Soixante-Trois Airlines, part 12

“You know,” Paige said as she settled into her plush airline seat, “I kinda wish more people were staring. I mean, come on, just look at us! We’re hot!”

“We ARE,” Jessica giggled. “But I’m quite happy for you to be the only person staring at me right now.” Jessica smiled as she fixed her gaze on her lover’s porcelain legs and her slender, feminine figure encased in its tight grey pencil dress. Paige had been taking oestrogen for fifteen months- ten more than Jessica herself- and with every passing dad, she grew more and more beautiful in Jessica’s eyes. Her dress was immaculate, her make-up was perfect and even her jewellery was beautiful- with one exception. Paige wore no ring on the third finger of her left hand- something Jessica was determined to correct over the course of their week-long holiday in America.

Paige grinned lustfully as she saw Jessica fidget in her seat, clearly trying to get comfortable in her short, tight skirt and clingy thong bodysuit. Even though the American girl had been taking hormones for less than half a year, it was still long enough to have an effect on her body. Her skin had softened, her waist had narrowed and her hips had widened, and even though her chest was still flat- especially compared to Paige’s own- it was still sensitive enough to ensure that their lovemaking sessions ended with both girls gasping for breath.

And yet, Paige felt uneasy. With every oestrogen tablet Jessica took, the American girl grew more and more confident, more and more certain about their future… But Paige grew more and more uncertain. The start of their relationship had been a brand-new experience for both girls. The very notion of making love to another transgendered girl had been subversive, exciting- but as the months grew on their relationship became more stable… And as the oestrogen began to affect Jessica’s sexual ‘function’ in bed, Paige found that the relationship grew less and less exciting. Paige was certain that the spark was still there- she just had to find a way to reignite the fires of their passion, and she was sure that their holiday in America would provide the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Natalie smiled as she watched the jumbo jet taxi down the runway, bearing her friends westward toward America. Between Natalie’s work as a mentor and Zoe’s new job as a dance teacher, it had been ages since she and the French girl had had a holiday away- something Natalie was determined to correct in the coming summer months.

“No rest for the wicked,” Anna-Jade giggled, gently patting Natalie on the shoulder.

“So we’re ‘wicked’ now, are we?” Natalie asked.

“When were we ever NOT?” Anna-Jade asked, making Natalie giggle as she adjusted her blue pillbox hat. “Now come on, Berlin isn’t going to fly to itself!” Anna-Jade and Natalie smiled as they coolly strode through the crowded terminal of Heathrow airport, their stiletto heels clicking in time with each other.

Abbey smiled as she waved at her two friends, before heading to the tiny locker room where she exchanged her smart blouse and pencil skirt for her tight blue uniform. The blonde Essex native grinned as she adjusted her tiny thong, remembering the passionate night of lovemaking she’d shared with her lover the previous night- and the two hard-earned hormone pills she’d swallowed earlier in the morning. After tying her hair into a tight French plait, Abbey touched up her eye shadow and lipstick before straightening the seams on her stockings and balancing her blue pillbox hat on top of her head. With her look complete, the 20 year old stewardess coolly strode toward the Soixante-Trois Airlines employee lounge, where she was greeted by a playful wolf whistle from her supervisor.

“Looking hot, Abbey!” Rachel giggled as Abbey did a slow twirl in her uniform. “I’m betting Karl agrees?”

“Safe bet,” Abbey said as she poured herself a cup of coffee. “Thanks for setting me up with him!”

“Ah, anything for a fellow tutu conspirator!” Rachel said, making Abbey giggle even louder. Before long, the two women were also in the air, catering to their passengers’ demands as they flew toward Paris.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Jessica and Paige stretched their tired limbs as they disembarked from the jumbo jet, before linking their fingers as they walked through the packed airport.

“Let them stare,” Paige giggled. “Nothing they can do about it, right?”

“Not in any northern state, anyway,” Jessica sighed.

“God, every time we come back here,” Paige said. “You’d have thought you’d be a bit more excited about returning home!”

“Says the woman who’s been to Scotland all of once in the last twelve months!” Jessica retorted.

“Excuse me?” Paige snorted with mock offence in her voice. “I go to Scotland loads, thank you very much!”

“And how many of those times are for work?” Jessica asked.

“…All but one,” the dark-haired Scottish woman conceded with a giggle. “But come on, it’s America! Who WOULDN’T be excited to visit here?”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Jessica laughed.

“And you’ve got to be happy that you’ll be home for your birthday, right?” Paige probed further.

“…Definitely,” Jessica laughed. “Especially as this year, for the first year EVER, I know I’m finally going to get what I want.” Jessica gave Paige a slow, soft kiss on her lips, smiling at the knowledge that the highlight of her birthday won’t be receiving a gift, but rather giving one- namely, the sparkling diamond ring hidden away in her hand luggage…

Natalie sighed loudly as she removed her tired feet from her blue stiletto heels, stretching her toes to try to restore her circulation.

“Why is it,” Natalie mused aloud, “that the sexiest-looking shoes are also the ones that function the worst as actual shoes?”

“Especially twenty-five thousand feet above the ground,” Anna-Jade moaned as she stretched her own tired feet. “Then again, the same could be said for underwear. And any type of clothing, come to think of it.”

“Yeah, well,” Natalie sighed. “We knew the uniform code before we signed up, I guess.”

“I don’t know about you,” Anna-Jade giggled, “but I signed up BECAUSE of the uniform code! Ryanair uniforms never looked like this, heh!”

“Ryanair wouldn’t let us wear ANY type of skirts,” Natalie laughed. “Certainly not me, anyway. You, on the other hand, miss ‘gender recognition certificate’…”

“Nat, if you want to transition, just do so,” Anna-Jade sighed.

“No, no,” Natalie sighed. “I’m quite fine with being a testosterone-filled woman. And I like sex too much.”

“Yeah…” Anna-Jade grimaced. “I haven’t heard for definite, but I’m sensing that Jess and Paige’s love life isn’t exactly smooth right now…”

“Female intuition?” Natalie asked with a devilish grin on her face.

“What else?” Anna-Jade shrugged, making the Englishwoman laugh. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to head to the gym!”

“Enjoy your exercise,” Natalie chuckled.

“Oh, I’m not going there to work out,” Anna-Jade giggled. “I’m more interested in the hunky guy who manages the gym!”

“Exactly,” Natalie said. “Enjoy your ‘exercise’!” Anna-Jade giggled excitedly as she left Natalie alone in the locker room, and soon found herself in the arms of her tall, handsome lover, whilst Natalie returned home to be greeted by a passionate embrace from her lover and former colleague.

On both side of the Atlantic Ocean, the employees of Soixante-Trois Airlines enjoyed a relaxing night’s sleep, blissfully unaware of just how hectic their week would be.

“Morning, sexy,” Jessica whispered in Paige’s ear as the first light of the day filtered through the curtains in their hotel room.

“Mmm, mornin’ darlin’,” Paige giggled in her best approximation of an American accent.

“Texas is about 1500 miles west of here,” Jessica giggled. “And didn’ae ye say ye’d never dae an accent ‘gain?”

“That goes both ways,” Paige retorted, giggling as Jessica playfully poked her tongue out at her. “Though I don’t know about you, but I could quite easily stay in bed all day…”

“We’re working on British time!” Jessica laughed as she padded toward the shower. “My body thinks it’s like, 11am already.”

“That’s… Not why I want to stay in bed,” Paige teased, slipping off her silky nightie and encircling Jessica’s slender waist from behind. The American girl giggled as she felt Paige press her chest into her back.

“Mmm…” Jessica dreamily moaned. “So, so tempting… But my folks are kinda expecting us before 9…”

“We’re on holiday,” Paige reminded her lover. “Aren’t we supposed to ‘enjoy’ it?”

“Trust me, there’ll be plenty of time to ‘enjoy’ each other,” Jessica giggled, unclasping Paige’s hands and giving each a loving kiss. “First- shower!” Paige sighed as Jessica entered the shower- her attempt to add ‘spark’ back to their relationship would obviously have to wait…

----------

“Your stewardesses for today are Carly,” Samantha announced to the packed aeroplane as the tiny blonde girl bobbed a curtsey. “Natalie, and Anna-Jade. Flight time today will be one hour and forty minutes, please enjoy your flight.”

“It’s been AGES since I last went to Switzerland,” Natalie laughed as she fastened her seatbelt.

“Yeah, the London hub’s expanding fast,” Samantha chuckled. “So fast, in fact, that they might be looking at hiring more supervisors soon…”

“You’re THAT desperate for competition?” Anna-Jade asked, making Samantha giggle harder.

