All the cool kids got their launching licenses at 16. The really precocious ones, the ones who smelled like private school cardigans and clove cigarettes, they were launching at 15. She had privately dared on 15 but the mission was aborted when the dorm mistress caught her sneaking out of her room with a stolen spacesuit. Somehow the time when the mere thought of heights made her dizzy had gone by in light years. Things had changed fast in launch school; by the time she was 14 she already knew that she would be a Maverick and not a Wingman.
She had known the Top Gun for a really long time, since she was 3 in fact, but it wasn't till she was 15 that he started talking about cruising to the moon and enjoying a bite of astronaut ice cream, together. He was older, naturally, and when he finally saw her the recognition tilted her mouth slightly upwards into a perpetual ellipse.
"What's it like when you launch?" His after all was the face that had launched a thousand ships. She liked the stain of his inky black hair when it fell against her cheek for the first time almost as much as she enjoyed their secret. His mother was the president of the flight academy after all, and his sister her arch rival at flight simulation, and well, she was a real...
"Darling." They were on the roof to the flight school overlooking the launch pad, his arm lazily wrapped around her shoulder. "Launching is a million and one night stars. But all of those stars are shooting stars and as fast as they are going, well you are going even faster, and just when you think are going as fast as you can you realize that you are completely still. The stillness feels so good though. Right before you come down you know, um, well I guess you don't know, but you are part of the whole goddamn thing, the whole glorious universe."
Another part of her secret was that she thought he was really cheesy.
15 turned into the early summer of 16 and his conversation was beginning to wane into the sliver of the moon that framed them like a picture. But the only way to win a license at flight school was to actually fly, and a real license demanded a co-pilot. She waited for the night when they predicted the comet.
"I just don't understand," she confessed to an older classmate afterwards. "The take off was too fast and then just like that we landed and when I wanted to try again he had to refuel the ship and that took forever and the second time we cruised just as far as Virgina before I lost it and the ship almost crashed. I mean," and now her eyes were watery, "What am I doing here?"
"Oh my, honey, don't you know? Really? Don't you watch television? This is just how it's supposed to go. By the time you graduate you'll have had a couple of steady co-pilots that'll take you rollerskating on Jupiter and bowling on the moon. But hopefully you'll have enough common sense to start practicing flying solo. Who else do you think teaches these neanderthals how to steer?"
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