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CHAPTER 1: EMILEE
“Hey, wake up,” someone said to me, gently shaking my shoulder. My eyes fluttered open and I glanced around at my surroundings. I’d completely forgotten that I was sitting in an airport with the rest of my classmates, who were already lined up to climb aboard our plane.
I looked up at the person who had woken me up, about to thank them, but when I saw who it was I decided against it. There was no way I was going to say thank you to Hayden Kelly, even if he did wake me up. I never liked Hayden, and he never liked me. I was actually pretty shocked that he hadn’t just let me sit there sleeping. Our senior class was taking an end of the year week-long trip to Rome, and I was quite sure that Hayden wouldn’t mind if I got left behind.
But apparently, he actually had some decency deep down inside of him. Sighing, I rose to my Converse-clad feet and slung my black hobo bag over my shoulder. Then I followed behind Hayden and his best friend, Luke as they made their way up to the lady who was collecting the plane tickets.
When I handed her my ticket, she tore off the bottom, handing me back the part I was supposed to keep in order to board the plane. She smiled at me politely when I took the ticket, but as I walked away from her I caught her eyeing me disdainfully from the corner of my eye. I received this disapproving stare all the time though, so I was used to it. I was pretty sure that the reason so many people looked at me this way was because of my jet black hair, thick coat of black eye-liner, multiple ear-piercings, black-polished fingernails, and Hot Topic wardrobe.
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, my hometown, people didn’t choose to stand out the way I did. Most of the residents there were preppy, with their Calvin Klein sweaters, overpriced designer jeans, and Jimmy Choo footwear. But I wasn’t like that. I was much different.
And my diversity was the reason that Hayden and I didn’t get along. He was just another typical stuck-up prep. His mom was a well-known wedding planner and his dad was a surgeon, making him the wealthiest kid in at Bridgeport High School. This also made him the most popular kid at Bridgeport High.
When I reached the door to get onto the immense white airplane, I handed the flight attendant my ticket, and she let me on board. Glancing at the seat number printed in small, neat numbers on my ticket, I headed over to my assigned seat. The second I laid eyes on where I would be sitting for the entire four-hour flight to Rome, my heart stopped, and discontentment flooded over me.
Sighing deeply, I inched my way past Hayden, and sat down in my seat. Right next to the window, and right next to Hayden Kelly. After I’d squeezed in next to him, Hayden turned his head to look over at me, his expression amused.
“Hey Emilee,” he greeted me. “I’m glad I didn’t leave you in the airport, or else you wouldn’t have the pleasure of sitting next to me for four hours straight.”
I rolled my chocolate brown eyes, deliberately not turning to look back at him. “Yep, I’m the luckiest girl in the world.” I remarked flatly.
But his grin remained unwavering. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to hide your enthusiasm.” he replied sarcastically.
I opened my mouth to snap back at him, but figured that I’d better just let it go if I wanted the rest of this plane ride to go smoothly. It wasn’t worth it to start an ongoing argument with him. So being the bigger person, I yanked my iPod out of my purse and inserted the ear buds into my ears. I flipped through a few songs, finally settling on something by Tokio Hotel, and then turned to look out the window.
If all went well, I would be able to listen to my iPod in peace for most of the ride without any disturbances from Hayden. I sat there in peace as I listened to my iPod, glad that Hayden had decided to give up and irritating me. But apparently, he wasn’t through just yet.
“Whatcha listening to?” he inquired, peering over my shoulder at the bright screen of my iPod touch.
“Music,” I hissed through clenched teeth.
“What kind of music?” he pressed on.
“The kind you listen to,” I retorted, aggravation boiling under my skin. How much longer was he going to keep this up? Didn’t he have a better way to pass his time? A way that didn’t include speaking to me?
Without any warning, he stole the iPod out of my grasp so that he could see what song I was listening to. “Tokio Hotel?” he asked, his tone displeased. “Who are they? Some punk-rocker goth band?”
I snatched my iPod back and glared at him heatedly. “Don’t touch my stuff.” I commanded, my voice thick with exasperation.
“Whoa,” he cried, holding up his hands in self-defense. “I didn’t mean to make you so angry,”
Sure he didn’t.
“Attention, all passengers, your flight is preparing for take-off. Please buckle your seatbelts and turn off all electronic devices.” the pilot’s voice rang out over the speakers. Finally, something to distract Hayden away from me.
I followed the pilot’s instructions, fastening my seatbelt tightly around my waste and turning off my iPod. The flight attendant walked up the aisle, making sure everyone’s seatbelts were safely secured around them. And once she made sure everyone was ready for take-off, she headed up to the front of the plane, and I knew it was time for departure.
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out
I repeated these words over and over again in my head, trying to keep myself relaxed. Airplanes weren’t really my thing. If the Atlantic Ocean wasn’t separating the United States from Europe, I’d happily drive to Rome rather than fly there. But I knew that wasn’t possible, so I took deep, steady breaths in order to ready myself for the ride. Once we were up in the air, it wasn’t so bad, but taking off was definitely the worst part.
I felt the plane begin to rise up into the air, and my stomach began to churn. Gripping the armrests so tightly that my knuckles turned white, I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to imagine that I was somewhere else. Anywhere but on this plane was fine with me. At the moment, I’d rather have been trapped inside the motel from Vacancy rather than stuck on this plane.
Ok, so maybe I was overreacting just a bit, but that didn’t diminish any of the fear that was coursing throughout me, causing my body to tremble. After all, I’d seen the original Final Destination. What if our plane crashed like in that movie? Or what about We Are Marshall? That one was based on a true story.
Oh wow, I really needed to stop thinking about all of these movies. I was only increasing the amount of dread that was bubbling inside of my stomach. I took a few more deep breaths, trying to focus on something other than the fact that I was inside of an airplane, soaring up into the air, up into the puffy white clouds.
Oh no, what if our plane got lost in the clouds? What if our plane got surrounded by a mass of cloudiness so that the pilot could no longer see where he was going? If the pilot couldn’t see where he was going we were sure to crash. I could picture the scene in my head.
I’d open up my eyes and look out the window, only to see whiteness. Nothing but whiteness all around. And then without any warning, our plane would begin to swerve manically, trying to break free from the swarm of clouds. But our pilot would lose control and we’d go crashing down into the Atlantic Ocean.
No, that couldn’t possibly happen. I was being overdramatic, I was thinking negatively, convincing myself of the worst possible situation. But I had to stay optimistic. This was just an airplane. People flew on airplanes all the time. It was perfectly safe.
“Alright, we have succeeded in take-off. You are now all free to unbuckle your seatbelts. We’ll be landing in Rome in approximately four hours.” the pilot said over the plane’s speakers.
My eyes fluttered open and my hands slowly unclenched themselves from the armrests of my seat. I glanced around, the sound of students conversations and giggles filling my ears. We had succeeded take-off. We hadn’t crashed. I was still alive.
Letting out a deep sigh of relief, I let my tense muscles relax and loosened up my stiff posture. I glanced over at Hayden, who had seemed to forgotten all about me, and was now deep in conversation with Luke and a few of his other friends. Good, maybe now I could listen to my iPod without any disruptions.
I cranked up the volume until the music was blasting into my ears, and when the flight attendant offered me a refreshment, I gratefully accepted a bottle of water. This was nice. Relaxing with some music, sipping my water, not having to deal with Hayden’s rudeness. Plus, the plane ride seemed to be going pretty smoothly.
I gazed out my window, sizing down the tiny cars that were hundreds of feet below us. Or were those buildings? Wow, I’d never have thought a building could look so microscopic. We had to have been pretty high up for them to seem that small.
But I tried not to estimate just how high in the air we were, because when I did, it freaked me out. And I didn’t want to get all terrified again. It didn’t matter how high up we were anyways. All that mattered was that we were safe inside this airplane, on our way to Europe, where we would spend the entire week in Rome. The plane ride was definitely worth it.
However, the smooth and relaxing plane ride turned into a rough and bumpy plane ride within a matter of seconds.
As the ride grew choppier and choppier, my heart sped up faster and faster. What was happening? Was I just overreacting? I had to be. This had to be normal. All plane rides grew a little bumpy, right?
But as I eyed the rest of my classmates, I realized that they all looked just as uneasy as I felt. And all of their cheerful, boisterous conversation and laughter from before had faded into an eerie silence. This only made me more frightened.
