I am very excited to share this fantastic short story from one of Ireland's finest contemporary fiction writers, Fionnuala Kearney. I think there will be some major Cal-Crushes after this! Big thanks to Harper Collins in Ireland for donating a giveaway copy of Fionnuala's Irish Times Bestseller The Day I Lost You.
You can read my review of this gripping read here. To be in with a chance of winning your own copy of #TDILY, just enter via rafflecopter link below. Good Luck!
Flight of Fancy by Fionnuala Kearney.
Faye watches the stewardess’s mouth move; sees her angled hands point left and right. She pushes her earphones deep into her ears, blocks out directions to the emergency exits. Silently, Faye counts backwards from ten a few times. She sits on her hands, aware that the man in the aisle seat notices her doing it and she blushes, heat flooding her cheeks. She feels the urge to explain; to tell him, this stranger, that she doesn’t like flying and doesn’t trust herself not to do something stupid with her hands. But she says nothing. Her eyes close as she places her forehead on the back of the seat in front. Minutes later, Faye has no idea how high they’ve ascended but its enough to make her ears want to pop and her hand want to reach up and press the bell. She swallows the word ‘Help!’ and sits tight on her upturned palms.
Adele plays in her ears, singing of heartache, as only she can, and Faye feels a gentle tap on her arm. She opens her eyes. The middle seat is empty so he’s had to stretch across to reach her. He’s tall, even in the seat; is about her age, she reckons. Earlier, she’d felt his eyes roam over her as he’d stood to let her pass to her seat. She releases a hand, tugs her earphones free, doesn’t speak but her questioning eyes widen.
‘You’re singing,’ he says.
‘Oh,’ she replies, noting the American accent.
‘Rolling in the deep,’ he confirms.
Faye whispers, ‘I’m sorry.’
‘I don’t mind,’ he smiles, ‘Sing away, I’m just not an Adele fan.’
She grimaces as if this is an insult.
‘I’m more a “Sweet Home Alabama” sort of guy.’
Faye nods. ‘Is that where you’re from?’ she asks, immediately horrified at herself. She has no idea where the question has come from.
‘No, New York,’ he says.
Small dark hairs curl on the back of the hand he offers. She shakes it, allowing herself a proper look at his face, trying not to stare at what she thinks are full lips under his trimmed beard.
‘Cam,’ he says.
‘You can what?’ she asks. His eyes are green, very unusual, the colour of pine needles, set under dark, neat eyebrows.
‘No, Cam,’ he says. ‘Cameron.’
‘Oh, yes, sorry. I’m Faye.’
‘Nice to meet you, Faye.’
And they talk. She talks and he listens, seems interested. He talks and she’s interested and before she knows it, the short flight is coming to an end. The captain has put on the fasten-your-seat-belt sign and Faye’s ears tell her that the aircraft is descending. Automatically, her hands assume the butt position and she sees him smile.
‘You going to start singing again?’
She shakes her head. In the thirty minutes spent talking in the skies from Dublin to London, she has learnt that Cam is a New Yorker. His father is a doctor and his mother, a librarian. He has one younger sister who’s travelling Europe and has just spent an incredible Easter weekend with her in Dublin. He seems to have crammed more into one weekend than Faye has in visiting the City regularly for the last year. Cam has not learnt much about her except for she’s newly single, shares a flat in Crouch End with a girl called Cassie and she has a cowardly cat called Mouse. Faye has kept her feelings close to her chest and is as surprised as him when she blurts out, ‘Adele helps. She’s the Queen of heartache.’
‘Ahh, heartache…’ he says. ‘”Expectation is the root of all heartache.”’
The plane shudders so she closes her eyes, doesn’t respond.
‘Shakespeare,’ he adds. ‘I teach English to sixth form students. Not far from Crouch End actually.’
Faye opens one eye and peers at him. ‘I somehow assumed you were headed home.’
‘Home is where the rent is paid. North London in fact.’
Faye is suddenly lost in her thoughts. She thinks of the quaking plane; thinks of the man next to her and the fact that she’s enjoyed talking to him; of the reality check that she quite fancies him and that if the plane were to go down, at least she could hold Cam’s hand. She thinks of Shakespeare, wonders if he was right; perhaps she’d expected too much from Brian, or vice versa. He lived in Dublin, she in London – they’d tried but in the end… While Cam and his sister had partied, Faye and Brian had drawn an amicable line under their year-long relationship.
The plane tilts, turns sharply above Heathrow.
‘Holding pattern,’ Cam says. ‘We’ll be down soon.’
And she realises in a eureka-moment that she’s been stuck in her own holding pattern; awaiting permission to be happy. She realises that her ‘heartache’ is simply regret, sadness at something being over. Her heart isn’t actually aching. A smile forms on her lips.
‘You have a lovely smile,’ Cam says.
‘Thank-you,’ she says. ‘Not often seen at thirty thousand feet.’
‘It’s much lower now,’ he reassures her.
‘Would you –’ she says.
‘Yes,’ he replies, ‘definitely.’
She turns, faces him. ‘You have no idea what I was going to say.’
‘No, but the answer is yes.’ He laughs; a deep throaty sound which she likes, before shrugging his broad shoulders.
And through the rain splattered oval window Faye sees the ground approach, watches airport buildings speed by as the wheels bounce once before touch down. She sighs, relief coursing through her veins.
‘Friday works for me,’ he says.
And she remembers how in Dublin airport she had dreaded Crouch End and her cat called Mouse. Friday, she thinks. Could be a complete flight of fancy. Could be a drink. A meal. A chat. A disaster. She looks towards the heavens, tosses a prayer of thanks to Shakespeare, because for the first time in a long time - she has no expectations…
The Day I Lost You is published by Harper Collins and is available in TPB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage and 13% discount, here. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below: