My dad always tells me not to say I have bad luck. He says it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. I decide this may be worth examining as I take my seat aboard the airplane I will be stuck on for the next thirteen hours, between a mother with a screaming baby, and a man who definitely forgot to put on deodorant this morning. I’ve always hated flying. The idea of hurling through the air at five hundred miles per hour in a zillion pound death trap, has always made me want to throw up. I’ll take my feet planted firmly on the ground any day, thank you very much. The baby flails in her mom’s arms and kicks me in the cheek. I make a mental note to never speak to my cousin Zoe again. Why does she need to get married in Italy anyway? We’re not even Italian!
“Miss?” A voice, very close to me asks. I realize that I have squeezed my eyes shut and open them, almost coming nose to nose with B.O. Guy.
“I just wanted to see if you were asleep,” he said with a shrug, before turning and looking straight ahead. Great, so he smells and he’s not going to let me sleep apparently. Not that I would be able to. My heart is beating so fast that it feels like it’s going to burst through my chest in a bloody, explosive scene any second now.
There is still a slowly moving single file line of people moseying down the aisle, which means we’re still a ways from taking off. I realize that if I get off now, I can just go home and tell Zoe that I’ve come down with some sort of semi-serious illness and that I can’t go to her wedding after all. I pull out my phone and begin to google the symptoms for rabies when out of the corner of my eye, I see someone stop at our row.
“Darling! There you are!” a delicious sounding British accent calls out, filled with relief. I look up to see the most handsome man I have ever seen, staring directly at me.
“Um...what?” is all I can manage to reply.
“I can’t believe the bloody airline didn’t seat us together. The next twelve hours are going to be pure agony,” he says with utmost sincerity. I’m about to tell him I think he has me confused when someone else, when his eyes shift ever so slightly down to Stinky and then back to me. There’s a mischievous glint in them that seems to command that I play along, so I do.
“I know. It’s...such a...bummer,” I chime in lamely. I’m worried Stinky will be unconvinced when the man speaks up again.
“Sir, is there any way you would be willing to change seats with me? We’re actually on our honeymoon and I-”
“What seat are you in?” Stinky asks. The man hands over his ticket and Stinky’s eyes go wide.
“First class, eh?” The man nods and Stinky looks back over to me.
“Enjoy your honeymoon,” Stinky mumbles, snatching his carry on up from the floor and practically sprinting back up toward the front of the plane in one foul swoop. The man sits down next to me and grins.
“Ohmygodthankyousomuch!” I blurt out with an embarrassing amount of enthusiasm. He chuckles and shrugs.
“I got stuck behind that guy in security. I figured you could use some help,” he replies coolly.
“Wow, my hero,” I retort and he continues to smile. His smile is more of a grin really, a Cheshire cat-like grin that takes up his entire face. It’s both charming and slightly off-putting at the same time.
“So,” I clear my throat and break eye contact, his unblinking gaze starting to become too much to handle.
“So…” he says back. I look back up at him. He looks amused.
I’m about to ask what his name is, when the captain comes over the loudspeaker, welcoming us aboard and ratting off the standard safety spiel, as the flight attendants cheerfully buckle and unbuckle seat belts that they are holding up in the air. My chest tightens- with all the excitement, I had forgotten how nervous I had been. I suddenly feel a slight annoyance at the handsome stranger for making me forget to develop a mysterious illness and get off the plane. I squeeze my eyes shut, purposefully this time, and lean my head back against the headrest.
“Afraid of flying, are we?” the man asks.
“No, I’m loving this. Can’t you tell?” I snap. He chuckles again and I open one eye to give him a dirty look.
“I’m sorry, I thought you were trying to save me from having a painful flight. What happened to that guy?” I ask. He holds up his hands in a mock surrender.
“Sorry, sorry. I won’t make fun anymore, I promise,” he says. I open my other eye and try to reclaim my cool.
“What’s your name anyway?” I ask.
“Friends call me D.C.” He answers, extending his hand, I take it.
“As in Washington?” I ask.
“No,” he replies simply.
“I’m Camille,” I offer.
“Very nice to meet you,” he replies, glancing down. I follow his eyes and realize that I am still shaking his hand and retract mine quickly. I barely have time to be embarrassed as the plane roars to life and starts to take off down the runway.
“Oh god,” I mumble to myself.
“Do you want my hand back?” D.C. asks. I’m about to make a snappy comment back, but he looks like he means it so I nod. He takes my hand in his and interlaces our fingers. We stay like that until we’re high into the air, and the fasten seatbelt sign is off. He doesn’t even pull away when my knuckles turn white from squeezing his hand so hard.
“I think it’s safe to open your eyes now,” he whispers. I do and everything looks the same. Of course it does, why wouldn’t it?