“Well…” Samantha teased. “When our documentary goes out, I’m expecting a call or twelve from TV producers across the country… Reckon you two could put in a good word for me with Joshua Benedict?”

“I’ve never even met the man,” Anna-Jade chuckled. “And besides, I think Rachel Harrison’s forced herself to the front of the queue…”

“That would not surprise me in the slightest,” Samantha laughed. “She is coming up on thirty, isn’t she?”

“Think she was 28 last November, yeah,” Natalie said. “Not that she’d ever admit it, of course…”

“Hate the ‘twenty-nine or under’ age limit this company has,” Anna-Jade whispered. “You’d think if the company could hire, you know, people like me and Natalie, they could also hire people born before 1987…”

“This company’s lawyers earn their money,” Samantha sighed. “And obviously, it’s kinda best if you didn’t criticise the company whilst on a flight…”

“Lips- sealed,” Anna-Jade giggled as the ‘fasten seatbelts’ light extinguished and the four stewardesses set about their work. Within minutes, the young, blue-suited women were busy serving their passengers with food and drink, keeping them happy all throughout their long journey.

As the aeroplane began to descend, Natalie and Anna-Jade packed away their kitchen equipment and prepared to return to their seats for landing. Just before they left the kitchen area, however, the call light illuminated, making the two women sigh.

“There’s always fucking one,” Anna-Jade chuckled. “I’ve got this.” Anna-Jade rebalanced her hat on her head and straightened her skirt, before adopting her sweetest smile and approaching the customer who had summoned her, who turned out to be a very smart-looking forty year old man in an expensive looking suit.

“Finally,” the man grunted in a very light French accent. “What is the reason for your delay?”

“I am sorry we kept you waiting, sir,” Anna-Jade said, trying not to visibly bristle at the man’s confrontational attitude. “How may I be of service?”

“By answering my question, you stupid girl,” the man snorted. “Assuming you even ARE a girl.”

“We were packing away our kitchen equipment,” Anna-Jade said, trying her hardest to keep her smile fixed to her face.

“So I can’t even get a drink now?” the man snorted.

“I’m afraid all of our food and drink-preparing equipment is switched off to prepare for landing,” Anna-Jade said.

“Well, aren’t you utterly useless?” The business man spat in a condescending tone. “I’ve been flying with this airline for ten years and I have never encountered such shoddy service.”

“I do apologise, sir,” Anna-Jade said as she felt her eye begin to twitch, “but we did announce-“

“I don’t care about your announcements, you stupid girl,” the passenger snorted. “I only care about having a cup of coffee. Or is one cup of coffee too high for you to count?”

“There will be plenty of cafes at Zurich airport, sir,” Anna-Jade said, shifting her balance as the plane began to descend and the ‘fasten seatbelts’ light illuminated. “Sir, if you will excuse me, I need to return to my seat-“

“No you are NOT excused,” the passenger said, causing Anna-Jade to fidget awkwardly.

“Look, mate, let the poor girl sit down-“ A passenger from the row behind- an Englishman in his early fifties- attempted to say, only for the younger man to cut him off.

“I will not!” The Frenchman spat. “She isn’t even really a ‘girl’, are you?”

“I’m not allowed to answer personal questions whilst on duty-“ Anna-Jade hesitantly said as she felt the gaze of every passenger on the aeroplane fall onto her.

“It’s not a ‘personal question’,” the passenger scoffed. “Now answer me!”

“Sir,” Samantha called, slowly making her way up the aisle to where Anna-Jade was stood. “I am Anna-Jade’s supervisor, is there anything I can help with?”

“Yes!” The man shouted. “I want this worthless bitch fired now!”

“Sir, I assure you that I will speak to Anna-Jade once the plane has landed,” Samantha said in a calm voice. “But she must return to her seat as the plane is preparing to land.”

“So what?” The passenger snorted. “Let her break her neck, see if I care! I’m a passenger, that means she does as I say!”

“Anna-Jade,” Samantha whispered, “go and sit down.” Anna-Jade nodded, grateful to have been bailed out of the awkward situation, and tried to block out the angry shouting of the French passenger as she sat down next to Natalie. Both girls remained silent as the plane landed at Zurich airport, but Anna-Jade’s cheeks burned red with shame as she waited in the kitchen for all the passengers to disembark.

Once the plane was empty, Samantha returned to the kitchen area, where she sat down opposite Anna-Jade, who was blinking tears out of her eyes.

“Here,” Samantha whispered, handing the Irishwoman an unopened packet of tissues. “Looks like you need those…”

“Thanks,” Anna-Jade sniffled. “Fucking oestrogen, you’d have thought I’d be used to passengers like him by now…”

“He was obviously making trouble,” Samantha sighed. “But it’s weird, he HAS been a regular passenger for ten years… Dunno what could’ve made him just ‘snap’ like that.”

“He’s never had a problem with T-girls before?” Anna-Jade asked.

“Not that I remember,” Samantha sighed. “It’s… It’s probably best if you stayed back here on the return flight.”

“Heh,” Anna-Jade chuckled. “Spent all my life wishing I was a woman, now my dreams are realised- I’m being told to ‘stay in the kitchen’.” Samantha smiled as she led Anna-Jade off the plane, but all the while she was racking her brains as to why a previously good customer would suddenly become belligerent…

----------

“Jessica! Paige!” Jessica’s mother beamed at the sight of the two young women on her doorstep. “Come in, come in!”

“Hi mom,” Jessica giggled, greeting her mother with air kisses. “So good to be home… Are Aaron and Hayley here?”

“Already at school,” Mrs. Tyler replied. “All you’ve got to entertain you is me, I’m afraid!”

“It’s just great to be here,” Paige said with a happy smile. “Thank you for letting us stay again.”

“Nonsense,” Jessica’s mother laughed. “You’re practically part of the family now!” And soon, you’ll be able to drop the ‘practically’ part, Jessica thought to herself as she and Paige took their suitcases upstairs to unpack.

A short while later, all three women relaxed on the house’s plush sofa as Jessica caught her mother up on their lives, their work and their impending appearance on British television- which made Jessica’s mother excited and nervous in equal measure.

“I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about having a daughter who’s a big star,” Mrs. Tyler chuckled.

“Hardly a ‘big star’,” Jessica laughed. “It’ll be six episodes at most, late at night on a channel no one watches…”

“On a channel YOU don’t watch, anyway,” Paige giggled. “My sisters can’t wait for the show to go out, they’re desperate to dine out on my fame, heh!”

“I doubt Aaron and Hayley are going to be THAT excited,” Jessica laughed.

“I wouldn’t be too sure,” Mrs. Tyler teased. “Hayley’s been looking forward to your visit for weeks, she really wants to show off her famous, successful sister to her friends!”

“Even though said sister was her brother for most of her life?” Jessica asked, bringing an awkward silence to the room.

“Last I checked, this was America,” Mrs. Tyler said. “The land of the free, freedom to live life however you want.”

“In 48 out of 50 states, anyway,” Jessica moaned.

“Yeah, well Maryland is one of the 48,” Mrs. Tyler said, gently squeezing her daughter’s hand. “So don’t worry about what they’re doing down south. I’ve accepted the fact that my son is now my daughter, so has your father. And you SHOULD be proud of all you’ve accomplished in your life. You’re successful, you have great friends, and you are very, very beautiful.”

“…Thanks,” Jessica giggled, wiping a tear away from her eye.

“Now, you didn’t come all this way just to cry,” Mrs. Tyler. “You came to have fun and, most importantly of all, relax!”

“I dunno,” Paige said as all three women giggled excitedly. “I’d kinda put ‘fun’ above ‘relax’!”

----------

“Looks like YOU’RE up,” Anna-Jade said to Natalie as the call light illuminated in the aeroplane’s small kitchen area.

“Yep,” Natalie said, forcing a smile on her face as she pushed her drinks trolley into the plane’s narrow aisle. As she approached the passenger, however, her smile began to droop- the person who had summoned her was the exact same man who had bullied Anna-Jade on their outbound flight.

“Would you like a drink, sir?” Natalie asked in her sweetest possible voice. And where would you like it pouring, she thought to herself.

“Coffee,” the man said, barely acknowledging Natalie with a glance.

“How would you like it, sir?” Natalie asked.

“In a cup, you stupid girl!” The man barked, momentarily startling the Englishwoman and all the passengers in his immediate vicinity.

“Would you like any cream or sugar in it?” Natalie asked, her smile not wavering. If you want to play, Natalie thought to herself, I’m more than game.

“Did I ask for cream or sugar?” The passenger retorted in a sarcastic voice.

“Very good, sir,” Natalie simpered, biting her tongue out of sight of the passenger as she poured his drink. The middle-aged man stared at his drink with disdain, before gingerly taking a sip of it.

