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Flying by Maggie Mountford



I first learned to fly when I was eighteen. I'd quarreled with my boyfriend and was looking for consolation. I'd been to the salon, had my hair styled differently. It touched the nape of my neck and was smooth, like a helmet. I stood in the centre of my bedroom and stretched out my arms. I wanted to take off. I had this really strong feeling that I could, if I wanted to. But nothing happened. I sat on the edge of my bed and stared round my room. There was pink everywhere: pink coverlet, pink roses, pink cushion covers, pink paintwork. I hated it.

After a few minutes, I tried again. I stood up, took a deep breath, shut my eyes tight, and concentrated hard. Fly! I said to myself. Fly, Rosetta! I seemed to know how to breathe this time. You use a special breath, when you want to take off. I could feel myself, growing lighter and lighter until my feet left the carpet. No use pretending I wasn't scared, once I felt myself hovering. But I wasn't scared for long. There was a naturalness in the procedure, as if I could always have flown, if I'd made the effort.

I wanted to try out my skill on more spacious premises. I went to the gymnasium, waited until everyone had gone. And then I breathed in the correct way, closed my eyes and willed myself to lift. I was wearing a leotard, facing a long mirror. Just like the first time, my feet left the floor and I began to hover. This time, I found I could control it with my breathing. When I held my breath, I rose higher and higher, and when I breathed normally I'd begin to descend. I was fairly high up at this point, about half way to the ceiling. I'd discovered that when I took quick, shallow breaths, I didn't rise higher and I didn't descend, either. I was practicing this, when the door opened. It was my ex-boyfriend.

"Hi!" I said. He looked up. I waved to him. "Hi, Billy!"

You should have seen his face. "Hi, Rosetta," he said, doing his best to seem offhand. "I was -- er -- hoping to see you."

"I'm flying, Billy," I said. "See? Anyone can fly, if they put their mind to it."

"No way," he said. "No way, Rosetta."

"Have you come to apologise?" I said, floating a few inches nearer him.

"I'm sorry, Rosetta. It doesn't make any difference."

"Difference?" I said.

"It wouldn't work," he said. "We're not compatible. You like country. I like rock. Incompatibility."

I descended heavily, and stood before him. "Come and fly," I said.

"No thanks. I'd better be going. I'm taking Sharon to the movies. From now on, she's my girlfriend."

"Oh."

"See you around, Rosetta. No hard feelings?"

"No, I suppose not. See you around, Billy."

When the gym door closed behind him, I tried to lift off again. I breathed in the special way, in front of the long mirror, but nothing happened. "Come on, Rosetta. Come on! You can do it. Don't let him get to you." But I couldn't. I just couldn't. And I never could again, except in my dreams.

"You saw me," I said to Billy, once. "You saw me flying, didn't you?"

"Did I?" he replied, shrugging his shoulders.

"I flew! I flew, Billy! I was up to the ceiling. Don't you remember?"

"Maybe I do, maybe I don't," he said. "All I know is, we were incompatible. A man likes a woman to be --"

"How, Billy?"

"A man likes a woman to be simple. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?"

"No, Billy," I said. "But I still flew, didn't I?"

"No. I don't think you did," he said.



Maggie Mountford is a writer living in Wells in the United Kingdom where she's had some number of short stories and poems published, including her short short, "Transformation," which appeared in Issue #6 of The Cafe Irreal.


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