“We need to find Gate 10,” I tell Otto. “Can you help me look for Gate 10?”
“Okay. I’m hungry, though. And my backpack is too heavy,” he whines.
“Want to switch for a while?” I take my brother’s backpack and give him the suitcase I’ve pulling. “You’re right, it is heavy. What did mom pack?” He shrugs. We continue to walk down the noisy halls of the airport, looking for our gate. “Oh, there it is, at the very end.” I point to the last gate in the hall.
“No, Otto. No running.”
We arrive at the gate, and I check the screen to be sure we’re at the right place. NEW YORK CITY, 12:25 pm, UNITED AIRLINES. Good.
“Okay, we’re set,” I tell him. “Let’s get something to eat now.”
“Wait. Um...Ravina? How are we going to get to Aunt Mellie’s house?”
“Don’t worry.” I speak reassuringly. “When we arrive, she’ll be there waiting for us at the airport.”
This is the fourth summer we are going to visit Aunt Mellie and her daughter (our cousin), Lucia in New York. Mom thinks I’m old enough, so it’s the first time she isn’t flying with us there, dropping us off, and flying with us back.
After lunch - sandwiches and tomato soup - we walk through a few souvenir shops. I buy myself a pair of earbuds in case I feel like watching a movie or listening to music on the plane. Otto whines the whole time about wanting to get something, so I finally buy him a blue gel pen and a small notebook for drawing.
We eventually escape the noisy food court and shop area, and return to our gate. Otto chooses two empty seats right in front of the window. The clear glass offers rays of sunshine and an excellent view of planes taking off and landing. I feel my phone buzz in the pocket of my jacket. It’s mom. I forgot to tell her that we made it through security and had lunch. I immediately text her back saying that we’re okay and are now just waiting for departure. Ok. How’s Otto? My mom responds the next second. He’s fine. I got him a notebook, I answer. Thanks. You’re a good sister. Mom adds a smiley emoji at the end. Meanwhile, Otto has already started drawing. Surprisingly, he’s pretty good. He puts his time and effort into it, and he enjoys it.
“What are you drawing?” I ask, peering over his shoulder.
He doesn’t look up. “A plane.”
“Nice.” I pull out my book, Rose Under Fire, and begin to read.
The captain’s voice comes on the speaker, “Hello, and welcome aboard United Airlines. This is your captain speaking.” I am a bit surprised - it’s the first time I’ve heard a woman captain. “We will be leaving shortly, and plan to arrive at about 8:15 pm, New York City time. Thank you for choosing to fly with us today.” Grandpa used to be a pilot, and he loved to tell us about his adventures. I remember he told me that he mentored some young women who were interested in being pilots, but not many of them ended up becoming one.
Once we take off, the screen on the back of the seat in front of me turns on. There is a selection of movies and music to choose from, and I browse through them to find something to watch. Nothing seems interesting from their minimal options, so I pull out my book again. Otto is still working on his plane.
“If you want to watch anything, I put the earbuds in the front pocket of your backpack,” I tell him.
“Okay, I’m almost done.”
“Looks really nice so far.” He doesn’t say anything; he’s too focused.
We soar over the beautiful San Francisco Bay, still rising. My favorite part about flying is when the plane makes a turn, leaning to one side, and you can see everything.
A sudden jolt in the plane catches my attention. I look up, and I can tell that the plane is tilted to one side, but not turning. Then sun and the blue sky have turned into thick grey clouds. I hold onto the armrest at the next sudden lurch of the plane. It begins to shake, and a I know we’re aren’t so steady anymore.
Otto looks up at me. “What’s happening?” I look around to see that most people are clutching their seats, waiting for instructions.
I don’t answer right away. “I’m not sure yet. They’ll tell us what to do.” Sure enough, a flight attendant strides down the aisle, grabbing the seats as she walks to stabilize herself.
“Fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables up. Please put away all devices, headphones, and books. Thank you everyone. There will be word from the captain shortly.”
We wait as the plane continues to wobble, like a bird struggling through a storm.
“We are experiencing severe turbulence right now,” the captain’s voice finally comes on. Her tone is urgent, with a hint of fear. “If the storm persists, emergency instructions will take action. “Please remain calm, and stay safe by making sure your seatbelt is securely fastened and all items are put away.”
The jolts are more frequent now. More lurches. More plunges.
I grab Otto’s hand and hold it. He squeezes back tightly as he whimpers. And then there’s a flash. Light. Bright white light. But it’s too much. The next second, it’s all black.
I slowly open my eyes, blink a few times, then try to refocus. But I can’t. It’s all lost. I can only remember descending. We were terrified. And then there’s now.
I turn to Otto, who’s as disoriented as I am.
“Uh...Otto, are you okay?” I ask. My head is still spinning.
