When she was about six or seven, all my eldest wanted to do was fly. I remember those years, the dreams I had where I flew, and the unbelievable feeling of freedom and lightness.
“No you can't!” said Trina. She always said “no”.
“Yes I can!” said Loretta.
“I don't believe it!” said Trina.
“Me, neither!” added Carly. Carly didn't always agree with Trina, but even this sounded a bit too fantastic.
“I can, too!” protested Loretta.
“Can't!” said Trina.
“You're a liar!” added Carly.
“Am not!” said Loretta, stomping the ground.
“Are too! And we're not playing with a liar!” sneered Trina. “Right, Carly?”
“Yeah!” added Carly. She followed Trina as they sauntered off.
“Pfbbbbt!” Loretta stuck her tongue out at her departing friends. “I'll show you! I can fly!”
And so Loretta took a step back, braced her left foot behind her, crouched down, took a deep breath, and focused on the field in front of her. Then she silently counted backwards from five, and took off in a great sprint. She ran as fast as she could, pumping her legs as hard as she could. Then she took three great big leaps, and flung herself into the air…
And landed hard on her belly, her pink t-shirt staining with grass and dirt, her face planted right into a dandelion. She could hear the squealing laughter of her two now-former friends as she picked herself up, brushed off some of the grass and dirt, and started to walk away quickly, pretending to not hear the names being yelled at her from across the field.
Loretta threw open the door to her home, a small two-storey red brick house a block from the school field. She ran right to the stairs, raced up two steps at a time, slammed the door to her room shut, and flung herself on her bed, face down into her pillow. But there were no tears, nothing to console her. She just felt angry.
Why hadn't she flown? She had done it before … well, in her dreams, anyway. But it was always so easy to do — she just had to run and jump, and she could soar like a kite. She punched her pillow in frustration. She sighed deeply, which was hard to do with the pillow in her face. She rolled over onto her back and stared up at the clouds on her ceiling.
Loretta's mother had decorated Loretta's room when she was five. Her floor was carpeted with a green shag that looked and felt like grass. Her walls were tall grasses, flowers, and shrubs, except the wall with her bed, where there was a pasture and a distant hill. Blades of grass had little ladybugs and ants, the flowers had bees and butterflies. Above the plants, the walls went light blue, which turned to a darker blue on the ceiling, which featured the clouds. Most of the clouds were fluffy-looking, but two looked like animals: a bunny and a cat.
The room had always made Loretta feel comfortable and relaxed. It was her space, her private place where she could forget all the things that bothered her. First was Steven, her little brother, who was always drawing little moustaches on her ladybugs. Then there was Trina, her supposed best friend who had a knack for saying just the right thing to make Loretta feel bad. Homework! Homework always made Loretta feel bad. But then, so did dance lessons — she just couldn't get the pirouette right, no matter how much Madame Janet tried to keep Loretta steady. Loretta loved dancing, but she always failed the tests. Tests. THE TEST!
Loretta leapt off her bed and went to her book back, and pulled out her history textbook. The Wright Brothers. Why did history matter? Why did she have to learn about people who'd been dead a hundred years? Loretta could learn anything off the internet in a few minutes! Why spend any time memorizing things that she would never need? Loretta crawled onto her beanbag chair, and wiggled around until she was comfortable.
She soon found herself staring at the clouds on the ceiling again, the textbook laid flat on her lap. It wasn't that the textbook was boring, it was … well, the story was boring. It was hard to learn when there was nothing for Loretta to relate to. She closed her eyes and sighed, long and softly. She felt restful, even a bit sleepy.
Why was it so hard for Trina to believe that Loretta could fly? Had Trina never flown before? The more Loretta thought about it, the more it made sense: Trina probably hadn't flown before. Anyone who had flown wouldn't have objected so much.
Loretta popped her eyes open, and looked at the clouds drift across her ceiling. The grasses on her walls swayed in the gentle breeze, and the ladybugs buzzed from grass to flower to bush, across the walls. Of course Loretta could fly. And the only way that Trina would believe that Loretta could fly was for Loretta to show Trina!