“Disgusting,” the passenger snapped, before spitting his mouthful of coffee onto the front of Natalie’s skirt. “What do you call this?”

“I call it ‘coffee’, sir,” Natalie replied, grimacing as her anger and frustration got the better of her.

“Is that supposed to be a joke!?” The belligerent passenger bellowed, alarming his nearby passengers. “I WANT TO SEE YOUR SUPERVISOR NOW!”

“I want you to fucking well shut up now,” the passenger behind the Frenchman- an elderly man with a Scottish accent- snorted. “That’s clearly not going to happen either.”

“I want a stewardess who didn’t have ‘her’ brain removed at the same time as ‘her’ dick!” The French passenger yelled, glaring at Natalie as the Englishwoman defiantly held his gaze.

“If you have a problem with transsexuals, you picked the wrong airline,” the elderly Scottish man laughed. “And the wrong fucking century, too!”

“Is there a problem, sir?” Samantha asked as she approached the commotion.

“Yes,” the Frenchman snorted. “All of your so-called stewardesses are useless, brainless, dickless airheads who wouldn’t know coffee if they pissed it!”

“Natalie, please wait for me in the kitchen,” Samantha instructed.

“No, ‘Natalie’, if that is your real name,” the Frenchman shouted, “you will stand here and learn just what a worthless excuse of a human being you really are!”

“And god knows you’d know a thing or two about that,” the elderly Scottish passenger scoffed, causing the Frenchman to fume with anger as the passengers surrounding him all laughed.

“Look what you did, you smug bitch!” The Frenchman bellowed at Natalie.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask that you keep your voice down,” Samantha said in a calm, soothing voice. “You’re upsetting the other passengers.”

“I WILL SHOUT AS LOUD AS I WANT!” The passenger yelled. “I AM A CUSTOMER, AND THE CUSTOMER! IS! ALWAYS! RIGHT!”

“I’m a customer too,” the Scottish passenger said. “And I want him thrown off the plane whilst in-flight. And as the customer is apparently always right…”

“Mind your own fucking business, you old bastard!” The Frenchman yelled, and despite her professionalism, Natalie couldn’t help but smirk, as she knew that the belligerent customer had finally crossed a line he shouldn’t cross.

“Sir,” Samantha said, “We do not tolerate passengers verbally abusing other passengers. I’m going to have to ask you to come with me to the rear section.”

“I have flown on this airline for ten years!” The Frenchman protested. “I own you!”

“Sir, please come with me,” Samantha repeated, earning a round of applause as the belligerent customer stood up and followed her.

After the plane landed in London, Natalie and Anna-Jade took their regular places alongside Samantha and Carly at the exit, bidding farewell to their customers as they disembarked (and presenting the elderly passenger who came to Natalie’s ‘rescue’ with a bottle of wine as a token of their esteem). The belligerent passenger was the last to disembark, glowering silently at both Natalie and Anna-Jade before heading back into the packed airport.

“Ugh,” Samantha spat as she closed the plane door and began checking and cleaning the cabin. “I hate telling off passengers like that… I wouldn’t be surprised if we all get complaints against us.”

“They wouldn’t be upheld, surely?” Natalie asked.

“They wouldn’t on a budget airline,” Anna-Jade said sombrely. “On Ryanair, anyone kicking up a stink gets banned for life. Passengers need them more than they need passengers. On an airline like this, though…”

“Well- we’ll just see for now,” Samantha sighed. “I’ll have a word with Rachel and Alana, get you two shifted to red route for the next week or so.”

“Customer abuses us and we get to go to Malaga instead of Switzerland?” Natalie asked. “I need to provoke people more often!”

“You’re lucky I know your sense of humour!” Samantha said as all four women giggled, pleased to have put the unpleasant series of flights behind them for the time being.

----------

“Aww,” Hayley- Jessica’s sixteen year old sister- sighed as Jessica showed her a series of photographs on her smartphone. “That party looked SO cool…”

“Yeah,” Jessica giggled. “We always go all out for special occasions like birthdays or work anniversaries.”

“Especially now that we’re unofficial Angels!” Paige interjected. “Having friends in high places with deep, deep purses…”

“SO jealous,” Hayley laughed.

“And yet you’ve chosen to spend your birthday here,” Mrs. Tyler said with a warm smile.

“Jess actually shares her birthday with the leader of the Angels,” Paige said before Jessica had a chance to speak. “She’s the one who lives in the house where all the parties take place, the one who pays for most of them…”

“Didn’t want to overshadow her?” Aaron- Jessica’s eighteen year old brother- joked.

“More like ‘didn’t want to be overshadowed’!” Mrs. Tyler laughed as Jessica started to blush.

“More like ‘I wanted to be with the people I love’,” Jessica said softly as she took Paige’s hand in her own.

“Oh my god,” Paige gasped as she suddenly remembered something she’d forgotten. “Have you seen the Star Trek party yet? The boss of the agency is a massive trekkie so we all wore 1960s miniskirts for his birthday in March…” Jessica smiled as Paige showed Hayley the photographs from the party, followed by virtually every other photograph she’d taken over the past five months. The one positive aspect Jessica had taken from her disastrous first coming out to her family was how fond they were of Paige, and how fond Paige was of them, which made Jessica confident that Paige’s transition to becoming an official member of the family would be seamless.

Several hours later, after the jet-lagged Paige finally ran out of energy and retired to bed, Jessica took Hayley into the house’s kitchen, where the two young women were able to talk privately.

“Your girlfriend is SO cool,” Hayley sighed. “It’s really hard to imagine that she was ever a boy…”

“In a very real way, she never was,” Jessica mused. “Nor was I, I guess.”

“I guess…” Hayley said. “It’s still kinda weird, you know? Seeing you wearing a skirt, knowing that you’re taking hormones, that the brother I knew is gone…”

“Trust me, it’s a change for the better,” Jessica laughed.

“Oh, I don’t doubt it,” Hayley said. “I don’t see it as losing a brother, I see it as gaining a sister, someone I can swap fashion and make-up tips with… Hell, with Paige, it’s like I’ve gained two sisters, heh!”

“You know…” Jessica said hesitantly. “Not long from now, she might be your sister for real- well, sister-in-law, anyway…”

“What- are you and Paige getting married?” Hayley asked.

“Ehh… Not officially,” Jessica said with a smile. “Not yet, anyway. I’m going to propose on my birthday. I’ve got it all planned out- when we’re in New York on Thursday, we’re going to visit the Empire State Building. Paige has ALWAYS wanted to go there, she absolutely loves New York… I’m going to go to the top of the building- not get down on one knee, obviously, as I’ll be wearing pantyhose- and ask her to marry me against the backdrop of the city she loves.”

“Aww, that sounds SO romantic,” Hayley gushed.

“And we’ll be married in Scotland,” Jessica said with a dreamy look on her face. “Paige’s hometown is just down the road from Loch Lomond, so we’ll get married on the shore of the loch during summer. We’ll both wear strapless white dresses, Paige’s sisters will be her maids of honour, you’ll be mine, and our first dance will be to ‘Love is All Around’ by Wet Wet Wet.”

“You sounds like you’ve got this all worked out,” Hayley chuckled. “And maid of honour! I’m well, you know, honoured!”

“Who else would I choose?” Jessica giggled. “And don’t worry, we’ll wait until at least 2018 so you can join in the bachelorette party… Legal drinking age in Britain is eighteen, after all!”

“Hehe!” Hayley giggled. “This is SO amazing, I’m SO happy for you guy- for you GIRLS, hehe!” Jessica giggled excitedly as she gave her sister a quick hug, before heading upstairs to her bedroom, where her Scottish lover was laid in bed, her face scrubbed clean of make-up but no less beautiful in Jessica’s eyes.

“Hey you,” Jessica whispered, gently waking Paige with a soft kiss.

“Hey me,” Paige said with a dreamy smile. “Come on, get into bed while I still have the energy, hehe!”

“I’m not sure I do myself, heh!” Jessica giggled, stripping off her dress and climbing under the sheets, where she cuddled her body close to Paige’s.

“I’m sure our salon appointment can wait a bit tomorrow morning, then!” Paige laughed, giving Jessica a long, deep kiss.

“Hmm, I guess,” Jessica said with a smile. “You know, my family REALLY like you, especially Hayley.”

“Yeah, they’re cool,” Paige said. “It’s Hayley’s sister I REALLY like, though!”

“We oughta go and visit your folks at some point-” Jessica said, only to be suddenly silenced by Paige’s immaculately-manicured finger on her lips.

