“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t expect this to affect you that much.”
Michael stared at her.
“Jesus,” he said and took his head in his hands. Bianca sat up – there was no head rush or any weakness across her muscles any longer – and put her hand on his arm.
“I won’t unfold any more ladders, I promise.”
“You’re up when you need to be down,” he said from behind his hands. “Lie. Down.”
Bianca swallowed back the arguments against this she had already lined up and lay back down. She had been right, there was no trace of exhaustion in her but much as she wanted to share this fact with Michael she knew him too well. He simply wouldn’t believe her because of her well deserved reputation of pushing herself to and beyond the limits. And if necessary, he would use Rob’s and Gabrielle’s help to keep her down. Unlike her, he had no qualms about using help to get what he wanted.
“How did you do it?” Michael said, still with his hands on his face.
“I just… saw it in my mind.” It had been a crystal clear image, more of a mental photo than an image, really. The ladder was there because Bianca wanted it to be there and she had no doubt whatsoever it will be there when she opened her eyes.
Michael took his hands off his face and turned to look at her.
“Please, don’t do this again,” he said quietly.
“I promise,” Bianca said. “Unless it’s something we really need,” she added. “If I can help make this… place or state better for everyone I will do it, Michael. I’m the only one who can do it. Until we find a way out or, I don’t know, wither away.”
“Like what?” he asked, narrowing his eyes at her.
“I don’t know.”
“No. No more. Next time you could die. Forever,” he said. “Please.”
Michael Dahl, the ever-cool, hard to shake aspiring pilot Bianca and met and fallen in love with at flying school now had pleading in his voice and terror in his eyes.
“Okay,” she said. Michael leaned against the side of the aisle seat and closed his eyes.
“Why is it that you’re the only one capable of doing all this, have you wondered?”
Bianca shrugged. It had felt natural. She hadn’t wondered why nobody else could do it. She hadn’t wondered if they’d tried.
“We have food,” Samantha announced a few seconds later, just as Michael was preparing to say something.
“Food!” Rob said and leaned over the seats to look at Samantha, his eyes alight. “What is it?”
Michael opened his eyes to check if Bianca was still on the floor during which time he pointedly ignored her glare.
“Sandwiches, lasagna, chicken tikka, and pasta Bolognese. Also chicken soup and ramen. It’s all there, right where it was when we took off,” she said. “And…” Samantha grinned. “We can eat it. I tried a ham and cheese panini. It was delicious.”
Rob was on his feet.
“Can I please have one? I’m starving.”
“I’ll take two and a piece of lasagna,” Gabrielle said. She was kneeling on her seat, facing the back of the plane and the beaming Samantha. “I can eat everything, I swear. I didn’t know death did that to you.”
“Anyone else hungry?” Michael said and stood up to scan the cabin. Charles raised a hand in confirmation. Gary hung his head. “Gary? Are you okay?”
The boy nodded.
“Hungry?” Samantha asked. “I can fix you a snack.”
“No,” the boy said.
Michael met Samantha’s eyes and shook his head. She nodded.
“Okay, let’s go and see what we have then,” she said and beckoned.
Rob was the one who joined her in the kitchen and who returned pushing a snack trolley. Bianca had to get up so he could pass with the trolley. She did that with a triumphant look directed at Michael. He rolled his eyes at her.
“We have a bunch of sandwiches and if anyone wants lasagna or chicken, or pasta, they’re right by the microwave,” Rob announced.
Bianca stood up from the seat she’d taken at the first row.
“I’m fine,” she said. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to check things in the cockpit.”
Michael looked up when she spoke and frowned.
“I’ll be right back,” he told Gary who just kept on staring through the window at the gathering dusk and followed Bianca. “No, thanks,” he told Rob who was offering him a sandwich in a brown bag. “I can wait.”
Bianca sat in her seat flipping through the file that held all the flight documents.
“Is everything all right?” Michael asked as he stepped up behind her seat.
“Yes,” she said without looking up. “Just going through the papers.”
“Do you have plans to fly somewhere?”
Now she looked up.
“I just wanted to find something to do. Other than eat.”
Michael put his hand on her shoulder.
“Are you sure you are okay? Everyone else seems to be hungry.”
“The smell made me sick.” She bent over the file again to hide the fear she was sure was written plainly all over her face. She was hungry and she did want to eat but the smell of food had made her stomach lurch. And there was no way around confessing to Michael, since he had apparently changed his job to her personal guardian. Most of Bianca resented that and most of her tried to ignore the small part that didn’t.