”
He nodded. “If I had known the flight was going to be delayed this long, I would have gone with a different airline…” he rubbed the back of his neck, shaking his head, and continued, “But that’s the beauty of hindsight, isn’t it?”
“You’re quite right,” she agreed, a hint of amusement in her voice.
“The name’s Austin,” he said as he offered his hand to her.
She accepted it and replied, smiling, “Maddie.”
“You have the most amazing smile by the way,” Austin commented, smiling in return. Maddie blushed and looked down, shoving her hair back behind her left ear. An almost awkward silence fell between them, and Austin decided to jump on the opportunity. “You wouldn’t happen to be interested in getting a drink with me, would you?” he asked, gesturing toward the small café a little ways away. “I mean, since we’ll both be stuck in this airport for who knows how much longer,” he added quickly.
Maddie opened her mouth as if she were about to say something, but then something over his shoulder caught her eye and she clamped it shut. Her blue eyes widened as they were plagued with a sudden fear. And then, out of nowhere the dark-haired man was there, his arm wrapped around Maddie possessively. He stuck out his hand to Austin and asked, “Who might you be, young man?”
“Austin,” he answered, returning the man’s firm grip.
“Yes, and what business might a man such as yourself have in trying to steal another man’s woman?”
Austin blinked in surprise, taken aback by his bluntness. “Oh. I apologize, sir, I was only offering to buy Maddie a drink. I had no intention of…stealing her.”
The man continued to glare at Austin, his eyes still wild. “Well, all the same, I suggest you get on with your business and leave my little pet alone.”
Austin nodded curtly and replied, “Of course.” As he turned to leave, his eyes locked with Maddie’s. What he saw in her eyes chilled him to the bone. But before he could react, the man gripped Maddie’s arm tightly and led her away, muttering something about booking a different flight.
And just like that, Austin was left standing there, with the look in her eyes seared into his memory forever. Never before had he seen eyes filled with such terror. He knew he would always wonder what had caused her terror, just as he knew he would always regret not being man enough to answer her silent plea for help.