He is waiting for the airline ticket counter
when he first notices the young woman. She has glossy black hair
pulled tightly into a knot at the back of her bead-the man imagines
it loosed and cascading to the small of her back-and carries over
she shoulder of her leather coat a heavy black purse. She wears
black boots of soft leather. He struggles to see her face-she is
ahead of him in line-but it is not until she has bought her ticket
and turns to walk away that he realizes her beauty, which is pale
and dark-eyed and full-mouthed, and which quickens his heart beat.
She seems aware that he is staring at her and lowers her gaze abruptly.
The airline clerk interrupts. The man
gives up looking at the woman—he thinks she may be about twenty-five—and
buys a round-trip, coach class ticket to an eastern city.
His flight leaves in an hour. To kill time,
the man steps into one of the airport cocktail bars and orders a
scotch and water. While he sips it he watches the flow of travelers
through the terminal-including a remarkable number, he thinks, of
an unattached pretty women dressed in fashion magazine clothes-until
he catches sight of the black-haired girl in the leather coat. She
is standing near a Travelers Aid counter, deep in conversation with
a second girl, a blond in a cloth coat trimmed with gray fur. He
wants somehow to attract the brunette’s attention, to invite her
to have a drink with him before her own flight leaves for wherever
she is traveling, but even though he believes for a moment she is
looking his way he cannot catch her eye from out of the shadows
of the bar. In another instant the two women separate; neither of
their direction is toward him. He orders a second Scotch and water.