by Federica Silvi
She used to imagine him in his cabin, cruising over candy-floss clouds, across a sky so blue it could have been painted on canvas. In her childhood drawings his plane loomed at the top of the sheet, above a globe so small she could have ripped it out and swallowed it whole. His uniform was always the same colour: navy blue, with a yellow tag where she wrote the name they shared in big bold letters.
Growing up, she would stop in her tracks every time she heard the rumble of a plane flying over town. There was no telling which one he’d be on, so it was better to be on the safe side. When her mother wasn’t looking, she bobbed her head or gave a brief wave. Most of the time, though, she simply looked up for a second, long enough to spell godspeed in her head.
The night was her favourite moment: sat on the flat roof of the estate agents below their apartment, she could watch the sky for hours, looking for the little moving lights flashing among the stars. She followed them as far as she could, wished them a safe journey to a better place, thought up spells of love to protect them until they got there. One day, one of those would reach him, and he’d know to come back for more.
“She could watch the sky for hours, looking for the little moving lights flashing among the stars.”
A year into living alone, Leah still hadn’t forgotten what the house used to smell and sound like. The damp freshness of laundry hung to dry in the bathroom; the quiet hum and metallic ring of the microwave in the minutes leading up to dinner; the cheap perfume pervading every fibre of the sofa her mother sprawled on at night, talk-showing herself to sleep.
If anyone had tried to warn her that one day she’d miss that manner of not having company, she would have laughed and told them where to go. Now, walking into rooms she was always the first to enter, there wasn’t much to sniff but occasional hints it was time to take out the trash; nothing to listen for, no more frenzied calls or laboured breathing from the master bedroom. She tried wearing the perfume for a while, but it never quite filled the air in the way she’d grown to expect. Sometimes she caught herself pricking up her ears, ready to rush over at the slightest sign of a coughing fit; realised there would be none, felt everything but relief.
Against her better judgement, she began to lug a heavy-set kitchen chair out on the flat roof when she got back from work. It was, after all, one way of losing track of time. She stared at the clouds as if they could part in front of her eyes, slowly revealing the nose of a plane, then its wings cutting through the breeze, then the wheels preparing to land and take him home.
Federica Silvi | @edgwareviabank
Federica grew up all over the place, but mostly in Italy; she now lives and works in London. She has collaborated with an Italian online literary magazine as writer and editor, received a Pushcart nomination for one of her stories in English, and published work on Salomé, A Catalogue of Failure and more. Find her on Twitter as @edgwareviabank (reading suggestions, cat pictures and cake recipes always welcome).