Sky High

By: Amanda Weaver



I’m indebted to Angel Lawson, Beth Bolden, TM Franklin, Bev Elle, and Kira Gold, who invited me to be a part of the Frequent Flyers Collection with them. The Friendly Skies, my contribution, is the first short story in this collection.



Many thanks to Anne Forlines for pre-reading and advice. And thanks to John Forlines for assistance with particulars about the financial industry. Thank you to Sara Mizzen and Niva Telerant-Faith for early pre-reading and feedback.



And I suppose I should thank Popocatépetl, the volcano just outside Mexico City. In the summer of 2013, I was on my way to Mexico City for business when the volcano began erupting, closing airspace, and causing my flight to be rerouted back to JFK. That doomed trip was the seed for The Friendly Skies, and from there, Blame it on the Rum and Take the Money and Run were born. Popocatépetl, you ruined my business trip, but you gave me fodder for three stories, so we’re even!





The Friendly Skies





#


When Cassie Sinclair was twelve years old, growing up and growing restless in her small, utterly unremarkable hometown, she stood in her front yard and turned her face to the sky, watching a plane track overhead. She wished with everything in her heart that she was on that plane at that moment. She didn’t care where it was going. Anyplace had to be more interesting than the Pittsburgh suburbs. Every single time she saw a plane fly overhead, she made the same wish. I want to be on that plane, going anywhere but here.

As Cassie sipped her Starbucks Venti latte and watched planes execute their intricate ballet out on the tarmac at JFK, she remembered that moment, that wish, and thought “Be careful what you wish for.”

She loved her job—she truly did. But most days it felt like she was spending her life in airports and on planes, measuring time in flight delays. No matter how efficient she’d gotten at flying—all the tricks and strategies she employed to make her trips run smoothly—there was no way to eradicate stress and drudgery from business travel. It always sucked.

Today, the stress had started and she wasn’t even on the plane yet. The boarding area was a cacophony of noise. A frazzled mother fruitlessly tried to settle her fussing baby while her toddler son ran in circles around her pretending he was a flying plane. Two young guys—obviously drunk at 9 a.m.—were arguing loudly with each other. And in the corner, a bunch of teenage girls on some sort of school trip shouted and laughed boisterously. She could only pray that none of them were sitting near her.

She checked her watch. Ten minutes until boarding. If there were no delays, an hour until liftoff. Five hours in the air. Forty-five minutes to get to her connection. Another hour to get to Acapulco and then the drive to the resort. Two hours of meetings and tours. Drinks and dinner with the resort execs afterward. Then a couple of hours to catch up on email she missed while in the air and in meetings, and another hour to write up her report. She might get to bed before midnight tonight. Midnight in a time zone three hours behind New York. And then she’d turn around and fly back home tomorrow morning. All she’d see of her destination was the airport, the hotel, and the highway between them. She wouldn’t step foot on the beach.

She took another sip of her coffee and felt a trickle of it leak out from under the lid and hit her thumb. Cursing, she held the cup at arms’ length in an attempt to keep anything from hitting her blouse. Her copy of the New York Times, wedged under elbow, fluttered to the floor. She started to crouch to get it when a voice, low and masculine, with a smooth English accent, stopped her cold.

“I’ve got it.”

Looking down, she registered several things at once. Broad shoulders, blond hair, handsome face, impeccably tailored navy pinstripe suit. He retrieved her paper from the floor and slowly stood up. His eyes tracked up her body as he rose, starting at her black patent pumps, tracing up her calves and over her black pencil skirt, up her cream silk blouse, taking in her long dark hair and finally, her face. She felt his eyes everywhere, an unabashed examination that should have made her feel uneasy but didn’t. At least, not when his startlingly bright, ice blue eyes met hers and his appreciation was evident.

He smiled, a flash of white teeth and lovely lips. His eyes crinkled slightly at the corners. “Here you go.”

That accent… She reached out and took her paper.

“Have a nice flight,” he said, then turned and walked away.

She hadn’t moved. Not a muscle through the entire brief encounter. She hadn’t said anything either, not even ‘thank you’. Within seconds, the crowds had closed around him and he vanished from view, off to find his own gate, his own flight, probably taking his lovely English accent back where it came from.

Damn. Something pretty to look at would have made this whole trip less tedious.



By the time business class began boarding a few minutes later, she’d forgotten all about Tall, Blond, and British as she made her way down the aisle to row 6, seat B. One of the two arguing drunk guys was in 6A, the window seat. The second arguing drunk guy was directly behind him in 7A. They were still arguing.