Flying was not new to Gretchen Mckenna, but it was always wonderful. Adjusting herself, she wheeled to the right, feeling the leap in her stomach as the small craft dipped and caught the next thermal. Her feet resting on a poll behind her, at the bottom of the wingspan, and she felt the inevitable itch that she always seemed to get on her calf at some point during flight. She forced her mind away from it and concentrated on watching the fields below her for a convenient place to land. She didn’t want to flatten a whole row of beautiful corn plants if she could help it.
The sky was a magnificent blue above her, and it seemed impossible that below, on the ground, there was anything wrong with the world. She wondered perversely whether it would be possible to simply exist without any human companionship; maybe then she’d never, ever, need to be exposed to the meanness, the smallness, the pettiness, the stupidity and callousness of those around her. She knew that a fifteen-year old girl shouldn’t be as negative and as done with life as she felt she was already, and she was guilty about that.
If she’d been at all suicidal, she could have snapped herself out of her harness and fallen to her death any time during this and all her other flights. But she had a deep will to live and find something better, something worth living for. She was determined to find it. The family she was born into was all wrong for her; they were bigots, they spurned any kind of education and laughed at her pleasure in reading, they encouraged her to be a “normal” girl and go out to parties where she would get plied with alcohol and lewd offers. There weren’t parents or siblings like she had in most of the books she checked out of the small, rural library that she spent her time in.
A draft carried a scent of damp earth from below and Gretchen realized her mind had wandered and she was getting closer to the ground in her circling. She found an empty expanse of weedy field to land in. She wasn’t looking forward to the long trudge home, lugging the surprisingly heavy craft behind her, but she dreaded even more arriving home and hearing her family berate her for being gone all day, again.
One day, she thought, I’ll fly away for real.