The Trouble with Flying

By: Rachel Morgan

Whoa. I blink and look down. I plug my headphones in. I should not be thinking about Aiden in that way. Not when I have Matt.

But do I have Matt?

Honestly … I have no idea.

Stop thinking about Matt! He doesn’t deserve to have any more thoughts or tears wasted on him.

“Good choice,” Aiden says, and for a crazy second I think my inner pep-talk voice spoke out loud. Then I realise he’s looking at the movie I selected. “Don’t start it yet. I’ll find the same one. We can critique it together.” His fingers move quickly across his screen. He puts the headphones on, positioning them so that one ear is covered and one is free. “Ready?” he asks.

The image of Matt splinters into hundreds of pieces that drift away on an imaginary breeze. I smile at Aiden. “Yes.”

I’m not a film critic. I like to sit back and let the soundtrack wash over me and the story weave its way through my imagination. I like to lose myself for an hour or two. Aiden, however, can’t shut up. He has a comment about everything, from the special effects to the actors chosen for the various roles to the fact that the ‘science’ makes little or no sense. It could be that I’m still somewhat mesmerised by his accent, but I find that I don’t mind the interruptions.

Three hours later, after stopping the movie to order drinks, then dinner, and then pausing at least twenty times to argue about some detail or other, we finally finish. The cabin lights are dimmed, and most passengers are either sleeping or plugged into their screens. I slide my feet out of my shoes and reach for the aeroplane blanket I shoved under my chair earlier. I pull my knees up onto the seat and wrap the blanket around them.

“Okay, so that wasn’t exactly an Oscar winner,” I say. I take a sip of Chardonnay from my plastic wine glass before replacing it on the tray table between Aiden and me. “I’m glad I didn’t pay to watch it in a cinema.”

“Thank goodness I was here to give you a detailed commentary and dissection,” Aiden says. “You might have fallen asleep other—”

Our smooth flight shifts abruptly to a bumpy one as turbulence rocks the plane.

Aiden swears loudly and grips the armrests of his chair. “What the hell was that?”

“Um, that would be turbulence.”

“Turbulence? That felt like an aeroplane-sized pothole.”

Another shudder ripples through the plane, stronger this time.

“Holy hell,” Aiden gasps as I grab both our drinks before they start dancing towards the edge of the tray table. “So when you told me that everything in between taking off and landing is fine, you were lying.”

“Not intentionally.” I hold the drinks up as my seat bounces around. “I just … forgot about the turbulence part. And technically I think ‘holy hell’ might be an oxymoron. Since, you know, hell is bad. Not holy.”

“Not helping.”

“Well, at least you know for next time.”

“Sarah!” He gives me the we’re-all-gonna-die look.

“Hey, it’s okay, this is normal.” I tip back the last of my wine so I can put the glass down and place my hand over his. “Turbulence happens. The plane shakes around a bit, sometimes the seatbelt light comes back on, and then it passes and we all get on with sleeping or watching a movie or whatever. Just pretend you’re on some kind of carnival ride instead of in a plane.”

“Uh huh,” Aiden says, but his eyes are squeezed shut and I can tell he doesn’t believe me.

With one final shudder that knocks my glass over and sends the remaining ice block skittering across the tray table, the turbulence passes. I wait a few moments to make sure it’s really gone, then say, “See? That wasn’t so bad. They didn’t even ask us to put our seatbelts on.”

Aiden stares straight ahead, his breathing a little heavier than normal. I realise my hand is covering his. Crumbs, when did I do that? I barely know this guy and now I’m holding his hand? I lift the offending hand away from his and hide it in my lap. I’m still holding his drink, so I put that down too. I scoop the runaway ice block back into my glass and notice that Aiden still hasn’t said anything. I look up, but he’s watching the aisle. The tops of his ears are red.

“Um, are you okay?” I ask. Still he refuses to look at me. “Okay, so, I hope you’re not embarrassed or anything. I mean, turbulence is scary if you don’t know what to expect. I’m the real freak here, remember? The one who’s scared of social interaction with perfectly harmless people.” I laugh to let him know I’m joking. Trying to lighten the mood.

“It is embarrassing, though,” he says quietly, his gaze still focused on the aisle. “That kid over there didn’t even put her iPad down.”

“Well, you know, she’s probably too engrossed in catapulting birds at pigs or something. If she were even remotely aware of her surroundings, I’m sure she would have been scared too.”

Aiden gives me a small smile. “I doubt it. But thanks anyway. And thanks for saving my wine. When you start off with such a tiny drink, it would suck to lose half of it.”