“Hey. We’ve landed,” were the next words I heard.
Landed? Landed where?
I forced my eyes to open. “Where are we?”
“London, you idiot.”
We were already in London? How the fuck had that happened?
I stared at Jeremy in complete shock. We did seem to be in an airplane. Oh Christ, I was in an airplane! I sat up quickly, eyes widening in panic.
Jeremy gripped my arm, keeping me in my seat. “I said, we’ve landed, you moron. Relax. You slept through the entire flight.”
Oh thank God!
“We’ve landed?” I asked breathlessly, hardly believing it.
He nodded. “Yep.”
“Oh thank God.”
“Yeah, I feel the same way,” he said, not sounding particularly happy.
I furrowed my brow. “I thought you loved to fly.”
He gave me the meanest look. “I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s get our stuff.”
I realized that the other passengers were standing and getting their shit together and moving into the aisles.
“Did something happen?” I asked, wondering why he seemed so pissed off.
He gave me another exasperated look as he stood up. “No, Martin. The flight was fine. Except my boyfriend was practically comatose and I kept having to check his breathing and responses so I wouldn’t worry he was fucking overdosing on fucking Xanax!”
Suddenly, everything came back to me from the morning. I mean, some of it clearly and some of it not so clearly. Had I taken more Xanax in the airport? I couldn’t remember. Maybe? I couldn’t remember getting on the plane. Or even leaving the departure lounge. I remembered going through security feeling more and more anxious and wondering why the meds didn’t seem to be working.
“Oh Christ, Jeremy. I’m so sorry.” I mumbled, embarrassed and still confused.
“Can we talk about it later? We need to get off this plane.”
I stood up, feeling a little lightheaded but otherwise okay. I grabbed my carry-on and moved into the aisle behind Jeremy. I didn’t say anything while we waited to deplane or while we moved with the other passengers to disembark. He was obviously furious with me and I’m sure I deserved it. I felt thrilled to have escaped the horror of the flight but terrible that it had been at Jeremy’s expense. And I regretted not telling him how scared I’d been.
Heathrow airport seemed huge and bright after the confines of the plane. We moved in silence along the hallway to the customs gate then waited a long time to be processed through. Luckily, because our paperwork was in order and I guess we didn’t look suspicious, we made it through without incident.
Jeremy affected a fake cheerfulness in his interactions with the customs agent, merely for appearances. Once we were out of there and heading for Terminal Five and the baggage carousel his mood returned to its earlier sourness.
I felt awful but I didn’t really know how to fix this. Every time I tried to apologize he just put me off and said he didn’t want to talk about it right now. So far our exciting trip to Europe was tanking big time and it was all my fault.
Terminal Five was a mass of people searching for their bags and milling about. I hoped to God our luggage had made it or the trip would be even more of a failure.
As soon as Jeremy’s black duffle bag came down the chute and around to where we were standing, I stepped forward and grabbed it before he could. Although I still felt off and needed to get something to eat, I hauled the heavy bag off the carousel and plunked it down at Jeremy’s feet.
He just looked at me and then back to the chute. I did the same thing for my roller suitcase, and then the feeling of lightheadedness and hunger that I’d felt upon waking came over me again.
“I need to get something to eat, Jeremy.”
“Okay. Me too. They didn’t have much on the plane anyway.”
I double checked that the luggage had our tags on it. I wasn’t going to risk this vacation getting any worse.
Jeremy gave me a questioning look.
“Just making sure,” I said. “It’s all good. Let’s go.”
We started moving towards the food court.
“Burger King?” Jeremy asked. “I’m fucking starving and I don’t want to wait.”
I nodded. “Sure.” I was in no position to be picky.
We fumbled a bit with the UK currency but managed to buy a couple of value meals and find a small table at which to eat them.
I don’t think a fast food burger had ever tasted so good! I was so hungry and now kind of depressed about Jeremy’s sour mood. I didn’t look at him as I gobbled it down, and slurped my coke.
When I’d finished and finally looked up, he was staring at me, only halfway through his burger.
“What?” I said, starting to feel angry myself.
“You were that hungry?”
“Maybe I should have woken you up on the plane.”
I shook my head. “I’m glad you didn’t.”
He regarded me with some thought. “Martin, why didn’t you tell me you were so terrified?”
“I thought you wanted to talk about this later.”
“Fine,” he said, raising his burger to his lips.
“Fine,” I said. “I’m going to the bathroom.” I stood up.
“Wait,” Jeremy said. “Give me the bottle of Xanax.”
“What?” I asked in surprise.
“Give me the bottle,” he repeated with a very stern look. Usually, the only time Jeremy would be stern with me was if we were role playing in the bedroom. I wasn’t used to this in real time.
“Why? I’m not going to take anymore until our return trip.”
He took a deep breath and I could see that he was reigning himself in. “Just give it to me.”
I pressed my lips together. I didn’t want to cause a scene. “Fine. Here.”
He stuffed the bottle in a pocket of his carry-on while I strode to the men’s room.
