Flight of Bread and Honey
~ To grandma, and all mothers and pets
Her hands smelled of freshly baked bread. Warm, smooth, yeasty. Soft to the touch and yet firm, strong from the kneading of time and love into her life. They were the hands of a Sunday afternoon. Their touch made Cleo feel safe, at home, as though she was exactly where she belonged and she was exactly who she was meant to be. They were family hands. They grazed the soft strand of hair that had fallen forward from behind her ear, brushing it back as they moved along the tense grooves of her skull, relaxing as they went. They embraced her between them, gently stroking her browned caramel curls and playing with her split ends as though they were spaghetti noodles, the ends of which needed to be felt for their funny points. She was always in season here, in her grandmother’s embrace; spring and summer all rolled up into one. Joy beamed from her heart, illuminating, and drying out every oozing wound in need of healing, outshining the fog and washing away the mold that had stayed too long with the cold damp rain of life’s pains. A change of season. That is what it was. It had to be. She could feel it in her bones, in the very depths of her being. Winter’s welcome long worn out, she could feel this new life in herself taking hold. Prodded on by the gentleness of her grandmother’s hands. Her grandmother’s spirit. Living in her, visiting her in dreams, resting its wisdom and guidance in her heart. Fueling her carefully dangerous steps forward.
The past few months had been some of the darkest of her life. Lorelei, her grandmother, had passed away and took her dreams of a third-generation wedding with her. Also the love of her life, a small brown striped cat by the name of Degrassi Tyson Junior had met his end at the hands of a coyote. She imagined his surprise in the seconds before, it haunted her at night. Out hunting for field mice, only to realize it was he who was being hunted. Her heart ached for him. The fact that she had not been there. She had not been there to defend the poor creature. Her child of sorts. Close enough to. He had been there for her during a most volatile and toxic relationship. The kind that sucked at her being, yet also fed it in a desperate decrepit type of way. She had been for too long locked into a relationship with a man who knew not how to value women, due to his own prior experiences and tattered upbringing no doubt. She had listened to Fiatri back then, soaked in his every word like molasses into cornbread. He was buttering her, but she did not know it then. Buttering her up so that when he destroyed her it would be with a tinge of sweet, just enough to make her doubt herself, lose her own trust, question her own story and bash her own narrative to keep his thinly spread façade of honesty and self-regard intact. But Degrassi Tyson Junior had been there. Through all of it. He was the one that had helped her get by. That small little animal. A personality so vibrant and charismatic she wondered if it could not be human. She longed for the gaze of those hazel eyes, always with a question and answer at the same time. They were honey to her. Soft, smooth, warmth in a glance.
Her cat and her family. That was what she had. That was all she thought she really needed for a happy life. That and the dreams of loved ones who had already gone. Sure, she had worked jobs. Sure, she had gotten some travel in every now and again to freshen her spirit and reset the otherwise easily rusted copper dials of her mind. But this was the stuff of life. Enjoyment, contentment, authenticity, connection. Realness. Rhythm. Tapestries of love. Being around beings she adored. The stage was set. This was to be the melody of her life. Soon a family of her own, children, a home, settling in, community life. And then BAM! In came the bass. In came the drums. In came the crash cymbal beckoning on a new era. A change in pace. Death. Chaos. Fury. Rage. Rage like none she had ever felt before. Coursing through her veins, coming out in weird aggressions and funny statements. Desires to take off, to be alone, to leave all those she loved behind.
And so here she was. At thirty years old. She had boarded the first available ship to an unknown land. She was seated amongst twenty-eight other passengers, all around her same age and all assigned to the same compartment of the ship. Part of the boarding process had been to divide the hopeful passengers by age group, as well as relationship status. This was to allow for proper introductions amongst those in “similar walks of life” to take place, or at least that is what the official company policies and procedures manual had said. She was skeptical of this and she despised small talk, yet she had to admit she had met eyes with a man two rows over whom she felt could talk as small as he liked and still spark her interest. She did not want to admit this to herself, but the time to find a partner was coming near. She could feel the pressure, the sensation of walls caving in. If she genuinely wanted to have kids, start a family, then the time was now. The time had been. She did not have it to waste any longer. She had to start kneading with it like her grandmother had done, instead of running away from it, as she had for the past twelve years. She did not want to think of the dark times any longer. She did not have time for it. No more talk of the past, no more dreams of the past, no more thoughts of a nonexistent home. The last image of those bread-worn hands and oval eyes faded away.
