Airplanes are cesspools. Why am I doing this to myself?
Ash wearily eyed the teenager seated in the middle seat of the row that matched the number on her boarding pass.
The teen seemed to be struggling with some sort of mutant cold, her eyes puffy and nose leaking a nasty green goo.
Ash glanced at her boarding pass to triple check that she was indeed doomed to endure the flight next to the germ girl.
*Yep. Row 17. Fucking fantastic,* she thought.
"Hi, uh...I think I'm next to you."
Ash awkwardly pointed at the window seat beyond the teen and gave an apologetic smile.
The teen loudly sniffed, the thick green snot that was running down her upper lip suddenly disappearing back where it came from.
She put her legs up onto her seat so that her knees were against her chest.
Ash did her best to keep her face neutral as she shimmied past the sickly girl, wide hips brushing against the other's bony knees.
Once Ash plopped into her seat, she immediately pulled out her headphones, put them in her ears, and pressed play on the playlist she had made in preparation for her 14-hour flight.
As Green Day blasted in her ears,
she looked out the window as airport personnel chucked huge suitcases into the undercarriage of the huge plane that would soon shuttle hundreds of people across the world.
The Rocky Mountains loomed on the horizon, and she said a silent goodbye to the scenery she had been taking for granted for 22 years.
A pang of anxiety spread through her chest as it sunk in that she was actually doing this.
She was on the plane, her suitcase full of clothes was God knows where, and her three big boxes of personal belongings were on a cargo plane being shipped to her apartment in Seoul.
Seoul as in the capital city of Korea.
*I'm moving to Korea. For a whole damn year. Holy shit.*
As she pressed her forehead to the cool glass of the window, she closed her eyes and reminisced about where she had been merely hours before...
Ash groaned as she felt large hands slide from her waist to her ass, firmly squeezing her curves.
She pressed her lips against her boyfriend's warm neck and tightened her arms around his shoulders.
"Babe, don't ruin the moment," she whined as he grabbed her booty again and pulled her tighter against his hips.
His belt pressed into her stomach as he tucked his face into the crook of her neck and breathed deeply.
She knew Drew was inhaling the scent of the perfume he had gifted her for her birthday a year ago. It was his favorite and she had worn it especially for him today - for their big farewell.
Ash felt his shoulders tense as she spoke, so she pulled back and met his gaze with a soft smile.
"I can't back out now, Drew, you know that. This isn't going to change anything. I promise."
She ran her fingers through his hair to sooth him, but her gut twisted as she spoke.
This was partly because she dreaded leaving the man she had grown so close to over the past two and a half years, but partly because she wasn't sure if her promise was an honest one.
Ash and Drew met sophomore year at his frat's Christmas party, where they had spotted each other across the room. He took her breath away with his piercing blue eyes and dark, long hair.
She hardly noticed the cheesy Jesus costume he was wearing - a cream-colored robe, patchy beard, and birthday hat - when she crossed the room to introduce herself.
He complimented her Rudolph sweater as his eyes continued down to rake over her curves. That night they hooked up in the freezing storage shed in the backyard; the rest was history.
Although they never had a problem with their physical chemistry, they butted heads about nearly everything else.
When Ash had told Drew she was accepted into a prestigious program to teach English in Korea after graduation, he had completely lost it.
Why would she throw away their relationship like that? Why does she want to teach English anyway? Her degree was in Art History, this move was stupid.
The more Drew fought with Ash about her decision, the more she was determined to go. She hated being told what to do, and Drew's insensitive words only fueled her stubborn fire.
They had agreed a couple of weeks before she flew out to not fight about it anymore.
It was important that they enjoy their last summer days together before they would have to give long-distance a try.
Saying goodbye was difficult, but she couldn't deny the relief and excitement she felt as her mom dropped her off at the airport, giving her a tight hug and encouraging words.
This was a fresh start.
Although she loved Drew, it was impossible for her to deny the uncomfortable tug in her gut every time they talked about their future.
Was he really the one she could see herself marrying? Was he her forever?
Ash's eyes blinked open as the airplane began to lurch forward.
She grabbed her phone and opened her note app to jot down a few sentences and ideas her thoughts had inspired.
Although Drew and college professors hadn't supported her, she wanted to write a novel.
Getting her degree in Art History was a great experience, and she loved the internship she had completed last summer at an art museum in downtown Denver.
But ever since she had taken a creative writing class as an elective her final semester before she graduated, she couldn't stop constructing new and exciting worlds in her head.
Her move to Korea was a last-minute decision, but the closer the move came, the more she realized this was exactly what she wanted to do. No one in Korea knew her.
She didn't have to be Ash the art historian, she could be Ash the teacher, Ash the writer, just Ash.
The flight attendant's garbled voice began droning over the intercom, and Ash buckled her seatbelt.
*Ready or not, here I come,* Ash thought.
She closed her eyes, leaned her head against the headrest, and smiled to herself.
*Nah. I'm ready. Let's fucking do this.*