Part One: Chapter Three

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They sit in the middle of the plane, two rows behind the emergency exit row, and as the aisle clogs and then empties like a sub pump, Atlas realizes that no one is sitting in the row in front of them or behind them though all of the other rows are full. “Let me guess,” he says to Mary, who reads the list of in-flight movies though a smile plays at the edge of her lips, “someone doctored the seating chart?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she says, but then bursts out laughing. “Okay, it was me. But I’m a nervous flyer, and nothing’s worse for a nervous flyer than a screaming baby in the row in front of you or a sick teenager sniffling behind your ear!” Mary pulls a pill bottle out of her black leather purse, then carefully puts the white pill on her tongue and swallows without water.

“What’s that?”

“Xanax, for my nerves. My last foster family had me see a shrink after I ruined our last family vacation, and he gave me these lovely little pills to calm me down.”

“What happened on your last vacation?”

“It’s all a bit of a blur, but I tried to refuse to get on the flight and my parents dragged me on, kicking and screaming. We hit a little turbulence and I started crying, then threw up all over myself and both of my sisters.”

“That sounds terrible.”

“It was, but not as terrible as when I calmed down enough to get revenge. I stole the wallets of every passenger onboard who got up to use the restroom, then swapped out their credit cards and IDs. Security had to hold the whole plane at the gate and organize the cards in alphabetical order; it took over two hours, and my family missed the bus to our resort.”

“Did you get arrested?”

“No, since I didn’t actually steal anything or have any cash or cards on my person, but I did get a nice ride back to the orphanage once we got back in the US.” The pills must be having an effect, since Mary’s iron grip on her armrest has relaxed and her legs have stopped twitching.  “Say, can you do me a favor?”

“What?”

“You know those little bottles of tequila the stewardesses keep in the back?”

 Of course.”

“Can you grab me a couple? They really help with the anxiety.”

“I don’t know if we should really do that…” he says, envisioning another repeat of her last plane experience.

“Wait, do you even drink?" 

“Of course not! I’m seventeen!”

“Man,” Mary says, shaking her head and sitting back into her seat, “you are the most angelic thief I have ever met. It’s okay, I’ll just waste all of our food and supplies money on $$8 bottles of liquor, don’t worry about it.”

“No, it’s fine, I’ll do it.”

Atlas gets up and walks to the back, where the stewardesses keep all of the extra drinks and snacks, then strikes up a conversation with one of them about whether he can get an extra bag of pretzels for his sick friend. “She’s a terrible flyer,” Atlas explains while the pretty blonde stewardess bends down, “she once threw up all over her entire row, and I don’t want her ruining my expensive leather jacket.” In the meantime, he snakes his arm behind him and pockets a few of the bottles from an adjacent drawer, sliding them into his pocket like children on a water ride.

“Hun, you don’t have to convince me,” the stewardess says, handing him the bag and giving his arm a little squeeze. “Let’s just keep this our little secret. Now get back to your seat—the captain’s about to announce our takeoff.”

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