She fastened her noise-canceling headphones to drown out the sound of the engine as she closed her eyes. The Ambien hadn’t set in yet and she wanted to save the movie she’d downloaded on her iPad – Notting Hill – for the last leg of the flight just in case she needed it.
“Are you going to sleep?” she asked Todd, who sat beside her in the window seat. Todd looked down at the plastic cup and mini bottle of Dewar’s in front of him only to shrug before taking out that day’s Wall Street Journal from his carry-on. The hard copy.
“I think you should sleep before we get over there, baby,” she insisted. “I don’t want you to be jet-lagged.”
Todd had warned her about the dangers of a red-eye prior to the actual flight but, as usual, she didn’t seem to care. Nor did she care about him telling her that she can’t take two suitcases or that taking an Ambien on a flight was a bad and irresponsible idea. His kind suggestions went unheard, and she had, obviously, done both.
They were less than 45 minutes into their trip, and, all things considered, things were going off without a hitch en route to Paris-Charles de Gaulle. The woman who checked their luggage slyly waived the extra baggage fee after noticing their final destination and the lack of a ring on her finger, and the traffic en route to the Uber was less than they had originally anticipated. Todd was pleased, and even more pleased when there was no line in TSA pre-check.
It wasn’t until he realized that there would be no meal served en route to Paris that he became somewhat grumpy. Sure, drinks were complimentary, but he couldn’t stomach airport McDonald’s before stepping foot on the flight. If there was a bad idea before a long flight overseas, it was eating a double-cheeseburger and french fries.
She looked over at him with a glaze over her eyes.
“You doing okay?” he asked her, lightly grabbing her hand that rested on the armrest between them.
Expecting a verbal answer, all he got was a coy closed-mouth smile and an affirmative nod. Not exactly reassuring given he’d just watched her wash down her Ambien with one single glass of Burgundy provided by the flight attendant.
“Rest up,” he told her quietly before diverting his eyes back to his newspaper. She closed her eyes and put her sleeping mask over her face, nuzzling her head into his shoulder.
It wasn’t until fifteen minutes of uncomfortable reading had passed that Todd began kicking himself for not using the bathroom earlier. He now not only had to move her off of his shoulder, but he had to somehow get her to step in the aisle so he could make his way to the front of the cabin.
Slowly, he peeled her head off him and stood her straight up in her seat, still asleep. He looked at the leg room she had in front of her and thought he could make it through without disturbing her. He was right and did just that.
It wasn’t until he returned from the bathroom that he was truly inconvenienced by her. From the bathroom itself, he could hear her talking to someone. “That’s strange,” he thought. “She was just fast asleep.”
As he walked back down the aisle of the cabin, he noticed she was leaned over talking to the 55ish-year-old woman next to her. The woman was dressed nicely, putting out a vibe that she likely owned an apartment in Paris to supplement her townhouse back in the states.
The closer he got, the more he became suspicious of the conversation they were having. It wasn’t the words themselves, but the tone she was saying them in. Slurred, if not jumbled. Drawn out, not perfectly enunciated.
“Do you have any recommendations for us?” she asked, the first question Todd could truly hear.
The woman seemed taken aback by how the conversation was struck up and responded with a French accent that Todd could hardly understand. She, on the other hand, nodded along as if she could understand her perfectly. She couldn’t. The first sentence she was able to actually make out wasn’t until Todd had slid by and resumed his post in the window seat.
“Is this trip for business or pleasure?” the woman asked. Todd was, understandably, listening closely for fear of the Ambien grabbing a hold of the conversation at hand. What he saw in response was something much worse.
Without uttering a word, she had turned her body completely away from Todd and completely toward the woman across the aisle. At this point, Todd wondered if she was even cognizant of what she was doing or if she was in one of the Ambien-induced trips he’d read about on Reddit.
With her body turned, she shamelessly pointed at her ring finger and threw her head back, gesturing toward Todd and mouthing “pruh-poe-zull.” As if the act of pointing and mouthing wasn’t enough, Todd was even more taken aback by the shocked look on the woman’s face.
“Baby, baby,” he told her, pulling her back from blocking the aisle. “You need to go to sleep. Like, bad.”
“I’m fiiiiiiiiiine,” she insisted in a tone that clearly expressed how not-fine she actually was.
Todd took his hand and rested it on her leg – firmly enough that he would know if she tried to leave his reach, but loosely enough that she didn’t feel inhibited by it. The last thing Todd wanted was for her to go rogue when he fell into a scotch-induced sleep himself.
Minutes after he had restored the calm, he looked over to see her snoring with her mouth wide open. “Better than her talking,” he thought to himself as he cracked the seal on a second Dewar’s and poured it over already half-melted ice.
He reclined his seat and settled in after checking his watch to see that it was still only 10 p.m.
“Just go to sleep,” he told himself. “Just go to sleep.”
Nervous something had happened with his Ambien-riddled girlfriend on the flight, he soon realized that it was, in fact, her voice waking him. She opened the blind on the window as he opened his eyes.
“We’re heeeeeeeeere,” she said, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. “Bienvenue to Paris,” she continued with a kiss on his cheek. His grogginess and confusion caused him to not reciprocate her excitement, but she was right. They were there.
Todd wasn’t totally sure what time they arrived at the Hôtel Notre Dame given that he hadn’t changed the time on his watch yet, but he knew that he was still tired enough to sleep (and too tired to be hauling two suitcases – one his, one hers – before handing them off to a young man at the hotel entrance).
He hadn’t brushed up on any French leading up to the trip, but she clearly had. Or, at least, tried to. Her baseline Rosetta Stone got them from Point A (the airport) to Point B (Hôtel Notre Dame) in a rather seamless fashion, but he still had concerns about navigating the rest of the city through their stay.
Without taking her sunglasses off and with a scarf draped around her neck, she spoke in broken French to the front desk before receiving two keys to their suite. “Je vous remercie,” she told him before turning around and pointing Todd toward the elevator.
Sure, their room wasn’t exactly how she imagined it, but it was close. What she wasn’t expecting was the bottle of Veuve Clicquot sitting in an ice bucket on the desk near the window, a touch Todd had requested while booking.
“Toddddddddd,” she drew out, “This is so precious!”
Still tired from the flight, he smiled and sat on the edge of the bed while she slammed open the drapes to reveal a view of the Seine and Notre Dame. She turned her head around with a smile and looked at him.
“Soooooo, where to first, mon amour?” .