“Would you like anything?”
I looked up at the stewardess. She was a petite woman with straight blond hair and dark eyebrows. The tie seemed out of place at the collar of her baby blue uniform. Her lipstick-covered smile felt like an assault. She leaned against the empty seat next to me.
“No, thank you,” my voice was nearly drowned out by the roar of the plane's engines. I stared out the window, looking out at the fluffy mat of clouds. The cumulonimbi stacked up like huge bales of cotton. So often, I had wanted to fly, to see what lay above the clouds. Not now, though. Now, I wished I was anywhere but here.
“Music perhaps? Or something to read? We have a few magazines in the back.”
I pushed my frizzy mop of red curls out of my face in order to meet her gaze. I was short for a sixteen-year old girl, and most people joked that I had skipped puberty. “No.”
The stewardess had to be wearing colored contacts. Real eyes couldn't possibly be that blue. She smiled again, somewhat awkwardly this time. The only reason she was even talking to me was because she thought I was much younger. The plane was small and packed with people who were competing to be heard over the engines. I sighed. I had been pulled out in the beginning of the school year and would likely have to play catch-up over Christmastime. I had wanted to stay in Seattle, but my only remaining family was in Minnesota, so that is my current destination. The stewardess had already reminded me several times that it was the land of a thousand lakes, and I would be seeing them through the window soon.
“What's your name, sweetie?”
I sighed. She just wouldn't give up. “Desirae.”
“Is this your first time in a plane?”
She folded her arms behind her back. “I didn't get to go on my first plane ride until I was twenty. Quite the experience. How old are you?”
“Oh...” There it was. I smirked to myself. Now she would have to rethink her condescending attitude. “Are you alone?”
I pulled out my cell phone and pretended to be busy. “Yeah.” There was a slight twinge in my chest. I tried hard not to remember.
“You must be getting a nice break from school. Who are you going to visit?”
“My grandpa,” I said.
She smiled, “Very nice. My grandparents lived in Florida when I was young. My parents and I used to visit them every year.”
I turned back to the window, tears streaming down my face. My throat ached.
The stewardess seemed to pull away, looking taken aback. “Are...are you okay?”
She stood there for a moment in silence, looking away. For a moment, I thought she might take a seat beside me. The thought made me clench my fists. I ducked my head and rubbed at my eyes. “I'm fine. I'm just fine.”
The stewardess ventured, “Where are your parents?”
I whispered, “I don't know where dad is. My mom died of cancer last month. I'm moving in with my grandpa.”
“I—I'm so sorry, dear.”
I laughed at her, tossing my head back, thin streaks of mascara sticking to my cheeks. “Why should you be? It's just poor, flat-chested, ugly, Dessy. She doesn't need a mommy. I'm just glad to have escaped from that hellhole of a school.”
She looked shocked, and I instantly bit my lip. Lately things just came flying out of my mouth without any sort of restraint. Too late now.
“I want to be alone.”
The stewardess obliged.
I looked out the window, trying to calm the pounding in my chest and the throbbing in my head. Far, far below through a patch-work of clouds, I saw small, pearly splotches.
“The land of a thousand lakes,” I breathed, shaking my head. I'd always wanted to travel, just not under these circumstances.
The pilot announced that we were beginning our descent. As I buckled my seat belt and crossed my legs, I mentally prepared for my new life.