The Trouble with Flying

By: Rachel Morgan


Aiden looks at me sideways, narrows his eyes, and opens his mouth. Then he closes it without saying anything. He shifts around in his seat and watches me for several moments. “You remind me of one of my friends. He’s been trying to convince me to go with him to church for years.”

“And you keep telling him the invisible entity doesn’t work for you.”

“Pretty much.” He grins, and I notice a dimple in his left cheek. “So, what kind of scientist are you, Sarah?”

I look down at my lap. “Oh, well, I’m not technically a scientist yet. I’ve done one year of a BSc, so I guess you could call me a scientist-in-training.”

“Okay, what kind of scientist do you plan to be?”

“Um …” I hate it when people ask me this, because I never have a proper answer. “I’m not sure yet. Sometimes I don’t know why I picked science.” And I don’t know why I said that. He doesn’t need to know that I can’t figure out what to do with my life.

“Pick something else then,” Aiden says, as if changing degrees isn’t a big deal. “Something that induces such passion in you that you’ll even talk to strangers about it. Something that includes making up fantastical stories, if possible,” he adds with a grin.

A faint smile crosses my lips. “Yeah, maybe.” Which is code for Not Happening. I’ve already had this conversation with someone in the past month, and it did not go well. Sticking with science is my safest option right now, especially since the only thing I feel any kind of passion for also happens to be something I suck at. “What about you?” I ask. “You can’t be a real scientist yet either; you don’t have wild hair and an uncontrollable beard.”

“If that’s a prerequisite for being a scientist, then you’re going to have a problem.”

“I know. I’ve been trying to grow a beard for months, but nothing will happen.” I stroke my chin.

“And your hair is far too pretty to be considered wild.”

Pretty? Oh my goodness, is he flirting with me? “You should have seen it just now in the bathroom,” I say before allowing myself to get embarrassed. “I definitely would have been classified as crazy scientist with all that static electricity whizzing across my head.”

With a smile, Aiden says, “I bet you still looked cute.”

Oookay. I’m not an expert in this area, but I’m almost certain he’s flirting with me. I grab a pamphlet from the seat pocket in front of me. “Have—have you seen the menu?” I open it up and pretend to peruse it so I won’t have to look at Aiden. “The food’s actually pretty good on this airline. I had salmon on the way here.”

“Mmm, lamb brochette,” Aiden says, leaning over to read my menu. “Looks good.”

I focus on the words and instruct my brain to make sense of them. It’s difficult, though, with Aiden leaning so close I can smell his deodorant or cologne or whatever it is he’s wearing. Which makes me wonder what I smell like. Hopefully more like fruit—from Julia’s cherry something-or-other shampoo I used this morning—and less like the cheese muffin I snacked on while waiting at the airport.

“How do you order food if you can’t talk to strangers?” Aiden asks. “Sign language? Pointing?”

I roll my eyes. “I don’t have a problem ordering food. It’s not like I’m expected to have a detailed discussion with a waiter about the finer points of his life when all I need to say is, ‘I’ll have the smoked chicken salad, please.’”

“Right. No sign language then.”

“No.”

He pulls away from me—finally—and I can breathe easily once more. “So what’s our entertainment line-up for the evening?” he asks as he touches the screen in front of him. “There must be at least one good movie on here.”

“More than one.” I touch the menu of my own screen. “They often show new releases.” I navigate to the sci-fi movie I tried to get Julia to watch with me before I realised how much more expensive a movie ticket is in London than back home. “Does this mean I’m off the conversation-hook for the rest of the flight?”

“Of course not. Who says you can’t talk during a movie?”

“Oh no. You’re one of those?”

“I am one of those.”

“My best friend is like that.” I pull my headphones out of the seat pocket and unwind the cord. “It’s one thing when you’re on the couch at home, but when you’re in the cinema? Yeah, it gets embarrassing. Someone threw popcorn at us once.”

“Brilliant. Free popcorn.” Aiden locates his headphones.

“Ew, are you serious? Would you really eat popcorn when you don’t know whose hands have been all over it?”

“I might. In fact, if you were there, I definitely would. Just to see your reaction.”

My fingers still on the headphone cord as I meet Aiden’s gaze. I imagine the two of us sitting in a cinema together. In the semi-darkness. Our eyes locked the way they seem to be locked right now.