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Chapter 1 | Brando

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I'm going to die.

      Tears stream from my eyes - hot, blinding tears that blur everything around me. The breath forces its way out of my throat. I can't feel my lungs inflate and I'm desperate for air, desperate to stay alive.

      I look up and I see him. He's right there in front of me.

Thirteen hours earlier

I'm going to die. I can't breathe. My mouth is making loud, guttural noises as I attempt to inhale but my body doesn't want to cooperate. Everything is blurry and misshapen.

      I'm ready to collapse, to fall to my knees and give up. This is where it ends, where they will lay me down to rest... behind a self-entitled lady taking up the entire width of the escalator with her luggage. Asking her to move ten times has done me no favors. 'I've asked ten times now lady - please fucking move!'

      I rarely swear. I only ever use that kind of language in very dire situations. This is one of those situations.

      'Excuse me!' Her voice is so high-pitched that it reminds me of my mom when she's about to tell me off for something.

      I scowl. 'Yes, excuse you! That's what I've been trying to say. I've got ten minutes before my gate closes and I've been running for twenty minutes just to get to this point, where you, who clearly have nowhere to be, are in the way. Do you want to know what gate I need to get to? Eleven!' I point to the sign at the top of the escalator with a big arrow pointing to Gate Three. 'I have asked repeatedly if you could move your bags and you ignored me every single time. If saying the word fuck gets your attention, then fucking move it so I can get to my fucking gate. Please.'

      I hate myself right now. I can feel the eyes of everyone burning into me, not only on this escalator going up, but the one going down too, like they're fascinated by the guy who is about to lose his mind in the middle of an airport. I have never had this much attention on me – ever – and I don't like it. I don't like the attention as much as I don't like the person I've become. I want them to stop staring but if making a scene means I can make it to my plane, then so be it.

      I'm rather stubborn so I'm not going to apologize to her. The lady moves her luggage so I can start walking past her, and to solidify my stance in this situation, I mutter loud enough for her and several spectators to hear, 'honestly, only responsive to foul language, some people have no class.'

      The old me would have said thank you but she's cost me time by ignoring my pleas to step aside. I could have explained that my previous flight was delayed, causing me to be late for this connecting flight home and she probably would have understood. But explanations take time and time is a luxury I can't afford. Before I can hear the people on the escalator resume conversation, I reach the top and head straight for my gate.

      The only trouble is, I have no idea where that is! I've just passed gate three, but this airport is massive. That's not an exaggeration; it was named one of the biggest airports of all-time. Now imagine running all the way through it, from one end to the other with thick sweat running down your back as you run that marathon, without water or a rest stop, hoping to make that finish line.

      Yeah, that's me, and I'm repulsive. I stink. I look like shit. The mane of hair on my head is soaked through. I overslept on the flight before this and I'm in that super-groggy state where I don't know if I'm actually awake or dreaming. No, this definitely isn't a dream. For one, I always look my best in my dreams. This is more a nightmare – and I'm going to miss my flight.

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