In the cabin, the party was in half swing. Everyone but Gary and Michael had helped themselves to the contents of the trolley and had munched their way happily through half a dozen sandwiches and a pack of bacon-flavoured crisps. Now the sounds of eating had gone and a more contemplative mood had settled in.
“We’re stuck here, aren’t we?” Samantha said. She lounged on a row of seats across from where Charles sat. He hung his head.
“Yeah, I think we may be,” said Rob from the aisle seat a row ahead. Gabrielle stood up with their food trays.
“I’ll take these back,” she said.
“And what are we supposed to do?” Samantha said. “Just sit around?”
Nobody answered. The joy from the food was gone. The plane was quiet, the air sticking to the windows completely dark now.
“We may as well try to sleep,” Charles said. “I sure can do with a nap.”
“I don’t think I can sleep,” Samantha said. “But if you need a blanket, there are some at the back. Do you want a blanket?”
“Hey people,” Gabrielle called, making everyone jerk their heads in her direction. “The food’s come back!”
“What?” Charles murmured and craned his neck to look at Gabrielle who waved a packaged baguette in the air.
“What do you mean come back?” Rob said as he stood.
“Everything we ate is back on the trolley. It’s full. That’s the sandwich I had and it was right there.”
Rob went to her. The others watched.
“Shit,” he said and turned meeting Michael’s expectant look with a confused grin. “The food’s back.”
“Now we just need to find out if this is good or bad,” Michael sighed.
“Well, at least we won’t starve to death,” Samantha said. “I’d call this good. Now, Charles. Blanket?”
“No, thank you,” Charles said and shifted in the seat. “It’s rather mild, the weather. Who would’ve thought it of the Alps.”
“Gary’s already sleeping,” Michael said nodding to the boy who had dozed off with his head against the window. “And I’m going for a walk.”
The boy looked fast asleep except that his chest was not moving. He wasn’t breathing. Michael shuddered and turned. On the way out he peeked into the cockpit where Bianca sat back with her eyes closed. Michael shut the door quietly and climbed off the plane.
After fighting insomnia for what felt like a couple of hours Bianca gave up. She slipped out without checking the cabin, which was dark and quiet, and walked a hundred yards down the rocky beach until she found a spot she liked. The ground behind the wide black rock was dry and cool when she sat down, still trying to be quiet to avoid waking anyone else who happened to be in her vicinity. Bianca wrapped her arms around her legs and glared at the moon, full tonight. The moon glared back.
She was trying to think of something she missed from life besides the bare necessities like food and sex, and found nothing. But thinking of necessities, she did miss her mother’s pot roast and Michael’s frittatas. He had told her the food they’d eaten had materialised back but those were sandwiches and pasta. Maybe she could try to make some pot roast. That couldn’t be too hard after pulling the plane out of the lake.
The crunching of pebbles under feet pulled her out of her food musings and she looked up. He was coming towards her in the silvery moonlight, looking exactly like a ghost with a grey tint to his face and a glow surrounding him courtesy of the glaring moon. Bianca chuckled under her breath.
“What’s the joke?” Michael said and sat next to her.
“You looked like a ghost out of a film just now,” Bianca said. “It’s the moon, it gives you this glow.”
“You don’t look like a ghost,” Michael said quietly. “You look very alive even with the glow.”
“Are you hitting on me, Michael?”
“Yes, captain, I am,” he said, his eyes, with a silvery tint to the brown, locked on hers.
The smile melted away and Bianca shifted as if there was a way to find a set of softer pebbles to sit on. If she was being completely honest with herself, the frittatas were not the only thing she missed when it came to her ex-husband.
“I was thinking about what I miss from the living life just now,” she said in a last-ditch effort to turn to conversation in a safer direction. “Your frittatas were one of those things.”
“I miss this,” Michael said and stroked her cheek before she could pull away. Afterwards, she didn’t want to pull away.
“We can still touch, so there’s nothing to miss, really,” she said without much conviction. Her half-hearted attempt at changing the topic had failed. And for some reason, Bianca didn’t regret it. The moonlight made Michael a little unreal, like they were in a dream, which, as she recalled from her high school Shakespeare, they maybe were. It was an exciting dream.
“Are you sure?” Everything about him was so familiar and yet strange after the years apart. And there was something new, a subtle change that happened to people over the years and if you weren’t there with them, you missed how it happened and only saw the result. A new sharpness to his features. A new decisiveness in his voice where before there had been only softness. She liked them.
“Well, there’s only one way to find out, I guess,” Bianca said, turning towards him. She’d never been a flirt and she hated beating about the bush almost as much as she hated drinking milk. And all the excitement was making her heart beat faster. Yes, it was beating and it was beating faster than when she’d come on the beach.
Michael did not wait to be told twice. He cupped her face with one hand and used the other to pull her closer to him. The softness of his lips against her was familiar. The insistence of the kiss was new, the roughness born out of desperate longing, and they ignited Bianca’s own longing. She had thought she was over him but as so often happened in life – or after it – she found with some surprise she wasn’t. That was okay, though. He obviously wasn’t over her, either.
Bianca pressed herself to him while he slipped a hand under her shirt, wrapped it around her waist and pulled her into his lap. She straddled him and winced as a pebble ground into her left knee.
“What’s wrong?” Michael whispered. His breath was heavy and impatient against her neck.
“Pebbles,” Bianca murmured. Michael stopped kissing her and gently pushed her off his lap. He stood up and scooped her in his arms. “Where are we going?”
“Somewhere softer,” he said and started across the shore to the of dry grass and bare ground beyond.
He set her down on a grassy patch and it did feel softer, almost like a carpet. Bianca didn’t give him a chance to straighten up. She pulled him to her, found his mouth and drank in his heavy breaths. Michael resumed his work on her clothes. The dry grass tickled the bare skin on her back and legs when he was done but this sensation lasted only a second before getting thrown off stage when Michael’s body pressed to hers. Contrary to what paranormal literature and film said, he was warm. He was warm and his skin smelled of eager anticipation. The weight was familiar. The smell wasn’t but it was delicious.
They both gasped when their bodies fastened to each other. The shape of him was familiar. The hard, hungry thrust was new. Bianca exhaled with a moan cut short by Michael’s mouth, also hard, also hungry. She wrapped her legs tighter around him and grabbed his buttocks. It had been years. There was a time for lingering foreplay and drawn-out ecstasy and there was a time for urgent release, as hard and fast as a human body could make it. Ironically, some called it survivor sex.
Michael’s shoulder muffled Bianca’s moan and he drowned his own in her hair. The night was once again quiet but for their still heavy breathing. Bianca’s legs were still locked around his waist. He made no move to pull away, nestling his face in the hollow between her neck and shoulder instead. She reached up and stroked his hair. This part was all familiar: the snuggled face, the hair, the way their bodies gradually relaxed and softened. She unlocked her legs and rested her feet on the ground. That felt warm, too.
“The ground feels warm,” she whispered. Michael raised his head. They were in the shadow of a tall rock and no moonlight fell on them. He looked completely human now. The old Michael with the dark eyes and the soft lips, now smiling at her.
“You feel warm, too,” he said and brushed his hand against her cheek, her neck, the collarbone.
“So do you but that’s not weird,” she said. He propped himself up on his elbows, detaching himself from her. She winced.
“Sorry,” he said and kissed her. “I always get this feeling I’ll squash you if I stay any longer.”
“The number of times I’ve told you that you won’t” she said, shaking her head. Then she laughed. “You know, I missed that.”
“So did I,” Michael said and leaned in to kiss her again with that new hardness, the new insistence.