“Talk later,” Paige purred. “Sex now!” Jessica smiled as hers and Paige’s bodies grew ever closer and were soon tightly entwined…

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“Another day, another- well, euro, I guess,” Anna-Jade said, stretching her body as she and Rachel emerged from their twin bedroom. “Hopefully without the verbal abuse of yesterday…”

“Yeah, I heard about that,” Rachel grimaced. “Don’t let him get to you, just rise above it. You won’t be seeing him again.”

“Yes, yes, I know the normal fucking platitudes,” Anna-Jade sighed.

“Then try listening to them for once!” Rachel chuckled. “And enjoy your Spanish holiday, I’ll be thinking of you whilst I’m freezing up in Glasgow…”

“Hardly a holiday, but now that I have permission from a supervisor…” Anna-Jade teased as the two women left the apartment and headed to their workplace.

A short while later, both women were in the air, ready to attend to the needs of their passengers as they flew to their respective destinations.

“Hi Rosita!” Anna-Jade giggled as she entered the kitchen area of the aeroplane and removed her hat and blazer. “Well done on passing probation… You’re not sick of us all yet, then?”

“I love every bit of it,” Rosita replied, posing in her red uniform as Anna-Jade applauded. “I’m actually going to Porto next week, might catch up with my family…”

“You’ll only get more work as the weather gets hotter,” Anna-Jade chuckled. “Never understood why Brits waited until it got really hot at home before going abroad to somewhere even hotter…”

“Did someone mention being hot?” Natalie teased as she entered the kitchen area.

“I think that’s a contractual requirement,” Anna-Jade laughed as she pulled her hat and blazer back on and did a twirl for her delighted colleagues. “Whoops, looks like we’ve got a thirsty passenger already…”

“Want me to get it?” Natalie asked.

“Nah,” Anna-Jade laughed as she released the drinks trolley from its housing. “After being stuck in the kitchen all yesterday I need to stretch my legs!”

“And very nice legs they are too,” Natalie giggled. “I’ll get the next one.” Anna-Jade giggled and playfully popped her right leg backward toward Natalie, before heading out into the fuselage of the plane. As she approached her passenger, though, her face dropped like a stone.

There, in the seat bearing the light that indicated he was the one who had called for assistance, was the same obnoxious French businessman who had made Anna-Jade’s life a misery less than 24 hours earlier. Anna-Jade took a deep breath to compose herself, before addressing the passenger- the previous, he’d had to be escorted to the rear section of the plane because of his behaviour, so Anna-Jade reckoned that as long as she remained professional and didn’t give him a reason to complain, he wouldn’t.

“How may I help you, sir?” Anna-Jade asked, unconsciously trying to disguise her broad Northern Irish accent in an attempt to fool the passenger that she was a different person.

“You can help me by jumping out of the plane with a parachute,” the Frenchman snorted, before fixing Anna-Jade with a stare. “I’m waiting?”

“Would you like something to drink, sir?” Anna-Jade asked, ignoring the passenger’s thinly-veiled insult.

“No, I’d like you to jump out of the plane,” the passenger repeated with a sincere voice.

“I’m afraid we’re not allowed to depressurise the plane whilst it’s in-flight,” Anna-Jade said, grimacing as the passenger’s expression suddenly changed from ‘sincere’ to ‘furious’.

“GET ME YOUR SUPERVISOR!” The passenger bellowed. “RIGHT NOW!” Startled by the sudden transformation of the gentleman, Anna-Jade turned to walk away, only to be stopped by yet another bellow from the agitated passenger. “Did I give you permission to leave?”

“You- you asked me to get me-“ Anna-Jade stammered.

“I didn’t say leave!” The passenger yelled. “Now get your supervisor!”

“…How am I supposed to fetch her when I’m not allowed to leave?” Anna-Jade asked.

“Are you getting smart with me?” The passenger asked, causing the Irish stewardess’s panic levels to rise. “I’ll tell you what: you can leave, as long as you tell me whether or not you have a penis underneath that skirt.”

“I’m afraid I’m not allowed to answer personal questions whilst on duty,” Anna-Jade said.

“Then you’ll just to find a way to get your supervisor without moving, won’t you?” The passenger said, folding his arms with a smug smile on his face. Two minutes passed as Anna-Jade grew more and more uncomfortable with the passenger’s stare, before breathing a sigh of relief when her supervisor arrived.

“How may I help you?” Lisa- Anna-Jade’s supervisor- asked.

“This useless whore is refusing me service!” The passenger snapped. “I asked her for a cup of coffee and she will not give it to me!”

“He also asked her to jump out of the plane,” another passenger- a middle-aged Englishwoman- said. “In fact, he’s been disturbing everyone in this part of the plane with his behaviour.”

“I can only apologise,” the Frenchman said, his demeanour immediately calming. “I am merely exasperated by the shoddy customer service of this stewardess!”

“Anna-Jade, please wait for me in the kitchen,” Lisa said, making Anna-Jade’s cheeks burn with shame as she dragged her drinks trolley back to the kitchen area, where she let out a long, frustrated groan.

“Guess who’s back?” Anna-Jade asked Natalie and Rosita, who groaned in frustration.

“You ARE kidding me, right?” Natalie asked.

“Nope,” Anna-Jade sighed. “Just as arseholish as ever, seems to have learned his lesson from yesterday as well as he’s all lovey-dovey to the other passengers.”

“But he can rant and yell and you?” Rosita asked.

“We’re replaceable- customers aren’t, especially regular ones,” Natalie sighed. “Unless he physically lays a hand on us, there’s nothing we can do. Though, obviously, verbally abusing other passengers is a no-no.”

“And we just stand there and take it,” Anna-Jade sighed as Lisa entered the small kitchen area.

“…He’s putting in a formal complaint,” Lisa said, making Anna-Jade groan even louder.

“He’s the fucking menace out there, not me!” The angry Irishwoman hissed.

“I know that,” Lisa sighed. “But there’s nothing we can do about it.”

“Isn’t it a hell of a coincidence that he flew to Zurich yesterday, but Malaga today?” Natalie asked. “You’d almost think he was keeping tabs on us just so he can harass us…”

“How would he even know that you were on this plane?” Lisa asked. “Duty rosters aren’t publicly available.”

“It- you know what, fuck it,” Anna-Jade sighed. “I’ll stay in here for the rest of the flight.”

“When the light goes on,” Natalie asked, “do you want me to go out there, take my lumps and get my complaint as well?”

“…Rosita and I will deal with passengers for the rest of the flight,” Lisa sighed. “Typical this would happen on the longest flight we do…”

“I’m not apologising, it’s not my fault,” Anna-Jade said.

“I know, I know,” Lisa sighed. “Just- stay out of sight, and try to calm down, okay? Don’t want any passengers hearing that ‘choice language’ of yours…” Anna-Jade nodded and sighed, watching in frustration as Rosita pushed her drinks trolley out into the aeroplane aisle, only to return two minutes later on the verge of tears.

“Oh- god, Rosita…” Anna-Jade sighed, giving the Portuguese girl a tight hug. “What IS this guy’s problem?”

“I have no idea,” Lisa sighed as she entered the kitchen area. “He’s fine with me, it’s just you three…”

“Damn transphobes,” Natalie spat.

“This company’s been employing transgendered stewardesses for three years,” Lisa said, shaking her head. “Why would it be a problem now? Just- I’ll deal with him myself for the rest of the flight. You three, just… Just keep out of his way when you’re doing your job, alright?” Natalie, Anna-Jade and Rosita all nodded, though they knew that every time they stepped out into the plane for the rest of the two hour and fifty minute flight, they’d have the eyes of the entire plane on them…

----------

“That was AMAZING,” Paige laughed as she left the beauty salon, her pale skin and jet-black hair tingling from the numerous treatments she’d received. “Kinda wish I could just go back in there and get pampered again, hehe!”

“It WAS fun,” Jessica giggled. “You like it, Hayley?”

“SO cool,” Hayley laughed as she examined her professional manicure. “Who do you suppose thought of the idea of painting fingernails different colours?”

“Whoever it was, they deserve a statue,” Paige giggled, playfully fanning herself with her own red-tipped fingers. “One of the absolute best things about working for Soixante-Trois is that we get discounted treatments at their salons in London and Paris!”

“Paige gets a bikini wax, like, every month!” Jessica laughed. “Even in winter!”

“I don’t see you complaining, do I?” Paige laughed as she linked her fingers with Jessica. “This holiday has been SO amazing so far… I’d love to be able to live in America, you know, after leaving Soixante-Trois…”

“Really?” Jessica asked. “You wouldn’t miss Scotland?”

“No more than you miss this place most days!” Paige giggled.

“Jess has always talked about wanting to live in Scotland, actually,” Hayley said, making Jessica wince.

