I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Gwendolyn Heasley. It's an excerpt from Mockingbird in Manhattan, a possible companion novel to Where I Belong. (I loved Where I Belong! Stay tuned later this week for my review.) The story follows Kitsy to NYC where she’s attending a summer class. This scene is from her plane trip to the Big Apple from Texas.
Before long, the flight attendants put on a performance on how to properly fasten a seatbelt. The scary thing is no one even looks up from their cocktails or blackberries, which the pilot has told passengers three times to turn off. I am pretty sure that I’ll be the only one prepared in an emergency. Life with Amber is always an emergency situation, so I am doubly prepared.
When the flight attendant explains how in an emergency to please get your oxygen mask on before assisting others, I laugh out loud and have to cover my mouth. I’d like to live in a world where we worry first about our own survival than others, but I haven’t found that place. Maybe I will find it in New York. Maybe this is what New York is about for me. New Yorkers are supposed to be heartless except for Corrinne, whose heart just takes a while to locate under her designer clothes. I need to be more heartless.
When the plane takes off, I hold my breath. “Goodbye, Texas,” I whisper.
Real flying feels a lot like flying in your dreams. I feel light and disconnected,but also like I could crash to the ground in an instant like that feeling you get when you wake from a dream with a jolt.
My business class seat comes equipped with a TV, which I am not exactly sure relates to business as it only features TV shows and movies. And they are all free. I resist the urge to plug in my earphones. Instead, I pull out my sketchbook and a pencil. The Corcorans are paying for my summer art classes, my flights, and they are letting me stay with them in their apartment. I owe it to them to do well and to prove that I can make art with more than just Wet n’ Wild make-up. I can’t squander my chances because I want to watch romantic comedies and try airline food, which Hands told me tastes like rubber. Although my menu, with an option for steak or salmon with a side salad and some dessert called tiramisu, doesn’t sound rubberish at all.
I hear the man across the aisle from me order another whiskey and ginger. Good thing Amber’s not here: she and free drinks would be a lethal combination. Hell, her and drinks that she has to pay for are a lethal combination. This reminds me that I need to text Kiki when I land. I need to make sure that he’s okay with this all, and he remembers his summer reading.
I tell the flight attendant that I’d like the salmon. Eventually, I’ll need to sleep because I know that the term for this flight is a red-eye, but my head’s racing. Five weeks in New York City. Four weeks of art class. Five weeks away from Amber, Kiki, Hands, Sonic, the Broken Spoke.
When Hands dropped me off at the airport, he said, “I hope you like it, Kitsy. But not too much. We are Americans by birth…” he started. “…And Texans by the grace of God,” I finished for him.
I didn’t say what I really thought: if God graced Broken Spoke, it must’ve beenlong before I was born. Unemployment, unforgiving fundamentalists, and struggling farms don’t look like grace to me. Of course, I know that’s wrong to think: the Spoke’s just going through a rough patch. We did win the State Football Tournament last fall and winning State in any Texan town is an answer to decades of prayers. I got to be on TV with the Mockingbirdettes, and I even got interviewed since I am team captain. I need to work on being more grateful in my thoughts and not just my words. Reminder Kitsy: you can’t be all pep and go, school spirit, rah-rah with my pom-poms and everyone else, and then be Debbie Downer in my own head.
I sketch the lady sitting next to me. With one hand, I cover my paper just in case she wakes up and thinks that I am a stalker or something. People like her, ridin’ high with clothes like hers and looks like hers, probably need to worry about things like stalkers. When my salmon arrives, I am glad that I watch a lot of Food Network TV, so I know that salmon is supposed to be pink. Food, like this exotic seafood, isn’t exactly on my normal meal plan.
The man across from me bothers the flight attendant for his fifth Jim and ginger. When the flight attendant comes with my dessert, which looks like a dirty sponge with whipped cream on top, I smile at her. I know all about annoying customers from my job.
“I am waitress too,” I say and smile. “It’s harder than people think, right?”
And then the flight attendant flares her nostrils and asks, “Do you want another Pepsi?” Something about the way she pronounces Pepsi makes me know that I overstepped some airplane etiquette.
“Sorry,” I say. “I am not actually a waitress. I am carhop. I rollerskate. Actually, rollerblade,” I correct myself, “I never could get the hold of roller-skates. Have you been to Sonic?”
The flight attendant, whose nametag reads Judy, walks away without a word. I wanted to tell her that I like her name and her perfume. That’s what I do when I am nervous: talk and compliment. In the Spoke, that routine helps make up for people’s perceptions about me.