Jessica sat in her seat, nervously fidgeting around, eyes darting from side to side. If she hadn't given up her fingernail biting habit years ago, she'd probably be nibbling on them right now like another woman would nibble on a pretzel stick.
It's not like she was scared of flying or anything; She'd traveled a lot with her parents when she was young, and even now at age 27, her job required her to travel to more countries every year than the less fortunate could hope to do in a lifetime.
So no, she wasn't afraid of going on airplanes.
She just hadn't gone off one in mid-air before.
"A-as I said,", she stammered, "I-I've never skydived b-b-before!"
Her instructor, a man named Stanley, grinned at her in the very pleasant way he'd been doing it for the past two hours.
"Are you scared of heights, miss?", he asked politely, his voice tinged with a recognizable, but difficult-to-place accent.
Jessica glanced to the side.
"...I didn't think that I was, but now...I'm not so sure, to be honest.", she admitted.
"Don't you worry!", Stanley said cheerfully. "Everything will be fine! Trust me, I've done this dozens of times. It feels really scary for the first couple of seconds, but after a little while, you get this incredibly awesome feeling, like you can conquer the world!"
Jessica wasn't sure if this was purely adrenaline talking, but it did calm her down enough. For the moment, at least.
She took a deep breath. All of this because of Allison...
Allison, that bitch!
The way she'd swanned over to the table where Jessica and her friends had been having dinner to celebrate her birthday and plopped down her "gift"; A skydiving lesson.
There'd been nothing in her behavior that indicated that she'd done this to be nice, and why would she be? She'd hated Jessica since they were in elementary school for God-knows-what reason.
Her shit-eating grin, her acidic "Well, this certainly should be no problem for an experienced air traveler like yourself, right?", her self-satisfied laughter as she'd exited the restaurant...
What the hell?! She'd clearly planned this from the very beginning, as she must've remembered Jessica's birthdate, but how did she know what restaurant they were going to? Had she stalked them or something, and if so, for how long? Hateful people, how creepy they can be! And Jessica knew that "gift" meant "poison" in Swedish, so there was clearly symbolism to be had in the little present from her nemesis.
Well, joke's on her! She was the one dumb enough to spend money on this thing, even though she had a job with a lower income. It's like buying a ticket to a Justin Bieber concert just to throw stuff at him; In the end, the only one who's lost something is you, and all because you were too busy being a sad, pathetic little creature who's been consumed by their own hatred.
So Jessica was going to graciously accept the gift and take the skydiving lesson. And take some pictures of her doing it and send then to Allison, just to rub it in. Serves her right...
It was time.
Jessica was securely fastened to Stanley, and now they stood in front of the door, waiting for it to open.
"Are you still nervous?", Stanley asked.
"Of course I am!", Jessica sputtered. "You might be experienced, but we'll still be falling at terminal velocity, you know!"
"Yes, and we travel at dangerously high speeds while driving as well, and that doesn't stop anybody.", Stanley answered calmly.
Jessica was about to say that you really couldn't make that kind of comparison when the door opened.
She could already feel the air rushing on her skin, and they hadn't even stepped out of the plane yet. There sure was a long way down, though...The world was bigger than you realized, now that you stood there...
"It's OK to scream.", Stanley said. "Most first-timers do, and for good reason."
"Now hang on a minute!", Jessica exclaimed, feeling a bit weak in the knees from the vertigo and tightly clutching her digital camera. "I may be terrified, but I'm not going to act like a-"
She screamed like she'd never screamed before.
She screamed from the pure adrenaline rush, from the speed they were falling at, from the air rushing into her mouth and drying out her throat.
Her thought process was as such: OhgodohgodohgodI'mgonnadieI'mgonnadieI'mgonnadie!
Her throat eventually got too dry, and the screaming was replaced with coughing.
And then, serenity.
She realized what her surroundings were. The perfect sky above her, without a single cloud, and the Earth below.
She could see into the next city, which was three hours away. She could see the huge lake she'd visited often with her friends when she was a kid. She could see the forest where she'd been camping with her little sister in their teens. She could see the small villages and towns she'd gone to over the years...
You really did feel big up here.
Jessica's heart was pounding harder than it had ever done in her entire life, and she could feel a genuine smile forming. Grasping the moment, she looked to her camera, pointed it at herself and took several photos, her grin growing bigger with each camera flash, before she felt the parachute folding out and went right back to holding on to the camera for dear life.
She heard Stanley laughing right behind her. That asshole, he could've at least kept a straight face about it until they'd landed!
They slowly drifted closer to the Earth below, Jessica even feeling relaxed enough to playfully dangle her legs a little.
And then Stanley gave a bothered sigh.
"Uh, miss Jessica? Do you know what's below us?"
Jessica looked down. Now that she looked closer...
"Uh, it's a forest, Stanley.", she answered. Oh no, don't tell me...
"Yes, a forest. I can't steer away from it in time, the air currents brought us here."
"...Please tell me we're not going to-"
"Most likely. We'll land in a tree."
Oh, goddamnit!, Jessica thought as the leafy canopy grew closer and closer.
And there they were, dangling from a tree, waiting for the rescue party Stanley had called.
"The branches are close enough!", Jessica insisted, showing Stanley her sap-covered hand. "Can't we just disconnect from the parachute and climb down?"
"It's too risky. Besides, you really had to stretch your arm out to be able to get a hold of that branch."
Jessica sighed. Well, he was right, but still... Right now, she'd had enough adventuring for one day. She just wanted to go home.
"Look at it on the bright side, miss!", Stanley said. "Now you've got another good story to tell!"
"Oh, shush you!", Jessica said as she took another photo of them both.
She sat in bed, reading a novel by one of her favorite writers. Jo Nesbo was a literary genius, and this book was the best one yet!
She gave a satisfied sigh, put her book to the side and turned off the lamp on the nightstand.
Well, this experience had sure been another footprint in her life story, hadn't it?
They'd gotten down from the tree eventually, though it was somehow even scarier to fall down a tree onto a suspended sheet than it was to jump out of a plane.
And, most importantly, her camera was OK! As soon as she'd gotten home and had a shower, she'd transferred the pictures to her computer, printed them out and sent them to Allison, along with a sugary-sweet letter of thanks. She wished she could be there when Allison got them. Oh well, just knowing that she'd get them was good enough.
Thinking back, it had been a really fun day. She'd felt like the king of the world, she'd gotten a good story to tell and she'd gotten to put the gloating little skank in her place.
All in all, skydiving wasn't so bad.
She looked out the window and saw a shooting star. She smiled.
She wished to go to the sky again.