Recap (extra long chapter - stuff from last copy of this story)Some lies are small, helpful. Sometimes they can save your skin in class with incomplete homework and gullible teachers, if you’re lucky. Other lies mess up plans, throw people into a frantic rush. The biggest lie of all? The weather man.
12th of January, the middle of an Australian summer. Storms were forecasted by the “Weather Man”. It makes only a small amount of sense, as we live by the sea and sometimes storms do come every now and then. The rest was bullshit, its 36 degrees Celsius! Storm my arse.
“Oi Ethan!” I yell over the spitting of the sea and the long branches of the trees blowing air across the sand. Around here everyone knows everyone. His tall figure trudges through the soft yellow powder, towards me.
“Yeah? What do you want?” he asks, his lips look a little chapped from the warm razor sharp wind. The water reaches out towards my feet as I approach him.
“Of course, you’re not scared are you?”
“I swear as you grow older you grow even more immature,” I roll my eyes but can’t help my lips curving up into a subtle smile. Ethan, my childhood friend. We’ve grown up together, from diapers to raging hormones. Finally reaching the ripe old age of seventeen together.
“Just looking out for you,” he sits down in the sand, reaching up and grabbing my hand to pull me down too. Ethan’s like a younger brother, he’s immature, always wants to be running around, all up in my business. But there’s times like this where he’s more like an older brother, or uncle. Uncle Ethan, is what I call him when he’s like this. When he’s protective.
I punch him in the arm lightly.
“Of course I’ll be ok! You know flying is one of the safest ways to travel!” I already know the words don’t sound as convincing as I’d like. I know why he’s asking and I really wish that reason wasn’t there, didn’t have to exist. I’ve never left the island before and the last time I flew I was nine months old. Ethan grabs my hand and squeezes it tightly for a split second before letting go, standing up and turning around. “I’ll see you here in two hours, I better get packing,”
I walk up the wooden path to my house, avoiding the “danger zones” which are splinters galore.
“WIPE YOUR FEET!” are the welcoming words that I receive from my mother as I approach the door. I pick up the brush and rub the sand off my feet and ankles. The door swings wide open with just a touch from my fingertips. Security is less of a concern here, less people to do crime, more trust to ensure true safety. We don’t even really have a police station. I mean, we do. But it’s not high-tech or anything like that. Plus the people who work there couldn’t give two shits if you rob a bank or not.
“Where’s my suitcase?” I ask, walking down the sand covered hallway, cursing under my breath that my older sister forgot to brush the sand off of her feet.
“Over there, Ez,” mum replies as I come into the kitchen. Her black hair is pulled into a bun and her pale skin is covered in flour, making her look even more like a ghost. Flour coats the benches and I notice a dough slowly rising in a bowl near the sink.
“Please don’t call me Ez,” I say, noticing my spotted red and white suitcase in the corner, in between the lounge room and kitchen.
“Sorry honey, you know I can’t help it,” mum bakes for the local bakery, when she’s not at work she’s at home making bread or cake or pastries. Our fridge is always jam-packed with assorted bakery goods. I open the fridge door and pull out a roll, biting into it. “Honey please don’t stress eat,” mum’s voice is concerned but I swear I pick up a bit of amusement.
“I’m not stressed, if that’s what you’re thinking,” She raises and eyebrow. “It’s just a flight,”
I open the door to my sister’s room, still deciding whether to yell at her for not wiping her feet or to embrace her as a final goodbye before my flight. With the decision still rolling around in my mind I stumble in on my sister and her boyfriend, Nathaniel.
“Esme!!” Clara yells, throwing a sandy thong at my face, tugging her baby blue tank top back over her tanned skin. Her dark hair’s a mess, normally framing her face with defined curls, now swept back and a little frizzy.
“Sorry,” I murmur, picking up the thong and throwing it to the side. Nathaniel pulls his t-shirt over his tattoos that give him character, make him, him. Clara, my older sister, has been with this tattooed canvas about two years, since she was my age. 17. She’s finished school, helping around the island now. “I just came in to say goodbye, I didn’t know Mr It’sAnArtForm was here,” I don’t mean to be but I can tell my voice is grumpy. I don’t like Nathaniel. He chuckles, standing up and ruffling my hair on the way out.
“Nate where’re you going!” Clara calls out.
“Just giving you and your sister some private time,” he pops his head back into the doorway, his skin stretching into a goofy smile before disappearing once more.
“You excited about seeing Dad?” Clara asks, standing in front of her mirror, brushing down her hair, with the dark nightmarish colour we both inherited.
