The Silverest Lining


Violet could never sleep on planes. She watched anxiously as her fellow passengers filed onto the Austrian Airlines plane to Vienna, hoping that the seat beside her would remain vacant because maybe with the extra space, sleep would come easier. There was something very infuriating about seeing every other person fall into blissful slumber while she sat upright, wide-awake and exhausted.But it was December. The departure lounge had been crowded and just when she thought she was in luck, a man stopped beside her seat and stowed a bag into the overhead compartment.“Excuse me,” he said pointedly, and she swung her legs aside to let him squeeze into the seat beside her.She didn’t acknowledge him, didn’t even look at him. She glared at the flight safety instructional that played on the small screen in front of her. It was seven in the evening, and she hadn’t managed to nap in preparation. The ten-hour flight, coupled with travelling through six hours worth of timezones meant she’d arrive in Vienna just before midday. With no sleep, the spontaneous trip had begun to seem a lot less fun.“It’s busy, huh?” the man said, settling down.A talker. Great. Violet exerted all her effort to force a smile onto her face.“Sure is.”She glanced at him briefly. His hair was wet.“It’s raining,” he said, by way of explanation.Sure enough, outside the small square window, rain was pouring down. She looked at him again. His hair was literally dripping. He dabbed at it with his sweater which was also soaked. It didn’t help at all.“You should have worn a coat,” she said. She stood and reached up into the luggage hold for her bag, finding a face towel which she handed to him.“Thank you,” he said, very gratefully. “Really. I was late. I had a meeting and then my taxi got stuck in traffic so I had to basically run half a mile to get here. I thought I wouldn’t make it.” He shook his head. “I’m Matt, by the way.”“Violet.” She focused her attention on the instructional again.“And I left my coat at work,” He sighed and rubbed at his hair until it was halfway dry. “Anyway. Thank you.”“You’re welcome,” Violet said in a way that sounded colder than it should have. She sighed. “You should take off your sweater,” she advised. “It’s dripping.”Matt raised an eyebrow. “Wow. Forward. But you seem nice, so okay.”Violet smiled insincerely. “Actually, I’m engaged.” She held up her left hand to display her ring. “I just think it’d be inconvenient if you died of hypothermia, okay?”He shrugged. “Okay.” He leaned forward and dragged off the sweater, his t-shirt riding up to reveal his toned abdomen. Violet stared before she caught herself and then hurried to look away.“There,” Matt said. His hair was a mess and his shirt was creased but he had the kind of smile that made everything fit together. “I won’t die now.”“I’m very glad,” Violet said. “Wouldn’t want to fly beside a corpse.”He laughed.“Yeah, that would be inconvenient. My boss would be very disappointed. I have to go all the way to Europe to make sure his new wine supplier is above board.”“Oh.” Violet smiled politely. “I didn’t know Austrians made wine.”“Oh, it’s pretty famous. Mostly white. Anyway, why’re you travelling?” he asked. “Family?”“Actually, I’m going to surprise my fiancé,” Violet felt faintly proud of herself, like it was a wonderfully bold and romantic thing to do. “I haven’t seen him in six months. He works in Vienna.”The thought of Toby shifted her mood, made everything jittery. They’d been together three years and she’d never been without him so long. The thought of finally seeing him again made her anxious.“Wow,” Matt smiled. “Lucky guy.”“Oh no,” Violet said. “I’m the lucky one, really. You know, he’s a violinist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, can you imagine? The Vienna Philharmonic which is like basically the best orchestra in the entire world, gets its members from there?”Matt didn’t seem particularly enthused and Violet sat back.“I mean, I guess you have to know about these things,” she said. She tried to content herself with the thought of Toby, trying to imagine the look on his face when he saw her.The stewardess was telling them to fasten their seatbelts and she checked hers for the third time as the plane finally began to move, painfully slow at first before it sped up and lifted. No going back. She closed her eyes and breathed in slowly, trying not to worry. Everything would be fine. Everything would be perfect.