I felt a lot better after I’d relieved myself and washed my hands. After splashing some water on my face for good measure I walked back to Jeremy.
We took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. I was glad I’d decided to bring just my camera and zoom lens with me, which I’d packed into my one large suitcase. It was annoying enough lugging that around. Jeremy had packed a large duffle bag instead of a suitcase so he had that and his carry-on bag slung over opposite shoulders.
The express was crowded. I jostled someone’s shoulder and he turned and told me to “Watch out there, mate.” He glanced at me and at Jeremy, and smiled. “Youse from overseas?”
I nodded. “Canada. Sorry to be so clumsy.”
“No worries, mate. Welcome to the UK.”
“Thanks,” I said, pleased to receive such greetings after the depressing beginning to our trip.
“Martin. This is Jeremy.”
Jeremy nodded and said a brief Hello.
Gavin found some empty seats so we gladly sat down with him. He seemed nice and it was a relief to have someone else to talk to.
“You blokes on vacation, or here for work?” He asked as we settled in.
“A little of both,” I said. “I’m a photographer doing a piece on the New Forest for Outside Magazine and Jeremy’s a model.”
Gavin grinned at Jeremy. “A model, eh? That’s a posh deal. Here for the London fashion scene?”
Jeremy shook his head. “Not really.”
Gavin waited for Jeremy to say something else. When he didn’t he turned back to me. “So, photography, eh? I’ve dabbled a bit. People say I’m quite good.”
I nodded, trying to feign interest. I was beginning to wish I’d been less friendly. “That’s great. What do you like to photograph?”
“Oh, this and that. People. My dogs. The city.” He took out his phone and flipped through to the gallery, showing me some photos. They weren’t bad but they weren’t fantastic or anything.
“Nice,” I said. “Do you know how long it takes to get from Paddington Station to Berkeley Street by taxi?” I needed to change the subject.
He shrugged, putting his phone away. “Ten, fifteen minutes. You should use Uber.”
Jeremy perked up. “Thank you. I’ve been telling him that for months.”
“I’m old school,” I said.
“Yeah?” Jeremy said, regarding me speculatively. “Well, I’m new school. I think we should take an Uber to the hotel.”
We stared at each other, ignoring Gavin and engaged in a private stand off.
“Fine. We’ll use Uber,” I conceded, figuring that after all I’d put him through it was the least I could do.
Jeremy’s expression softened and he sat back in his seat. “Thank you.”
Gavin looked back and forth between us. He raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything.
For the rest of the fifteen minute journey we made small talk and Gavin filled us in on some cool things to do in and around London. When we parted at the station, he wished us well and strode off to meet his wife and kids.
Jeremy tapped something into his phone and said. “Shit.”
He looked at me with some annoyance. “Uber is warning me that Heathrow can be a difficult pick-up because of the taxi regulations.”
I nodded but held my tongue. This was his decision.
“We might as well take a cab.”
We made our way through the huge train station, passing the statue of Paddington Bear without a word, and I wondered how much fun this trip was actually going to be now that I’d fucked it up completely. I almost regretted agreeing to accompany Jeremy. Almost. But maybe there was still time to fix things.
We were both exhausted. Even though I’d slept for six hours I felt drained and it seemed weird that darkness had fallen since back in Canada it was only late afternoon. Here in London it was nine thirty and I could tell that Jeremy was tired, especially since it seemed he hadn’t slept much or at all on the flight, thanks to me. I think we both felt desperate to get to the hotel.
Walking out of the station into the night, we found ourselves at the taxi stand. Literally dozens of London Cabs were lined up ready to take passengers. As we approached one of the drivers got out and came around.
“Welcome to London! Here, let me take your bag.”
“Thank you,” I said, feeling a huge amount of relief as we placed ourselves into the safety and professionalism of London’s famed taxi service. Even Jeremy’s mood seemed to lighten as we drove through brightly lit downtown London.
At one point I quietly reached for his hand and he let me take it. He didn’t look at me – he was entranced by what he saw out the window of the cab, but he let me take it. And when I got up the courage to give his fingers a soft squeeze, the gesture was returned and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Maybe our trip wasn’t ruined after all.
It only took about ten minutes to get to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Mayfair.
As we walked into the large, bright lobby, a young man at the desk smiled with a warm welcome.
“Good evening, gentlemen. Welcome to London!”
“Thank you,” I said, eternally grateful for all the cheerful people we’d met so far. “We have a reservation.”
“Yes, Sir. Last name?”
He typed something into his computer. “Martin?”
“Yes,” I said. “Should be an executive King suite?”
“Yes, Sir. May I have your credit card please?”
I handed him my credit card and glanced at Jeremy. He was looking around the bright lobby with the first expression of pleasure on his face I’d seen since we’d arrived. Thank fucking Christ.
“Here are two room keys, Sir. You’re on the top floor. Room 722. Have a pleasant stay. Please call down if you need anything at all.” He handed me my VISA back and the two room cards.
We were the only ones riding the elevator but neither of us said anything. But as we entered our beautifully appointed King suite, Jeremy couldn’t contain himself.
