He couldn’t help but grit his teeth at the sight of the thing, much less the thought of it. Why on earth would anyone honestly prefer that flinging themselves through space at hundreds of miles per hour in a tube filled with volatile chemicals was a safe way to fly? It was a big fucking white suppository, waiting to be the next Icarus.
Kelly’s spirits were not, however, dampened in the least. Nose pressed with naked impunity against the terminal’s windows, she ogled the propellers, the cabin, the wings.
“Oh, to slip the surly bonds of earth! To touch the face of God!” She chirped. Her backwards glance was met with a withering stare. Undefused, she continued with unbridled passion.
“You’re not even a Christian.”
“Hush! I’m Polish, and that’s damn close enough!” The pronouncement was made with unsurprising gusto. “Kelly Wiak, empress of the skiiiies!” She swooped gracefully with her hands, sounding out the rushes of air off fingery wings.
Children goggled at the grown-up’s silliness. Parents, of course, smiled in kind, and no small number of single-seat flyers sighed brief relief: smaller chance of some little puke screaming his head off the entire way there.
“S’a matter, Jim-bo,” she fluttered, grasping Jim’s shoulders playfully, nibbling exposed earlobe, “’Fraid’a flyin’?”
“Hate it.” The unapologetic reply.
“WELL.” Kelly whirled him on his heels, bringing them face-to-face. She began counting on her fingers. “You can hate the delays, the rudeness, the overpriced drinks, the misplaced luggage, the shameless overbooking, the groping guards, and the general lack of a good duty-free—But Jim! Why on earth,” she grinned, at once irrepressibly perplexed and playful, “would you hate to fly?”
“The same reason I hate to fall.”
She blew a raspberry, and collected their luggage. “You only fall in your nightmares Slim-Jim, and even then, you always wake up after.”
“Relax. People start flying the way you do, and they’ll start cramming more rows of seats back in the planes. Don’t sit so rigidly.” She swatted his wrists playfully.
Bolt-upright, his fingers digging into the armrests, Jim’s discomfort was remarkable even in an unmoving plane. His iPod sat on his lap, filled with mind-numbing distraction for the duration of the flight. The jolt of the platform disengagement flexed every muscle in his body. Jim was dimly aware that he was praying.
“C’mon. We’re going to the heavens!”
“I’m sure St. Peter doesn’t mind lookie-loos. It’s not like we’re staying.”
“Kelly. Please. Shut up.”
Another jolt, the end of taxiing had come. Even sitting, Jim stood on edge, every nerve attuned to the sheer terror of being catapulted into the clouds on a mechanical whim.
“Don’t take off.” He whispered fruitlessly.
“Don’t be a pussy.” She whispered back.
Even through the strains of The Killers, he could hear the roaring of the engines. Eyelids crammed into the smallest of balls, he felt the great beast leap into action. The thrust hit him suddenly, and he writhed in his seat.
“Our father who art in heaven—Fuck, not heaven—hallowed be thy—“
The warmth of Kelly’s hand on his brought him back to the unwanted reality. She had leaned over, close enough to kiss, and looked at him with the deepest of calm. She smiled at him, not unkindly.
“Serene.” She whispered, hot breath caressing his face. “That’s what it really is up there. There’s the hard few moments where we’re thrown into space,” he winced at this, “but then there’s nothing but the purest and calmest blue. Check it out.”
Jim still had his eyes screwed tight.
He turned to face her, reflexively opening his eyes.
Her, and behind her, the skies. No, no, no.
“Nothing but white fluffy clouds, Jim. Nothing but the softest air.”
Jim’s breathing slowed. He slackened his grip on the seat. He opened his eyes.
Nothing but white as far as the eye could see; an infinite blanket in the empty void.
“Where not even birds dare,” began Kelly, “we have it all to ourselves.” She held his hand tight, and even when the plane rocked, he could feel the calming effect. Breathe. He could even find the room to smile. Perhaps a little more than a smile--
“Want me to drive from the airport?”
“We’re –driving--? I thought we were taking the train!” Kelly’s turned pale.
“It’s only a few hours.”
“Don’t even joke.”
“But you love driving!”
“I HATE driving,” she moaned, “I get soooo car-sick.”
Jim grinned. “Psh-- pussy.”