You Owe Me a Murder(11)

I wouldn’t even have come on this trip if I hadn’t been following Connor. Emily was after me to try new stuff. She’d wanted me to apply to the same camp where she was working, but I hadn’t been willing to do it because the idea of being responsible for kids made me nervous. But Emily was having a great time. If I’d gone with her, none of this would have even happened. We could have crushed on cute male counselors and ate our weight in s’mores and burned hot dogs.

Nicki stared at the screen in the back of the seat in front of her, the flickering images from an old episode of The Big Bang Theory reflected in her eyes. “I’m going to get some more water. Do you want any?”

I nodded. Water and Tylenol were a good idea. Nicki slipped out of the seat and headed toward the back galley. She slid behind the curtain so quickly it was like a magic trick.

I stretched my legs out into the seat she’d vacated. I blinked slowly, watching Sheldon’s lips move on the screen. I chuckled again. My eyes drifted shut.

I’d been dreading this trip for the past few weeks, but maybe it was an opportunity. I could hit the reset button in my life. If I was brave enough to go to England, if I could survive the whole thing with Connor, then I could do all sorts of things. I felt a rush of excitement, like I had when I’d stolen the vodka. A new place. A new me.


August 16

15 Days Remaining

“You need to put your seat in the full upright position and buckle your seat belt. We’ve been cleared to land.”

My eyes snapped open. The flight attendant stood at the end of the row looking down at me. I squinted, the sun streaming in through the window, drilling into my brain. I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the red waves of pain crashing against the inside of my skull.

“Sorry to wake you, but we’re landing soon,” she said. Her red lipstick had bled into the fine lines around her mouth, as if it were growing alien tentacles.

I rubbed my face and nodded. I pushed the firm button in the armrest and sat up. I pulled my sweaty shirt from my skin, letting the cool air lick my back. Nicki was gone, the rest of my row empty. I didn’t even know when she had gone back to her own seat. I opened my mouth and grimaced. My tongue felt thick and furry. I must have fallen asleep.

Or passed out.

I was never drinking vodka again. I should have known better—?I wasn’t a big partier. I paused to take stock of my stomach. It rolled over uneasily. It felt as if there were a thick layer of oil floating on the contents, but they seemed inclined to stay in place.

The air in the plane was dry. I needed water. I also wanted to find Nicki so I could get her phone number. I’d always scoffed at my mom’s belief that the universe brings you things that you need, but this time she was right. Nicki had made me see everything differently, jolted me out of feeling stuck and sorry for myself. Writing that list about Connor had drained the toxic feelings that had been building inside me. I was actually excited for this trip now. When I got settled, I’d send Emily a long letter telling her that she’d been right, that there was life after Connor. I would let Em talk me into doing something different for senior year, maybe join the film club or sign up for a ski trip to Whistler. So what if I couldn’t ski? I’d learn, or at least I’d try.

My foot fished under the seat searching for my beat-up Converse. I found them and jammed them on, ignoring how tight they felt. I stood, stretching, feeling lighter than I had in weeks, and peered over the heads of everyone in front of me.

“You have to take your seat,” a steward called out several rows ahead.

“I need some water,” I croaked. “And my friend—?”

“You need to take your seat,” the steward repeated with a tone that implied he’d be okay with making me do what he wanted if I wasn’t compliant. I plopped back down.

The seat-belt sign blinked off and on with a ping. I buckled up.

A dark shape out of the side of my vision caught my attention and I realized we were much closer to the ground than I’d thought. The plane banked on its side and descended for the final approach. A few minutes later the tires bounced down on the runway with a screech. For a second it seemed we would speed down and off the runway, but with a lurch we began to slow. The seat belt dug into my stomach, pushing the acid up into my throat.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Heathrow Airport. Local time is 10:08 in the morning and the outside temperature is fifteen degrees Celsius. For your safety and comfort, please remain seated with your seat belt fastened until the captain has turned off the fasten-seat-belt sign.”

The announcements droned on. I peered out the window trying to see if the landscape looked different, foreign. I’d never been overseas before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I could see was the dance between planes lining up to leave and baggage carts weaving in and out of the open lanes. It looked like any other airport, but it wasn’t. This was London. My heart skipped a beat, like a record jumping around.

People leaped up as soon as the plane stopped, grabbing their luggage and clogging up the aisle like a human knot. It took forever to file off, and as soon as I cleared the Jetway I picked up speed, trying to swim upstream in the crowd headed toward customs. I wanted to find Nicki. I passed Connor and the rest of our group.

“What’s the hurry—?you run out of booze?” Connor called out, and I heard a few others snicker.

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