The bickering has been going on for at least a couple of minutes, the queue growing in size with each back-and-forth exchange.

"So you're really gonna let her on? You’ve gotta be joking."

"No, sir, I'm not joking." Layla, strands of hair pushed behind her ears, reaches across the desk, palm outstretched, and pleads, "may I see your boarding pass, please?"

The man shoots a throwaway glance at Layla's manicured nails. A look of repulsion washes over his already hardened expression. 

"I don't want to get on that plane with her."

Layla follows the man's far-from-discreet gaze back to where it has been lingering. The cause of his aggravation; a thirty-something woman. She has one of those unconventionally beautiful faces, looks put off from getting on the flight herself. It's a short haul to Oregon, scheduled for take-off in fifty minutes, the queue for which continues to grow. Layla had checked the woman through only a few moments ago. She’s stood at the side of the tunnel leading onto the aircraft, adjusting the straps on the harness her kid wears around his puffed-out chest. Gradually shuffling forward to be checked in, the man was already wearing an expression of discomfort before the woman caught his eye.

The man hasn't explicitly stated the reason why he won't board the plane with her, but Layla imagines that the hijab the woman is wearing, along with the brown tone to her and her son's skin, might be something to do with it. She'd like to be able to say that this sort of situation was uncommon, but then she probably wouldn't be able to shake it off so well. Layla had to admit that her own initial thought when she was checking the pair of them in wasn't how many explosives were stuffed into the cabin-bag, but who knows, this guy might just work for the CIA... (it doesn't take Layla too long to scrap that notion.)

In between pretending to type something of importance into the computer, a glance is aimed at the man's appearance: typically middle-aged and middle-class, he has a Comcast branded bag and a phone case with a sticker on it which vaguely resembles the Confederate Flag. Is that even legal? Hell, this is Trump's America, after all.

Jabbing a finger in the direction of the woman, he says, "I'm not getting on that goddamn plane if she is." The action is obviously uncalled for. There's a kid with her.  

Layla threads her fingers together and leans across the desk as if she owns it. "Well, that's fine," she says, following up with a nod. With her best customer-service smile, fake enough that one of the Kardashian’s would probably want to inject it, she points past him and says, "if you just head over to the United Airways desk, they'll be able to reschedule your flight to a more convenient one."

Sometimes a verbal slap is much more satisfying than a physical one, and this was no exception. Layla isn't quite sure what response to expect, but watching his entire face fall signifies that her point has been put across. It certainly takes his attention off the woman, if only for a moment.

"No, I think you misunderstood, LeToya. I want her off the flight."

Layla's mind freezes for a moment, brain-dead off the sheer stupidity she's facing. Not only is the man dumb enough to assume a woman in a hijab with a three year old wants to blow herself up the second she steps on a plane, but he also apparently lacks the most basic skills of reading a name-badge correctly. Whilst she'd like to believe that it's because whatever pre-thirteenth-amendment tuition he slogged through as a pubescent teen failed him, she's no stranger to the idea that white people purposefully struggle with black names. Layla isn't even a black name. She isn't even of African descent herself, but Latino. It's all similar enough to him, she guesses.  

"My name is Lay-la." She sounds it out for him, being condescending on purpose, vowels elongated, just like a newly graduated kindergarten teacher, lacking patience. "Not LeToya."

"Whatever." There's a welcome pause for Layla as the man turns around, balding patch showing on the back of his head, hair greying. He skims a glance over the line of people behind him, their own patience growing thin. "I want you to call your supervisor."

"Called." She tells him, motioning to herself, damned if she feels a little smug.

Another scowl falls across his face. "I'm not leaving this flight." He says. "I'm flying business. I can't change my ticket."

Layla looks beyond him, towards the many faces of the restless queue. Attempting to reason with him, she says, "That lady is flying coach. You won't be able to see her." 

"That's not gonna matter if a bomb goes off. You know what they're like." He spits out his words, throws his boarding pass onto the space atop of the desk in front of her. Layla stands, stunned. "Anyway. Just check me in. I'll get security to deal with it."

Security. The danger word. Faltering away from his face, Layla's eyes look down at the piece of card, seat number 28B correlating with the one of the screen next to her. Noticing that there's an empty seat next to 28B, she makes a snap decision.

Leaning further over the desk, she calls out, "Excuse me ma'am?" Hoping she's remembered the name correctly, as if to add salt to the burn, she adds, "Ms Nagra?"

Eyes widening with a dose of fear, Ms Nagra turns around. The hesitation is no doubt a culmination of factors, being in an airport, being argued about by a man almost twice her age and a Hispanic woman trying her hardest to hold back. Making her way over, remaining dignified despite the altercation, and as guiding her boy with her, she says, "Yes?"

Ignoring the expression of wild doubt passing the man's face beside her, Layla inhales a deep breath, and says, "we've just had two seats open up in business class, 28B, and 28C. You're eligible for an upgrade, ma'am."

Whilst Layla relishes the abrupt flare of shock which consumes the man's face, an interruption in the form of a security guard couldn't be more appreciated, more perfectly timed - especially when it plays directly into Layla's hands. Rather than just pretending to type something into the computer only a minute ago, a simple message to the security desk that a passenger, breaching the airline's discrimination regulations, needs to be removed from check-in, has bested any move the man had up his sleeve.

"Is this him?"

Asserting security’s question with a curt nod, lips pursed, Layla turns to the side, prompting Ms Nagra to do the same. "So, about that upgrade," she says, blocking out the whine of the man's voice. Growing fainter, the sound is dealt with by security, and a few moments later the air is cleared. Layla breathes in, then out again. Carrying on, she gestures for the next passengers to come forward.