My hands were trembling violently as I took the first step towards the thing I’d been dreading for months. My uncontrollable fingers crushed the newspaper they were clutching und I could feel the ink smudged on my sweaty palms.
“Come one, Mathilde, vite!”, I heard my mother say impatiently. She was standing right behind me and there was a calmingly familiar smell of flowery perfume around her. I took a deep breath and stepped over the small space of thin air that separated the metal staircase I was standing on from the airplane in front of me. We were the last passengers to board the plane, but the stewardess still gave me a friendly look and a wrapped piece of chocolate as I walked past her. I hate planes. Although I had to admit that the inside of this ridiculously shiny Air France machine didn’t look too scary. I had insisted on mum reserving three seats right at the front of the plane so I could be first to leave upon our arrival. Or in the case of an emergency. Mum rolled her eyes as she squeezed into the window seat (“I swear these machines are getting smaller and smaller!”). I put my paper down between the two of us and sat down on the aisle seat, fastening my seatbelt with shaky fingers. The stewardess checked her walky-talky-like phone and gave her colleague a confused look. Mum waved her hand to get their attention. The male colleague who was seriously hot walked up to us and leaned down. The other passengers were starting to get grumpy.
“There’s no one missing.”, mum explained with an apologetic smile towards the stewardess. “But my daughter has some kind of plane-phobia so I had to reserve three seats.” The male colleague gave me a deeply sympathetic look and a smile. I blushed and mumbled “It’s an intense fear of flying combined with claustrophobia.”
“Well, I’m terribly sorry to hear that.”, the male colleague said. “But we weren’t talking about you. The phone went off, because we don’t seem to have a sufficient amount of tomato juice onboard so I’ll just go and check on that now.” He gave a little wave and departed, leaving me tomato-red in the face.
“Thanks mum.”, I growled, snatched up my newspaper and vanished behind it. Mum didn’t seem to notice my displeasure. She leaned back in her seat, humming to herself and obviously content.
I was just reading a very interesting comment on a new short-story collection by my favourite author, when male colleague walk past me again. He gave me a wink. A few minutes after that, the plane gave a deep, worrying rumble and started to shake slightly. Here we go. I tried to go on reading, but my heart was thumping madly and my hands were shaking so vigorously that I couldn’t read a word. Sweat was starting to appear on my forehead and I could tell by the strange looks of the person sitting across the aisle that I had turned chalk-white. The plane was moving. I grabbed the mp3-Player that was ready in my lap, stuffed the headphones into my ears and turned the volume up. ACDC was roaring Thunderstruck. I closed my eyes, grabbed the armrests on either side of me and waited for take-off. Although I was still almost freaking out, I couldn’t resist the electrifying beats, so I tried to breathe deeply and relax. While the plane gathered speed, my hands started to tap out the beat on the armrests along with my head that was bobbing rhythmically.
And then we were up in the air and I was almost dancing on my seat, my eyes still closed. Oh yeah, I’m thunderstruck! That was so true. I was feeling something close to elation until a concerned voice brought me back to reality.
“Is she having some kind of … seizure? Should I get help?” My eyes snapped open. Male colleague was leaning over me again, his beautiful, concerned eyes on mum who was shaking with suppressed laughter.
“Nah, she’s fine.”, mum said in a choked voice. “Just listening to ACDC. Helps her with her anxiety issues.”
Male colleague gave an earnest nod, saw me watching him and smiled his sympathetic smile again. “You’re doing great so far. Keep it up, alright?”
Once again, he left me tomato-red. I gave mum a look that could have scorched iron, but she just burst out laughing and opened a colourful airline-magazine.
Although the flight from Charles-de-Gaulle-Airport/Paris to Dublin would only take about one and a half hours, Air France insisted on offering everyone something to drink and a snack.
“Ah, this is going to be wonderful. A whole two weeks of freedom and only the two of us…” Mum was eying the trolley pushed along the aisle by male colleague, obviously caught up in one of her daydreams. I felt pretty sure that the last time she’d flown, she had been with dad. Until today I had always insisted on going on vacation either by car or by train. But Dad… he wasn’t scared of flying or anything really. I was sure mum still missed him from time to time. My parents had been divorced for about forever. A few years after I was born, dad had discovered that he actually liked guys a lot more than women and had promptly fallen in love with a colleague of his. I really liked Laurie who happened to be Irish (Was this the reason why mum had made me fly to Ireland with her?), but I did not only have two gay dads and a lonely mum now – no! As if this wasn’t enough, all the guys I had ever fancied, had seen me as their best friend and confidant rather than as the girl they wanted to take to the end-of-year-ball. Wonderful.
Male colleague had reached us now. He fastened the breaks of the trolley, ready to take our orders. Man, he was good-looking. And so competent. I felt ready to melt at his sight. Mum ordered black tea and a cheese-sandwich. When it was my turn, male colleague shushed me before I had even opened my mouth properly.
“I’ve got something special for you.”, he said, winking. He ducked down behind the trolley and produced a steaming paper cup and a rather squashed croissant. He handed them both to me and said “I discovered that hot chocolate always cheers my boyfriend up when he has to fly. He has a similar problem to yours.”
Male colleague was gay. Seriously? I tried hard not to roll my eyes. “Thanks. But I don’t have a problem. I’m fine!” At that moment, the plane gave a lurch. I shoved my cup and croissant onto the plastic table in front of me and grabbed the armrests.
“Enjoy your meal.” Male colleague gave me a quick pat on the shoulder and pushed the trolley onwards. I felt ready to die of shame. To my intense relief, the remaining flight passed in a quiet fashion. And the hot chocolate was tasty!

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