“He’s not my Dad, I’m only going because it’s the graduation reward trip,” I spit out, my eyebrows furrowing in disgust at the word ‘Dad’.
“Yes, he is, he gave birth to you, that’s how it works Esme,” she says all ‘matter of fact-ly’. Rolling my eyes I stand up, grabbing my maroon high top Converse that Clara stole a week ago.
“I better go get ready.”
In the process of tying up my laces someone knocks on my door.
“Who is it?” I ask, expecting Clara or her boyfriend to intrude on my space.
“Me,” the door opens and I see my favourite blonde lad. He walks in, closing the door behind him and sitting on my bed next to me. “You’re stressed, don’t deny it,”
“…fine, I just… I’ve never flown,” I admit, my voice becoming a whisper. All my friends around here know me as the strong, independent girl. Not the girl who’s scared of one of the safest ways of transport. Ethan grabs my hand and gives it a gentle squeeze, no words needing to be spoken. Eventually he lets go and stands up.
“The students from the boarding school will be here soon, four of them.” There’s two schools on the island. One for students with families. One for students who are alone.
“Ok,” we get along pretty well with the other school, doing sports together, that kind of stuff. They don’t seem all that happy, though. It makes you wonder if they’re treated badly in that school. Both schools are going on a holiday in land, into the city, to celebrate finishing high school. I can’t say I’m not excited. Yet I can’t say I’m thrilled.
Mum comes in, wheeling my suitcase into my doorway.
“Come on Ez, we have to get going,” she says. Ethan walks out, waving to me as he leaves.
“Cya soon,” he murmurs. I stand up and walk towards my mother, grabbing my backpack on the way. She stops me.
“Here,” she whispers. “Take this, for the flight,” she hands me a basket, with a tea towel sprawled on top. The smell of freshly cooked dough wafts up into my nose and I sigh in delight. I’ll miss this smell every morning.
“What is it?”
“Bread – I put some jam in there too, just how you like it,” she smiles, making her wrinkles stand out even more against her pale skin. We both have that deathly skin tone, Clara bathes in sunlight every day and developed a tan. When I bathe in sunlight for hours my skin goes red and peels, revealing fresh, new, deathly pale skin underneath. I can’t say I haven’t tanned a little bit, but the tan isn’t worth the burn.
I walk out, my suitcase kicking my feet as I go down the path.
“Is Clara coming to say goodbye?” I ask, feeling a little lonely with just my mum and I.
“God knows,” mum walks out in front of me, leading the way back down to the beach, where a van awaits with four kids from the boarding school down the road, then two who I’m close to from my own school.
“Dan! Emerald!” I yell, catching their attention. “How many more to come!?”
“Four!” Daniel yells back. “Lorenzo, Ethan and…” his voice trails off as I walk closer.
“Isla and Alexia,” Emerald finishes. You can really see why she’s called that, her green eyes pierce through you, filling you with warmth. Isla has been my best friend since I was very little, as well as Ethan. We’d play in a three, we did everything together. Until Isla went away for a year, that’s when Ethan and I grew real close.
“Where’s Lorenzo?” I ask. He’s my older cousin. Also finished school. He’s just coming to see his uncle, my dad.
I turn my attention to the four people from the other school. Two girls, two boys. Looking at them closer they seem a little familiar from the soccer tournament and from the few party’s we’ve thrown together throughout the years. I definitely know them, that’s for sure. But if you asked me to match a name to a face I’d be useless, and I think they’re a bit the same.
“Hey, I’m Charlie,” one girl steps forward, extending her arm. Instead of her hand outstretched towards me, my attention is focussed on her hair, longer than her arm, longer than her waist, the name and the hair pair together instantly, she was the one who tripped me over during soccer. I step forward.
“Esme,” I murmur.
“Ok Goldilocks, step aside,” a boy comes from behind and Charlie quickly goes back next to the other guy.
“Oi, Nic!” Charlie complains, her eyebrows furrowing into the centre of her tanned forehead. The boy – Nic – smiles at me. Now this once I wish I couldn’t remember.
“Nice to meet you again, the name’s Nicholas, but you can call me Nic,” he reaches forward, taking my hand, his soft lips meeting my skin, leaving a gentle kiss. I see the other guy’s face contort into a look of somewhat jealousy, making guilt flood into me. I definitely know him. Not from soccer, not from parties. From something else that I can’t quite put my finger on. The other girl comes forward.
“I’m Amy, this is Leonardo,” she murmurs, signalling to the guy behind her. He interests me. His black hair and pale skin remind me of, me. But his eyes are a bright sapphire blue.
“Hey…” his voice is hard to hear but it’s clear, deep. Sensual.
Eventually everyone is here. Two vans come up making my heart jump out of my chest as I drop to the back of the group.
“Oh, I’m sorry…” I mutter, lifting my foot and standing next to him.
“Nervous?” he asks me. As soon as the words come out of his mouth I feel myself sigh. His voice has some strange calming effect on me. I look at him, nodding. “It’ll be ok,” Leo smiles slightly. A kindness I didn’t expect. A kindness I appreciate more than anything right now. I give him a look, hoping that it brings across the words “thank you”.
“Alright everyone, two vans, eleven kids, six kids in one, five in the other,” one of the drivers explains as he steps his massive flabby leg out of the driver’s seat of one of the vans. Dan, Emerald, Alexa, Lorenzo and Isla clump together, forming some sort of ‘group’.
“Alright, you five in this one,” the man with the flabby leg points to his car and opens up a hatch to store everyone’s suitcases.
Ethan walks up to me.
“Seems we’re the rejects, aye?” I don’t understand how he can be so calm. Parents say goodbye to the other six as they pile into the van.
“SEE YOU SOON!!” Lorenzo yells, poking his head out of one of the windows making me snort and almost choke on my own spit. An eighteen year old man sticking half of his body out of a car like a two year old.
“YEP!” Ethan replies for me. Slowly I turn to see the people I’m with. Thank god I have Ethan with me, I’m shaking so much if I were alone in that van I fear it would spin out of control from my earth quake-like vibrations. Leo taps my shoulder and I spin to face his stunning sapphire eyes.
“That’s Ethan, right?” he asks, with a strange look of disgust on his face.
“Yeah?” I mutter. “Why?”
“No reason,” our talking catches Ethan’s attention.
“Oh, you.” Ethan spits. “I hope you’re not planning anything like last time,”
“What do you mean?” I ask, genuinely confused. I know they’ve met before but I didn’t know they had this kind of relationship.
“ALRIGHT YOU SIX, GET IN!” another driver comes out of the second van, his voice loud enough to catch everyone’s attention. I grab my suitcase and haul it through the sand.
“Come back safe ok Ez?” my mum calls, walking over to me with a short embrace.
“Yeah, yeah,” I smile and walk off to the van, using things such as sarcasm and dismissive words to my mother to cover up the fear coursing through my veins like blood. “I’ll be fine,” with those final words tumbling out of my mouth I haul myself up into the van, my case thrown hastily underneath. I choose a seat next to the window and shove the seatbelt over my shaking body. “Just fine…”
Ethan comes in next and steals the seat next to me, resting his head on my shoulder in preparation for the car trip to the airport. Leonardo comes in and looks at me, strangely. Sadly.
“Are you two…?” his eyes dart between Ethan and I, suggesting something.
“Ah no, no we are not!” for some reason the words came out a little fast. Too fast. Leo notices too and is a little taken aback but he doesn’t seem to really be phased as his normal expressionless face returns and he sits down in the seat across from me.
I’ve never really thought about Ethan and I being a couple. It just wouldn’t work, we’ve been just friends for so many years. Not that it matters, he doesn’t think of me in that way nor do I him. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been endless teasing over the years. Society just can’t seem to accept a male and female being nothing more than friends.
“Here we go!” Ethan exclaims as the van starts up its engine, pulling out of the path and onto the road, kicking up sand in its path. As the van etches further and further away from my home I feel regret creeping through my veins, telling me this wrong.
“I don’t want to go…”
The van pulls up to the shabby, rundown airport. Planes launch almost as fast as my worry grows.
“Is it safe? Up there in the sky?” I ask. The question was meant for Ethan but somehow I find my eyes wandering over to Leo. He smiles.
“I’ve been flying many times to visit my family, it’s safe,” he looks me in the eye.
“You’ll be fine, Ez, I promise you,” Ethan grabs my arm and gives it a tight squeeze. “And you know very well I don’t break my promises,” I nod, knowing he’s right and there’s no point in denying it or arguing. Charlie turns her neck around, sending a wave of hair in our direction.
“You’ve NEVER flown?!” she exclaims, with both a look of shock and excitement. I nod, slowly, shyly. Is it so strange that I’ve never flown? I haven’t really thought about it up until the past few months when I found out we’d be flying inland.
“She has her close family with her, Charlie, up until this reward trip she’s had no need to travel elsewhere.” The other girl, Amy, I think, explains, turning around too.
“You’ll be fine,” Nic reassures, and now everyone is looking at me. Nic winks, sending shivers down my spine. Not the good kind, may I add.
We all pile out of the van, reuniting with the other six. The drivers grab our suitcases from the bottom compartment.
“Have a safe trip,” they say before driving off. My eyes follow their trail, across the sandy road and off into the distance. The unknown.
“EZZIEEE!!” I hear from behind me. Before I get a chance to cringe I feel my cousin’s arms thrown around me.
“Ezzie?” I ask trying to hide the obvious disgust in my voice.
“Yes, Lorenzo, planes, at an airport, oh my god,” I throw him off me a little and try to flash a smile to match his excited expression that his face wears.
“Come on Ezzie! Cheer up!” with that he walks off towards Alexia.
“Cheer up…” I mutter under my breath, mocking his voice a little. How can I cheer up when I’m about to go on a flying death machine?
We walk into the airport, checking our bags and going through customs. We walk in awe into the waiting place, filled with empty chairs, about thirty I’d say.
“Dibs these two!” Dan yells, throwing himself over two with a broken armrest, laying down. My eyes wander to the window, bigger than my house. Outside there’s three planes, one big, two small. The sun bounces right off their bodies, forcing me to squint. Paint dances across their design. Beautiful. It doesn’t take long for me to notice a sign saying ‘painted by Ethan Porelli and Daniel Langhton’ no way! My best friend painted a flying death machine and didn’t tell me! I turn to him with a sharp look on my face.
“When were you going to tell me about your little plane makeovers?” I ask, catching him a little off guard.
“Right… right now! Isn’t that right Dan?!” Ethan calls out nervously.
“What…?” Dan asks, lifting his head up lazily. Ethan signals to the planes outside. “Oh, yeah, Betty, Mavis and Tulip!”
“Who…?” Isla buts in. “Betty… Mavis?!”
“The planes! My gorgeous girls!” Dan and Isla continue to debate the names. I take a seat, surprised at how far down I sink into the plush covering. Who names a plane Tulip...? Wait, who names a plane?
Leo takes a seat next to me.
“When do we board?” he asks, looking at a TV screen a few metres away. “Ah, five minutes…” as the words tumble off his tongue a pang hits my chest like a bullet. Five minutes. “Hey, you ok?” he asks, grabbing my shoulder to stop from the swaying I didn’t realise I was doing. I try to nod. “Worried?” I nod again. He wraps his arm around my shoulder. “Look, I only just met you… but you’re pretty cool, so I’m sure fate wouldn’t want you ending up in a plane crash,” somehow his simple words make my heart stop, then start again at an intense speed, making blood rush through my veins and pulling my cheeks into a smile.
“I’m not THAT cool,” I mutter, looking at his eyes carefully.
“Mm I beg to differ,”
“Oi! Love birds!” Nic yells. Quickly I notice the arm around my shoulders, so does Leo as he snatches it back. “We’re boarding!” my eyes widen and I turn to Ethan. He gives me a look I don’t quite understand, before walking off with Lorenzo towards a lady behind a counter, asking for our names.
Everyone gives their names and we start a long walk down a corridor. I breathe slowly, in, out. In, out. Trying to calm myself down. I can do this.
“I’m so excited!” Alexia squeals, coming down next to me. “In just a few hours we’ll be there!” she smiles at me, grabbing something from behind her. “Here, you’ll need this,” she hands me a beige hoodie. “You look cold, you’re shaking so much,”
“Thanks…” I murmur, not bothering to tell her the real reason for my shaking. I wrap the hoodie around my bare shoulders, exposed by my tank top with the words “Team Sleep” plastered across my chest.
“No worries,” she skips off ahead, towards an arch leading into what must be the plane.
A lady stands there, and calls out our names one by one as we answer “Here!”
“Welcome aboard,” she finally says, leading us through the arch and onto the hump of metal painted with bright pastel colours. I let a few people go in towards me as I stand there, trying to sink my nerves down. I take a few steps onto the plane, looking around to see two rows on either side, with two seats in a column, six columns. Lorenzo sits next to Alexia, Nic next to Charlie and so on. I turn to the left, Leo. To the right, Ethan. Who do I sit with? Who do I want to sit with?
“Come on Ez,” Ethan grabs my hand and pulls me down next to him, snatching the window seat for himself. I guess I don’t get a choice. Leo sits on the column horizontally across, about a half a metre away from me. He sits alone, twelve seats and eleven kids, someone had to.
“Hello passengers, I will be your pilot today,” a man, middle aged with a slight belly poking out over his trousers visible. “I can assure you this will be a safe and pleasant flight, pilot’s guarantee!” he smiles at us before walking back towards what I assume is the cabin. “We’ll be taking off shortly!” his voice echoes through the small plane. Conversation starts between us, being the loud teenagers we are.