Kate’s fingers tremble as she fiddles with the loose thread of her lemon coloured jeans. The rips at the knees reveal her tanned, freckly skin. The damp on her fingers, caused by nerves, stick to the thread. Eleven hours and three minutes is her remaining time on this flight. Sat crumpled up in seat 22A, her anxiety increases as she feels herself rise higher into the clouds with less vision of landscapes. Never flown before, she chooses her first ever flight travelling to South Africa, alone. She glances to her right shoulder; it portrays a fierce lion secured by black ink, gazing at her with brows furrowed, long sharp teeth showing with a speckle of blood etched onto its right fang and claws ready to leap out into the very gaze of her nervous blue eyes. ‘You better be worth this trip,’ she whispers.
As her heart pounds so hard, Kate starts to feel paranoid that the other passengers can hear it trying to break through her chest. She is almost certain this is worse than when she told her husband she wanted a divorce. At least then she was on dry land.
Kate called herself an emergency smoker; she kept a packet of Richmond Menthol and a tiny (somehow forever working) pink lighter in her over the shoulder denim bag. Right now, sat here was an emergency, how she longed for the minted taste of nicotine to hit the back of her throat.
With a slight bump of turbulence Kate came crashing back down to where she was. Oh yes, in the clouds, literally. Still fiddling with the thread she braves a peek to her left and finds the blind down, how she left it when first taking her seat. Slowly she lifts it with her eyes shut tight; thankful no-one could see her. One, two, three, she opens them. No, not a moment of pleasant surprise and an overcome fear, nothing more than a shaky whisper ‘I shouldn’t have fucking done that.’
‘You just said a swear word,’ echoed a small voice into her panicked ears. Oh no, not this kid again. He had bright ginger curly hair and was bouncing up and down swinging his freckly legs back and forth. He looked to be the geeky, clever kind.
‘Sorry, I’m just really freaking out here,’ replies an agitated Kate.
The boy of about ten years of age shrugged and continued to shine his torch; a torch that had a dinosaur lens slotted onto the front of it, causing a magnified version of its angry looking self to appear on the blue and white striped seat in front of him. ‘Your tattoo is quite freaky,’ he sniggers.
Kate, who has never had any desire to have children, was beginning to congratulate herself.
‘Aren’t you travelling to Africa yourself? There’ll be lots of lions there,’ rolling her eyes in response.
‘Yeah, der,’ ginger, bouncy kid replies sarcastically. He continues to swing his legs and shine his torch.
‘Will you stop swinging your legs? I feel sick enough as it is,’ snaps Kate.
Surprisingly, ginger bouncy kid stops. Kate manages a slight smile as though to thank him.
‘Here, would you like a sweet? It will make you feel better,’ he asks. Desperate for any feeling other than this, Kate takes the bright blue foiled wrapped sweet and this time manages to say thank you. As she places the sweet onto her tongue the tall stewardess walks by offering drinks. With her left cheek loaded with blue candy Kate loudly blurts ‘I’ll have a double vodka with ice please.’
The stewardess looks at ginger bouncy kid then back at Kate rather disapprovingly. Shocked, Kate informs the stewardess and accidentally the rest of the cabin, ‘Don’t look at me like that, this kid isn’t with me, I’m twenty nine and he’s about fourteen.’
‘Actually I’m ten,’ ginger kid chirps in.
‘Whatever, vodka please?’ Kate smiles smugly.
As the stewardess hands Kate her drink she leans forward and whispers ‘Actually, I was looking at you both as your teeth are bright blue from that sweet you’re sucking.’
Red faced from embarrassment and anger Kate slowly looks to her right to find ginger bouncy kid hysterically laughing into his orange sweater. She spits the sweet out back into its foil wrap, grabs the drink from the stewardess, gulps it in one and replies ‘Orange really doesn’t do you any justice with hair that colour.’
Disheartened, the ginger kid lowers his head and continues to shine his torch.
Feeling content after the consumption of her vodka, Kate wriggles herself into comfort and leans against the blind of the window.
Eight weeks prior to this ghastly flight, Kate spent the morning havoc with emotion. She stood trembling in her front room. The rays from the sun pushed through the blinds of the stone cottage resting onto her quivering hand. She was fingers and thumbs trying to locate her pink lighter ready to step outside and smoke her cigarette. She walked out onto the cracked stoned path located next to the perfectly cut lawn. With all sorts of busy bundled up sentences pushing their way through her hectic brain she managed to light up.
In that precise moment a car engine nearby filled her ears with dread, not just any engine, his engine. The quiet hum that seemed like a thousand Subaru’s roared itself up onto the drive. Classical music and the look on Charles face caused her heart to tremble into an erratic palpitation. Would she scream, cry, hide or simply tell him she wanted a divorce after
twenty six months of marriage. Charles sat for a moment after switching off the engine to his Jaguar and gazed at her, he knew. The smell of clean leather filled the autumn air as Charles stepped out of the car, he placed his briefcase on the stoned path-careful not touch the grass. Why wasn’t he saying anything? Kate wondered to herself.
Finally, he murmured, ‘After two years of marriage you’d think I knew my wife had such a filthy habit wouldn’t you?’ The crisp leaves scraped their way along the path, it was the only sound Kate heard and when they finally got caught into the cracks she whispered ‘We need to talk.’
‘Clearly, so come on what drama is it this time Kate? It must be bad, filling your lungs with that garbage.’
With another jolt of turbulence, Kate opens her eyes and steps out of her past. Using the back of her hand she harshly wipes away a stray tear.
Kate takes a glance at her watch to realise she had passed two hours reliving the moments she set herself free. It was time to let go of the past now, she blinks hard and holds up her hand. Like magic, as if she had clicked her fingers the stewardess appears. ‘Another vodka please, on the rocks.’ The stewardess flashes a friendly, almost sympathetic smile and replies ‘Certainly Ma’am.’ Not feeling comfortable with that look of sympathy Kate grabs the glass and sips her vodka this time.
‘Are you an alcoholic?’ Oh fuck, not this little shit again.
‘No I am not, I’ve had a shitty divorce, I’m dying for a cig and I am travelling to Africa alone, satisfied?’ she asks. Surprisingly the ginger kid looks up at Kate with the same look of sympathy the stewardess had. ‘My Mum and Dad got divorced, that’s where I’m going, to see my Dad, and he’s a conversationalist,’ he said with sadness in his voice.
Kate smiled to herself, ‘Conservationist, I think you mean,’ sipping her vodka. Feeling bad for correcting the poor kid Kate goes on, ‘I’m sorry to hear that; it must be hard for you.’
‘It’s okay,’ the ginger kid smiles then looks uncomfortably to his right; he clearly did not want to talk to this raging alcoholic with bad language about his problems.
All of a sudden Kate felt something she had never experienced, she wanted to hug this kid that she had conjured up as a little shit and tell him everything was going to be okay.
‘Hey, you know that blue sweet? Have you got anymore? I would love to trick the manager of the hotel I’m going to stay in, he sounded a right snob!’ Kate giggled like a child at the excitement of what she had just said. ‘And by the way, how are my teeth looking?’
Ginger kid raises his brows and his smile confirms Kate had managed to cheer him up, just like that. ‘Yeah, here give him this one, its green and it makes you look like you have kissed Shrek! Your teeth are still a bit blue but not as bad before, you looked hideous!’
Kate stuffs the sweet into her tight pocket and messes the kid’s hair, ‘You’re alright after all ginge.’
Third year creative writing student