“So this fiancé, is he Austrian?” Matt asked.Violet opened her eyes and looked at him.“Toby? No, he moved there this summer. Why?”“Just,” Matt shrugged. “I guess he must really love his job, y’know? To leave an entire life. To leave you, y’know?”Violet frowned. “Well, we’re still together. But it’s like his dream, you see? And it’s kind of easy because it’s a constant; we both love each other and we’re confident in it. Besides, we talk all the time.”“Sure,” Matt shrugged. She found him mildly infuriating. “But it’s not the same as physical presence, right? Don’t you get lonely? He just went off to chase his dreams. Aren’t you meant to be his dream?”His eyes met hers. He was disarmingly handsome, his eyes a deep, warm amber. He looked momentarily at her mouth. Violet blinked. She frowned.“You don’t get it.” She tried to remain polite. “You can’t live just for another person. Life is more than that and besides, our dreams converge.”Matt nodded very seriously. “Oh, so what are your dreams? What’s he given up for them? Or was your dream him and if he’s happy you’re happy?” He appraised her thoughtfully. “I don’t know, Violet, Kadıköy Escort the whole thing seems a little one-sided.”Violet stared at him open-mouthed. He looked back undeterred.“You don’t understand,” she said eventually. She turned away, focusing on the in-flight entertainment system. “Just forget it.”There was a pause.“I’m sorry,” Matt said. “You were nice and I’m being judgemental. I’m sorry, okay?”She shrugged, scrolling through the movies. “Fine.”“No, come on. We have to sit here for hours. Don’t be mad at me.”She rolled her eyes. “I’m not mad. I don’t care.”“Well, I do,” Matt said. “So how’re you gonna surprise him? What kind of musician is he? I mean, what does he play? Piano? Is he like a concert pianist?”Violet rolled her eyes extravagantly but it only encouraged him.“Fine. Trumpet? Harp?”She ignored him until he gave up. She turned on a Poirot film and watched it without watching it, feeling less excited than she’d expected. Now that her trip had taken off, all the positivity suddenly felt like a facade, like she was kidding herself and yet she didn’t know why she ought to be nervous. She was going to see her fiancé. Surely, everything would be beautiful and wonderful and yet something didn’t feel right.The sky outside the small window was dark and soon enough, people were settling down to sleep. Violet eyed them enviously. She watched the movie until she realised she hadn’t even followed it. She turned it off and leaned back, closing her eyes. She couldn’t sleep. She could never sleep and it exasperated her to be the only person awake.She undid her ponytail and shook out her dark hair. She closed her eyes again and counted all the way back from a thousand and still couldn’t sleep.She glanced at Matt. He was asleep. She curled up in her seat and looked past him out of the window. There was nothing to see but darkness. She looked back at him; at the enviably comfortable way he slouched in his seat; the way his shirt fit to his broad torso. She felt an inexplicable desire to touch him. He looked so warm and even though she wanted to hate him, there was something about him that seemed impossibly attractive.She tried to think of Toby but the memory had become distant, fading further out the longer they were apart. She looked at Matt. He was nicer when he was asleep. She imagined what he looked like with his shirt off. Her eyes closed momentarily and she chased the thought, hoping it’d be smooth enough to draw her into sleep. His body. His mouth.He’d kept looking at her mouth. She wondered what it meant. She didn’t have a particularly beautiful mouth but the way he looked at her made her feel like maybe to some people she did. Did he want to kiss her? How would he kiss? She imagined how his hands would feel on her waist as his mouth consumed hers. His tongue. How would he hold her? She could imagine the grip of his fingers on her ass, digging in and urging her body to press into the warm muscle of his.Violet exhaled. It’d been too long. She could feel the lazy stir of arousal in the pit of her stomach and wondered if she should feel bad. But it was only inside her own head. Nobody else would ever know. Her eyes flickered open, appraising Matt again. She’d never thought of a man as anything graceful before but there was a masculine elegance about the way he slept; something disarming and almost poetic.Half of her hoped he’d open his eyes and catch her