By G.G. Paul
“Ladies and gentlemen, Flight 785 to New York is set to depart in fifteen minutes. All passengers please check in at Terminal E Five.”
“Need some help?” Jeff asks.
“No, Daddy,” Rita replies, “I’m a big girl now.” The 4’3” girl drags her suitcase across the floor as her father chuckles.
They are soon thirty thousand feet in the air.
“And what will you have, honey?” the flight attendant, Anita—according to the nameplate on her lapel, asks. She bends over Jeff toward Rita, who sits next to the window in the front row in Economy. Anita is uncomfortably deep in Jeff’s aura. His eyes travel up her stockings, to her blouse, via her arched back, to her visible bra, and finally resting on her—Stop it, Jeff!
“Do you have chocolate milk?” Rita asks.
“Sure, honey.” Anita hands a lidded cup to Rita, smiles at a sweaty Jeff, and continues distributing snacks to the passengers behind them.
Rita takes a sip, and as usual, kneels on her seat and peeks over at the other passengers. “Hi. I’m Rita,” she says with milk dripping from her mouth.
“Hallo, Rita,” a female voice with a foreign accent responds.
“Honey, what did I tell you about bothering strangers?” Jeff asks as he too peeks over the seat. “I’m sorry.” He smiles at the woman and her male companion, who glares back at him.
“Soooory!” Rita slumps back into her seat and clasps her hands on her chest, cheeks puffed out.
Jeff, having been awake for forty-eight hours straight, lays his head back and dozes off in minutes.
Something brushes his hand. He opens his eyes and sees Anita disappear behind the curtain. She appears to have been running. He blinks the blur from his vision and sits up. He turns his head to meet Rita’s grin.
“Daddy, you were snoring really loud.” She hooks her nose upward with her index finger. “Oink! Oink!”
Anita rushes out of the front compartment, leaving the curtain flailing as if in a storm. Jeff’s eyes follow her as she walks to another flight attendant and they whisper to each other. The fright on their faces ignites a cold chill that courses down Jeff’s spine. Nearly all the passengers are dead asleep or too immersed in the movies they are watching.
Suddenly, the plane yaws so violently that Rita is thrown from her seat. Jeff grabs her, pushes her back onto her seat, and fastens their seat belts. The yawing stops as suddenly as it started. Loud murmurs immediately rise among the passengers.
The com crackles to life. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain. We seem to have lost the starboard engine. We are going to make an emergency landing. Please fasten your seat belts.”
Anita and the other five flight attendants file back to their seats. Anita sits facing backward directly in front of Rita, facing her. Her eyes dart about and her lips quiver as she straps on her seat belt.
There is a loud explosion on the plane’s larboard. The aircraft yaws again, before going into a dive. The force of the plunge is so great that Jeff feels his intestines rise in his abdomen. He holds Rita back on her seat with his left hand. Her eyes are wide open, her mouth agape, and she seems out of breath. “Daddy is here,” he mumbles as he peeks over her through the window. Buildings are partially visible through the patches of cloud. The altitude on the screen in front reads 29,000 feet.
“Daddy!” Rita screams.
“It’s going to be all right, honey. I’m here.”
The clouds disappear and Jeff sees the city in its full glory. The buildings seem to be rising up to welcome them. He can’t breathe. The altitude on the screen reads 25,000. The screams behind him are unbearable. He glances at Rita and realizes her fear has disappeared. She looks calm and a smile is barely visible. Her gaze is straight in front of her . . . at Anita.
Anita stares back into Rita’s eyes. She has a weak but enchanting smile on her face. Her eyes glitter. Her huge round pupils radiate some sense of ease. She seems to be drawing comfort from Rita . . . or trying to comfort the little girl. Jeff, still scared, is mesmerized. He envies Anita. He wants to be the one Rita is looking at. She is his little girl. He feels useless. Deep in his heart, however, he is grateful for Anita’s angelic presence at the worst time when his daughter needs comfort. He could not have done what she is doing.
They are now fifteen thousand feet above the city.
Anita’s face turns serene. Rita smiles back, her eyes glittering with felicity. The sight of the two angels slowly drowns out the screams around Jeff. The fright fizzles. His heart calms.
They are now three thousand feet above the city.
Jeff feels Rita’s hand on his. She wraps her soft, warm palm around his left thumb, her focus still on Anita. Jeff gently closes his hand around his daughter’s fingers. He smiles.
They are now—
G.G. is a newbie author and lives in the boonies of Upstate New York. He is currently marketing a crime-romance novel to agents, and a religious sci-fi to indie presses. You can find him scavenging for deals at thrift stores ($58 PS4…woohoo!) Feel free to check out his work at www.ggpaul.com, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org