Loretta hopped up from the beanbag chair (a difficult thing to do), putting her textbook on the floor as she got up. She went over to her window, and lifted the lower pane. She then backed up to the other side of her room, braced her left foot behind her, crouched down, took a deep breath, and focused on the open window in front of her. Then she silently counted backwards from five, and took off in a great sprint. She ran as fast as she could, pumping her legs as hard as she could. Then she took three great big leaps, and flung herself into the air…
Loretta sailed through her open window like a dart. She spread her arms, tilted herself to one side, and glided effortlessly around the huge red maple tree in her front yard. She reached out with her hand, feeling the leaves tickle her fingers as she spiralled around it, before climbing up into the air.
She had that feeling in her chest, right under the lower edge of her ribcage, that came only when she flew. It was excitement, exhilaration, almost halfway between breaths. She felt light. She smiled uncontrollably as the wind blew her long blonde hair over her shoulders and down her back like a cape.
With a movement that looked like a fancy dive off the high board at the swimming pool, Loretta bent in half, touching her toes, and dove towards the ground. She went faster and faster as she descended. She pulled up from her dive, and swooped under her neighbours' huge pine trees before flying just over their rooftops, as she headed back towards the field, and the playground.
Trina and Carly were still there, playing with each other on the jungle gym. “Hi Trina! Hi Carly!” Loretta called as she came closer. Trina looked around, but couldn't see who had called her name. “Up here, silly!”
Trina looked up, and saw Loretta fluttering over the playground. “How… how are you doing that?!” she yelped.
“I told you, I can fly!” laughed Loretta.
“I saw you… I saw you fall flat on your face! I thought you were making it up!” said Trina.
“Yeah!” breathed Carly, not sure what else to say.
“Nope!” grinned Loretta. “Wanna see what I can do?” She didn't wait for Trina or Carly to say anything else. With an effortless pirouette, she flew upwards into the air, so perfect that Madam Janet would weep with happiness. She then arched backwards into a perfect dive, tumbling in perfect grace until she was barely a body length above the ground. There she stopped, the palms of her hands held together. Then she giggled and cartwheeled all the way around the playground without ever touching the ground. Then she flew under the playset Trina and Carly were standing on, and floated up next to them.
“Wow…,” breathed Carly. “That looks like so much fun!”
“Yeah, it really is,” said Loretta.
“Can I fly with you?” asked Carly.
“No way, me first!” shouted Trina, pushing Carly to the side. “Take me!”
Loretta wasn't sure about Trina. Her meanness aside, Trina was quite a bit bigger than Carly. There was a question of if she could fly. “Um… I want to try with Carly first. She's about my brother's size, and I sometimes fly with him.”
“You fly with your brother?” asked Trina.
“Well, more like dangle him by his feet until he tells me where he's hidden my dolls,” admitted Loretta. “Wanna fly, Carly?”
“Y-yeah,” said Carly, slowly. She looked at Trina cautiously. Trina was pouting.
“Give me your hand,” said Loretta. Carly reached up slowly, like reaching out to an unfamiliar dog that may or may not bite. Loretta took Carly's hand, and gently pulled up. Carly squealed as her feet left the playset and dangled freely. Somewhere inside her, she felt light, like she was halfway between breaths.
Loretta took Carly on a low, slow pass around the field. Carly reached down with her free hand, and brushed the top of the grass as they went by. She plucked a dandelion that had gone to fuzz. The fluffy white seeds blew off on their own as Loretta sped up, taking Carly faster, and higher. Soon they were above the treetops, whipping along the streets, diving behind houses and scaring squirrels.
When they came back to the playground, Trina was sitting on the edge of the playset. She had been crying. She wiped her eyes and sniffed as Carly's feet touched back to the ground. Carly's eyes were wild, her hair messy, and she smiled so widely that her head looked almost cut in half. She let out a tremendous cheer and raced around the playset laughing. She stopped only when she saw Trina's face.
“Trina? Are you okay?” asked Carly.
“Nevermind!” snapped Trina.
Carly walked over to Trina. “Don't you want to fly? You should try, it's a lot of—“
“Shut up!” cried Trina, tears starting to flow again. “Just … be quiet, you!”
