The Trouble with Flying

By: Rachel Morgan

“Yes, you can,” I say, then feel like slapping myself. He wasn’t asking for my opinion. He wasn’t even talking to me anymore.

“So … I should probably apologise,” he adds. I look up, but his eyes refuse to meet mine.

“What? Why?” I can’t remember him doing anything wrong.

“For that whole … panicking thing. We haven’t exploded yet, so I’m starting to realise my over-the-top reaction wasn’t exactly necessary. And I can’t really remember what I said to you while it was happening, so I hope it wasn’t too embarrassing.”

I shake my head. “Don’t worry, it wasn’t. Not as embarrassing as my weather rambling.”

“Oh really?” He raises both eyebrows. “I must have missed that while I was contemplating the plane making a nosedive towards the ground.”

“Well, now that I know what was actually going through your mind, I kinda wish you were listening to my silly rambling.”

Oh my fuzzy beanie. I’m having a conversation. A normal conversation. With someone I don’t know. I look down at the closed book in my lap as I try to hide the idiotic smile stretching my lips.

“What?” he asks. I guess I didn’t hide it very well.

“I just … don’t normally do this.” Whoa, okay, I think that’s where I was supposed to say, ‘Nothing.’

“Do what?” he asks. “Talk about the weather?”

It’s officially blurt-it-all-out time. “Talk to strangers.”

“Of course,” he says, keeping a straight face. “Because talking to strangers is the height of dangerous. At least, that’s what our mothers always told us.”

“What I mean,” I say, “is that I can’t talk to strangers. I freak out. My mind goes blank and I don’t know what to say.”

“Ah, so that’s why you looked so scared earlier when I asked you to talk to me.”

“Well, honestly, yes.” A hint of heat warms my cheeks again. “Talking to people I don’t know is one of my Big Fears in Life.”

“You don’t seem to be having a problem right now.”

Except for the blushing part, which I never seem to be able to control. “I guess you don’t really count as a stranger anymore, since I managed to talk you through a near panic attack just now.” And it probably helped that you freaked out in the first place instead of acting cool and confident, I add silently.

“Yes. There was the near panic attack. But you don’t even know my name, so in that regard I’m still a stranger.”

“True.” I stare at him, waiting.

He holds his hand out. “I’m Aiden.”

I wipe my hand quickly against my jeans—in case of clamminess—and grasp his. It’s warm, and his handshake is firm. “Sarah,” I tell him.

“There,” he says. “Now I definitely don’t count as a stranger anymore.”

The tear-snot hand. He’s shaking the tear-snot hand. I cringe inside but manage to stop myself from snatching my hand away. I let go of him and wrap my fingers around my book. My safety blanket. I smile at Aiden—and my mind goes blank again.


I look down and fumble to open the pages of my book. Where was I? I was on page … page …

“Don’t you use a bookmark?” Aiden asks.

I stop my fumbling and raise my eyes to his. He starts laughing. It’s an easy, comfortable sound. He must have forgotten he’s inside a flying metal tube. “What?” I ask.

“Your face,” he says. “I can tell exactly what you’re thinking.”

I close the book and cross my arms. “And what exactly am I thinking?”

His laughter gives way to a grin. “‘Why is he still talking to me?’”

I open my mouth, but no words come out. Yes, that’s pretty much what I was thinking.

“I’m sorry,” he says, “but I’m viewing this as something of a challenge. You can’t tell me that you never have conversations with strangers and not expect me to try and keep you talking for the whole flight.”

I raise my eyebrows. Did he say whole flight? Because that is definitely not happening.

“So tell me, Sarah. Why are you so afraid of talking to new people?”

“Why are you so afraid of flying?” I ask, finding my voice.

He hesitates for a beat, the smile lines disappearing from around his eyes, then says, “I have a paralysing fear of heights.”

“Well, clearly I have a paralysing fear of new people.”

“Why?” he asks, looking as though he’d genuinely like to know the answer.

“What is this, a therapy session?” I demand. “I don’t know why! I guess that’s just the way God made me.” Why am I shouting? What is wrong with me?

“Well, if I were you, and if God were real, I’d ask him what he was thinking.”

“God is real, and perhaps He made me this way so that I wouldn’t annoy strangers who don’t want to hear what I have to say.”

He pretends to look wounded. “You don’t want to hear what I have to say?”