He glanced up again, meeting her gaze once more. She saw a smile in his eyes, a recognition of sorts. She wondered if she had met him before. She could barely glimpse the top of his seat, which read “Adrian” in big red letters. A poor choice of color, she thought offhand. The ship was decked out in a scheme of red, black, and white, most likely to commemorate its NASA forefathers. Respects needed to be paid to those who had paved the way for excursions such as these. Advancements in technology neither Henry Ford nor Albert Einstein could have possibly imagined. Or maybe they had, who knows. It is amazing how visionaries have a way of needling their way into the scenes of the future. Threading their present lives with the unshakeable knowledge—or is it really just a belief?—that the human race has and always will continue to get better. Knowing the flame of desire will always burn to learn more, see more, understand more, explore more, love more. It was amazing really. She stopped to check herself for her nerdy aside. It was the one of many that regularly frequented her mind, as she had spent an inordinate amount of time as a child studying history and physics, the many paths of technology, and the various great minds which had inspired generations to come. She liked to think she had a nuanced understanding of technology. How it had shaped and molded and built and destroyed her world. Living and dying by it was such a funny thing. And yet it was the story of humanity, so it was true.
Seatbelt fastened, she could feel the rocket begin to shake. The pilot announced a last call for breakfast bags and vitamin shots. No more meals would be allowed until the middle of the day. This was also when a more detailed flight plan would be revealed. There were many rocket companies now which transported passengers all around the various planets and moons of the galaxy, and the competition between them was stiff. This meant that each company did its best to maintain a certain level of secrecy and mystery regarding their in-flight practices, and naturally this confusion both attracted and stupefied the desperate crowds of space hopefuls waiting for their shot at a new life. Passengers often were not told of the exact flight plan until at least halfway into the journey. This made for an interesting and often anxiety-ridden dynamic between the passengers and rocket ship staff, the signs of which were evident in the short, overly-polite-verging-on-sarcastic remarks made towards one another. She had heard a story of a passenger who was ejected into an escape pod and sent back to Earth because his “tone” had crossed the line and was deemed “unsafe” for the duration of the space flight. This seemed to her absurd, but Cleo vowed to keep herself in check and keep all snarky comments to a minimum.
She was lucky to have this opportunity at all, if truth be told, and there was no point in getting stuck up on the smaller details. She was here now and nothing else mattered. She was on the ship, the ship was taking off, and soon she would be purchasing cheap land, assisting in the development of one of many space communities, and she would come to know how such places operate. All in good time. One step at a time. Patience is key. She recited these idioms over and over to herself. The mindfulness practice she had established was now completely out the window as she felt herself becoming fully aware that she was about to leave earth. How would she manage without her mom? Who would laugh with her without her dad? Who could she tease without her brother? What would she do for holidays and birthdays and all these special occasions she had come to know as times for celebration?
“Breathe,” she told herself. “Just breathe.” She laughed. Her mother, Avery, had these very words tattooed on the inside of her forearm. She could hear her voice now, soothing her with her words. “You will celebrate the holidays with your new family in your new home, as well as with us, the old,” Cleo heard her mother’s honey voice say in her ear. “We can hologram and speak over the interplanetary network. It will all be okay.” She knew this would be her mum’s very words, and that her father—Patrick—'s voice would echo the same words in leather and velvet chords. “I am strong. I am brave. I am resilient,” she said to herself. She exhaled with a slight sigh of relief. She knew her family was with her and would be always. She would carry them close as a vest hugs its wearer.
She could see out the window it was now getting close to go time. Plumes of thick smoke drifted upwards, blocking her view. She could see nothing but the gray, hazy blur of the unknown. And in it, she knew she would build herself a life. She glanced once more over at Adrian’s name in blood red. She wondered who he was and who he aimed to be in this new life they were being given. She knew somehow, somewhere there was an alliance waiting to be formed, a partnership waiting to be forged. And whether with him or another, she knew she would be okay. Because she was born for this. The ashes of her previous life had settled and from them she was taking her flight. Her flight of bread and honey.