“That's not nice to say, Trina. Carly's your friend,” said Loretta. “I'm willing to take you, too.”
“Why didn't you take me first?!” Trina demanded.
“Because I didn't know that I could. But Carly wasn't hard at all, so I think I can take you. I'll just need to start slow to make sure.”
Trina sniffed again and wiped her eyes. “O-okay. You're sure?”
“Yes,” smiled Loretta. “Give me your hand.”
Like with Carly, Loretta carefully picked Trina up off the ground. As she'd thought, Loretta wasn't much harder than Trina, though it was a little harder to go fast, and turning was a bit more difficult. Still, it wasn't long before Trina was laughing, shouting for joy, begging Loretta to go faster and faster.
They raced over their school, looking at the workers who were tarring the roof. They flew through the parking lot of the corner store, flicking the antennas on the cars, leaving them wildly wobbling back and forth. They raced down an empty street, kicking up dust and leaves and a stray plastic bag with their wind. Finally, Loretta took them up to the top of the tallest tree in the area. They floated just above the highest leaf as it twisted in the breeze, unsure if it should obey Mother Nature, or Loretta.
“It's so amazing up here,” said Trina. “I wish I could see this all the time. Could you teach me to fly?”
“I don't think I can,” said Loretta, sadly. “I'm don't even know how I can do it. I asked my dad once how I could fly. He said it's because I'm a birdbrain,” she laughed.
“Your dad called you that? That's a mean thing to say!” protested Trina.
“Oh, my dad's a goofball. He calls me all sorts of funny names,” giggled Loretta. “You know, you call me names, too. And they're not all nice, either.”
“I know,” said Trina, hanging her head. “I'm sorry. I— I just don't know what I should say.”
“Sometimes, say nothing. Just listen. You'd be surprised what you can learn by listening to someone.”
Trina looked up. “That's a good idea,” she smiled. “I'll try to remember that.”
“You do that,” smiled Loretta in return.
“Loretta!” called a distant voice.
“Uh oh, that's my dad,” said Loretta. “It might be dinner time. I gotta go!” She flew Trina back down to the playground, then flew off, waving as she left. She raced over the tree tops, ducked behind her neighbour's house, and aimed straight for her open window.
Loretta sailed in through the window, tucked and rolled, and with a twist plopped right into her beanbag chair, which always made a handy and soft landing.
“Loretta!” called her father again.
Loretta's eyes popped open. The clouds on her ceiling were still. The grasses and the ladybugs were frozen in place.
“Coming!” said Loretta, and leapt up from her beanbag chair. She bolted from her room, and raced down the stairs two at a time. Her father was standing at the bottom. She collided with him and hugged him tightly. “Yeah, Dad? What is it?”
“Your friends are at the door,” he said.
“Oh! Thanks, Dad!” said Loretta, and went to the front door. Waiting there were Trina and Carly. Carly was smiling and waving happily. Trina looked unhappy. “Hi guys. What's up?”
“Oh, we thought we'd stop by and…,” Carly looked at Trina, and elbowed her in the ribs. “And…?”
“Srmm,” Trina mumbled.
Carly looked at Trina sternly. “Excuse me?”
Trina wasn't much louder. “Sorry.”
Carly prodded Trina. “About?”
“I'm sorry I didn't believe you,” said Trina. “I wasn't being nice.”
“And I'm really sorry I called you a liar,” added Carly. “That was a dumb thing to say.”
“That's okay,” said Loretta. “It's a pretty weird thing, anyway. You want to come in and play?”
“Yeah!” said Carly. Trina nodded hopefully.
They climbed the stairs to Loretta's room. Loretta plopped down in her bean bag chair.
“You have the best room,” said Trina, looking at the walls and ceiling. “I wish I had a room this cool!”
“I love it. It's my own little world. This is where I feel my best,” said Loretta.
“Is this where you fly?” asked Carly, looking at the clouds.
“Yeah,” said Loretta shyly. “It's … it's pretty easy to that in here.”
Trina spun in a circle and looked at everything. Then she knelt next to Loretta. “Can you show us how?”