THE MONGOLIAN GIRL - CHAPTER ONE
An old man attired in a long brown buttonless tunic, wrapped at the waist with a saffron sash, hurried by. His brown fur hat and felt boots, with their turned up toes, had a home-made look about them. He disappeared under the staircase. Tom picked up his bags and followed. There was a little cluster of similarly attired people - Mongolians.
MIAT's only routes were to
When they got up, he followed a little behind and trudged through the light snow to the plane: it was a Tupolev. It looked old. I am lucky, he thought. There can't be more than fifteen passengers here. Nobody talked. They boarded. The plane was full. Tom was left standing in the aisle. The stewardesses pleaded with some of the passengers in Russian. They'd barricaded themselves in their seats with their cardboard suitcases and plastic bags. Grudgingly, they made space for him, and he found himself squeezed next to a grey-faced Russian. Tom's long legs were always caused problem on planes. The passenger in front turned round with a look of annoyance as the points of Tom's knees dug into the back of his seat. Grey Face started to rebuild his barricade. Lucky I'm in a good mood, Tom thought. That's when he first noticed the Mongolian passengers staring at him. It's not so surprising really. At 6ft 2in he was about a foot taller than most of them, and he looked strange: reddish hair; green eyes; pink skin. There had never been a Mongolian like that. Actually, it was the brand names on his clothes and baggage that they were staring at. They'd seen plenty of Russians before, but not many wore Levi jeans and Timberland boots.
"You first class."
Tom shifted nervously in his seat. "Who me?"
The midnight-blue-uniformed stewardesses on Mongolian Airlines were as one would have expected: Mongolian; the planes and the uniforms were Russian.
Yes, she did mean him. Tom started to rise.
She beckoned. He followed. The other passengers turned to watch him pass. She led him from the cramped confines of Economy class, with its inflight cold sardines on stale bread, through a grey curtain. Tom hesitated, then entered the small first class section. It seemed to be full of men in grey suits. She ushered him into an empty seat and gave him a bronze-coloured plastic Buddha and a small bottle of Chinggis Khan vodka.
Tom was in seat 1a, gripping his miniature vodka and plastic Buddha tightly, as the plane came in for a bumpy landing in