FLIGHT • by Tyrean Martinson

Samantha had spent the last week in suspension, waiting for doctors and nurses to give her some kind of real information instead of vague hints and reassurances. Her laptop, journal, and book had gone untouched in her bag. She had eaten hospital oatmeal in the cafeteria with little sugar, and had… enjoyed it?

She really couldn’t remember the taste, but the warmth had been soothing. The cup of tomato basil soup she had eaten with oyster crackers had been slightly more memorable with a strong taste of basil, and the crackers becoming mushy lumps at the bottom of the bowl before she had finished it. Across from her at that meal, her father had poked at his salad with rheumatoid fingers crooked around his fork, and his mouth making a moue of distaste at the ranch dressing. He had assumed it was a Caesar dressing when he’d chosen the unlabeled plastic container.

She remembered those things, and the feel of the smooth table under her fingers, along with the way she had set their table with precision, napkins and utensils to the sides, and cups arranged at easy hand-reach level for sipping their tea. She had made sure the table was clean, but still spread a napkin under their dishes. When she thought of that, she realized it was something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager, since before Joey, who ate with speed and efficiency, consuming just enough calories and no more, eating so quickly that he often finished before she completed her “fussy” pre-meal rituals.

She liked her rituals. They brought comfort. So, as she sat in one more waiting room chair, this time in the law office, she carefully placed her purse to her right, leaned against her leg, with her hands resting across her knee. She crossed her legs properly at the ankles, and tried to make something out of the geometric patterns on the rug. They were too tangled to be pathways, except where they were cut short against the window wall.

Samantha felt drawn to the blue sky beyond the glimmering cityscape. She yearned for the freedom of flight. But she could not think of that now, in this solemn moment. She studied the carpet again until her lawyer’s secretary said her name.

In the board room, she had to face Joey.

He tried to make his face into a mask of platitude, but his ever-present wry smirk ruined it. “I hope you’re all right, Sam. I mean, your mother.” Beyond him, the windows were covered in tight plastic shades.

Samantha focused on the dark mahogany table and sat down next to her lawyer. “My mother’s death changes nothing in this proceeding.” She realized he really knew nothing of what she was really going through. She didn’t think she could stand the possibility of breaking into tears in the midst of informing him. He didn’t need to know, not just now.

“I only meant that…”

Joey’s lawyer put a hand on his arm. “Mr. Hutchins. I think we should proceed.”

“I thought we were getting an amicable divorce, Sam,” Joey said.

Samantha gave him her best level stare. How could he think they were getting an amicable divorce after he’d slept his way around his office?

The proceedings continued, and she studied the smoothness of the heavy, legal papers under her hands as she signed them, and made sure they were carefully tucked to satisfying neatness when she was finished. Joey said a few more things, but she paid less attention to the sound of his voice than the buzzing of a trapped fly on the windowsill.

When she turned to leave, her lawyer put her hand out, “If you need anything?”

She shook her head and left the office, carefully placing her feet one in front of the other.

She could see Joey holding the door to the elevator for her.

Turning away, she opened the door to the stairwell. The carpet ended abruptly for a blue-gray concrete landing, and the stairs were painted in a garish emergency yellow leading up.

Taking off her heels, she let her feet soak in the coolness from the concrete. She climbed steadily with her shoes and purse pinned to her by her right hand. At the top of the stairs, just four flights up, she opened the door to the roof.

The blue-sky horizon above the skyline beckoned her as it had in the waiting room.

Samantha thought of her father’s favorite saying. “It’s always a good day to fly.”

Walking to the edge of the roof, she dropped her belongings onto the rooftop and lifted her arms to her sides, threw her head back. With her eyes closed, she took one deep breath and another, concentrating on the sensations of touch: the sun on her face, the slight breeze pressing against her, her feet cool on the pavement, each breath slow and filling. She imagined soaring through the skies, the only place she’d ever felt truly free. She didn’t know how long she stood there. It didn’t matter.

Enough time passed for her to let go of part of the pain, enough of the pain to allow her imagination to find the horizon when she opened her eyes. She slipped on her heels, collected her belongings, and walked down the stairs of the building, plans buzzing in her mind like her dad’s old plane trapped in the barn behind his house. She would free it and herself. She would fly. She held the blue sky inside as she made her way through the bustling clouds of the city, a small smile on her face.

Tyrean Martinson writes, tutors, walks, and loves life in Washington State. Previously, she’s been published the anthology in Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life, has written voice first content, and has self-published three novels and several non-fiction books.

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