2010-12-23: Let's Fly Away



Date: December 23rd, 2010


Maggie, Laurie, an airplane for several long hours.

"Let's Fly Away"

By 5:20 AM when the plane is actually in the air, it's raining. The twinkling, famous sprawl of New York, New York is being left behind for what is, in comparison, a faraway land. There's a whole lot of sky to travel before it's reached. Right now, that sky is dark and gloomy — an attitude which is reflected by most of the passengers who are, for their own individual reasons or fates, traveling at this early hour. The flight is jam-packed and no one but the flight attendants look awake — except, perhaps, for a couple of them.

In the middle seat near the back of the plane in economy, Maggie appears so wide-eyed and awake, it wouldn't be a stretch to guess she had three cups of coffee before boarding the plane. Rather than gloomy, she's regained, with growing determination, some of her focus; yet, not unlike one wired on caffeine, a restless, unsettled energy still surrounds her. Wrapped up in a cozy blue sweater that made its last appearance less dry than it is now, holding it snug around her as a thick barrier against the plane's cool air, she leans her head back. "So. Now that we're on our way…"

Before the passenger passed out with their head uncomfortably notched against the closed plane window fell into this deep slumber, he was sweet-talked out of his seat at the aisle, where Laurie now resides. Here, he is able to stretch at least one already mildly uncomfortable leg along the seat in front of him. His leg is left the unfortunate fate of being propped, foot up; the lone representation of his travel — a tidy black cloth case on wheels — has been shoved as far as it will go under the seat as ordered but peeks out into his leg room some anyway. (Despite having boarded early on, being back of the plane, Laurie continuously sacrificed his overhead space to harried women and families until there was nowhere but at his feet.)

Well-behaved, friendly — even exceedingly pleasant to the much harassed airport staff — he sits now with an obligatory patience towards the hours ahead. His head is just barely biased towards the aisle; it's enough so that he doesn't spot Maggie's mouth moving. In his ears, small white buds pumping out something the connected screen hails as by Frank Sinatra. This tiny piece of popular white technology is also encased in a blazingly pink wrapper, unabashedly hooked to the consultant's front shirt pocket. A dark green shirt, it's been opened here, but is more commonly enveloped by the dark grey military-private jacket above. His deep red and black scarf, unwrapped for the sake of security earlier, now hangs, untied, around his neck and off to either side.

" … You should be … " Looking idly ahead, focused into thought, Maggie takes a second to notice she's speaking to someone who doesn't realize it. She catches on mid-sentence and rolls her head along the back to the seat to look at her colourful travel companion— and reaches her nearest arm out to tug one of the wires until Frank Sinatra falls out. She twirls the little about between two fingers, smiles quickly as if to say 'tada!' and sets to announcing: "You should be … briefed. On what you're getting into."

There's no loud noises on the plane to be suddenly assaulted with, but Laurie starts nonetheless when Frank's dulcet tones cease to be soothing — so much as absent. The clear imbalance between ears has him glancing smoothly in that direction; he first follows the telltale crumbs that is the white wire leading away; secondarily, he follows it — tada, indeed — to Maggie's face. She's watched a good long second — evaluated, really. No process is so evident on his face, but it can be surmised in the inordinately timed pause it takes him to get to: "… Why?"

Maggie is momentarily bewildered. "Well be— caauuse…" She drops the ear-bud wire and goes back to wrapping her arms about herself as she eyes Laurie rather quizzically. "There's… a case," she says, quieter. Understating. Not just any case; not just any case — not just a case — would send her across the country at the drop of a hat. "You'll need to know the details. But by all means— " she says with a smile — wondering, amused at him, but ultimately not feeling like remaining on her face — as she tries to settle in comfortably a few shifts of her shoulders and nestles of her head against the seat. " — wait eight hours."

Reeling the earbud back up through its wire made fishing line, Laurie fiddles with it a second, holding off the music long enough to opine carelessly, "Next time it should be a recipe emergency," a muttered little opinion to himself, as he realigns to the center, dragging his leg up to push knee against seat in front of him. This aids in his bit of slouching. "Or at the very least a bake-off," as the earbud is slipped into place and Frankie Jr. oozes It's perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say… Come fly with me. Let's fly, let's fly away…

* * *

"Attention passengers, we'll be landing in Dallas Fort Worth Airport in five minutes…"

Arrival for some — just a stop along the way for others. Maggie looks up from her lengthy bout of quiet reading of the paperback she'd been determinedly focused on for too many hours. Burning eyes blink to adjust to looking at something other than the text upon the pages of The Sheltering Sky as the plane descends into Texas.

* * *

Dallas Fort Worth Airport becomes the travellers' forced roaming ground for the next hour until being shuffled onto a different for the next — not even last — leg of their journey. Maggie's roaming has taken her into one of the duty-free shops that boasts a hodge-podge assortment of things, none of which are particularly related to the other except that they all claim to be Texan. Candy, tobacco, coffee, jewelery, almost everything leather under the sun, tourist trinkets … clearly just the first store wandered into, she only has a bottle of juice at the counter to show for her Texan interlude.