I peered out the window of the plane, but all I saw was the light blue sky. And clouds. Up ahead were clouds. We were heading into a cluster of clouds. Oh my gosh, I knew this would happen! Now, it was only a matter of time before our pilot lost control of the plane, sending us heading straight into the deep depths of the ocean.
“You ok?” Hayden asked from beside me, making me jump. He’d taken me by surprise, tuning me back into reality.
“Yes,” I replied. “Why wouldn’t I be ok?”
“Well, you just look a little freaked out. Although, it’s pretty hard to tell what facial expression you have on under all that eyeliner.” he remarked, studying my eye make-up disdainfully.
I pursed my lips, willing myself not to say anything in return to his unwarranted comment. So instead of responding to him, I turned to face the other direction, intent on blocking out anything else he had to say to me. But it was pretty hard to do that when he was so incredibly resolute on making my flight an absolute nightmare.
“You know, you seemed kind of scared when the plane was taking off. Are you afraid of flying in a plane or something? Because if you are, you have no reason to be. Unless of course, our plane crashes. After all, this ride is getting a little bumpy. But it might be because there’s something wrong with the engine. If that’s the case, our plane could probably explode at any second.” His continuous rambling was obviously intentional. He was obviously trying to scare me. The only bad apart about that was that it was working.
What if there really was something wrong with the engine? He might’ve just been kidding, but it could be true. That could really happen, and the thought had my stomach churning uneasily all over again. This plane ride had just gone from bad to terrible in an instant. And I’d just gone from worried to petrified.
The plane jerked violently, causing my heart to speed up, pounding heavily. I could hear it thumping in my chest, like the sound of someone beating on a drum. Before I even got the chance to realize it, my hands were already gripping the armrests yet again. I was holding on so tight, that my hands were beginning to ache, but I didn’t dare let go.
“Ooh, that can’t be good.” Hayden said to me, the uncanny tone of his voice haunting. “I hope your seatbelt’s buckled up nice and tight, not that it’s going to help you much. Once we crash, that’s it. Your seatbelt can’t save you.”
“Shut up, Hayden!” I exploded, no longer able to listen to his ongoing talk of how the plane was going to crash. “Just shut up!”
His eyebrows raised, and I could tell he was shocked at my sudden outburst. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was bothering you.” he replied evenly. This was clearly a lie. Why was he so focused on annoying me? I knew he didn’t like me because of my individuality, but did he really have to be such a jerk about it?
“Attention all passengers, please fasten your seatbelts immediately.” the pilot declared over the speakers. This sent me straight into panic-mode. This was the signal that something was definitely wrong. Pilots didn’t just ask their passengers to immediately fasten their seatbelts for no reason.
Apparently, Hayden sensed the same thing, because the entertained look on his face had now transformed itself into a look of worried anxiety. Both of us buckled our seatbelts, as did the rest of the passengers on board. On the bright side, Hayden had finally shut up.
“Why do we have to buckle our seatbelts?” someone called out from a few seats in front of mine.
“Yeah, what’s going on?” someone else cried.
“Are we going to crash?”
All of these terrified voices rang in my ears, causing a fearful adrenaline rush flowing throughout my veins at a rapid speed. Instinctively, I glanced around the plane, my eyes darting around in search of each and every exit door. I knew that this probably wouldn’t help me much, considering that we were about a thousand feet up in the air at the moment, but it was intuitional for me.
The plane jerked once again, sending a feeling of dread tingling throughout my entire body. With every sharp jolt the airplane made, my heard sped up even more. I felt like I would have a heart attack at any given second by how fast my heart rate was. Screams arose from the horror-struck passengers, making me feel even more panicky.
I couldn’t believe that this was happening. We were actually going to crash. This wasn’t how this week was supposed to turn out. We were supposed to have a great, enjoyable time in Rome. We were supposed to make this the best vacation ever, something positive to remember our senior year with. But it was pretty obvious that senior year was going to end early for us.
I shut my eyes as tight as I possibly could, hoping for a miracle. Hoping that I would somehow make it out of this plane crash alive. I knew the odds were about one in a million, but I still had hope. Not much, but some.
And as our plane spiraled down, sending a rush coursing through my body, I felt my heart drop all the way down to my stomach. I might have experienced fear before, but I knew I’d never experienced anything that could possibly measure up to that moment.