Sarah awoke from her nap and remembered she was on a plane home to San Diego. She glanced around the low-lit cabin of thirteen other passengers, most of them asleep and a few with their heads bowed over some reading material. Across the aisle, her mother snored like their boxer Max. Soon, she and Max would be together again, along with Daddy.
She leaned down and retrieved a magazine from the floor. She must have dropped it during her nap. She swept hair from her face as she settled back in her seat, but it returned and tickled her nose. She almost sneezed and nearly wet herself.
Too much Mountain Dew at the airport restaurant before takeoff.
She sprinted to the toilet and did her business. After washing her hands at the sink and wiping her face with a lemon-scented towel, she headed back and met a pretty flight attendant coming her way. She wore the typical flight attendant uniform that reminded her of her Aunt Josie’s Coast Guard one—a starchy white blouse and dark blue skirt. The attendant was her height, and she had soft auburn hair pinned up in a bun on her head.
“Hi,” Sarah said as she approached. “Got any magazines other than People and Reader’s Digest?”
The attendant stopped in front of her. “Sorry.”
Sarah shrugged off her disappointment while she glanced at the red curtain behind her that separated coach from first class. The attendant looked at her slyly with warm blue eyes. “Would you like to take a look in first class?”
Sarah followed at the attendant’s heels past the curtains and into a small, well-lit kitchenette where a taller flight attendant stood at a counter and dumped paper packets from a box. She ignored them as they entered first class on the other side of another set of red curtains. The lighting was dim like coach, but seemed sharper and the seats were spaced farther apart. They passed a male attendant sleeping in a reclined, gray leather seat on their right. The rest of the place was uninhabited. The attendant stopped and Sarah collided with her, sending her falling into one of the seats to their left. She came to rest with her legs draped over an armrest and her pink knees hiding the lower half of her face.
Sarah apologized, but the woman laughed.
“Have a seat,” she said. She pivoted her body like a gymnast and took the window seat, and then patted the seat she had fallen in. “Go ahead, it’s okay.”
Sarah sat. The first class cushion hugged her bottom. She released a pleasant sigh when the flight attendant stuck out a hand and said, “I’m Angie.”
She grasped her warm, soft hand. “Sarah.”
A fruity scent mixed with sandalwood and jasmine blanketed her and made her dizzy for a moment. When it passed, Angie’s face was very close to Sarah’s. She whispered, “I want to play a game, Sarah. Close your eyes.”
Sarah hesitated. What was Angie up to? The male attendant was still sleeping close by if things got weird.
Angie said, “I want you to relax and put everything out of your mind until all you see is a blank wall in front of you, and all you hear is her voice.”
Again, Sarah hesitated.
“Trust me,” Angie said. “Imagine you’re a great artist painting a self-portrait on the wall. You’re wearing your favorite outfit.”
Sarah closed her eyes, saw a blank wall in front of her, and pretended she was like the landscape painters she had seen at the beaches near her home. She wore her favorite yellow and strapless summer dress that fit her like a soft caress.
Angie said, “Paint me next to you. But instead of me wearing my uniform, have me wearing clothes like yours.”
Sarah did that, too, so easily.
“Now paint us a world to live in, to run in, to do in whatever we want. Make it our world, to share with no one but each other.”
In an instant, Sarah created a sunny day around a flowery hill. She and Angie ran on the fragrant hill, laughing. Along the way, Angie took one of her hands in hers and led her up and down the terrain, singing a song about magic, and swinging her arm with hers, their hands clamped together all the while.
They did this for a long time until they came to a brook and stopped. There, Angie let go of Sarah’s hand.
“I must get ready,” she said. “The plane lands soon and I have to get back to work.”
Her statement confused Sarah; she had forgotten they were on an airplane. Dizziness came again. Angie told her to relax, to stay with her at the brook.
“This place you see is real. With my magic, you created a place for us to visit whenever you want, Sarah. Never believe it’s not so.”
Sarah took in the hilly meadow, beautiful and tranquil. When she turned back, Angie was gone. A faraway male voice said that the plane would land soon.
Sarah’s sunny world vanished and the first class section of the plane came into view.
Alone, she wandered back to her original seat. When the plane landed, Angie said goodbye at the exit. Before Sarah followed her mother to the tarmac, Angie winked and tapped her forehead. “See you at the brook. If you’ll paint me.”
Later that day, Sarah did. Since then, she and Angie have spent wonderful times together in their secret, private world that Angie helped her find that night in first class.