Getting up several times during the first section of hours did not cure Laurie of his need to stretch his legs; he indulges now by strolling the wide corridors of the airport turned waystation — and he's not alone. Girl With Green Hat from across the aisle and two rows up meanders with, clutching the shoulder straps of her industrial-sized backpack. "— only Chinese workers," the consultant is informing the girl animatedly, his hand whipping in the air, "but China didn't want to give out work permits for fear all their people would just defect. Now, all the plans are still in Chinese… so, repairs can be a bit of a muddle."

"Huh!" His companion huffs, interest heating her voice — and her cheeks, "Kinda makes me wish I could just detour in Texas a while…" her eyes roam, tempted, towards signs pointing outward. Texas awaits. But her hands merely adjust fitfully on her backpack while her legs pump only in circles. "But — I'm going to see family in Wyoming. What about you?"

Laurie's mouth forms a confident line as he guides them to the start of their fourth rotation. "Oh, no," His fingers spread, but then settle, finding his sides — pockets. He's strong in conviction, and easygoing in assurance; almost reassuring her at the same time. "I don't think they'll be able to find me there."

" — I got you something." The cheerful voice of one over-tired detective coming up behind Laurie is synonymous with that something aiming to place right on top of his head. It happens to be a cowboy hat in an unfortunately dull shade of green; green nonetheless. Its price, dangling down on a string, is as cheap as its make — as much of a joke as the way Maggie advises too seriously now: "You might need this, Miles. We're heading deeper into cowboy country." She's buoyantly rising above her unsettled mood here and there, though nothing quite shakes it; it's always waiting in the wings. Paler than usual, she looks like she really ought to have slept more. She's smiling when she steps up next to Laurie, orange juice in hand, peeking around him to also kindly smile at, and assess, the wearer of the other green hat.

Floundering a bit on how to respond to such a laid-back barb, Green Hat is nominally grateful for a distraction, and her friendly — but evaluating — smile mirrors Maggie's, while she reaches up to give Laurie's new head ornament a flick with her fingers. That jostling it, Laurie drags his hands out of his pockets to give the hat a very serious new arrangement on his head. "Yes," declares the man in the designer coat, with a flare of not quite matching green color hidden under the new tie of his scarf. "With this I shall most stealthily blend in. You're always looking out for me." Hat aligned in the least cowboy fashion he could likely present, Laurie dives the remaining into the bunch of his neckwear; amidst this, he finds and dutifully rips off the price tag.

Falling into pace with the walkers as they whisk through the busy, crowded airport, Maggie gives Laurie's questionable new look an appraisal with a little smile. Ultimately, she turns out a shake of her head that adamantly dismisses his future as a cowboy after all. "You're already going to completely stand out as it is," she says with good-natured matter-of-fact, "now you just look like a drugstore cowboy." Thanks to her souvenir. Even through this light talk, Maggie checks her watch, mindful of the time — it won't be long before the sky will be calling and they're one step closer.

Laurie's optimism has been so positively sniped, and he affords Maggie the dour affectation that his satisfaction has taken on. Fishing for that silver lining, he declares, "Good thing being an easy target is why you like me." The hesitation from her reversal has barely made a mark on his face, after all; he's more than comfortable in his self-deprecation. Easy-goingness cues Green Hat evaluation to come full-stop as she, half-searchingly, half-disappointingly (and, in the same breath, half-hiding her disappointment) ventures, "So, are you guys…?" From the shadows of his drugstore imitation cowboy hat, Laurie glances that-a-way. "Yes."

As Maggie twists the cap of her bottle, looking down, that same smile — fading before its time, but fueled on yet by amusement — parts as she prepares to speak up on Laurie's comment. On his position as an easy target, that is. She is, however, effectively diverted by the query of the other passenger — more by Laurie's reply. It takes her a good belated few seconds to look over, canting her head down around the overhang of Laurie's new hat to direct a blinking, suspicious eye at both of them. As a bland, echoing voice announces imminent departure times overhead, Maggie's little study narrows on the make believe cowboy and his motives while, so casually as to seem purposefully affected, silly, obvious, she lifts her opened bottle and her eyebrows at once. "Uh huh, we're what now?"

The girl in the green hat uses Maggie's unused seconds to back off both physically and vocally, citing her need to check gate numbers for the connection. "We're on the same flight," Laurie puts, rather bluntly, undercutting the authority of her excuse without grace. Now, combined with Maggie's deliverance, his look to both of them is decidedly critical. Green Hat sucks in a breath. At the same time, a tired realization rolls Laurie's eyes. A hand juts up — whether to stop GH's follow-up, or to silence continuing dubiousness from Maggie; he effectively plows on to the same effect, a finger dropping with each point. "Not how you're thinking. No. Hers. Yes — and, we should — next time we're both on a happenstance flight past Texas." Hope switches the smile back onto Green Hat's face whenever surprise and confusion try to beat it off; "Well, I guess that's something," she teases, uncertainty clinging to the ends of words.

