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A Sparkling City

Written By: Kelsey Syble

By Kelsey SyblePublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 5 min read
Image: Pexels/Mudassir Ali

March 11 was supposed to have gone down in history. It was supposed to have been the greatest day of my life. It was supposed to have been the date I embossed in silver foil across a leather-bound photo album for my future children to thumb through.

I can still hear their fake giggles in my head... fake simply because they are not real people.

"Mommy, when did you and Daddy first fall in love?"

"Well, Timothy and Trinity, it all started on an app called Tinder..."

"Excuse me, ma'am, would you like something to drink?" In the present, a flight attendant waits impatiently by my seat with her drink cart.

I do not lift my head from the view out the window, where I can barely see a gathering of white puffy clouds through my tears. "No, thank you."

She sighs quietly and turns to the people across the aisle from me. I do not know what she looks like. I do not know what they look like. I have not so much as made eye contact or glanced in anyone's direction since I boarded the plane in my soft, floor-length, silk ivory gown.

At least I'd had the foresight to ditch the veil in the airport.

A moment later, my neighbor returns from the restroom to take her aisle seat beside me. My peripheral vision tells me she's old enough to be my boss but too young to be my mother. She's dressed professionally in a blazer and matching pants, and she smells like cinnamon.

"Alright," she says out loud in a carefully-constructed, raspy voice.

It takes a few moments before I realize that she's addressing me. But still, I do not look at her.

"I just have to ask," she continues cautiously. "What's your story?"

I do not move. I do not speak. I barely breathe. I just fixate my gaze on the clouds outside my window.

She says nothing else, and I begin to wonder if the words ever actually escaped her lips, or if I'm losing my mind. Perhaps from an outside perspective, I am. I can feel the smeared, dried mascara streaks on my cheeks. Loose curls hang freely from the left side of my head while the curls on the right side are still secured tightly in the ballerina bun my sister perfected for me just hours earlier... as if nothing chaotic ever happened.

Suddenly all I want is to drift out of reality, so I press my head against the cold glass and close my bloodshot eyes.

* * *

"Mother! HURRY!" my older sister screeches down the hall of the hotel.

Footsteps approach the doorway, followed by my mother's soft angelic voice. "I'm still in makeup and hair. What's going on?"

"Olivia is having a mental breakdown. Can you please DO something?"

"Olivia, what in the world -"

I can't hear the rest. I'm already shimmying down the side of the hotel balcony. In the distance, the sun is setting upon a pink sky, voices are murmuring excitedly by the garden patio, and my father is staring at me from the lawn, his hands deep within the pockets of his navy tux.

Suddenly, my fiance Greg begins to shout from the distance. I can't see him, but I can hear him. "Olivia, you're ruining everything! Get back here!"

My father gives me a sad smile.

When my feet finally touch the grass, I don't even pause to talk to him. I simply run in the other direction.

* * *

I wake up to my neighbor frantically patting my back. I'm choking on my sobs, struggling for air. Three flight attendants hover by us in the aisle, and even though I'm avoiding everyone's gaze, I can feel all eyes on me. The plane is eerily silent.

"Ma'am," one flight attendant says, "do you need a doctor?"

"No, no, I'm fine," I sputter. I lean away from my neighbor and force a smile at the seat in front of me, still avoiding eye contact with all humans.

"Are you sure?" another flight attendant asks.

"Yes," I insist. "I'm sorry. It will not happen again."

The third flight attendant holds out his palm and reveals a sealed packet of Advil and a mini pack of tissues. Speechlessly I accept them.

I turn back to my window. The sky is now dark.

"Sweetie, are you okay?" the woman beside me whispers.

Something about this question makes me imagine my mother. Her soft, round face, stunning blue eyes, and singsong laughter. She was my hero all my life. The woman I wanted to be when I grew up. It only made sense that as soon as I could, I got engaged. I wanted to be her. I wanted to have what she had: a loving husband, a secure home, and precious children.

But the loving husband could not be purchased as easily as the wedding dress.

My dad and my ex-fiance are nothing alike. One man is soft-spoken and generous; the other loud and selfish. One man encourages me to attend college; the other dismisses my dreams.

I think now of the flight's end destination: a sparkling city of new possibilities. A city where I can rebuild my life, finish my education, and maybe someday meet a man like my dad. A man who will let me shine on my own, like my mother.

I swallow my fear and finally turn to look at the woman. I lift my gaze and meet her eyes. They're a faint, friendly gold-brown. She smiles encouragingly.

"Are you okay?" she repeats.

For the first time in twelve hours, I smile. I think about how my life will never be the same once I depart from this airplane. It is both terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

"Yes," I tell her confidently. "I will be."


About the Creator

Kelsey Syble

A Southern-born-and-raised writer now navigating life in NYC.

📸 🎥 @kelseysyble

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