looking. But then what? She’d made it abundantly clear that she was taken and yet the idea of being taken by him caught faster than kerosene, desire flaming through her veins.Shifting in her seat, she glanced around at the other passengers. Everyone was asleep. It was just her; awake and alone and bored and going to see a man who’d moved four thousand miles away from her. Insecurity gnawed at her insides and she tried as ever to ignore it. She was going to see him. He’d be happy. She’d surprise him and then they could spend Christmas together and then? Then she’d go home alone and the loneliness would run on repeat until it suffocated her. She didn’t know how much longer she could take it.She looked at Matt again and sighed. She literally sighed. Perhaps she’d only been abrasive towards him to conceal her attraction. Because she was attracted. The more she tried not to think about it, the further the thoughts developed. She imagined him waking up and catching her staring, pulling her across and into his lap, feeling him grow hard against her.She glanced around again. The passenger across the aisle was turned away, fast asleep. Everyone was asleep. She couldn’t take it. She felt wide awake, wildly turned on by little more than a stranger. It was driving her insane. She had an insane idea to slip her hand beneath the waistband of her jeans and touch herself until she moaned. And maybe Matt would hear her and wake up and replace her hand with his own and tell her to keep quiet in case they woke the other passengers and then he’d pull her to him, kissing her while he fingered her; touching her in a way that men never seemed able to figure out, but he’d know it and he’d use it; make her come for him until she was writhing and helpless and then he’d undo his pants and take out his throbbing cock and sink it inside her in the way that only ever existed in dreams and it’d be so perfect; they’d move together like they were made for one another and it’d go on and on, draining and delicious and just – everything. Violet closed her eyes, lost in the fantasy and before she realised it, she was Kadıköy Escort Bayan asleep.***The plane had landed by the time she woke. Her eyes flickered open and it was daytime; natural winter light was streaming through the windows and for a few seconds she didn’t know where she was.“Finally,” Matt’s voice was close. “How can you even sleep that long?”Her head was on his shoulder.She sat up straight, blinking.“I’m sorry.” She felt mortified at herself. She’d been asleep for hours. “I didn’t mean to.”“I’m kidding,” he said. “It’s fine. I’m glad you were comfortable.”“I don’t usually sleep on planes,” she said. “I’m really, I – I didn’t mean to.”“It’s fine,” Matt said. “Relax.”He was looking at her but she didn’t look at him. Passengers were beginning to stand up and she followed suit, tugging her holdall free of the overhead compartment. She felt a little disoriented. It must have been mid-morning local time. She’d figured on planning her hotel and schedule while on the flight but now it was too late and she was exiting the plane and heading out of the airport and all of a sudden it was bitterly cold and she didn’t even have a clue how to call a taxi.She’d left in such a hurry, she hadn’t even considered how her phone would work in Europe and sure enough when she turned airplane mode off, there was no data and no wifi. She sighed and went in her bag for the Lonely Planet book she’d bought at the airport bookstand, back in the US. She unfolded the map at the back and frowned down at it.Snowflakes swirled down carelessly. Beyond the airport, the country was covered in white; picturesque and deserted. It was like a flawless Christmas card scene but in real life it was freezing. Most of the other passengers had already gone their separate ways but as she tried to make sense of her guidebook, Matt reappeared.“You okay?” he asked. “’Cause I can help you out, if you’d like. I’ve been here before, dozens of times.”“I’m fine,” Violet said, but she really wasn’t. The spontaneous trip now seemed like the stupidest thing she’d ever done. She didn’t know the language, hadn’t booked a hotel and couldn’t even navigate her way out of the airport. She frowned harder at the map like it would suddenly make more sense.“Look, I just think it’d be inconvenient if you died of hypothermia,” Matt said very smugly but when she looked at him she couldn’t get angry.