“The air’s so thick tonight.”
The taxi driver shouts, head twisted towards her, turning the steering wheel with one hand, veering out from the airport terminal into a row of scarlet tail lights, zigzagging between lanes, making her stomach lurch with each acceleration and she clings, fingers tight, wrapped around the seatbelt to steady herself until he brakes.
Bouncing her forward, into the anonymous hotel entrance.
* * *
“The air’s real thick here in November.”
She has reached the front of the check-in queue, shuffled her way along the swirled carpet soaking up sounds of footsteps. Read the gaudily illustrated offers for corporate Christmas gatherings posted around the beige lobby.
The receptionist frowns down, taps at the keyboard as she speaks. Clicks a blank rectangle of plastic masquerading as a room key onto the counter, kohl-lined eyes already flicked towards the next client in the queue.
* * *
“The air is thick out there this morning – you better wrap up warm. Don’t want to get sick.”
The waiter in the breakfast room gestures at the looming clouds gathering over the city skyline beyond the plate glass window, placing a basket of pastries in front of her.
She sips the cappuccino, drawing hot coffee through a cloud of foam, feels a freckle of chocolate dust her lip. The brioche crackles as she lifts it, fresh and warm on her tongue, a sweet slick of apricot jam leaking from its heart.
Loosening her looped scarf, she waterfalls it in a silky heap onto her knee. Her fingers graze the bare skin on her neck.
Right now, far away from home and him and her life, she inhales the light air of freedom.