Michael stood where he was for a second, staring at the back of her head, and then he went and sat in his seat.
“Mmm?” She was staring at rows of numbers and letters and not seeing any sense in them.
“Beans, look at me.”
He shook his head.
“You got a plane – or the ghost of a plane or whatever – out of the lake using your brain and then you opened the airstair with it. Now the smell of food makes you sick. What exactly is okay with that? Tell me. Because I’m getting really worried for you. I’m sorry, I know I’m not supposed to say it but I am. For a moment down there I thought you were gone. It wasn’t” – he breathed in – “It wasn’t the best feeling I’ve ever had.”
Bianca smiled and reached out. He took her hand. She squeezed his gently.
“I am okay, Mike, I promise. And I don’t think there is such a thing as “gone” here, do you? I’m just trying to figure out why we are here, letting my mind wander. Because there has to be a reason it’s just us.”
“Well, maybe there isn’t. At least not one we can figure out,” he said. She let go of his hand. “Maybe the world’s full of dead people and we just can’t see them. Maybe, I don’t know, everything is possible. But if you can feel pain, if you can pass out, then you can die. That’s what my book says.”
“Your book ‘The Everyday Guide of the Chronic Worrier’ you mean?”
Michael barked out a laugh.
Bianca smiled again.
“You were always a worrier, though.”
“Yeah.” He paused. “Yeah, I was and I’ve missed it these past three years.”
Silence descended and lingered in the air but it didn’t weigh on them as it had so many times in the past – that tense silence so full of words it was about to burst and pour them all out, washing away any semblance of a relationship they were trying to hold on to. In the end, it had burst. But this silence wasn’t tense, it was quiet and comfortable.
Bianca sat wrapped in it for a while before she got up.
“Where are you going?”
“To get a sandwich.”
Michael watched her go, likely wishing he could follow her to the trolley to make sure she would get food. But she had no plans to lie. She was hungry.
“Watch,” Bianca said when she returned with a ham and cheese sandwich. She bit into the bread, tore a piece and chewed, raising her eyebrows meaningfully at Michael.
“You’re not feeling sick any more?” he checked.
Bianca shook her head and took another bite. Contrary to reason the sandwich tasted as fresh as if the bread had just been baked.
“I really am okay and everyone else is okay,” Bianca said when she finished her sandwich and brushed the crumbs into the paper bag it had come with. “Everyone is eating, right? I am, too. So you can relax. Or at least try to.”
Michael nodded, staring at the communications panel. Then he looked up and Bianca almost jerked back. He had most certainly not relaxed, despite her eating demonstration.
“Please, stop risking your life, or afterlife or whatever it is. Please. At least until we figure what all this is. Did you notice that everything on the plane – damn it, the plane itself – is visible? Do you know why this is? Or why we all had something unpleasant happen to us right after it all went invisible? I don’t know why any of this is the way it is. And I would really, really like you to be a bit more careful.”
“Mike, I’m not risking—”
“Will you just listen to me and not argue for once? Just once?” He’d clenched his hands in fists that now hit the yoke. “When you passed out on the ground? It was scary, do you understand? It was the scariest thing I’d seen in my life. So, please, don’t try for a third, at least for a while. Okay?”
Bianca was silent for a while.
“Okay?” he prompted. He disentangled his hands and put them on the armrests of the seat.
“Okay,” she said. “Okay. I didn’t know you took it so hard. I’m sorry. And I am completely fine now.”
“Yeah, you look fine. But for how long?” Michael said as he stood up, his eyes pinning her to the spot with the choking weight of his fear. “I’ll go check on Gary. Let us know if you found something in the papers.”
Bianca cleared her throat to cover the shock at the easy change of topic after Michael’s outburst. That had come straight out of the blue. It had been three years since they’d separated. She’d thought he’d moved on and she had wished him all the happiness she couldn’t give him. People didn’t stay in love with someone they didn’t see for three years. Most people. Or perhaps he was just possessive and protective of his possessions. The moment she had that thought Bianca regretted it. Michael was many things but possessive was not among them. And he still stood by her seat, waiting.
“I doubt I’ll find anything here, it’s just a distraction so I can focus,” Bianca said.
“Right,” he said with a nod. “Focus through distraction. Well, good luck.”
After he closed the door Bianca stood and stared through the windscreen at the rocks and dry grass outside, at the mountain tops and their snow caps. There was no chance of ever figuring out the why of the situation without help.
When she’d blacked out on the ground there had been no great revelation from a deity as there would have been in an epic narrative. There had been no meaningful dreams like the ones she’d had while under general anaesthesia when she had her appendix removed six years back. She didn’t remember the meaningful dreams afterwards but the enormity of their meaning lingered for quite a while after the operation. When she’d blacked out on the ground here there had been nothing. Bianca shivered and went back to browsing the papers in the file.