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Dallas-Emily: That’s not what I mean, Jake! I mean that there’s something palpable between us. Something real... And I just...

J. Weston: Are your ellipses (...) implying something significant or do you just enjoy abusing grammar for no reason?

Dallas-Emily: I want more from you, Jake. More for the both of us.

J. Weston: More fucking?

Dallas-Emily: More of YOU. I like you A LOT and I know that with your career, you’re alone a lot (as am I) and I feel like the two of us have a real connection.

J. Weston: We do not have a connection, Emily.

Dallas-Emily: If we don’t, then how come the last time you were in town, we talked for HOURS and you treated me to a five course dinner?

J. Weston: We spoke for twenty minutes and I bought you a taco.

Dallas-Emily: Same thing...Every time we see each other, even if it’s only a couple times a month or so, I feel something and I know you do, too. I think we’d be really good together if we decided to pursue a relationship...What do you say?

I turned off my phone and made a mental note to block her later. There were plenty of other options in Dallas, plenty of other women who wanted nothing more from me than a shared fuck and a short, meaningless conversation. And the second she typed the word ‘connection,’ I should’ve ended our conversation.

In my world, a connection was a temporary lull in an itinerary, a short-term flight that eventually led to a final destination and nothing more. The word itself was fleeting, never final, and it never applied to relationships.

Walking into the living room, I searched for my tie—stopping when I saw the headline that was scrolling across the bottom of the television.

A New Future, a Forever Beginning for #1 Elite Airways Starts Monday

A blonde anchor was interviewing one of Elite’s perfectly groomed and robotic employees. He was wearing the standard blue and white tie, an “I Love Elite” pin on his right breast-pocket, and a smile that never faltered. No matter how many lines of utter bullshit that streamed from his mouth, his smile remained the same.

“Well, we’re the number one airline in the country for a reason, Clara.” The Elite representative couldn’t have been any older than twenty-five. “That’s why we’re excited about the acquisition of Signature Air and Contreras Airways.”

“That’s right!” The blonde clapped. “Earlier this morning, you all announced that you just bought Contreras Airways! What an amazing time your airline is having!”

“Thank you, Clara. It’s like our team motto says: We will do whatever it takes to be the best, no matter the costs.”

No matter the costs...

As the headline scrolled across the screen again, I felt my blood pressure rising. For most viewers, I was sure this was another business segment, another young interviewer’s big break on the airline industry and the American Dream, but to me, those words meant more than just the end of an era. They meant something I’d never forgive or forget.

Livid, I forced myself to walk away and returned to the shower. I turned the water on its highest setting, trying to focus on something else, anything else, but it was no use. That ugly headline was all I could see.

Fuck it. I’m not going downstairs until I feel like it.


Three hours later...

“Thank you so much for arriving on time, Mr. Weston.” Dr. Cox glared at me as she opened the door to the meeting room. “Did you purposely arrive here with only limited time to spare before your scheduled flight to Singapore, or is that just a coincidence?”

“A convenient coincidence.”

“I’m sure.” She groaned and led me inside the small room. “You can have a seat at that table over there.”

I stepped inside and noticed that they’d transformed the sparse space to look like an actual orientation session. There were Elite policy posters tacked onto the walls, a projector screen, and a stack of Federal Aviation law books stacked high in a lone chair. There were two large boxes marked “J. Weston” in the corner, and the table was littered with huge binders, notebooks, and pens.

As I took a seat, I spotted two glasses of water labeled “For Mr. Weston” dripping onto the table’s wood.

Dr. Cox sat across from me seconds later, and another Elite executive, a grey-haired man donning a familiar blue and white tie, took his place next to her.

“This is my colleague, Lance Owens,” she said, placing a digital recorder on the table. “Since you took your precious time getting down here today, my videographer left. So, I’ll have to record the audio of the interview and Mr. Owens will serve as a visual witness. Also, we managed to fill in most of what we were missing from your file as we waited, so this won’t take too long. Do you have any questions before we begin?”

“None at all.”

“Good.” She hit the start button on her recorder. “This is the final interview for employee #67581, senior captain, Jake Weston. Mr. Weston, can you state your full name for the record please?”

“Jake C. Weston.”

“What does the ‘C’ stand for?”

“Can’t remember.”

“Mr. Weston...”

“It doesn’t stand for anything. It’s just C.”

“Thank you.” She slid a blue file toward me. “Mr. Weston, can you confirm that the previous job listings in the file in front of you are correct?”

I flipped the file open and saw my professional career compiled into a sparse black list. United States Air Force. American Airways. Air-Asia. Air-France. Signature. No accidents, no infractions, not a single tardy.