“Come on,” he said. He smiled comfortingly. “Trust me, okay? I’ll take you wherever you need to go.”It seemed extraordinarily kind of him but Violet hesitated. “Don’t you have stuff to do though? Your wine thing?”“That’s tomorrow!” he groaned. “I’m gonna be so bored! You’d actually be doing me a favour.”And because she really didn’t have a clue what to do, she relented and they shared a taxi into the city. And this time when he asked her what instrument her fiance played, she told him it was a violin. And maybe she was overcompensating, maybe the way he made her feel felt wrong somehow; maybe she felt guilty for wanting him but she was giving him the 101 on everything about Toby and her; about how they’d met at a mutual friend’s birthday party, how they’d been together three years; how talented and smart he was and how she’d bought him the antique violin he used, even though it’d cost more than two years rent.“You bought it?” Matt asked, perplexed.“It was a gift,” Violet explained, “It’s like investing in his happiness and our future.”Matt didn’t say anything but he didn’t look impressed.“It’s just – money stops being important,” Violet said, feeling the need to explain herself. “Since then, he’s achieved so much, it’s like we made that happen together.”“But – you don’t even see each other,” Matt shook his head. “I don’t get it. I just – it seems like you’ve exerted everything and I don’t see what you get out of it.”“I get to see him do what he loves,” Violet said earnestly.“But you don’t,” Matt frowned, “He lives in another continent. It’s like you invested your life savings to lose him.”Violet laughed. “I haven’t lost him,” she said. “I’m seeing him. Today, at the symphony. There’s a reception right after, that’s when I’m going to surprise him. Hey, do you wanna come? Maybe then you’ll understand.”She didn’t know why she asked him; she almost wanted to take back the invitation as soon as it’d left her mouth but he was being so kind it seemed only polite, and he agreed because he’d never been to a symphony before.They wound up eating lunch together, and because she figured she’d probably stay with Toby, she didn’t bother finding a hotel. Instead, Matt let her dump her case at the room he’d booked and insisted she could use the bathroom adjoining his room to freshen up and change into a dress before they headed out into the evening.Bars and clubs lit up the cold, bustling streets of the city. The opera house was in the distance, lit up and glowing like it was studded with thousands of jewels.They bought two tickets at the box office and were early for the show which was due to be a concert of works by Beethoven and Brahms. They found their seats. A few musicians were already on stage and Violet noticed Toby with a start. She could hardly believe she was there, that they were in the same room together.“Is that him?” Matt had noticed her shift in demeanor. “Your fiancé?”She nodded, not sure what to say.“Why don’t you go talk to him?”“I don’t want to distract him,” she said.“He’d be thrilled,” Matt encouraged, “I know I would be.”“I really don’t want to put him off the show,” she said, and Escort Kadıköy thankfully, he didn’t push it.Soon enough, the stage had filled up and the conductor arrived. The music was beautiful, celestial, but Violet was too nervous to enjoy it. In the intermission, she went out into the lobby and drank sparkling wine to try to settle down.“You know, I’ve never been to a place like this before,” Matt was saying, “It’s amazing, like a palace, like royalty or something, y’know?”But Violet wasn’t listening because some members of the orchestra had also arrived in the lobby and one of them was Toby. Her heart sped up. She wondered whether to walk over to him but behind him came a woman, a redhead, her smart black dress indicating she was also from the orchestra. But her hand was in Toby’s and from the way they leaned into each other, it seemed quite clear they were more than colleagues. Violet stared. For a second she hoped she’d somehow imagined it but they were there, right there. She stepped back, wanting desperately to disappear. It couldn’t get any worse. But it could. They were laughing about something and as she looked on in shock, they leaned closer and kissed, right there in the crowded lobby.“Hey – isn’t that your fiancé?” Matt had followed her line of vision and sounded perplexed. “I thought you said that was Toby.”Violet couldn’t look at him. “Yes. That’s Toby.”“Jeez,” Matt looked at her. She couldn’t look back. Her eyes seemed unable to detach from Toby and the woman. “Fuck. I – I’m sorry, Violet.”She turned to him blankly. “Why? It’s not your fault.”“No, really. I mean, you came all this way and it’s a fucking joke. I’m so sorry.”“I feel like – like I deserve it,” Violet said distantly. “I was just – so sure of myself even though everything was telling me not to be.”Matt was looking at her helplessly. He reached out as though he was going to touch her but then he stopped.“I – are you okay? That’s a dumb question, sorry. Look, maybe we should leave.”She didn’t move and after a while, he took her hand and she let him lead her through the people, out of the lobby and into the night. It was bitterly cold. She let go of his hand once they were outside. She stood there a while, breathing in the cold air, hoping it’d clear her head but her mind refused to slow down, every thought coming too fast, ramming unfinished into the last like an endless pileup. She took one long breath and closed her eyes. Matt was still there, she could feel his presence, sense his awkwardness and she didn’t know what he was even doing there, why she’d ever brought him, why she’d let this stranger witness her humiliation.“You can go,” she said. She didn’t open her eyes. “You should go. I’m fine, really.”“I’m really not going anywhere without you,” Matt sounded appalled at the idea. “Look, we should get out of here, go someplace warm.”“I don’t want to.” Violet said and her voice was tight and colder than the night and yet it didn’t deter him.“Come on. Or do you wanna die of hypothermia?” She looked at him and he was looking at her, half his face lit up by a streetlight and he looked so warm, his jaw sculpted, architectural almost, and the corner of his mouth was trying not to smile and she wanted to cry because she didn’t know how to feel.“Do you think she was pretty?” she asked, unable to stop herself. “And don’t tell me I shouldn’t care. I just – was she? She had nice hair, didn’t she?”Matt frowned. “What, that girl? No, I thought she was repulsive.”“Don’t. I mean, really.”He looked at her.“Well, I guess she did seem like his type.”Violet deflated. “She did?”“Yeah. I mean, they were both like fours, max. So they fit, you know?” He shrugged. “Look, the real mystery here is what you ever saw in that guy. You could do ten times better. It’s actually really poor form for someone as hot as you to date a guy like that because he’s already an asshole and ugly and then he dates you and thinks he’s something special and his ego inflates and then he turns into even more of a dick, y’know? It’s a disservice, Violet. You really ought to be with only exclusively very handsome, very humble men.”She laughed in spite of herself. “Do they even exist?”He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something but then he just smiled and shrugged and she didn’t know why she felt faintly disappointed.“Let’s get dinner,” he said and even though she’d never been less hungry, she let him take her to a fusion restaurant on the edge of the Danube. He ate steak and she ate the edges of patatas bravas and he finished her plate and the wine went down easy, too easy, perfectly chilled and dizzying enough to slow her thoughts down for a while.She thought of Toby. Thought of every time she’d missed him and wondered if she should be angry. She didn’t feel angry. She felt relieved and it made no sense. She should be angry and hurt and disappointed and yet there was only relief and she felt free in a sense; so free; so light and weightless like she’d been clinging relentlessly to something that was no good and now there was nothing but space. So much wonderful space.Matt was telling her stories about the gastropub chain he worked for and he was trying to make her laugh mostly and she did laugh because he was funny and warm and eventually when they left the restaurant, he said he’d get her a room at his hotel but at the desk the man said they were fully booked so they both went to his room instead and it might have seemed stupid to go to a hotel room with a man she barely knew but Violet trusted him and he didn’t give her cause not to. He sat on the bed. She drank some orange juice from the minibar and then drank a tiny bottle of whisky and lay down on the bed fully clothed, without even taking her shoes off. Matt seemed surprised but he didn’t get up. He looked at her like he had a million things to say but no way to say them.

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