“Really?” Paige asked with a chuckle. “Why’d you want to live there, there’s nothing there!”

“Well, um,” Jessica said. “It’s just, you know, I associate ‘Scotland’ with ‘beautiful’…”

“Aww!” Paige cooed, giving Jessica a quick kiss. “Well I associate ‘America’ with ‘awesome’. Want to swap nationalities?”

“…I’ll pass, thanks!” Jessica giggled. Besides, Jessica thought to herself, when we get married, we’ll both be able to take dual nationalities… The American girl forced herself to remain optimistic about her relationship- and her pending engagement, even as Paige’s increasingly flighty behaviour sewed seeds of doubt in her mind.

----------

Natalie sighed as she dragged her tired body toward the dance studio where her lover worked, grinning as she saw the excited teenaged girls leaving the modern building in their dark blue leotards.

“Hi honey, I’m home!” The Englishwoman laughed, greeting Zoe with a gentle kiss.

“Bonsoir,” Zoe giggled. “How was sunny Spain?”

“Spain was as gorgeous as ever,” Natalie replied. “The flight to and from Spain, though…”

“Ugh, AGAIN?” Zoe moaned.

“Same guy, too,” Natalie sighed. “Almost like he’s stalking me and Anna-Jade… He brutalised poor Rosita, as well…”

“The Portuguese girl?” Zoe asked. “She’s, um, the least offensive person I know!”

“She is,” Natalie sighed. “But this obnoxious cu- Ugh, never mind. Can we just get home, please?”

“Sure,” Zoe sighed. “Krystie? Can you handle Ashley’s ‘extended tuition’, please?”

“Sure,” Krystie- Zoe’s business partner- responded.

“Can I get a little of this ‘extended tuition’?” Natalie asked. “We did leave you all alone this morning…”

“Only if you’re wearing a tutu under that dress,” Zoe giggled, before a wave of realisation swept across her face. “Tutu…”

“If you have one, I’ll happily change into it,” Natalie laughed as her hand drifted toward Zoe’s lycra-covered backside.

“No, no- tutu,” Zoe said. “What links you, Anna-Jade and Rosita?”

“Umm… Our genetics?” Natalie asked.

“You were all part of Project Tutu,” Zoe sighed as the two women got into her car. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is ‘le connard’s attempt at revenge…”

“Ugh, another reason to loathe that guy,” Natalie sighed. “Reckon we should release the video?”

“No, then he’d have nothing to lose,” Zoe sighed. “And you don’t have any proof. Yet.”

“We’ll have to get some then, won’t we?” Natalie asked as the two women drove back to their compact London flat.

----------

Anna-Jade’s hands shook as she headed into the small office, where Rachel waited with a sympathetic look on her face. Neither woman had slept particularly well during the night after Anna-Jade’s return from Malaga- Anna-Jade had been too worried about the fallout of her impending complaint, whilst Rachel had been fretting about how she would deal with the complaint. The fact that both women shared a bedroom only compounded their insomnia.

“Hi, Anna-Jade,” Rachel sighed. “We both know why you’re here, so let’s just get down to it.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Anna-Jade mumbled.

“I’ve read the details of the complaint,” Rachel said. “You’re being cited for unprofessional behaviour and refusal of service.”

“All of which is bullshit,” Anna-Jade snorted.

“Yep,” Rachel said. “As corroborated by statements from Lisa and from other passengers. However…”

“Ugh, just put me out of misery now,” Anna-Jade moaned.

“…The customer IS a regular,” Rachel sighed. “And a family friend’s of Antoine Masson’s. We have to be seen to be taking this complaint seriously, even if it is, as you say, utter bullshit.”

“Shall I clear out my locker?” Anna-Jade asked.

“You’re getting a first written warning,” Rachel said, cringing with every word that left her lips. “And it’s on your record that you’re not to fly on any flight that the complainant will be on.”

“Even if he’s the one who seems to be stalking us?” Anna-Jade asked.

“Off the record?” Rachel asked. “I did think it was a bit convenient that he booked a return ticket to Malaga an hour after your duty shifts were changed.”

“Oh, the motherfucker,” Anna-Jade spat. “How did he know?”

“Jacques,” Rachel said in a dark voice. “He’s an employee, he has access to the duty rosters.”

“I thought his silence was too good to be true,” Anna-Jade spat. “Well he’s not beating me again.”

“Nor me,” Rachel said. “I’ve swapped your shifts again, you’ve got today off. If our friend wants to hassle you today, he’s in for a big surprise. You and I will both fly to Rome tomorrow, along with Natalie and Rhianna.”

“Oh- tomorrow?” Anna-Jade asked. “And Rome? So we have to be up extra-early?”

“…And miss the party tonight, yep,” Rachel whispered. “I don’t like it either, I’ve been looking forward to Charlotte’s party for weeks, but I want to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. Knowing Jacques, he won’t rest until we’re ALL sacked.” Anna-Jade sighed as she nodded, knowing that if she was going to fight this, it would have to be by following Rachel’s plan.

“Enjoy your day off,” Rachel sighed as Anna-Jade left the office. “Oh, and can you text Jess for me, tell her happy birthday?” Anna-Jade nodded, the smile slowly returning to her face as she thought of her friend and flatmate.

----------

“Happy birthday to you…” Paige whispered tunefully into Jessica’s ear, waking her from her slumber.

“Mmm…” The American girl dreamily moaned. “Yes, yes it is, hehe!” Jessica and Paige exchanged a long, slow kiss, which quickly turned into an intense lovemaking session that left both girls breathless but very, very much awake.

“Just so you’re aware,” Paige giggled as she cuddled Jessica’s body close to hers, “that WASN’T your main birthday present, hehe!”

“Good,” Jessica said. “Even though YOU’RE the one who’s been going on about New York all month…”

“I truly could never get tired of that city,” Paige sighed dreamily.

“I have a feeling that today’s trip will be extra-special,” Jessica whispered as she and Paige shared yet another passionate embrace.

Twenty minutes later, the two women walked down to the living room hand-in-hand, where Jessica gasped at the sight that greeted her.

“Happy birthday!” Jessica’s mother, father, brother and sister yelled simultaneously, directing Jessica’s attention to the numerous pink balloons and brightly-coloured gifts on the sofa.

“Oh my god, you guys!” Jessica squeaked, giving each member of her family a tight hug.

“Come on, open them quick!” Hayley pleaded. “Some of us have school!”

“And, more importantly, some of us have a road trip to New York!” Jessica’s father chuckled. Jessica’s squeaks of excitement got higher and higher pitched as her excitement levels rose, and she tore the wrapping paper off of her first present, sighing happily at the beautiful strapless blue dress contained within. Each subsequent present only made Jessica happier and happier, whether it was clothing, cosmetics or jewellery.

“And this last one,” Mr. Tyler said as he handed Jessica a flat, rectangular package, “we keep here. But we figured it was as much a present to you as it was to all of us.” Jessica smiled quizzically as she tore open the wrapping paper, before tears started to form in her eyes.

The final gift was a painting of her family, similar to one that had hung over her fireplace when she was a child. The only difference was that in the original painting, Jessica and her brother had worn smart suits, whilst Hayley was the only one wearing a dress. In the new painting, however, the image of Jessica is not only wearing a dress, but also make-up, nail polish and has her long, blonde hair flowing over her shoulders… And it will be the image of her that will take pride of place in the Tyler’s living room, a clear demonstration that they have accepted that their eldest child is ‘Jessica’ and not ‘Jesse’.

“It’s perfect,” Jessica sniffled. “Thank you so, so much!”

“No, thank YOU for being such a good daughter,” Mrs. Tyler whispered, tears forming in her own eyes as she embraced the birthday girl.

----------

“Evening, tiger,” Natalie said as Abbey walked through the flat’s front door and dramatically collapsed in a heap on the sofa. “That good, eh?”

“I swear,” Abbey moaned, her voice muffled by the cushion in which her face was buried, “some of the absolute arseholes we have to deal with…”

“Go on,” Natalie said, genuinely interested by Abbey’s tale.

“40 year old French guy, looks completely innocuous,” Abbey whined. “Made me remake his coffee seven. Fucking. Times. Then finally spat it all over my skirt.”

“Interesting…” Natalie mused. “Who else was on your flight?”

“Lucy, Tasha and Eleanor,” Abbey replied.

“Tasha’s a T-girl too,” Natalie said. “And he was okay with her?”

“Perfectly polite,” Abbey sighed. “It’s like he was just victimising me…”

“I think you need a long, hard… Party, hehe!” Natalie giggled.

“Sounds AWESOME,” Abbey sighed. “But in truth… I’m far too exhausted to party. Really not in the mood for the other ‘long, hard’ thing either…”

“Abbey Watkins isn’t in the mood for sex,” Natalie tutted. “This arsehole has DEFINITELY crossed a line. It’s time we assemble the Avengers.”

“Only if we get to wear the costumes from that superhero party at the start of the month!” Abbey retorted, making Natalie giggled as she grabbed her iPad and opened up a new chat window with her friends.

----------

“Every time I come back here, I love it a bit more,” Paige giggled as she, Jessica and Jessica’s parents strolled down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.

“Hey,” Jessica giggled with mock-hurt, “whose birthday treat is this again?”

“Sorry, sorry,” Paige giggled.

“Well maybe we can come back for your birthday, Paige,” Mrs. Tyler said with a warm grin. “When was your birthday again?”

“Umm… July 5th,” Paige replied, her naturally-pale cheeks reddening as her American companions all chuckled. “I didn’t choose it or anything…”

“Well, as long as you don’t mind also celebrating a country breaking away from Britain the day before,” Mr. Tyler said, making Paige giggle.

“Believe me,” Paige laughed. “I am all for countries declaring independence from the rest of Britain!”

“…And here are,” Jessica said with a warm grin and she and her lover stood beneath the iconic 102-stprey skyscraper that dominated New York’s skyline for over 85 years. A short while later, the four travellers were stood on the 86th storey observation deck, gazing in awe at the sprawling city beneath them. Jessica heart began to beat faster and her legs began to quiver as she reached into her handbag for the ring she’d kept on her person ever since her arrival in America.

“This is incredible,” Paige gasped. “One off the bucket list, heh. One off the TOP of the bucket list.”

“I can think of another thing to come off that list,” Jessica whispered as she turned Paige to face her and took the Scottish girl’s hands in her own. “Paige, from the very second I set eyes on you, I knew that I would never love anyone the way I love you. Your beauty is surpassed only by your kindness. You’re not just my lover, you’re my best friend, and I treasure every day I spend with you.”

“J-Jess?” Paige asked, shocked by her lover’s sudden change in behaviour.

“Paige Campbell Robertson,” Jessica whispered, producing the ring box and earning gasps from everyone on the observation deck, “will you marry me?”

“J-Jess?” Paige asked, her mismatched eyes widening as shock filled her body.

“P-Paige?” Jess asked as tension caused her body to freeze to the spot. Just say yes, Paige, Jessica thought. Please, say yes…

“I- I’m sorry,” Paige mumbled, causing the adrenaline to drain from Jessica’s body. “I- I need a moment. Excuse me…” Jessica watched in horror as Paige disappeared back into the vast skyscraper.

“Paige?” Jessica whispered as tears began to form in her eyes. It didn’t take long for her to break down in floods of tears, bawling her eyes out as her mother comforted her with a long, tight hug.

----------

The drive from New York back to Baltimore was conducted in deathly silence. After Jessica found Paige in a ladies’ restroom, she’d attempted to talk things through with the Scottish girl, only to be instantly rebuffed with a feeble promise of talking once the two women arrived back home. When they eventually returned to the family home, though, all Jessica wanted to do was run into her bedroom, lock the door and spend the rest of the evening crying into her pillow- which is precisely what she did.

“Jessica?” Mrs. Tyler asked, gently knocking on her distraught daughter’s door. “Jessica? Are you coming down? We- we still have a reservation for dinner…”

“I’m not going,” Jessica sobbed.

“Jessica…” Mrs. Tyler sighed. “Can- can I please come in?” Jessica moaned as she got off her bed and unlocked the door, sighing as her mother gave her another tight hug.

“Wh-where’s Paige?” Jessica asked.

“Downstairs,” Jessica’s mother said. “She- she’s still shell-shocked, I don’t think she was expecting the proposal at all… Jessica, you should go and talk to her.”

“How can I when she obviously doesn’t love me?” Jessica blubbed, prompting another hug from her mother.

“Just talk to her,” Mrs. Tyler whispered. Anxiously, Jessica nodded and released herself from her mother’s embrace, heading downstairs with her mascara still streaked across her face. The American girl shuddered with shame as she walked into her lounge to be greeted by sympathetic stares from her father, mother and brother, before entering the kitchen, where her Scottish lover was waiting for her.

“Hey Paige,” Jessica whispered, taking a seat opposite the dark-haired girl- whose own trashed make-up betrayed the fact that she had also been crying.

“Hey Jess,” Paige whispered. “It- it looks like there’s a big hoo-ha in England, I’ve been bombarded with Facebook messages from Natalie about a plan they’re cooking up…”

“Paige,” Jessica whispered firmly. “We- we need to talk about what happened, what happened earlier today at the Empire State Building.”

“I know,” Paige sniffled, tears forming in her eyes again. “Jess, you-“

“I want to speak first,” Jessica mumbled. “Paige… I love you. I’m IN love with you. I want to marry you… I want us to be together forever.”

“Jessica,” Paige said as a solitary tear trickled down her cheek. “I- I do love you… But…”

“No,” Jessica moaned. “Please, no buts…”

“But I’m only twenty-one,” Paige sighed. “I- I want to have fun, see the world…”

“I want to do those things too,” Jessica said, gripping Paige’s hand in hers. “With you.”

“Jess…” Paige whispered.

“Even if we don’t get married immediately, we can still do those things,” Jessica pleaded. “Paige, I’ve never been sure of anything in my life. I want to be with you forever. Are you honestly telling me you don’t feel the same way?”

“Jess…” Paige whispered. “It’s- it’s not you, it’s me… Marriage, even getting engaged… It’s a big step, it’s one I’m not sure I’m ready to make yet… I’m only 21, for Christ’s sake!”

“We know people who got engaged when they were just eighteen,” Jessica retorted.

“Jessica,” Paige sighed. “When I’m ready... I- I just can’t commit right now… And neither should you.”

“What- what do you mean?” Jessica stammered.

“You’ve only been on oestrogen for four months, Jess,” Paige said. “Take it from someone who’s been on it over a year- you are going to change. A LOT. These feelings you have right now… There’s no guarantee you’ll still feel that may a year from now.”

“…Are you saying that you’ll feel differently?” Jessica asked, a wave of panic sweeping over her. “Are you telling me that you feel differently about us now?”

“You- you’re not the woman I originally fell in love with,” Paige whispered, causing Jessica’s insides to churn. “I’m not the woman who originally fell in love with you.”

“But I do still love you,” Jessica moaned.

“And I love you too,” Paige whispered. “But- but we need more time.”

“…Okay,” Jessica whispered, her chest gripped with a pain she had never felt before.

“I’m NOT breaking up with you, Jess,” Paige whispered. “I want us to be together. All those things we talked about… I want us to do them together too. I just- I just can’t commit to marriage. Not just yet.”

“I understand,” Jessica mumbled.

“Ask me again in a year,” Paige said.

“Will 22 really be that different from 21?” Jessica asked.

“We’ll find out in a year,” Paige whispered, squeezing Jessica’s hand supportively. “Meanwhile, your parents have promised us a big, fancy birthday dinner… And your make-up looks like shit, hehe!”

“Look who’s talking!” Jessica laughed, wiping some of Paige’s smeared mascara off of her face with her finger. “Paige… I’m not going to lie. I AM disappointed, I AM upset…”

“Would you rather I accepted the proposal because I felt I had to?” The Scottish girl asked.

“No, of course not,” Jessica replied. “I want you to want to marry me… If you need time, then I guess I’ll have to give you that time. But- God, this sounds dumb…”

“No, go on,” Paige said softly.

“If you want me to wait a year…” Jessica said hesitantly. “You have to wait a year as well. Don’t tell me you need to wait and then propose yourself, I- I just don’t think I’d be able to handle that.”

“Okay,” Paige whispered. “I promise.”

“Thank you,” Jessica whispered. “I- I love you, Paige.”

“I love you, Jessica,” Paige said in a quiet, mournful voice.

----------

Dawn broke on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, bringing with it a sense of trepidation. Jessica’s birthday meal had progressed smoothly following her talk with Paige, though when both women went to bed that night, the usual ‘spark’ between them, the usual atmosphere that caused the two women to end almost every night in each other's arms was conspicuous by its absence.

In London, Anna-Jade impromptu day off had helped her to calm down following her encounters with the nightmare customer, but as she and Rachel got dressed ahead of their working day, Anna-Jade feared that matters would only go from bad to worse.

“Don’t look so anxious,” Rachel advised the Irishwoman as she zipper up her tight pencil dress. “What’s done is done, you’ll be on a flight with me today so nothing’ll happen. I promise you.”

“Easy to say,” Anna-Jade snorted. “You heard what Natalie said in the group chat last night- the exact same thing you said in my hearing yesterday.”

“I agree, it’s no coincidence,” Rachel said. “Book look at it this way- I’m a member of Project Tutu- well, too, hehe! If he comes after me… Then we’ll have our proof.”

“Are you really willing to risk your career to prove this?” Anna-Jade asked. “You, of all people?”

“I’m certainly not willing to risk YOUR career,” Rachel snorted. “Besides, if he DOES go at me? I reckon Natalie’s plan will work and we won’t see Mr. Obnoxious ever again.”

“Assuming the plan doesn’t get us into even DEEPER trouble,” Anna-Jade sighed as the two women left the apartment and headed to the airport. A short while later, the two women, accompanied by Natalie and Carly, were high above the English Channel on an aeroplane bound for Berlin.

“Bad news,” Rachel sighed as she entered the kitchen area of the aeroplane. “Guess who’s on board?”

“Oh- what?” Anna-Jade hissed. “You are motherfucking kidding me…”

“I checked the passenger list this morning after we arrived,” Rachel said in a dark voice. “He definitely wasn’t there then.”

“That guy must be made of money to keep buying last-minute tickets,” Natalie snorted. “Then again, if he is a friend of Masson’s…” All four stewardesses groaned as the call light illuminated on the side panel of the kitchen.

“Ah, speak of the literal devil,” Anna-Jade sighed, straightening her hat and skirt and preparing to push the drinks trolley into the aeroplane’s aisle.

“I’VE got this,” Rachel said, fastening the gold buttons on her blazer and straightening her hat, before pushing the trolley into the narrow aisle. The blonde supervisor returned eight minutes later, the scowl on her face (and large coffee stain on her skirt) a dead giveaway of how her interaction with the customer went down.

“Ladies,” Rachel said, taking several deep breaths to calm herself. “We are taking this motherfucker DOWN.”

----------

“I know this may not have been the birthday you were hoping for,” Mrs. Tyler said as she gave Jessica a tight hug, “but you’ll have plenty more of them- ALL of them you’ll celebrate as the woman you were destined to be.”

“Thanks,” Jessica sniffed, before receiving a silent, awkward hug from her father. “We’ll be back before the end of the year, I promise.”

“You’d better be,” Jessica’s father chuckled. “And Paige? Any time you want to celebrate the fourth of July- and the fifth- with us, you’re more than welcome.”

“Thanks, Mr. Tyler,” Paige laughed, giving the middle-aged American man a tight hug.

“Have a safe flight!” Mrs. Tyler yelled after the taxi that bore her Jessica and Paige back to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“Ahhhh…” Jessica moaned as she allowed her tired body to relax onto the back seat of the taxi. “I SO can’t wait to get back to London.”

“I dunno,” Paige retorted. “Every time I come here it gets harder and harder to leave… Though this time, yeah… Jess, I- I really am sorry, but-“

“We’ve said all we need to say to each other,” Jessica said in a cold, quiet voice. “Let’s- let’s just get home, okay?”

“Okay,” Paige whispered, outwardly projecting a look of confidence when in reality, her insides were just as shredded as Jessica’s.

The proposal had caught Paige completely off-guard. She’d not harboured thoughts of marriage at any point during the 21 months that she and Jessica had been dating, so when Jessica presented her with the (admittedly very beautiful) ring, Paige’s first instinct had been to panic. Paige had always lived her life at supersonic speed, bouncing between jobs- her job immediately prior to joining Soixante-Trois, where she worked as a lifeguard, had lasted only four months, but was still by far and away her longest period of employment, so from Paige’s perspective, spending two years in the same job felt like being stuck in a rut- and Paige fretted that the same thing could be said of her relationship.

Paige’s relationship with Jessica was her first serious, long-term relationship- in fact, it was her first relationship of any description. Paige had had flings and one night stands before, but never anyone who could be described as a ‘girlfriend’. When she looked into Jessica’s lagoon blue eyes on the first day they met, though, Paige knew that Jessica would something much, much more than a simple fling- but if she’d been told that Jessica would propose to her before she turned 22, Paige would probably have run a mile. Whilst the thought of making a commitment appealed to Jessica, Paige’s emotion… Was fear.

Fear of her carefree, youthful life slipping away before her very eyes, fear of her fun adventures being replaced by bills and ironing boards and mortgages. When Paige had started her oestrogen treatments, it had revitalised her, helped her feel truly young again- it had even re-energised her relationship with Jessica. However, the proposal seemed to have sucked all the life out of the relationship- and both Paige and Jessica were worried that it was now damaged beyond repair…

----------

“I’m sorry, Rachel,” Alana said with a sympathetic sigh. “We have to uphold the complaint, it’s- we literally have no other choice.”

“Urgh,” Rachel moaned, leaning her head back onto the office chair’s plush headrest. “I know, I know, just- you surely can see that the guy’s a troublemaker, right? That he’s deliberately persecuting me and my girls?”

“I also know WHY,” Alana said in a much darker voice. “I don’t know what it is you did to Lacroix- and I’m not denying for one second that he had it coming- but you had to have known that you were starting a war- and with Masson on his side, it’s a war you simply can’t win.”

“So we’re going to have to accept the fact that we’re going to be harassed?” Rachel asked. “He is deliberately buying tickets he knows that we’ll be on, just to mess with us!”

“That certainly what it looks like,” Alana sighed. “But he’s entitled to fly on any flight he wants. You know that we believe that the customer is always right, especially one who pumps as much money into the company as he does.”

“And that gives him the right to be a bully?” Rachel asked.

“He’s not crossed any lines,” Alana shrugged. “Skirted close to them, yes, but he’s not laid a finger on you or any of the other girls, OR verbally abused any of the other passengers, not since that one time earlier in the week, anyway. Unless he does… He’s untouchable, I’m afraid.” Rachel nodded, before letting out a heavy sigh.

“Well, thanks anyway, Alana,” Rachel said.

“Don’t take it too hard, Rachel,” Alana said. “Masson WILL recognise what you and the girls are worth once the reality show goes out, this WILL all be forgotten soon.” Rachel sighed again, before nodding and leaving the room, where Natalie, Anna-Jade and Abbey and Rhianna (freshly returned from Barcelona) were waiting for her.

“Any news?” Natalie asked.

“None good,” Rachel sighed. “The plan, therefore, is a go. Spread the word. We move tomorrow.”

----------

The following morning, at the same time the aeroplane containing Jessica and Paige was touching down, Rachel, Anna-Jade, Tanisha and Abbey were striding coolly through Heathrow airport to the aeroplane that they would be assigned to.

"Are we ready, girls?" Rachel asked.

"Is every, you know, 'thing' in place?" Abbey asked.

"All ready and waiting," Rachel said. "Remember- I'll go first, then Abbey, then- if we need her- Tanisha."

"And you'd better hope for his sake that we don't need me!" Tanisha giggled.

"Are we even sure he'll be on the plane?" Anna-Jade asked.

"All four of us on one place?" Rachel retorted. "He'll be here. He won't stop until he's completed his 'mission'... So neither will we."

"Just feel kinda bad dragging Tanisha into it," Abbey shrugged. "Only just out of probation..."

"He'd have come after me sooner or later, if what you say is true," Tanisha shrugged. "I don't mind being 'bait'."

"I'm going to put in a good word with management," Rachel said with a warm smile. "Make sure you're top of the list for being a mentor in August!" Tanisha giggled as the four women boarded their plane and prepared for their pre-flight checks. Before long, the packed jumbo jet was in the air, heading west toward Dublin, and the four stewardesses were huddled together in the kitchen, waiting for the call light to illuminate on the wall panel.

"Come on..." Anna-Jade mumbled, before allowing herself a quiet cheer as the light illuminated. With a defiant smirk, Rachel straightened her skirt and her hat and pushed the drinks trolley out into the aisle, where, as she predicted, the passenger who had made her and her friends' lives hell was waiting.

"How may I help you, sir?" Rachel asked in her sweetest voice.

"As if you could," the passenger snorted. "Every flight I'm on, I see you or one of your equally useless travesties trying and failing to do even the simplest tasks. What you can do for me is admit just how useless you are!"

"...Would you not like a drink?" Rachel asked.

"No!" The man snapped. "I want you to tell this aeroplane how useless you are, you stupid girl!"

"Excuse me?" A middle-aged woman with a refined London accent said, leaving her seat to approach the gentleman. "May I have a word?"

"If the word is to tell this bitch to do her job properly, then by all means," the man said, smiling smugly at Rachel.

"Well this- I won't even repeat the word you just used- happens to be my very intelligent and very beautiful daughter," the middle-aged woman said, bringing a smile to Rachel's face and completely erasing the one on the face of her customer.

"You- your-" the passenger stammered.

"And I feel she is owed an apology for the way you've been treating her and her friends," Rachel's mother continued.

"...I'm sorry," the customer mumbled, cowed by the firm but polite demeanour of Rachel's mother. "I- I'm not thirsty."

"Please call if you need anything else," Rachel said. Really, Rachel thought to herself as she pulled her trolley back to the kitchen, please do...

"Kinda almost forget for a second that we have real customers as well as him," Anna-Jade asked as she grabbed two wine glasses from a cupboard and prepared to head out into the body of the plane. "How's it going?"

"One down," Rachel said smugly. "Our friend's learning a thing or two about humility, but-" Rachel grinned as the same call light that had summoned her illuminated once again.

"Miss Watkins will be happy to give him a second lesson," Abbey said, straightening her hat and pulling her trolley into the aeroplane aisle toward the passenger that had made her flight two days earlier a total misery.

"How may I help you, sir?" Abbey asked, grinning internally as the passenger briefly scanned his surroundings before answering.

"Aren't you the same bimbo who couldn't make a cup of coffee correctly on Thursday?" The passenger asked, and it was all Abbey could do to not jump up and down with excitement at the insults that were being thrown her way.

"Would you like a cup of coffee now, sir?" Abbey asked.

"No, because you wouldn't know coffee if someone came up and pissed it in your face, you stupid whore!" The passenger yelled.

"Oi!" A loud, thick Essex accent yelled from two rows behind the belligerent passenger. "How dare you call my daughter a whore!" Abbey had to bite her lip to prevent herself from laughing as she saw the colour drain from the Frenchman's face.

"Your- I- I'm sorry," the passenger mumbled.

"Louder!" Abbey's mother screeched, prompting sniggers from many of the passengers surrounding the cringing Frenchman.

"I'm sorry," the passenger said. "I- I'm not thirsty."

"Please call if you need anything else," Abbey said, retreating to the kitchen where she shared an excited high-five with her supervisor.

"Wow," Rachel giggled. "Your mum can YELL!"

"Yep!" Abbey squeaked. "You're up next, Tanisha!"

"Nah," the dark-skinned girl laughed in her thick Birmingham accent. "He'd learned his lesson, he wouldn't-" Tanisha's sentence was cut short when the call light illuminated for a third time. "Are my seams straight?"

"Straight as an arrow," Rachel said with pride as Tanisha balanced her blue pillbox hat atop her smooth, jet black hair. "Go get him." Tanisha smirked as she pushed the trolley into the aisle, stopping next to the passenger who had harassed Rachel and Abbey.

"Can I help you, sir?" Tanisha asked, prompting a smirk from the belligerent passenger.

"What kind of accent is that?" The obnoxious Frenchman spat. "You sound like you're brain-damaged. Can you pour water out of a jug, or is that too much for your tiny brain?"

"Mate," the English passenger in the seat next to the Frenchman whispered. "Give up while you're behind!"

"The only thing that should be 'given up' is this useless bitch and her job!" The Frenchman snorted.

"HOW DARE YOU!" A loud, angry West Indian accent bellowed from the front or the plane. The belligerent passenger watched in horror as a large, elderly dark-skinned woman rose from her seat and stormed toward him. "HOW DARE YOU TALK TO MY GRANDDAUGHTER LIKE THAT!"

"Your gr- gr- gr-" The Frenchman stammered.

"YOU APOLOGISE TO HER RIGHT NOW!" Tanisha's grandmother bellowed, her mouth mere inches from the terrified man's face. "APOLOGISE BEFORE I MAKE YOU!"

"I- I- I need the toilet," the no longer belligerent passenger whimpered, rising from his seat and scurrying to the tiny toilet as fast as his legs could carry him.

"You go about your work, Tanisha," the young stewardess's grandmother said with pride as she received a round of applause from the entire aeroplane.

"Mission: accomplished," Tanisha said with pride as she returned to a hero's welcome in the aeroplane's kitchen.

"Yeah," Abbey sighed. "We're all going to get written up, though."

"How?" Rachel asked. "We didn't do anything, our families did. And given that they're going to submit three separate reports of our new best friend disrupting their flight... I reckon we won't be seeing him for a long time."

"And if we do," Tanisha said with a grin, "he's going to be checking every aisle carefully in case we have a family member stashed aboard!"

"So yes," Rachel giggled. "Mission very much accomplished!"

----------

"You know," Alana sighed as Rachel sat down in her plush chair, coolly crossing one leg over the other, "I really could come down on you like a ton of bricks. Planting your family on board to catch him out like that? That could have backfired on you VERY badly."

"What 'planting'?" Rachel asked with fake innocence. "Abbey, Tanisha and I were merely treating our families to a weekend in Dublin. My mum's always wanted to see me at work, this seemed like the perfect opportunity."

"You've cost the company a valuable repeat customer," Alana sighed. "You know he actually flew back with Ryanair? It's not funny, Rachel."

"You wouldn't be saying that if you were in my position," Rachel retorted. "And does this company really have no loyalty to the women who work hard every day in difficult situations and even more difficult uniforms?"

"Stewardesses are replaceable, customers aren't," Alana said, bringing a deep, dark frown to Rachel's face. "Just- just go home, Rachel. We can't punish you or any of your 'gang' for this as no complaint was issued. But off the record? I wouldn't apply for any promotions anytime soon if I were you. And even further off the record, there's no guarantee that Lacroix will stop here."

"And even further off the record," Rachel spat. "You seem to have forgotten what it's like for those of us who actually go up there day in, day out."

"GO HOME," Alana urged. "I'll see you on Monday." Rachel nodded and left the office, squirming as her corset and her skirt felt tighter than ever. Rachel had spent her life toeing the company line, saying the right things, sucking up to the right people to get ahead in her career. In the space of a week, she had gone from being one of the company's hottest management prospects to effectively blackballed- and yet, Rachel didn't feel as miserable as she thought she should. She felt almost happy- and that happiness was reinforced when she stepped into the locker room to be greeted by the smiling faces of Abbey, Anna-Jade and Tanisha- who weren't just her colleagues, but were truly her friends.

"Well, that was a disaster," Rachel sighed.

"Have we- you know- got complaints?" Tanisha asked.

"Nope," Rachel said as she stripped off her uniform. "But we can forget about any promotions anytime soon."

"Ugh," Anna-Jade spat. "All because that greaseball was sucking up to Masson. I guess it's true what they say: Money CAN buy you anything." Rachel sighed as she stared at her underwear-clad reflection in the mirror, barely able to look at herself thanks to her acute sense of shame.

"Not anymore," Rachel said, loosening the laces of her corset before removing the restrictive garment and taking a deep breath.

"Umm, Rachel, you know you could get in BIG trouble for that, right?" Abbey asked.

"I don't care anymore," Rachel scoffed. "Who honestly thought that corsets were appropriate work attire for flight attendants, anyway? I'll tell you: an out of touch, borderline perverted MAN who feels that all women are good for is being ogled. Well I say Antoine Masson is long overdue an attitude adjustment. And I'm going to be the one to give it to him." Rachel smiled with pride as one by one, Anna-Jade, Abbey and Tanisha all removed their corsets, stuffing them in their overnight bags before stepping into their commuting dresses, giggling at the way their 'unenhanced' figures filled out their dresses as they strode toward the tube station to return to their respective homes.

----------

"Whoa, let me get this straight," Jessica asked as she and her friends shared a bottle of wine. "Rachel Harrison broke the rules?"

"Yep," Rachel said with a proud smile.

"On an unrelated topic, did you two fly through the Bermuda Triangle on your way home?" Natalie asked, earning a playful shove from Rachel.

"It's taken me a while to learn," Rachel said, "but I finally realise that friends are more important than a career. And I wouldn't trade any of you guys for anything."

"Anyway," Zoe asked, "how was America? Did you enjoy your adventure in New York?" Jessica forced a smile on her face as she locked eyes with Paige- who, Jessica noted to herself, was also wearing an obviously fake smile.

"It was okay," the American girl said. "I've been there lots of times..."

"...Paige?" Zoe asked.

"It was fun, yeah," the Scottish girl said.

"Did you get everything you wanted in New York?" Anna-Jade asked.

"...More or less," Paige said, again locking eyes with her American lover.

"I- I'm just glad to be back among friends," Jessica said. "Like Rachel said, all of us in this room, I really do believe we'll ALWAYS be friends."

"Always!" The other women toasted, clinking their glasses with each other.

"Always?" Jessica whispered to Paige, who smiled and clinked her glass with Jessica's.

"Always," Paige whispered in return.

If only, Jessica thought to herself. If only you truly meant that...



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