Maggie gives her brows an extra, dismissive lift as she sips from her bottle; some hint of distant skepticism lingers, though it transfers, mostly, to the hopeful face of Green Hat. "And," she adds afterward, "we should be getting to our gate soon."

"… flight two-ninety-one to Cheyenne …" sounds over her words from on high as if on cue, the first of what will be a few reminders for wheels-up.

"Well, there it is!" Green Hat announces peppily, tagging along to the PA, and to Maggie. Her hands reach in front of her, only to clasp emptily together in a light clap. "Umm… you know… if you guys aren't," a hand ebbs towards Maggie as her eyes follow, then ending up on Laurie as he finds the handle of his carry-on, and then her. "… that is— we don't have a full flight. If there's an empty seat nearby…"

Maggie hitches the strap of her own bag over her shoulder more securely — her carry-on is the same beat-up leather satchel she hauls from place to place on a normal day — and simply proceeds to march on to the gate, her only glance to Laurie and his determined new acquaintance carries with it a vague shake of her head and a split second's expression; a round eyes, furrowing brow; okaaayyyy, it seems to say, before all expression vanishes and her focus seems to be ahead on their gate — and on the last, and by far longest, leg of the journey.

"You mean Wyoming isn't a celebrity destination?" inquires Laurie, appalled, as his hand comes up to guide, not Green Hat, but her luggage in a way that puts her in pace with him. It falls quickly— just as soon as they're in step, pulling ahead of Maggie — and several others who are less skilled at picking themselves up with any sort of eagerness towards a long flight. "Hold on," the consultant's voice trails them out, "I didn't even tell you the most interesting thing about the Forbidden Gardens…"

* * *

Maggie's fitful sleeping since the last stop sees her in a moment of tenuous rest. The passenger next to her in the window-seat, a man in a rumpled business suit, has completely checked out, leaning in a dead-asleep sprawl toward her seat and threatening to fall right on top of her. In her sleep, she's defensively leaned away from him, her head resting more gently against the curve of the seat separating hers from Laurie's assigned one. Her arms relax in a natural sprawl, on her lap and under the arm of her seat, onto the one beside her. Her brow is lined deep even at rest, however— but at least she's resting.

Until it's announced that they'll be landing soon, and the noise and timely shudder of the plane jars her from it. The gradual descent into Wyoming is the rockiest yet. The grey haze outside can only mark the day's weather as poor. Maggie wakes too suddenly with a start and half-choked gasp, as if thrust out of one bad dream into another. The unguardedly confused, tired state of someone who doesn't realize where they are takes hold of her instantaneously, and in turn, so does she when her resting hands come to life, grabbing for stable, protective purchase as the plane rocks turbulently down into her abandoned home state.

It's there exactly as she searches for it: a presence, something to hold onto. First under her fingers is the stiff lacing of a seam — denim — wrinkles beneath a pocket; then there's warmth, and the cut of trim, lean curves; in his slight slouch along the seat, she's grabbed Laurie. Even as her hand finds inescapable sensation, it bounces wildly — jolts from the plane indistinguishable from minor conscious movements. His elbow is also dislodged in the rustle, having been resting on the arm-piece between them. That arm drops away, beside him, against her, hitting her wrist and knocking her hand off its purchase.

Sensation is gone. But then, as in some regretful backtrack of his fingers' arc up, he's looped into hers. There — beneath the arm rest, between the seats — where it's hidden as if contact were an illicit thing, fingers squeeze the tips of hers in reassurance: her purchase. Mere seconds, and the plane imparts a last, real jostle with the thunderous impact of its landing. Hands leap, touch vanishes; Laurie's fingers blandly fold back the next pages of The Sheltering Sky as the turn of his head reading the book lends an obscuring angle to the hat blocking his face.

Every bump and jostle, every blink taken, ushers Maggie into gradual awareness. Blink-by-blink, she comes around into her sharp self. The dim, turbulent airplane becomes less disorienting and more real, becoming clear in the way that her eyes clear. Every rock of the seats and every touch, accidental or otherwise, between them becomes more real, too, if only in quick flashback as she catches up to the waking world; she regards her hand there where it's left without purchase, curling now against her own leg.

Slowly she takes the armrest in hand, same as the other side where the opposite found hold. She looks there as well — tentatively thankful as she does so, as beyond is the stranger who is just now starting to stir, making a grunting, half-asleep, failed attempt at patting his tie straight. At least she didn't grab him — right? Next, to the shadow that is Laurie's face; there her regard stays several moments, slightly wondering, puzzling, before she quietly tries to resettle in her seat while the landing plane and ignited chatter of the other passengers is nothing but.

Rocked about, she starts to take on a few traits of the nervous teenage girl across the aisle who seems utterly convinced they're all going to crash and burn even as they seem to safely touch Earth. They both, at least, bear the appearance of a fear of flying — both shift around in their seat, fidget, and shoot troubled glances out the window. Maggie, however, despite her fidgeting atop the armrests, doesn't quite so manic an energy as the youth. Her face hardens with at least one certain reality: they're here.

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