“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” – The Scarlet Letter
I impatiently tapped my freshly manicured nails against the copy machine as it continued to whirr and whoosh – spitting out page after page of the report I was printing. When it finally stopped making noise, I thought it was done but one glance at the monitor made me roll my eyes.
Error: Load Paper Tray
Honestly, does no one replace the paper after they use it? This is like the fourth time this has happened to me in the past month.
Bending over to rummage through the cabinet where all the letter paper was stored, I was about to stand up when someone cleared their throat behind me.
I screamed, whipping my head around and nearly falling flat on my ass. Placing a hand on my already beating heart, I took in the tall figure leaning against the door frame.
“Whatcha doing there, McKenzie?” Ethan asked, trying to stifle a laugh.
“Oh you know,” I brushed myself off as I straightened out. “Just living my best life – loading the paper tray.”
“There goes that sarcasm again.” He shook his head, smirking.
“Did you actually need something?” I cocked an eyebrow at him as I turned around to load the printer’s paper tray. “Or were you just purposely trying to give me a heart attack.”
I heard him chuckle behind me. “I came to see if you wanted to come to a client site with me tomorrow. I need an MD on the project because Bethany called in sick for the rest of the week.”
Hmm, I thought to myself. Be stuck inside all day going through paperwork, or venture out with Satan’s spawn?
“Sure.” I shrugged as the printer continued to spit out the remainder of my report.
“Wear something comfortable then.” He eyes slowly ranked over my figure, before coming back up to my face.
“What do you mean by comfortable?” I challenged. I was wearing a sleeveless color block sheath dress with black stilettos today, something I would typically wear on any given day, or when going to meet with a client.
“What you’d wear to the gym.”
“That would imply that I workout...”
Ethan sighed as he rolled his eyes. “You’re being difficult, McKenzie.”
“Always.” I reciprocated his smirk as I grabbed the large stack of paper I had been waiting for and walked away from him – making sure to brush his shoulder intentionally.
“I’ll pick you up at 7 AM.” He called out from behind me. I was about to protest the ungodly hour, but knowing him it would be of no use.
This is going to be interesting, I thought to myself.
As I continued towards my office, I could feel Ethan’s continued burning gaze. It took every ounce of willpower for me not to turn around.
Following my embarrassingly drunken night with Ethan a few weeks ago, he stayed over for breakfast and helped jog my memory about the night before. To say I wanted to crawl under a rock and never come out would have been an understatement!
However, he surprisingly never brought it up again and it’s as if the whole thing never happened. Following that night, I also haven’t had a single drop of alcohol. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when your boss has to hold your hair while you puke and make a total ass of yourself.
When I got back from Orlando last week, Ethan had taken me to lunch to thank me for giving that speech for him. I was hesitant to accept because I was still completely mortified about making a total ass of myself, but he was quite persuasive. And by that I mean, he wouldn’t leave my office until I agreed to go to lunch with him.
Other than that, our interactions have been minimal for the past few weeks. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy our shared glances and the touches here and there – but I was also totally realistic about the situation at hand. Getting involved with him in any way outside of a professional capacity would just open up a whole new can of worms that I wasn’t ready to deal with.
True to his word, at exactly 7 AM sharp the next morning, my phone pinged.
McKenzie: Bite me.
Ethan: Gladly ;)
I rolled my eyes, stuffing my phone in my pocket. Grabbing my jacket and keys, I quickly slipped my sneakers on and locked the door behind me.
I decided that I wasn’t going to be difficult for once, and listened to what Ethan had said about wearing something comfortable. I had on a pair of black yoga pants, a white Nike tank top, and a black Nike fleece jacket.
It was really nice out today, with the sun shining brightly and the temperatures well above the late March average.
Making my way down the stairs outside, I saw Ethan leaning against a black car wearing black joggers, a dark grey fitted training jacket, and white shoes. He also had on a pair of sunglasses to protect his eyes from the blinding sun – something I had forgotten upstairs.
He looked delicious.
As I inched closer to him, I saw that the car he was leaning against was a Porsche – and not just any Porsche. A beautiful, sexy black Porsche Cayenne that appeared to be out of the new lineup they just released.
What – I appreciate fine German engineering!
My eyebrows shot up in admiration. “Please tell me you’re not just randomly leaning against a stranger’s car.” I teased as I came to a stop in front of him. His tall frame was large enough to block the sun currently blinding me, so I allowed my hand to come down from my eyes.
“Good morning to you too,” Ethan replied sarcastically, his lips tugging upwards in a smile.
Choosing to ignore him, I smiled, dragging my fingers along the shiny black paint job. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were more excited to see my car than me.” Ethan joked from next to me.
Still mesmerized by the beauty in front of me, I turned to him. “I am more excited to see your car than you.”
“Oh really?” He smirked pushing himself off the passenger side door. “And here I was going to let you drive it. Oh wel– ”
“What?” I shrieked, quickly giving him my full attention. “It is lovely to see you this morning, Ethan.” I smiled sweetly at him.
“Uh-huh.” He chuckled before throwing the keys at me. The ideal thing would have been for me to actually catch the damn keys when he chucked them at me, but of course, that would have meant that luck was on my side today. It clearly was not when the keys landed at my feet.
Heat flushed my cheeks in both embarrassment and annoyance as I bent down to scoop up the keys— luckily there weren’t that many people out right now.
Ethan however, didn’t spare my feelings at all as he threw his head back and laughed at my expense. “Shut up!” I grumbled as I walked around to the driver’s side and got in.
Once I had adjusted the seat and mirrors to fit my height, I turned towards Ethan expectantly. “Well – where the hell are we going?”
“The address is already in the GPS, McKenzie.” He chuckled, making himself comfortable in the passenger’s seat. “Feel free to stop for coffee, it might make you more pleasant this morning.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, “I will have you know, I’ve already had coffee this morning.”
“Really? I couldn’t tell – what with your attitude being so... chipper!”
“However, if you insist we stop again – who am I to decline.” I smiled sweetly before shifting the gear into drive.
Two and a half hours later, I was starting to lose my patience.
“Where the fuck are we going?” I shot Ethan an annoyed glance. We had been driving for more than two hours and we still hadn’t arrived at the location he had input into the GPS.
“We’re almost there, McKenzie.” He rolled his eyes at my impatience. Truth be told, I actually had to pee again and I’m afraid that if I told him we were stopping again due to my small bladder – he might leave me stranded at the gas station. This would be our fourth time stopping on account of my bladder.
Luckily, the GPS chose that exact moment to speak up. “Turn right onto E 1961st Rd, and the destination is on your left.”
“About fucking time!” I grumbled, shifting in my seat for the millionth time.
“Please don’t tell me you have to pee again!” He asked exasperated.
“Fine, I won’t tell you then.”
“Ethan!” I mocked as I pulled into the large parking lot.
Once I had placed the car in park and turned off the engine, I unbuckled my seat belt and got out to stretch my legs. Glancing at our surroundings, we were basically in the middle of fucking nowhere. There was a large white building standing in front of us that resembled an airport hanger and a few cars in the parking lot, but other than that it was all just dirt and grass with one main road. “If you wanted to murder me, we didn’t have to drive more than two hours out of the city.” I sarcastically commented as Ethan met me at the trunk of the car.
Handing him the keys to his car, I impatiently waited for a reply. “I didn’t drag you out here to murder you.” Ethan said, his tone laced with sarcasm.
“We’re just here to examine some equipment.” He replied, rummaging through the trunk of his car until he emerged with a black folder.
“What equipment?” I asked incredulously gesturing to the nothingness that surrounded us. “There’s nothing but an abandoned building around here!”
“On the contrary,” He grabbed my shoulders and began steering me in the direction of the building.
I wasn’t scared that Ethan was going to murder me – in fact, I trusted him. But it was kinda fun to egg him on.
“Welcome to Skydive Chicago,” Ethan said as he pulled open the door and we stepped inside. Contrary to the outside, the inside was bustling with people. The entire place was just one large open floor plan, with a small door to the right when you come in that read Office and Registration.
“Wait –” I quickly sped up my pace to catch up with him. “What? Skydiving?”
“Ethan!” I hissed as he continued to walk ahead of me. Just then, a man in his late thirties walked up to us with a huge grin on his face. “Ethan!” He smiled as the two of them shook hands.
“George, how are you?” Ethan greeted him.
“Ehh. You know,” The man – George – shrugged. “Keeping busy.”
“It looks like it.” Ethan nodded approvingly as he examined the scene in front of us. This wasn’t just one large open space, this was one large open space with dozens of Cessna 182 airplanes.
I continued to awkwardly stand next to Ethan, taking in our surroundings. It looked like everyone that was currently there, were employees checking on the planes and other equipment they had lying around.
“George, this is my colleague McKenzie Anderson. I brought her along to check out the equipment with me.” Ethan gestured to me. When George extended his hand out to me, I quickly shook it and introduced myself. “It’s nice to meet you, George.”
“You know Ethan, the equipment doesn’t need to be checked every two weeks.” George teased as he began walking towards one of the blue airplanes. “That’s not what I pay you for.”
Every two weeks?
George must have sensed my confusion because he spoke up once again. “Ethan here likes to jump out of planes, and claims it’s in the interest of “checking out the equipment” to make sure it’s all properly functioning.”
I gaped at his words.
Jumping out of planes?
“That sounds so cool!” I perked up. I’ve always wanted to go skydiving, but all of my friends were too scared of heights, and Justin kept pushing it off during our honeymoon. To this day, I still haven’t found someone willing to try it with me.
“Wait –” I asked genuinely confused. “Are you really a client or did Ethan just make up that part?”
George roared with laughter. “No sweetheart, I actually pay you guys good money to keep my business running.” Clapping Ethan on the back, he continued. “Ethan here just happens to be an old buddy of mine.”
“In that case, I feel professionally obliged to test out this equipment you have here.” I chuckled as I ran my fingers along the white paint on the Cessna 182.
“Sure thing, sweetheart.” George shook his head laughing. “I just need you to head on over to Michelle in the main office and sign some paperwork.”
I was more than happy to oblige as I made my way over towards the door labeled Office and Registration, leaving the two of them to catch up. On my way there, I made sure to make a quick stop to the bathroom – small bladder and all.
After signing a million waivers waiving any liability on the company’s side, I was all ready to go. To my disappointment, I wouldn’t be able to jump on my own because it was my first time so I had to jump while strapped to one of the instructors. Ethan, however, didn’t seem to face the same problem since he was a frequent jumper.
As our instructor readied the plane, the pilot also made his way over to us. I was impatiently waiting for everything to be ready when Ethan said, “You are like a kid on Christmas morning.”
“No – ” I corrected. “This is better than Christmas morning!”
I couldn’t explain why I was so excited about this, I mean it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but until an hour ago I wasn’t dying to get on a plane and jump out into emptiness. I’m also not the biggest fan of height. Sure – I’m not terrified or anything, but looking down from really high above does make my stomach drop just a little.
And yet – I couldn’t help the adrenaline rushing through my veins right now.
Everything else happened in a blur and before I knew it, we were up in the sky and our instructor, Michael, had opened the door to the aircraft, allowing a gush of wind to enter.
“Are you ready?” Michael shouted, looking at me expectantly as he strapped the huge backpack holding our parachute to himself.
“Yes!” I nodded. From the corner of my eye, I also saw Ethan securing his own backpack. When his eye caught mine, he gave me a small smile that stirred up a whole new wave of emotions inside of me.
As I stood in front of Michael and allowed him to hook the harness to my waist and shoulders, I dared to peek outside.
As Michael gave the harness one final tug, he stepped us towards the edge. “On three!”
I seemed to be frozen in place, not registering that Michael had already counted to three. Giving me a slight nudge, we plunged into the air, and for a split second, I thought I went blind. When my heart finally caught up with my body, I realized that the shrill screaming ringing in my ears was coming from my lips.
With the light from the sun no longer beating into my eyes, I looked down at the ground underneath us. The ground was 10,000 feet below us, and I was falling fast towards it.
I was taking in the whole world and every emotion possible – all at once.
Feeling the extreme amount of wind sliding against my body, I felt like I was flying. I allowed myself to become emersed in the feeling of freefall.
It was like a great release, and every worry seemed to fade.
Up there, I wasn’t McKenzie the 28-year-old divorced woman going through a mid-life crisis. I wasn’t the girl who everyone seemed to pity and walk on eggshells around. I wasn’t the girl who hadn’t smiled a genuine smile in so long.
I was just me.
I was a free person, and I liked it.
When Michael finally pulled the shoot, it felt like my body had come to a complete stop for a few seconds. Looking around, I saw Ethan wasn’t too far behind us and at one point he was floating alongside us.
As we continued to fall closer and closer to the ground, I couldn’t believe it was almost over.
Landing with a thud on the ground, Michael unhooked himself from me and allowed me to regain my balance.
It felt weird to be standing on solid ground again when mere minutes ago I was floating in the air.
“Smile, Cupcake.” Ethan grinned, as he came to a stop in front of me. Confused, I looked around but didn’t see a camera. What I did see, however, was Ethan pulling a GoPro body-cam off his chest.
I didn’t realize he had a camera strapped to him the entire time.
At first, I gaped at his words but allowed my lips to rise in a smile.
Full disclosure, I’m writing this story as it comes to me😅 Typically I like to have the plot planned, but this was an idea that came to me out of the blue and I just decided to roll with it. Stay tuned while I figure out what happens next with these two love birds🌸💕
Also— I’m living vicariously through McKenzie’s character because I wish I had someone like Ethan in my life!🤣
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