My ticket was for a window seat, in front of Tammy and Perry. I smiled at the respite, not to be sitting with my arrogant siblings. I retightened my seatbelt and kicked my ugly black purse under the seat in front of me. As we taxied up the runway, I closed my eyes. Dear God and Jesus in heaven, please rest my mother’s and father’s souls in eternal comfort. Forgive them their sins and please give some wisdom and warmth to the ones they’ve left behind, including Momma’s friend Mike. Please let us take off and land safely. Amen.
I opened my eyes and chewed cow-like on cinnamon Mentos candies. I kept popping them in until we’d leveled off. Momma was a big gum chewer. Cinnamon Dentyne. I couldn’t bring myself to buy any at the gift shop. She really could pop and crack her gum. An inherited trait I didn’t possess. But it doesn’t really bother me anymore, wondering why I look and act and react so differently than my family. Because now I know all the terrible secrets they kept from me. Damn them.
I leaned my head on the window and stared at the trees and roads down below until we ascended high into the clouds.
The twenty-two-ish male flight attendant brought the drink cart. Blond and handsome, but way too young.
“I’d like a Diet Pepsi, please.”
He popped the top on the can, poured some in a clear plastic cup with ice, serving it on a white paper napkin.
I turned thirty-nine a few weeks ago. How that happened, I can’t explain. I don’t feel thirty-nine. I feel well, twenty-seven-ish. The T.S.A. guy was more in my age group. Perfect actually. Perverted actually. Or was he actually just following procedures? Jeeze Donna. Get a hold of yourself. Here you are daydreaming that a man who couldn’t possibly be attracted to you actually was. Making a big romance out of it. Just like the make-believe romance you have with your make-believe roommate, your dream weaver, debonair secret agent Ashley Jones.
The flight attendant served hot coffee to the perky lady next to me. The old man on the aisle declined a beverage. The attendant handed us all a tiny bag of pretzels. I can’t eat pretzels. I’m on the Atkins diet. I can never eat pretzels again. Pure carbohydrates. I love pretzels.
I carefully pulled the plastic bag open and ate them, one-by-one. Sucking on the white salt. Enjoying the first crisp bite. Washing each down with soda.
The ventilation system whooshed as I tuned in Perry and Tammy’s conversation. Tammy asked, “So do you think Mom’s really dead?”
Perry said, “Hope so. Dunno though. Consider the source of the information. Her brain damaged daughter. We do need to find Chloe, one way or the other. If she’s dead, then that’s great, we not only will be heirs to Dad’s estate, but to Chloe’s as well.”
“What about Oh-Donna? She could cause some trouble.”
“Don’t worry about Oh-Donna. Whatever is damaged in her brain is getting progressively worse. And she’s refusing medical treatment. Only a matter of time until she has a fatal stroke.”
“Perry, don’t talk like that. You’re giving me the willies.”
Tears trickled down my face. They really didn’t like me at all. I just pretended, for thirty-nine years, that my family really did love me, deep down. I suppose it was a survival tactic.
I took the napkin, wet with condensation from the icy cup and wiped my face.
Maybe I should try to get treatment for my head injury. That last big sleep was scary. But then I’ll never get to see my dream weaver again. Ashley. Oh Ashley. If only you were real. In the here and now. That week we spent tucked away in the little bungalow on Make Believe Island was bliss. You wrote me a song. And I started typing a new novel. And you said Momma and Mike lived on the other side of the island. If only that were real...
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