Our dynamic duo, the complicated couple, Evie (also known as E if you want to stay in one piece) and Owen are on their way to California, escaping the tweaker infested swamps of Louisiana. Catch up on the story here.
“Damn thing’s not much bigger than a car,” E mumbled as the Cessna 206 buzzed towards them.
She hated flying—even in the fancy commercial jets—this tin can did not inspire confidence.
“Relax, love, he’s a pro—been flying for years,” Owen pinched her shoulder and grinned.
Evie crossed her arms and scowled, trying to hide the way her fingers were shaking. Tweakers? Fine. Uninfected hungry for a different kind of flesh? No problem. Planes? Hell. Owen enjoyed seeing her out of her element, he always did.
“If we die in this thing—-” she raised her voice as the plane rumbled closer on the abandoned interstate.
It was an empty threat, death by crashing and burning in a sardine tin with wings was probably better than being eaten alive by tweakers. E tried to convince herself that was true. As the Cessna bumped to a stop, she wasn’t sure.
“You did promise to be with me til death do us part,” Owen held his hand over his heart.
“Just get in the plane and let’s get this over with,” Evie shoved past him. “Bastard,” she muttered.
A bedraggled man hopped down from the pilot’s seat, tossing his headphones behind him. He spat out a stream of putrid tobacco juice and grinned. Evie saw that several of his teeth were capped in gold and silver. It was not a welcoming smile.
“Well, ‘ello, and who might you be?” he dusted of his hands on his grimy pants and a faint cloud of dirt rose.
“This is Evie,” Owen’s fingers crept around her waist possessively.
The pilot’s eyes lit with understanding and he let out a low whistle.
E raised an eyebrow at both of them and Owen grunted as a well-placed jab with her elbow caught him just beneath the ribs. He had a scar there and the tissue was always sensitive. She smiled at him and stepped away as he pressed a hand to the spot.
“Now that we’ve all been introduced…” she pointed at the plane.
“No, we haven’t,” the pilot stuck out a dirty hand. “I’m Greg.”
“Fine. Now let’s get this flying tuna can in the air, huh?” E moved towards the plane.
“Whoah there, missy, not s’fast. What do you mean by calling Lolita here a tin can?” Greg looked genuinely affronted.
“Lolita?” E looked at the dirty Cessna. “I called it a tuna can, not a tin can. Now, I think I insulted the can, though.”
“Now, look here—” Greg’s tobacco-stained lips pulled back from his teeth.
“Greg, mate, didn’t I tell you this one’s got a mouth like the business side of a water moccasin?” he clapped Greg on the shoulder. “She don’t mean nothing by it. ‘Fraid of flying,” he said in a stage whisper.
E could have cheerfully shot both of them then and there. Owen must have seen something of that thought in her eyes because he pulled Greg away a few feet, obviously placating him.
“Lolita,” E looked over the plane again.
Now that the engines were off it seemed even smaller, as though the sound bulked up the little craft. She peered inside. The cloth seats were ripped, foam spilling out in places across the seats like vomit. She pulled away at the smell–maybe it was. There was mildew on the gray fabric and some suspicious rusty stains on the floor and walls. She thought longingly for a moment of the clean interior of a big airliner, the smiling stewardesses and the tang of a Bloody Mary to loosen her up. She was still thinking of shining little airline bottles of alcohol when rough hands grabbed her and boosted her into the plane. She staggered unceremoniously over the seats, her pack slamming painfully into her cheek. Disentangling herself, she watched as Owen hoisted himself into the co-pilot’s seat and hung the headphones around his neck. He grinned back at her and she answered with her middle finger.
“You said she was a feisty one,” Greg shook his head, giving E a look laden with distrust. He patted the control panel lovingly, “Jus’ wait til you see what this baby can do.”
E tugged ineffectually at the seat belt before realizing there was no place to secure it. She tucked her hands between her knees and tried not to fidget.
As Greg went over the controls, checking each one with agonizing slowness, he chattered to Owen, content to completely ignore Evie.
“Hear tell of anyone else from the good ol’ days?”
“Nope,” Owen swiveled to look at Evie. “Evie here took up with Chett for a bit, though. Didn’t ya, love?”
“Chett? Chett Ramsey? That was one sick sonofa—”
“We ran together for a bit. No ‘took up’ about it. The rest of our group ended up as tweaker meat one way or another,” E bristled at Owen’s choice of words. “Then it was just him and me for a bit.”
“Until you killed him,” Owen prompted, lips twisting in a poor imitation of a smile.
“Killed Chett? Whaddya do that for?” Greg interrupted his check again.
“He turned, so I put him down. Just like I would’ve done any other stumbler,” E said.
“Damn,” Greg said, shaking his head.
“Why, I’d do it to Owen here if he even thought about turning,” E continued, leaning forward now to rest her chin on Owen’s seat.
Greg cleared his throat and pulled on his headphones. Owen’s still hung around his neck ; he stared at Evie, flat grey eyes unreadable.
“Alrighty, ladies and gents, we’re ready for takeoff. There ain’t no seat belts, so no wandering around the cabin. The oxygen masks might work but if we go down we’re screwed anyway, so just keep your hands and feet inside,” he glanced at Owen and Evie. “And away from other passengers and the pilot.”
“Better safe than sorry, I always say. ‘Til death do us part.’ Ain’t that right, baby?” She smiled sweetly at Owen.
She realized her hands were no longer shaking.