Shine Not Burn
Author:Elle Casey

I followed Candice to the counter and listened with amusement as Kelly tried to charm the obviously gay man into giving us an upgrade she didn’t have the frequent flyer miles for.


“Please, pleasepleasepleaseplease pleeeeaaase? I swear we’ll be good. We’ll totally behave ourselves and not drink ten mini bottles of vodka on ice.” She grinned like a movie star in a toothpaste commercial. She did have really nice teeth. Having a father as a cosmetic dentist made sure of that.


He gave her a perfunctory smile in return, which disappeared less than a second after it had appeared. “As much as it pains me to tell you this, I’m afraid I cannot give you the upgrade unless you have the points or the money to pay for it.” He looked at his monitor. “To go from economy class to business class will cost you a total of one thousand two hundred dollars for the three of you. We accept all major credit cards.” His nostrils flared slightly as he stared at her again.


Kelly’s mouth dropped open. “Are you insane? I could buy a shitty used car for that much money.”


He smiled without humor. “But you don’t get complimentary drinks in shitty used cars, now do you?” There wasn’t a trace of sarcasm in his voice. Damn, he was good.


I walked up to the desk and rested my arm on it, giving him my best addressing-the-bench smile. “Hi there, … Samuel. I’m Andrea … Andie.” I put my other hand on Kelly’s arm. “It’s my job to take this poor girl and give her the best two days of her life in Vegas before she ties herself down to a life of servitude and misery. I’m talking marriage here, and it’s bad. It’s really bad.” I lowered my voice. “Her fiancé is a mortician.”


“You’re kidding me,” he said, looking first at me and then Kelly. His cold expression slipped just a little. We were used to the morbid curiosity when the subject came up, and I wasn’t too proud to use it to our advantage. This was my best friend’s bachelorette party, after all. Sacrifices would need to be made. Buttons would have to be pushed. Pride would have to be swallowed.


Kelly nodded, her eyes big and if I wasn’t mistaken, a little shiny. Nice touch, I said in my nod at her. Work it hard. The sad thing is, I wasn’t kidding about the mortician thing. She really was planning to marry Matthew Ackerman, otherwise known to us as Matty the mortician. Candice and I have asked her several times what she could possibly see in a man who deals with the dead all the time, and her answer was always the same: nobody’s got good wood like a guy who works with stiffs all day. I’m still not even sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I’m also pretty damn sure I don’t want to know either, so I let it lie.


“You’re going to marry a man who touches dead bodies every day? Cuts them open?” He leaned forward and spoke in a whisper. “Embalms them?”


She nodded. “Yes. We deal with death every day, the two of us. It’s all very heart-breaking. This is my one last chance to let my hair down before I have to suck it up and be the wife of a mortician.” She wiped a fake tear from her eye and turned away.


And the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Non-Movie is … Kelly Foust!


The agent looked to his left and then his right. His fingers flew over the keys, sometimes just the index finger pressing one key about twenty times. I wondered if he was really even doing anything. It was possible he was just messing with us by seeing how long he could keep us standing there believing we were convincing him to feel sorry for us before he told us to go get bent.


But then the sound of a dot matrix printer came from under his counter and a few seconds later he was pulling six long boarding cards out with our names on them. “Business class upgrade? Why of course, ladies. We’re happy to accommodate your business needs here at Delta Airlines. Here are your boarding passes for both legs of the flight to Las Vegas.” He put them down on the counter and slid them over to Kelly. She grabbed them and squealed, her heels tapping the floor over and over as she simultaneously hugged Candice and jumped up and down with her. I put my hand on her shoulder to calm her down while giving my full attention to the agent.


“Thanks so much for helping us out, Samuel. That was really cool.”


He smiled at me, the first genuine expression I think I’d gotten from him since I’d walked up to his counter. “Just be careful. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but sometimes the trouble follows you home. Know what I mean?” He winked.


I nodded, even though I had no idea what he was talking about. I wasn’t the kind of girl to get into that kind of trouble. I might drink a little wine now and then or a beer maybe, but I always remembered what happened the next day and I never went too far. I was all about self-control now that I was an adult and no longer goofing around in college. “Good tip. Thanks again.”