“I don’t know. This is weird.”
It is weird. Everything is weird. Everything is different. I smell smoke. I look around frantically. Who’s smoking? A lot of people are smoking. In the plane! I look up for the no-smoking sign. It’s not there. But then, the people. What are they wearing? The most confusing thing is that there is no sign of a storm. The plane is steady, and the sky outside the window is blue.
“Wait. Otto, we were just in a storm, right? What happened?” I usually never go to Otto for answers.
“I don’t know. I think I just woke up. What time is it?” I turn to look at my screen. But it isn’t there. And the seats - they’re orange. They were blue. Am I going crazy? I look over to a lady sitting across the aisle. She is wearing a light blue sweater with bright yellow pants that flare at the bottom.
“Um, excuse me?” I say. The woman looks over, flipping her dark brown curls. “I’m sorry. I fell asleep. Could you tell me what just happened?”
The woman has a confused look on her face. “What are you talking about? What happened when?”
“Just the storm and everything. How long did it last?”
Again, the confused look. “Storm? Sweetie, there was no storm. Maybe you had a dream.”
No, it definitely was not a dream. It was real. All of it. Except for maybe now. I can’t tell if this is a dream of not. “Am I on the right plane?” I ask, knowing it’s not a question she can answer.
“Well, isn’t it a bit late for that?” She responds, then goes back to her cigarette. I dig into my pocket and pull out my phone. It doesn’t come on. Great. I look at Otto. His worried expression adds to my worry. So I have a worried brother, a dead phone, and could possibly be on the wrong plane. What now?
“Wait. Sorry. One more thing. What time is it?” I ask the woman with the cigarette.
“Just about ten. We should be arriving any minute.” She smooths out her hair and fluffs it up a few times before pinning it back with a clip. Strange. We’ve either went back a few hours or forward to the next day. What about Aunt Mellie? What if she’s worrying about us, and there’s no way of contacting her? There is one more thing I have to ask. “We’re going to New York City, right?” I pray, fingers crossed.
I sigh with relief. At least we’re going to the right place. “Thank you so much. Um, do you happen to have a phone charger? Because I need to call my aunt since---”
“A what?” She looks at me as if I'm speaking gibberish.
“A phone charger. Just for a few minutes. I just need a little battery to call---”
“What are you talking about?” What’s a phone charger? What do you mean ‘battery to charge your phone?’”
I pull out my phone. “This. I have the iPhone 6s.”
Again, she looks confused. But then she almost laughs. “Oh! Is that some kind of toy?”
“No...it’s my phone. I can make calls with people. Except, it’s out of battery now.”
The woman laughs. “I’ve never seen such an interesting toy. My son’s never talked about getting one. You call it, what, an iPhone?” She laughs again, then stands up and grabs her suitcase from the overhead storage. I haven’t even realized we’d landed. “Well good luck, Sweetie. I’ll look for that iPhone toy,” she says before she walks away.
“Why didn’t that lady know what an iPhone was?” Otto asks.
“I'm not sure. That was strange. And don’t think she was joking either.” I’m about to tell him to get his backpack from under the seat, but it isn’t there. I check the overhead storage, and the suitcase isn’t there either. Along with all the other things that have happened, it doesn't seem as bad.
I figured Otto had already realized that, as he suggested, “We can just ask them about our luggage when we get off.”
Just then, I hear another voice. A girl’s. “You can’t find your luggage?” I turn around to see a girl wearing a yellow sweater and a red plaid skirt. Her hair is light brown and curly, a few shades lighter than mine. She looks about my age or a little younger, maybe eleven or twelve.
“Yeah. Well, we’re in a complicated situation, actually. Uh…” And then I realize it. I realize that Otto and I are in the wrong time. The wrong year.
“Do you need any help?” She asks with a friendly smile. A pink clip holds some of her hair back, the rest is down.
“Um, sure. First off, what year is it?” I realize how silly my question sounds after I say it, but the girl doesn’t look confused or laugh. She just smiles.
“It’s 1979.” Oh wow. We’ve gone back almost forty years.
I turn to Otto. “We've gone back in time.” His nods. He already knows. He just didn’t want to say it. I place my hand on his shoulder. “We’ll figure this out.”
The girl shifts awkwardly on her heels. “I probably shouldn't be standing in the aisle.”
“Come on Otto, let's go.” I take is hand.
“So you’re from 2017 and were just coming to visit your aunt?” The girl asks. She doesn’t say it sarcastically. Somehow, she really believes it.
“Yeah,” Otto answers, “And we got caught in a storm. And now we’re here.”
“Huh. Interesting. What are your names?”
“My name is Otto.”
“I'm Ravina Grene.”
