My grandfather owned a hot air balloon. Two, actually. “Things rarely go according to plan,” he would say. “So, it’s important to always have a back-up plan.” For as long as I could remember, people from all over The World had made contact with him just to take part in his infamous flights over the small town of Greenvale. I’d seen him fly the hot air balloon often enough that I was confident with my decision to unravel it, inflate it and get us safely into the sky. Jennifer was even more eager than me to get this balloon in the air, despite knowing that we may never return.
Jennifer was the daughter of one of my mother’s friends. I’d seen her once or twice at the occasional “gatherings” that my mother hosted, but I had never really paid her much mind to be honest. I knew she was there, but I was always too busy trying to figure out how to not become like one of my mother’s friends to give Jennifer the attention she apparently craved. She managed to turn that situation around one night when my mother and her friends were celebrating one of their birthdays using sparklers. Jennifer had found a darker location down the side of our house – the one place you couldn’t have paid me enough go to at night – and was etchings words into the cool night air with her sparkler, the ghosts of the letters hovering for long enough to be confident she had at least used the letters F and M. She turned around to see me staring at her from the shadows, causing me to realise I had been staring for too long.
Grabbing my left hand and lifting it up, Jennifer brought my unlit sparkler next to hers in an attempt to get them both alight at the at the same time. Hers didn’t have much spark left, but she managed to get mine alight before it completely went out.
“Don’t you think it’s weird that our parents are playing with sparklers and yet the two of us have to make an effort to enjoy them?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, because I genuinely didn’t know. “I do know that seeing something from the sky that you’ve seen a million times before helps you appreciate it all over again.”
Jennifer lifted her head, forcing me to lock eyes with hers.
“And how would you know that?” she asked without batting an eyelid.
“I can show you, I guess.” I replied.
Jennifer completed three small nods. “I’d like that. When can we go?”
If Jennifer wanted to see everything as if we were seeing it for the first time, then everything was going according to plan. Watching her look out over the forests in awe was enough for me. The very moment we felt nothing could go wrong, was the very moment we both noticed it at the same time. At the edge of the tree line of the forests surrounding our town, precisely where more land should be, there was nothing. Only darkness. Jennifer held my hand, not moving it any direction. “That’s where we need to go,” she said, pulling the lever, directing us towards the dark. Perhaps my grandfather was right, maybe we did need a backup plan, but it was far too late for that.
My name is Gregg Savage and, every night when the house is quiet, I write and publish a free children’s story at dailytales.com.au for you to share and enjoy.
Illustrations by Alisha Towers: FACEBOOK
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