“Thank you,” I say and he shrugs.
“Did you know that you are two thousand times more likely to die in a car crash than in a plane crash?” D.C. asks.
“What?” I ask.
“I’m just saying...if you’re afraid of the plane crashing, you really shouldn’t be,” he replies.
“It’s not just the plane crashing that scares me,” I tell him.
“What then?” he asks.
“Well...I don’t know. I guess the plane crashing is a big one. Or the air pressure getting all weird and everyone suffocating, or having to make an emergency landing in the ocean, like in those safety videos, and then just...drowning,” I explain. If his tactic by asking the question was to get me to realize how ridiculous my fears are, it’s starting to work.
“You’ve thought of it all,” he says. I shrug and he stands up.
“I’ll be right back, I’ve got to use the loo,” I wave and go to pull my book out of the seat pocket. I miss his calming presence immediately.
He’s gone for ten minutes. Then twenty. Then thirty. I’m starting to wonder if I should go knock on the door to make sure he hasn’t passed out or something when the fasten seatbelt sign turns on. A low murmur of confusion begins to rise throughout the plane, as people whisper to one another while buckling their seat belts. I finish fastening mine, as the captain’s voice comes on over the loudspeaker again.
“Attention passengers. We are going to be making an unexpected emergency landing. Please fasten your seatbelts immediately. Flotation devices can be found under your seats. Again, please fasten your seatbelts and prepare for emergency landing. Thank you,”
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
The low buzz that had been people asking their loved ones what was going on, turns into a full on panic fest. People are crying, screaming, and demanding to know what’s going on. It’s utter chaos. It’s my worst nightmare come to life. I grope around under my seat, trying to find my flotation device when I notice the woman next to me is even more panicked than I am.
“They don’t make them in her size!” she exclaims, pointing at her daughter. I locate my cushion flotation device and hand it to her.
“I don’t know if having two will help but-” I start but she throws her free arm around me anyway.
“Thank you!” she calls out. I nod and clutch at my arm rest, as I feel the plane start to descend. All I can think is that I’m going to die here. My panic is interrupted when D.C. runs over, his eyes wide.
“Where’s your floatie?” he asked. I gesture toward the woman next to me and he quickly reaches under his seat, handing his to me.
“What about you?” I ask. He shoots me another smirk and shrugs.
“I’m a good swimmer,” is his only response. I’m far too scared to be polite and refuse his device, so instead I clutch it in one hand and grab onto him with the other. Finally the moment of impact hits and water splashes up around the plain, splattering the windows.
I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe this is happening.
“Everyone, we are going to be opening the emergency doors, please, stay in your seats until you’re instructed otherwise,” The captain announces. I see two flight attendants open an emergency door a few feet in front of our row and look over at us. I’m about to ask D.C. what he thinks they’re looking at, when I realize he’s standing up.
“What are you doing?” I hiss. He just smiles down at me and holds out his hand.
“They said to remain seated until the captain said otherwise!” I whisper to him. He bends down so we’re eye level and raises an eyebrow.
“Tell me, Camille...is skyjacking on your list of airplane fears?” he asks. I’m about to ask what he means, when he yanks me up by my arm and spins me around so my back is to his chest. I feel cold hard metal pressed into my temple and watch as everyone around us looks on with horrified expressions.
“Walk,” he whispers to me. I do as he instructs and we make our way over to the emergency exit. As we approach, I see that we are in fact on a body of water. D.C. nudges me down the first step of the emergency door stairs and I can now see there’s a motorboat about ten yards away. The driver waves and D.C. lets out a gleeful shout.
I’m in such a state of shock that when he spins us around so his back is to the exit and I’m facing him, I nearly fall over. He tucks the gun he had been holding to my head into the back of his pants and flashes me one last Cheshire cat grin.
“Have you ever heard of D.B. Cooper?” he asks. I frown and shake my head. He proudly pulls up his shirt and reveals stacks of money that are taped to his chest.
“Look him up,” he says simply. Before I can fully comprehend what’s just happened, D.C. takes two steps back and jumps into the water below. I watch on in horror as he swims with great speed, toward the boat, climbs on, and takes off, vanishing into the horizon.
We’re rescued what feels like hours later. Turns out we weren’t far off the coast of Maine. I don’t go to Italy, I don’t even call to make an excuse.
I look up D.B. Cooper when I’ve finally reached the safety of a hotel room. He hijacked a plane in 1971 and was never seen again. The media referred to him as David Cooper. When I see the initials, I scream so loudly that someone down the hall calls the front desk and they send someone up to make sure I’m okay.
D.C. is never seen again. The money he took is never recovered. And I stick to road trips from there on out.