The girl smiles. Her warm smile is like a rainbow after a storm. “I'm Robyn O’Shea.” We walk out of the airport, and onto the streets of New York City, 1979. “I just got back from Philadelphia visiting my friend who moved there.” So that’s where the plane was coming from. “You guys are probably hungry. You can come to my house for some food.”
“Oh, thanks. That would be really nice,” I say, gladly accepting the offer. As we walk, I see how people dress in 1979. The women wear skirts, sweaters, and those pants that the woman on the plane wore, that flare at the bottom. The men mostly wear button down shirts, slacks, and fancy shoes. Overall, the clothing is much more fancy than what I'm used to. It doesn't feel right, wearing a t-shirt, a hoodie, and jeans. We eventually turn on to a smaller street full of brick apartments that are several stories tall.
“I live on 2532 146th Avenue,” Robyn mentions. After walking a few more blocks, we stop at an apartment with rose bushes in front of it. “4th floor, apartment 5.”
“If your parents are home, what do we say?” I ask.
“Oh, they’re not home. They’re at work. My older sister is probably with her friends.” I nod.
The lights seem dim, and little sunlight struggles through a single window.
“I know, it’s kind of small. Robyn shuts the door behind her. “You can take a seat.” She motions into the dining room. We walk over and there’s a stack of magazines in the middle of the table. “Oh my gosh!” She exclaims and rushes to pick them up. She briefly flips through each one. They all have airplanes on the covers. “Sorry. I'm just really excited. I asked my dad for some of these, and didn’t think he'd actually get them for me.
They’re airplane modellers.” She sets them back down on the table and spreads them out. There are six of them: Two are called Aero Modeller, two called RC Modeler, one called Model Aircraft, and one called Modelá?. “I’ve always wanted to become a pilot one day, so I’ve always been interested in planes. My parents know that, so they let me build models and take pictures and all that because they know it’ll never happen. You should see my room.” Robyn has more of a sad smile now.
“I bet it looks amazing,” I tell her.
She nods. “I can show you if you’d like.” I turn to Otto. He smiles.
“I like planes,” he says.
“Show us!” I look up back at her. She smiles, and we follow her into the next room. When she opens her bedroom door, I can immediately see what she means. Airplane models scatter the floor. The walls are lined with pictures of airplanes.
“Wow. You really love them.”
“Yeah. Good thing I share a room with my sister. Otherwise, I’d have airplanes flying all over the place!” We all laugh. I step closer to the wall to marvel at all the pictures. Some are cut from magazines, some are hand drawn, and some are pictures she probably took.
“This is really cool. You must have been adding these pictures to this wall for a long time.”
“Yeah. I’ve known I wanted to be a pilot since I was four. It was my first time being on a plane.” She traces her fingers over a picture of an airplane in the snow. “Let’s have something to eat.” She takes us back to the kitchen, and pretty soon, the smell of quiche fills the air. “It’s my mom’s favorite thing to make,” Robyn explains, checking on the quiche she’s heating up in the toaster oven. She takes out three forks and three plates that have white daisies on them and yellow rims. When it’s ready, she brings the quiche to the table and cuts three slices.
“So why don’t your parents think you can be a pilot?” I ask as she places a slice on each plate. Otto and I immediately dig in. The quiche is delicious.
“Well, there are a lot of things. First, I don’t think I’ll ever make it into flight school, let alone find a flight school that might accept me being a girl. It’s also really expensive to train. Plus, I wouldn’t have a mentor.
Most women I know that are pilots or want to be pilots have a mentor who’s a pilot. The mentor inspired them to pursue a career as a pilot, and helped them take the steps they needed to become one. I don’t know how to find one, and my parents certainly wouldn’t help me.”
I nod. “My grandpa was a pilot and---” All of a sudden, I realize something. A giant smile comes across my face. I set down my fork.
“What?” Robyn demands.
“I just remembered. He told me that he mentored some young women in becoming pilots. He lives here in New York City!”
“No way!” She exclaims. “Where? Show me!”
“Okay. I think it’s 1223 Arthur Street.” We go there every other year for Christmas.
Otto taps my shoulder. “We’re going to see Grandpa?” I nod. I try to imagine what he looks like, forty years younger.
“Arthur Street! That’s right by my school! Let’s go!”
“Two more blocks! I’m so excited!” Robyn has practically skipped the whole way.
“So what do we say?” I ask her. “What, ‘Hi we’re your grandkids for the future’?”
She laughs. “You guys can just say you’re friends of mine who have heard about him.”
Then, I stop. “Wait, Robyn. What it he’s not there?”
Her face falls. She blinks a few times and thinks. “Then...I’ll go another time.”
We stop at my grandparent’s house, the same yellow as always. But it’s different, too. There’s a pretty garden in the front instead of the normal dried up lawn.
“Is this it?” Robyn asks.
