• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 03

Take Offs & Landings

Our mothers would kiss our foreheads, double-checking our bags for lovingly prepared packed lunches, sending us out into the dark.

At the end of the street, we’d take the right turn towards school and watch them wave, pale hands retreating into the warmth. Then our feet would thunder against the pavement, our hearts keeping time with one another, racing through clouds of our own breath until we reached the edge of the airport.

“I’m choosing one that will take me to a beautiful island. I don’t care where. Just so long as there’s beaches like you see on TV, and they bring you drinks in a coconut.”

Christine changed her mind every morning. Still, each time she told us where she’d decided on, she sounded absolutely certain. Her voice held words better than mine could, and when they fell out of her mouth they were the right shape. They sounded grown up, even when she shouted them against the roars of take offs and landings.

We’d huddle, hoods up against the cold, watching each plane taxi and speed up and float into the sky. Taking it in turns to say where we’d go. Sometimes I let my imagination carry me. More often than not my choice was simple: “Anywhere so long as it’s not here.”

“I’m going next week,” Christine said one morning. We all smiled, but didn’t answer. We pressed our gloved hands into the fence and bounced back and forth in a rippling, giggling row. None of us had any money, let alone the kind of guts to actually follow through with ourselves. But none of us wanted to ruin the game, either.


Take Offs & Landings

Her eyes flared in anger for the briefest instant—only noticeable if you watched her the way I did. They were an unusual golden green that a lot of people felt compelled to comment on. I’d overhead my mother saying they were too far apart for her to be “conventionally pretty.”

She tugged my coat sleeve as we began the trudge to school, pavement salt popping like candy beneath our slow feet. Her bag was slung over one shoulder, zipper teeth beckoning. Inside, a gleaming pair of pliers. She stared me down. I didn’t know what to say, so I just nodded and smiled.

On Monday, she wasn’t on her doorstep. We just assumed she was already there, running faster, our eyes on the winking beacon of the control tower. The sky looked like a fistful of boiled sweets forgotten in a pocket, bleeding into one another.

The hole in the fence seemed too small for her to have climbed through. Still, none of us doubted she had done it. We watched the planes in silence, wondering which one she might have chosen.