Featuring the Suggestions of Sarah Coder.
Hot Air Balloon
"No, we can't."
"Why not? It's New Year's Eve! This would be a perfect way to celebrate!"
"Yeah, till something happens!"
"Like... I don't know! Like what if we get arrested?"
Her green eyes glinted and her cushion of red curls bounced as she
scooted closer to him on the bench. Marianna Huffingtree—known as
"Butterfly" ever since a flock of monarchs landed in her mane in the
first year—smiled that dimply, ruddy-cheeked smile that made even the
sternest headmaster relent.
"Roger," she murmured, "who in the world would arrest us hundreds of feet in the air?"
Roger looked green at the mere mention of height. He looked away from that smile—but couldn't tear himself from those eyes.
Butterfly laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Please, Rog," she begged. "Come with me?"
Roger's lips trembled. He stared at her for a very long time.
"Hang it all!" he huffed. "Can't you get one of your daredevil friends to go with you if you're so jolly set on going?"
Butterfly sensed his resolve weakening. "But Roger, dear," she
responded, "I don't want any of my daredevil friends, I want you!" she
smiled at him again.
"Can't we do something else, then?" he tried again. "Something not quite so... so—"
"Not quite so what?"
"So h-h-h...h-h-high." Roger gulped and his eyes opened wide at the
thought. "Oh Flutter, I don't feel well." He laid a hand on his stomach.
She would not so easily be squelched. "I'll pick you up and we'll drive
out to Inverness around ten." For good measure, she planted a quick kiss
on Roger's cheek. "Thank you!"
Roger watched the red cloud float away among the students. It figured
that Butterfly would respond to his half-hearted moaning as if he had
offered her the midnight ride in a hot-air balloon of his own volition.
"And who in their right mind would volunteer such a crazy scheme?" asked Rational Roger.
He felt the press of her lips lingering on his cheek, and he knew. Only Butterfly Huffingtree.
As it happened, she wasn't able to pick him up from the university that evening.
"Just take a cab," she told him lightly over the phone. "I'll be there."
Roger took a cab, ignoring the strange looks he got from the paunchy
driver with the thick Northern accent when he asked to be dropped by the
side of a field outside of Inverness. Let him chalk it up to crazy
American tourism, Roger thought to himself. Three years at the Aberdeen
university had given him a slight brogue, and a habit of using British
slang, but Roger Galway could not rightly claim more than ancestry
attaching him to this nation.
The cab left, and Roger shivered in the cool moor breeze as he watched
the "balloon men" arrange what looked like miles of fabric, attached by
dozens of tiny cords to a basket no wider than a phone booth.
At last, Roger heard the grinding motor and saw the bouncing headlights
of the Huffingtree family car. The vehicle pulled to a stop, but its
driver continued bouncing until she was at his side. Butterfly wore a
cream-colored blouse over a mint-green dress, with her unruly curls tied
back with a green ribbon.
"Ooh Roger!" she gushed, "Isn't this exciting? Oh, I've always dreamed of doing something like this!"
To Roger it seemed his worst nightmare was only just beginning.
A sudden burst of flame made him flinch. The men had the balloon all set
up, and now they were inflating it with something like a blowtorch.
Roger watched the mountainous pile climb higher and higher. Soon the
balloon was fully inflated. It was time for liftoff.
Roger climbed inside, and helped Butterfly into the basket with him. The
men undid the tethers, and suddenly, the floor on which they stood was
not so secure anymore. For all her love of adventure and thrill,
Butterfly clung tightly to Roger as the balloon climbed toward the
stars. The light of the moon cast strange shadows over the Scottish
Roger kept his eyes fixed on the lovely face beside him. Butterfly's
eyes were closed as she basked in the feeling of weightlessness. Roger
impulsively leaned forward and planted a kiss on the upturned forehead.
Butterfly slipped her arms around him. His watch glowed in the dark
stillness and Roger watched the last ten seconds of 11:59 PM, December
12:00 AM, January 1, 1997.
"Happy New Year, Butterfly."
"Happy New Year, Roger."
The 2013 Suggestion Box Series:
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