Tempt (Take It Off)(5)

By: Cambria Hebert


I actually believed that. He probably had women lined up at home.

“And two,” he said, flicking up a second finger. “My abuela is Marisol Castillo.”

Again, his accent was more pronounced when he spoke her name. A name that I recognized. She was indeed my grandmother’s very dear friend.

“Your abuela is Marisol?”

He produced a picture from the same pocket where he kept his ID and held it out. It was of my grandmother, Cora, and Marisol. I had seen this same image hanging on her refrigerator practically all my life.

I took the photo out of his hands, staring down at Kiki with tears blurring my vision. I missed her. I missed her so much. “Okay,” I said softly. “I’ll go with you.”

He reached around me with his free hand and took my rolling suitcase. “Let’s go.”

I trailed along behind him like a puppy, mentally telling myself I was going to regret this.





2




“You can’t be serious,” I said the second we stepped outside.

He glanced over his shoulder. “Isn’t she a beauty?”

A tin can with wings? Yes. A sardine can with the words “death trap” scrawled across the side? You bet. A beauty? Hell to the no.

“I’m not riding in that thing.”

“Why not?” he called, not even bothering to look back this time. He just kept right on strolling, putting one impossibly long leg in front of the other. (Turns out even after I stood up, he was still very tall.)

“That thing isn’t even fit to fly!” I exclaimed, rushing after him.

“It got me here, didn’t it?”

Somehow that did not make me feel better.

He kept moving, walking up the tiny set of stairs and into the plane, taking my luggage with him. I wasn’t going up there.

Instead, I stood at the bottom of the stairs and yelled up. “Hey! I want my stuff back.”

His curly dark head appeared out the door. “Come get it.”

“You little…” I growled and stomped up the stairs.

I walked into the plane, noted my bags sitting in the first seat on the right, and went toward them. He closed the hatch (or whatever the door on a plane is called) behind me. I stiffened and turned. “Oh no. I’m getting off this death trap.”

“It’s not a death trap. You can get off when we get to Puerto Rico.”

“Now.”

“There’s soda in the back if you want some.”

“Do you not hear the words coming out of my mouth?”

“As soon as I have clearance, we can take off.”

Why did I bother talking? I grabbed up my bags and walked to the door.

Just as I was pulling open the door, the plane’s engine rumbled to life. I shut the door and glanced into the open cockpit. Nash looked over his shoulder at me and grinned. “Better buckle up.”

When the plane started moving, I found a seat and definitely buckled up. If I was going to die, it would be safely. The plane taxied toward the runway and then stopped. I thought briefly of trying to escape, but then I decided against it. I was already here. Might as well take the ride.

I settled into the seat, trying not to think about the fact that the plane was so small it only had one row of seats on each side. I tried not to think about the fact there was no flight attendant to give instructions preflight about how to use the dropdown air masks. Oh crap. Did this plane even have those?

I pulled some gum out of my bag and popped it into my mouth. The worst part about flying was the ear popping. Gum would hopefully help that.

Everything was fine until we got into the air. This little plane didn’t seem as sturdy as the commercial flights I’d been on. It seemed to teeter through the sky, bumping along, with us inside. Nerves kicked up inside me and I began to dread the rest of my time on this plane.

“Hey!” called a voice from the front.

I unbuckled my seatbelt and moved forward, peeking into the cockpit, my heart racing and my mind spinning theories of him having some weird emergency and needing me to fly the plane.

But he didn’t appear to be in need of help.

He actually looked really relaxed and confident sitting in the pilot’s chair. He had headphones over his ears, but one side was pushed back so it wasn’t covering that ear. My eyes were drawn immediately to the windshield, or rather what was beyond it.

It was sort of like seeing the ocean, except there was no water and we weren’t on the ground. But there was an endless supply of blue. An endless supply of completely bare and undisturbed landscape dotted with white clouds that looked impossibly soft and much more 3D up here than from the ground. I wondered what it would be like to reach out and touch one, if my fingers would slip right through it like vapor… or if it would have some sort of feel against my skin. Would it be silky and soft? Would it be slightly moist and warm? I knew I would likely never know what it felt like, but being up here made it very easy to imagine.

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