“Yeah. Okay, let’s pray that he’s here.” Otto and I follow her up the steps, and we stop in front of the door. She rings the doorbell and waits. A minute later, the door opens. It’s a girl, about Otto’s age. She’s wearing a bright yellow sundress and has bright green eyes.
“Hi,” she says.
Robyn speaks up. “Hello. Do you know if…” She looks a me.
“Mr. Lorry. Or Daniel Lorry.” I fill in.
“Do you know if he’s home?” She finishes.
“Yes,” the girl answers. “That’s my dad.” Her dad? I think. Oh right! That’s Aunt Mellie! Robyn looks at me.
“My aunt,” I explain. She nods. The next minute I hear someone call, “Melanie!” It’s Grandpa.
“What are you doing opening the door to strangers?” He comes into view as he grabs Aunt Mellie. He’s wearing a blue shirt with a striped tie and grey slacks. He looks over to us. “Can I help you?”
Again, Robyn speaks up. “Yes, thank you. I was wondering if you mentored. Um, as a pilot. Like, help and work with younger--”
“Yes. I do. Why? Is there someone…” He trails off.
“Me,” Robyn says with confidence. “I know I’m not old enough to start or anything, but I would be happy to learn some of the basic things.”
He pauses to think. “Well, I’ve never mentored someone your age before. I’m not sure what you are hoping to learn.” His face isn’t so stern anymore.
“I’m not really sure either. Maybe, uh, possible flight schools, what it takes to become a pilot, information on planes?” Robyn suggests. “Really, anything. I’ve always loved planes and anything to do with flying since I was really little. I’ve never met anyone who could help me.”
He breaks into a grin. “Okay. We’ll see what we can do. I’ve never met anyone your age so determined, and I’d be happy to help. So, is it all three of you?” He looks at Otto and I.
“No. They’re just my friends. They knew about you and thought you could help.” Robyn smiles at us.
“Would you guys like to come in?” Grandpa asks. “Carrot cake is coming out of the oven any minute.” I smile. Grandma makes it every Christmas.
I turn to Robyn and nod. “It’s the best carrot cake.” Grandpa gives me a confused look. “Uh, all carrot cake is the best to me!” I correct myself.
He laughs. “This will be the best of the best!”
As he leads us in, I turn to Otto. “Can you believe that’s Grandpa?”
He giggles. “This is so funny. Was that Aunt Mellie?”
“Yeah. Maybe we’ll see Mom!” And sure enough, we do. She is two years younger than Aunt Mellie. They look similar, but Mm’s hair is a little darker, and her eyes are brown not green. Grandma is wearing a red apron and her long hair is tied back.
“Oh! Are you all soon to be pilots?” Grandma asks, taking the carrot cake out of the oven. “Sit down, sit down! Have some cake!” Grandma says that every time we visit. When I look at Robyn, she’s smiling. Even though she’s always smiling, I can tell that her smile right now means so much more. The carrot cake tastes just as good as always, and I find Otto and I smiling too. Everyone is smiling. Once everyone devours their cake, Otto stops to take something out of his pocket. It’s a folded piece of paper. As he unfolds it, I can see that it's the plane he drew earlier. He hands it to Robyn.“To add to your wall.” She takes it and gasps.
“How did you...It’s so beautiful! You're so good at drawing! Thank you, Otto. I will keep this forever.” She looks up at me. “Thank you so much. If it weren't for you, this would have never happened.” She motions to everything with her arms. “This means so much to me.”
“Of course. I'm so glad I was able to help.” I'm so happy right now.
“Can we get a picture?” Robyn requests. “I don't want to forget this moment.”
“Yes!” I turn to Grandpa. “Mr. Lorry,” It feels weird calling him that. “Could you take a picture of us?”
“Sure.” He goes into another room and comes back with a camera-like box. Then he twists on this clear cube to the top. Robyn, Otto and I stand next to each other, smiling our biggest smiles. “One, two, three...FLASH.
Light. Bright white light. But it’s too much. The next second, it’s all black.
I slowly open my eyes, blink a few times, then try to refocus.But I can't. It's all lost. I can only remember taking a picture. We were so happy. And then there's now.
We're in the plane again. I turn to Otto. His eyes are wide.
“I had a dream,” he whimpers.
“Me too.” I barely gasp.
“We went back in time.”
“To 1979.” We share a long glance.
Next thing, the captain’s voice comes on. “Thank you everyone for staying calm. We are now out of the storm and should be arriving shortly.”
Otto pulls his backpack from under the seat as I get the suitcase from the overhead storage. We walk down the aisle to exit the plane. And then we see her. Waving to everyone as they leave. “Have a good night.” Her beautiful smile, like a rainbow after a storm. She waves to us saying, “Thank you for flying with us today,” and I look at the name pin on her black captain’s blazer. In gold letters: