“We’re not going to crash.”
The entire row of fellow airplane passengers turned, and Olive Murphy realized she’d said the words out loud. And with noise-reducing headphones over her ears, she’d said it so loudly every passenger on board might have heard her.
She swallowed against the thickness in her throat.
Uncharacteristically, her stupid mouth kept moving. “There’s actually only a one in three point three seven billion chance of dying in a commercial airplane crash. And ninety-eight point six percent of plane crashes don’t even have fatalities.” Olive tugged at the collar of her sweatshirt. “Though I guess even the people on the planes that crashed had that same statistical probability, and they still died in a heap of burning wreckage.” She let loose a couple of nervous chuckles and risked a glance around her, hoping a sinkhole or vortex had appeared to swallow her whole. No such luck. She was still here.
On a fucking airplane.
She tightened her grip on the tiny white pill in her fist. Joni, the doc from work who prescribed it, hadn’t told her when to take it. What if they got stuck on the tarmac for hours? Olive had only two Valium pills with her. One for the flight out and one for the flight back. Her normal meds wouldn’t cut it for today.
Her mouth was dry.
There was a smell here. A plane smell. Like recycled air and metal. And death.
Okay, not actually death.
God, she was about to be ten thousand feet up in the air with the airplane smell, defying the laws of physics, the laws of nature, and the laws of Olive Murphy’s guide for surviving life. All she could think about was Newton. What goes up must come down. An apple falling from a tree. A Boeing 737 full of screaming people. All splattered in a crater. Or dive-bombed into the water. The remains picked away by sharks or piranhas or whatever feasts on human flesh in the deep.
She needed to stop watching so much Discovery Channel.
Olive lifted the Valium. “Now or never.”
The pill was inches from her mouth when the plane lurched. The white tablet tumbled into the aisle. A high-pitched curse fell from her mouth, giving the kid behind her an NSFW vocabulary lesson. She clung to the armrest and the seat in front of her as if the metal box had done a barrel roll. A flight attendant stepped on the pill as she passed. Her patent pump pushed the pill into the carpet.
A nurse didn’t need to be told the number of bacteria on a shoe that had walked through an airport. Gross. The other pill was in her larger carry-on in the compartment. Her eyes darted like a mouse in a cat’s mouth right before the dramatic gulp. The walls closed in. Tunnel vision. Ringing in her ears.
She would calmly stand up, get what she needed, and then sit back down. This was okay. This was fine. She unclipped her seat belt.
A flight attendant with an enormous blond bouffant and a Southern accent pounced on her. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you need to stay in your seat.”
“I—I need something from my bag.”
The woman’s powdery pink lipstick spread in a placating smile. “You can get it once we’re at cruising altitude.”
“It’s … a pill.” Half standing, Olive clutched the armrests harder.
“Is it a life-sustaining medication?”
Olive gulped. “No.”
The woman pointed a talon-sharp fingernail at Olive’s seat. “Then you’ll need to stay there.”
Olive flopped back down, rebuckling her seat belt. She could do this. She’d faced worse over the last year. She closed her eyes and imagined what this trip would have been like if Jake were here. He’d make her laugh. He’d tell her that her mind was playing tricks on her and say if she could run a forty-six-bed ER during a full moon, she could survive this. Actually, he wouldn’t say any of that. He would quote Parks and Rec or get her to forget she was on a plane altogether by yanking her hair and pretending they were back on a family car trip in the nineties belting out Disney songs in harmony and driving their younger sister bonkers.
But he wasn’t here. And that was the whole damn point. She could do this. For him. He was why she was on this stupid plane in the first place.
They bumped down the runway while the flight attendants checked all the compartments. That blond-bouffant attendant gave her an extra assessment, as though she were an unruly student in an elementary school class who’d already been caught carving dirty words into her desk.
Olive shut her eyes tight and squeezed her phone. She blasted the music in her headphones. Brandi Carlile belted out a few particularly emotional notes.
Happy place. Happy place. Happy place.
Music. Nature. Potted plants. Mid-century modern art deco designs. Velvet tufted everything.
The plane shuddered.
She gasped, drawing more exasperated looks from the totally calm and normal people in the seats around her. Yeah, they’d probably be telling all their friends about the psycho in their row. Sandpaper lined her throat. She fumbled for her water. Water would be good.
Unless the plane landed in it.
A revving noise hit her ears even through the headphones. The plane accelerated, flattening Olive to her seat. She held her breath as if she were jumping off a diving board. A bounce. A lifting sensation. Her eyes opened. Her head whipped around. There was no more shaking. No shudder of the wheels beneath her. Smooth. They were in the air. A small thunk made her latch on to the armrest again.
Copyright © 2023 by Andie Burke