She raced through the sky, the others following close behind. She could hear their excited laughs accompanying the rush of adrenaline that always came with flying. She loved the feeling of weightlessness that flying offered her. It was only at night that they could do this. Revel in the freedom of the open sky.
"Race you!" came the call from one of the others. We don't know each others names. Somehow it's as if using our names breaks the dream-like feel to these nights. We arc through the night sky, leaving the lights of our city far below us. I close my eyes and take a moment to enjoy the wind that whips around me.
I go as high as I can until the air is so thin its a struggle to breath. Then I stop flying. Laughing, I plummet towards the ground. I can feel the g-force pulling at the sides of my face. A hundred feet from the ground, I pull up from my dive and re-join the others. We fly as a flock, with me as the point of our v-shaped formation.
I hear someone groan. I turn to look and see the faint light of dawn. Sighs of disappointment ripple through the group. I catch the eye of a guy roughly the same age as me. I think he's new. He raises his hand slightly in goodbye. I can feel my eyes drifting close. I try to fight it. I don't feel like falling back to the earth. It's futile, though. The last sound I hear is the whisper of the wind.
My eyes snap open. The glare of the sun blinds them almost immediately. Closing them again, I pull the covers over my head. I'm exhausted from flying around last night. I wish I could just skip school.
"Yvonne, wake up!" The voice of my mother reminds me why I can't.
I go downstairs. I think the fact that I have a ramp in my house instead of stairs is pretty cool. I enter the kitchen, picking up a piece of toast. My mother is there, washing some dishes from last night.
"Wow," she comments. "You look exhausted."
"Thanks mom." She laughs lightly.
"It's the truth!"
"It's 'cause I was up all night flying around." She stiffens a little."Mom?"
"It's nothing." She glances out the window. "Claire is here. You shouldn't keep her waiting."
I arrive at school. It's an all girl's one. On the other side of town is an affiliated all boy's one that my little brother attends. Across the compound, I catch a glimpse of Susan. We make eye contact and smile. She's the only one in the flock I know by name. "Hey Susan." Claire greets her. She doesn't know of course. Claire joins us as we head to class. Our school has three floors. Luckily, I have permission to use the elevators which only teachers use. Claire leaves us since her home-room is different. As soon as the doors close, Susan breaks the silence.
"Oh God, I'm tired." she says, yawning. I laugh.
"Me too. Why don't you just stay in tonight?"
"Are you kidding me? I'll just sleep during History."
"How 'bout you? You never miss a night as far as I know."
"I guess it's addictive. It's like being in a dream." She smiles at me. It seems like a sad smile to me.
The doors open with a ding and we move down the hallway to class. I dump my bag on the floor next to my desk as Susan takes her place beside me. True to her word, as our History teacher walks into class, she puts her head in her arms and catches up on her sleep. As for me, I stare out the window to my left and count the hours to midnight.
"Nice shot!" I call out to Claire as she sinks a three-pointer. She flashes me a thumbs up as she moves to block her opponents. I watch from my usual place in the bleachers. Everyone seems to be playing today. Even the people who usually make up excuses and skip gym are playing. Except for me, of course. But it's always except for me. I sigh and watch as Claire scores another goal. She's the ace of the basketball team. I wish I could play. Then I remind myself that wishing gets me nowhere. If it did, I would be somewhere now.
The final bell rings. Students pour out of their classrooms. I hang back. It's easier to wait until some of them have gone. Carmen waits for me as she always does. Claire comes into our class, bag slung over her shoulder and ready to go. "C'mon!" she calls out. Susan and I exchange smiles. Claire is always impatient. We part ways at the gate. Claire leans down and says softly "See you tonight, Yvonne?" "Definitely," I whisper back. Claire drops me off at my house. My brother is already home. I stay up in my room, studying. Exams are just next week.
I can hear my parents talking in the living room. I'm not one to eavesdrop but... going down the ramp, I stay behind a wall and listen to their conversation.
"She had another dream today." It's my mother's voice. There is a non-committable grunt from my father. "Well? Aren't you going to say anything?"
"What's there to say? The girl can't control her dreams."
"This isn't about her dreams! It's the fact she absolutely believes them!"
"You don't know that."
"It's clear she does! This morning she said the reason she was so tired was because she was flying the whole night."
"She was probably joking."
"You weren't there." her voice is suddenly soft." It was okay when she was younger, but she's fourteen now. She should be able to tell reality from dreams."
"I'm sure she can."
"And if she can't? She can't live in this dream world where she can fly forever."
"What are you going to do? Crush her only hope?"
"I don't know!"
I don't want to listen any more. Quietly, I go back up to my room.
I try to do my homework, but I can't concentrate. Throwing down my pen, I try to calm myself.
Okay, your mother thinks you're not right in the head. You can live with that. Just don't mention it again. Yeah, you shouldn't have told her in the first place.
Picking up my pen again, I try to write my essay. My gaze keeps drifting to my window. Sighing, I abandon all attempts and move to the window. The moon is full today. It'll be perfect weather for flying, not a cloud in the sky. I can't wait for that moment when I can soar through the sky, weightless. There's a knock on the door.
"Come in." My mother opens the door and steps in. She smiles at me, but I see through it. It's false.
"You know those dreams you have? About flying?" I close my eyes. I know where this is going.
"What about them?" I ask brightly, opening my eyes.
"Well," she hesitates. "You know they aren't real, right." This is it. My heart beats faster. Just lie and say yes. Laugh it off and say of course. Everything will be normal if you do.
"Yes," I say smiling. she relaxes. "They are real." The look in her eyes hurts. As if I'm confirming myself as a nut-job.
"They are real," I say, cutting her off. I say the words with utmost conviction. "And one day, I'll make you believe it." She is quiet for a moment.
"I know you want to believe it, but it's impossible."
"Why?" I challenge.
"Because you can't even walk, much less fly!" Her outburst is followed by an unnatural silence. "I didn't mean-"
She is silent. Then she says quietly, "I'm sorry."
I lie awake in my bed. The lights are off. The whole house is silent. I hear the clock downstairs chime. Midnight. I close my eyes.
I'm in the air. Susan and the rest of the flock are there with me. All the members are in my school, we just don't interact that much. Without a word, I start flying. They follow close behind. I can feel the moonlight on my face. There is no way this sensation is just a dream. I would never be able to imagine this amazing feeling. This feeling that my legs can move, that they obey me as my hands do. Somehow, I want my mother to know that this is real. That although I'm disabled, I can fly. That these aren't just idle dreams.
I can hear the sounds of morning from my window to my right. I can feel the weight of my dead legs. Weighed down by reality and despair, I don't want to get up. It seems like too much effort. I want to just stay here on this bed until midnight comes around. But I can't, because I've got to keep moving. Reluctantly, I sit up and drag myself into my wheelchair. I get ready for school in a daze.
Through out the first few periods, I can't focus. What if my mother is right? That these dreams aren't real? A rational part of my mind says Susan has these dreams too, so they must be real. But if I can really fly, why only at night? Why can't I in the daytime? Have you tried? I sit up suddenly. Maybe I should try it out...
I'm up on the roof. Claire thinks I'm back home. Taking a deep breath, I pulled myself out of my wheelchair as carefully as I can and sit on the edge. The is a gap in the chain-link fence that borders the roof. The height doesn't bother me, it never has. I pause. Maybe this isn't the most rational thing to do... Chickening out? sneers my irrational mind. Not on your life, my rational mind says, because let's face it: I'm not the most rational person in the world.
Now or never.
I close my eyes and push myself away from solid ground.