Today was the departure date for Amy to make her train journey to Stanthorpe. She was to spend her term break with her Aunt, Jayne who ran an apple orchard there. Amy moped about and dragged her feet as she did her last minute packing. This was not her idea of a good time. She sighed as she leaned down to close her brown soft-side suit case, and she sighed as she got up. Her mother handed her a travel pack with her puffer and medications inside.
“These medications are important. Always make sure that they are with you.”
“Mum, do I really have to go to Auntie Jayne’s? I hate staying at other people’s houses.”
“Your aunt and uncle aren’t just anybody. They are family. They also happen to adore you and have been most kind to take you in. Now, please make sure that you clean up after yourself though. Your Aunt Jayne and Uncle Jerry run a farm and they are busy people. You can’t be giving them any trouble, okay?”
“And don’t you dare criticise their cooking; their way of doing things; or anything at all. Everyone is different and we all have different preferences Be very grateful that they are looking after you and offering you a place where you can get better. Is that clear?”
“You’ll be there for two weeks and you will enjoy it.”
“Promise me that you’ll behave.”
“Yes Mum, I promise.”
“Okay, let’s get into the car.”
Amy dragged her feet towards the car as if she was skiing on concrete. She could hear her brother Robert’s protest about wanting to ride in the front. By the time she got into the backseat, her brother had wedged himself in the gap between the two front seats with his legs flailing in the air. Amy dodged to avoid getting hit in the face with his dirty shoes.
“Gross!” Amy said in disgust.
Amy’s mother pulled Robert up and sat him on her lap. He immediately beamed and put his hands on the car door where the window was wide open. With his mother’s arms around him, he was ready for a fun car ride. Amy watched on from the corner of her eyes and twitched her lip.
I wish I could sit on my mum’s lap.
The car pulled away and headed down the freeway. Amy looked around and realised that his father was not going the right way. They have been to Central Station a few times before and this was not the way.
“Dad, you’re going the wrong way,” Amy sat up to alert her father.
“No I’m not. See that sign with the aeroplane on it? That’s what I’m following,” Amy’s father nodded to the road sign ahead with a big smile on his face.
“Where’re you going?” Amy pulled herself up by the shoulder of the seat so that her face was right next to his father’s.
“To the airport of course!”
“Why are we going to the airport? Aren’t we going to the train station?” Amy gave her mother a confused look.
This was the moment that Amy’s mother had been waiting for. She had kept this a secret from Amy for a couple of days and she could finally tell her.
“No sweetie, we are going to the airport. You are flying to Stanthorpe. Surprise!” Amy’s mother turned to face Amy and broke into a great big smile.
“What?” Amy’s eyes widened. She pushed her glasses up to make sure that she is seeing her mother clearly and that she was not dreaming. When she saw her mother’s excited face, she realised that this was real. She placed her hands over her opened mouth and started to bounce on her seat.
“I’m going by plane? I’ve never been on a plane before. Oh my God.”
“Well, there’s always a first.”
“How come I’m going by plane instead of train?”
“It was your aunt’s idea. You’ll have to ask her. She offered to buy you a plane ticket to fly you up.”
“Oh my God. I can’t believe this.”
Amy looked out the window of the car and watched the traffic. She clasped her hands together and squeezed them hard. Her heart was beating faster than usual and she could not wipe the smile off her face.
My family does care about me after all.
Holding back a tear, Amy stuck her head outside the window to clear her mind. It would not be cool to cry now. When she pulled her head back in, she let the excitement fill her heart. She leaned forward to look out the front window, then turned to look at her parents’ faces. She wanted to check that her father was still heading towards the airport. Every road sign that they passed with an aeroplane on it was an affirmation to Amy that this was real.
The process of checking in at the airport was confusing for Amy. The luggage, the tags, the boarding pass and the x-ray machines were all foreign to her. Her mother tried to explain the steps but she struggled to retain the information. She was mesmerised by the crowd; the overfilled trolleys; and the large open space. An oversized black notice board that turned blindingly fast with a loud clapping noise occupied the centre of the airport. The rapid information dissemination gave it an air of importance. She felt humbled in its presence. Then there were these attractive people walking around in very smart and beautiful uniforms. Amy’s senses were in overdrive and she hardly registered her mother’s voice.
“Amy, your auntie Jayne and uncle Jerry will pick you up from the airport. Please send my warmest regards to them and call home once you have settled. Okay? I love you. Safe travels.”
By the time Amy got to the gate, she was perspiring and her arms and legs felt like jelly. She found a chair closest to the window and sat down. However, her restlessness got the better of her and she bounced right back up again. There, she noticed an aircraft outside. There was a pile of suitcases sitting next to it with two men hauling the bags from the cart onto the aircraft. The men were not gentle with the bags. Around the boarding area, people sat on chairs smoking cigarettes, reading newspapers, and drinking coffee. She felt happy, really happy. This was the most exciting day of her life.
An announcement came through the PA system inviting the passengers to board. She watched people around her get up and walked towards a woman in an airline uniform. She followed the group and copied everything they did.
“Good afternoon Miss Coles, enjoy your flight,” the lady said to Amy as she handed the boarding pass back to Amy.
“Thank you,” Amy’s excitement had just reached another level.
Amy followed the group and eventually came to a stop in front of a glass door. They were then herded onto a bus. A bus? Amy’s heart sank. She knew it. This was all too good to be true. It’s all a joke. She’s going by bus, not a plane. Ha ha, how very funny. Amy lowered her head to wait for the humiliation to come when the bus stopped with her parents standing outside pointing and laughing at her.
She was relieved when the bus stopped in front a plane. She looked up at it and tears welled in her eyes. It’s fine. It wasn’t a joke. She was going to get on a plane after all.
When Amy stepped off the bus, she was immediately greeted by a strong gush of wind. It blew her hair everywhere and into her face. She shook her head to get the hair out of her eyes. The plane looked enormous with great big propellers. Their shape reminded her of giant crab claws except that they were longer and white in colour.
Amongst the wind and the noise, she could smell an odour that reminded her of kerosene. She had always been shy of any air pollutants as they usually meant bad news to her lungs. On this occasion however, she wanted to breathe it in. It was intoxicating.
She climbed the ladder carefully putting one foot in front of the other whilst trying to look around at the same time. She wanted this moment to last forever.
“Welcome on board,” said the air stewardess as she studied Amy’s boarding pass.
“Miss, your seat is on the left hand side of the aircraft.”
Amy looked at each of the seat number along the ceiling and to find the one that matched hers. Yes, a window seat. Amy stood on her tippy toe to place her leather travel case into the overhead storage bin and sat down. She studied every safety literature in the pocket of the seat in front of her and then traced her fingers along the plastic rim of the window to feel its bumpy texture. She opened and closed the food tray to see how they worked. The tightening and releasing of seat belt was practiced multiple times. The safety demonstration was observed carefully. She was ready. She was also getting warm. The sun was heating up the plane.
Finally, the engine started and the giant propellers roared into life. They spun and whined with force. The noise was deafening. The conversations inside the plane could no longer be heard despite passengers trying to raise their voices. The aircraft moved. It moved ever so slowly and joltingly. Then it moved at a steady pace. Then it stopped. Amy waited. Then it moved again. This time, it went a little faster. It went faster still. It went faster and faster. It went so fast that the whole plane started to shake. Amy gripped the sides of her seat. She could hear rattles coming from above and all around her. Amy squeezed her shoulder tight and braced herself. The plane continued to accelerate until after one giant clank, they were airborne. They were flying.
The noises quietened down and the the view from the window was amazing. Amy cranked her neck forward to plant her face as close to the window as possible. Her nose was touching the window pane and she could smell the warm perspex. The houses and buildings beneath her became smaller and smaller. The sparkling harbour and its surrounds became more and more distant. She tried not to blink in case she missed a moment of this. Then everything was obscured by a screen of whiteness.
“Oh my God, are these clouds?” Amy gasped.
The man in a business suit sitting next to her chuckled. The words came out aloud before she could stop them. Amy immediately placed her hands over her mouth lowered her head to hide her embarrassment.
The aircraft started to bump around and the rattling sound returned. Amy tightened her grip on her seat again swallowed a few times to unblock her ears. Then suddenly, a blue sky emerged and everything became quiet. There was just the humming sound of the engine. Amy looked out and saw the white clouds now underneath her. She listened to the loud hum of the plane and felt happy. A smile appeared on her face and she couldn’t stop it. She lowered her head and buried her face into the window in case people thought her crazy to be smiling alone. Once she was sure that nobody could see her, she let her smile rip into a full blown grin.
In that moment, she felt a strange sensation. Her mind became quiet and she felt a stillness that she had never experienced before.
Amy could not take her eyes off the clouds below her. A little bump here and there reminded her that she was on a plane. Then the bump became more frequent as the view outside became blurred. Every now and then, she could see the light grey cloud whipping past outside her window. She could also feel the angle of the plane had changed.
Oh, this must be the landing. Already?
Amy felt a pang of loss when the plane ride was over. But she also felt a sense of importance and purpose that she had never felt before. Something had shifted inside her. A switch had been turned. She would not know the significance of this until much later on.
I need this.