Petra stared, mildly bewildered, at the young woman who was sobbing desperately into her hands, her shoulders moving violently. She was used to people cracking under pressure in her line of work: the countless employees who had run into her office begging and pleading. But she'd only met this woman less than a minute ago. What had started out as an inquiry must have turned into an interrogation in her eyes. Petra blinked a couple of times before she attempted to calm down the stranger. She often worried whether she came across as intimidating: it always seemed that her efforts to mean well scared the hell out of people. She reached out a hand to pat the woman's shoulder awkwardly.
'It's Ok, calm down.' She looked about nervously for some support from any other passengers, but everybody seemed oblivious to the young woman's breakdown. 'What's your name?'
'B-Becky,' the woman looked up, her eyes red and puffy, and gulped before continuing. 'Becky D-Duarte.' She took a couple of shaky breaths and looked at Petra sheepishly. Petra felt equally embarassed, and tried at a smile. She had never been one for all the "caring and sharing", but this woman couldn't just continue to curl up in her seat for the entire journey.
'Okay, Becky, don't worry,' Petra leaned past Becky and called into the aisle. 'Could we have some water over here please?'
An air hostess handed Becky a bottle of spring water, which Becky took gratefully, looking down. The hostess' tag read "Susannah" in a friendly bold font. Petra thanked Susannah and turned back to Becky. 'Okay, what was that you were saying about an assault?'
Becky opened her mouth reluctantly to speak when the plane suddenly jostled violently. Petra's head flung forward and nearly hit the seat in front. Damn economy class, she thought to herself.
Susannah stood frozen in the aisle, holding her hands out slightly to maintain her balance. 'What was that?' she asked quietly.