“Wow!” he said as he dumped his duffle on the large bed. “You sure know how to treat a guy.”
I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not, what with his former grumpiness. But he seemed genuinely impressed.
“Well, at least I did something right,” I said, still feeling shitty about the flight.
The room was quite spacious, with modern furnishings including a very plush looking King bed, lots of mirrors and a separate suite with a leather love seat, armchair, coffee table and corner desk. I pushed my suitcase into a space by the small sofa and walked over to the window. When I opened the curtains and looked out at the city, we were both struck speechless.
The view was incredible, the entire lighted city spread out below us. The only thing that made the view better was Jeremy coming up behind me and wrapping his arms around me.
I sighed with relief and clung to his arm. “I’m the one who should be sorry.”
“Yeah,” he said, resting his chin on my shoulder. “Well, I’m the one who wouldn’t accept your apology earlier.”
We stood like that for a long time, just absorbing the view and enjoying being close.
“I had no idea you were so scared to get on that plane,” Jeremy said finally. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
I shrugged, glad I wasn’t looking at him though he could probably see my reflection in the window. “Ah, Jeremy, I was so embarrassed. It was stupid to be so scared.”
“Yeah, well I would have told you that. But then I would have helped you deal with it. I would have made sure you didn’t take too many pills.”
“I know.” I still felt like I’d taken just the right amount, since I didn’t remember anything. But it must have been pretty rough on him.
He let go of me and backed up. I turned around.
“I really am sorry. I didn’t mean to put you in that position.” I hope I conveyed my regret effectively because it came from the heart.
“I know you didn’t, but next time be honest with me okay? No more secrets.”
I nodded. “No more secrets.”
“And, Jesus Christ, Martin. We’re in fucking London!” His smile was so big it lit up the room almost as bright as the city outside our window.
I grabbed his shoulders and planted one on him, so desperate to connect in an intimate way with the man who’d given me the silent treatment the last couple of hours. He opened to me and responded with equal enthusiasm. When we finally released each other it was as if we’d never quarrelled.
“I’m still hungry,” he said. “I could eat a steak.”
“Then you shall have steak. But let’s get room service. I’m too tired to go anywhere.”
We ordered sirloins and a couple of beers from Nightingales, the hotel restaurant, and ate them on the bed, while we cruised through the TV channels looking for a familiar program. Eventually we settled on Say Yes to the Dress, just so we could make fun of the crazy brides and their opinionated families, and also secretly admire some of the dresses.
I suddenly had a flash of something. I looked over at Jeremy.
“Hey, did you make a joke about asking me to marry you or something? When we were getting on the plane. I have this weird memory…”
Jeremy nearly choked on his steak. “I’d forgotten about that. It was the only way I could explain how loopy you were when we boarded our flight. I said I’d just asked you, so you were kind of emotional and happy.”
I stared at him and he looked at me all innocent.
“That’s so cute.”
He shrugged. “I was desperate. You were a mess.”
“Did I say yes?”
He gave me a look like I was deranged. “Of course you fucking said yes. You would have said yes to anything at that point. You got on a fucking plane, remember?”
I blushed. “Well, I don’t remember much.”
He looked at me, contemplating. “Hmm. Well, you said yes. You’d have been a moron not to. You know I love you. Why wouldn’t you marry me?”
I stared at him, suddenly feeling like he wasn’t joking.
“Are you serious?”
“Why, you got someone else?” he asked cheekily.
I swallowed. “Jeremy, stop joking. Do you really want to marry me?”
He looked at me, eyes widening. “Well, after that stunt you pulled with the Xanax? And after spending six hours on a plane wondering if you were sleeping or passed out? You think I’d do that for just anybody? Maybe if we were married you’d actually be honest with me about your fears. I’d certainly hope you would be.”
“Fuck, stop it. I don’t deserve you.”
“Of course you don’t. But you’ve got me.”
“Then yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.” I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation.
I couldn’t stop myself then. I turned and tackled him, holding him down and covering his face with kisses. He laughed and squirmed beneath me.
“Let’s get married here,” I said.
“At the hotel?” he asked.
“No, in London. There must be somewhere we can go to get hitched in London…”
“Are you serious?” he asked, holding me still so I’d stop kissing him and look him in the eyes.
“I am so serious.” I’d never been more serious in my life.
“But we don’t have anything nice to wear…”
“So?” What did I care about what we wore?
I nodded, grinning and meeting his excited gaze. “I’m serious.”
He hesitated for a moment, assessing me, probably to make sure I wasn’t still high on Xanax. “Then let’s do it.”
We spent the rest of the evening cuddled naked in bed together, watching TV. Because of the time difference, neither of us could fall asleep but were too tired to do anything significant. When I tried to get sexy Jeremy looked at me with an eyebrow raised.
“Martin, I’m too tired to fuck.”
“But tomorrow you owe me a spanking.”
He stared at me. “No, I mean I owe you a spanking. Because you deserve one.”
“You better believe it. I just hope the walls are well insulated.”
Oh double shit.