XXV - Flying to Paris

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[RECAP: Juliet is being made to sit next to her hot teacher Carl Spencer on a plane flight to Paris, as punishment for getting in a fight]


Juliet had the window seat. The whole group was in Economy class, Cynthia having tried and failed to get an upgrade for herself. But while most of the others were nearer the back of the plane, Juliet and Mr Spencer had seats in a small section just behind Business class. Cynthia gave her a hideous scowl as she pushed past to her own seat far to the rear.

"Let me give you a hand." Mr Spencer helped Juliet haul her carry-on into the overhead compartment, after which she squeezed into her seat - there was barely enough leg-room to fit - and figured out how to clip together her seat belt.

Then she sat there, looking out of the window. She was gripping the two arm rests out of nerves which meant that Mr Spencer's elbow bumped hers as he sat down.

"Sorry." She apologised and moved her left arm to her lap, letting him have the arm rest, though he didn't take it.

"It's fine, I have plenty of space."

The seats had their own entertainment systems though for now they were all playing some promotional video from the airline. Juliet flicked through the various magazines. It seemed an eternity before all the passengers were loaded onto the plane and she heard the crew announce "doors armed".

She watched the safety demonstration as the plane started taxiing. It did nothing to reassure her: merely putting the prospect of crashing into the ocean or needing an oxygen mask into her mind.

Juliet bit her lip when the plane started accelerating down the runway. She had planned to look out of the window but her stomach was suddenly a ball of nerves. She gripped both arm rests and closed her eyes feeling a growing sense of dread.

"Are you okay, Juliet?" Mr Spencer's voice held concern.

"I'm fine," she managed to say, not reopening her eyes.

"You don't enjoy flying?"

"It's not that, I haven't..." She was too embarrassed to tell him. She must have been the only person in the whole of St Gillian's - probably the only person on the flight except for a couple of babies and infants - who had never flown before.

"It's your first flight, isn't it?"

Juliet opened her eyes to look at him. On anyone else's face there would have been disbelief and even derision, but Mr Spencer just looked sympathetic and a little bit amused.

"Yes. I know that must sound so dumb."

"It's not dumb at all..." Before he could continue the plane's wheels left the ground with a slight weightless lurch and Juliet gave a small cry of alarm.

"It's okay." Mr Spencer put his hand on the arm rest over hers to calm her as the plane took off.

Oh God. It was like he was holding her hand again. Now she was freaking out in a totally different way. It distracted her from being thousands of feet up in the air at least.

Juliet met his gaze and he looked back at her, keeping his hand on hers for some time longer before removing it. She felt the imprint of it even after it was gone, the tingle and the warmth on her skin. "Thanks," she said.

He smiled. "I wasn't much help. You should have told me you were a first-time flyer."

"I thought people might laugh," Juliet told him. The contemptuous face of Cynthia came into her head.

"If you prefer not to tell anyone, I'll keep your secret," Mr Spencer said. He was joking but nonetheless Juliet knew she could trust him.

He fell silent and there was an awkward feeling of tension between them. Juliet was supposed to be in disgrace so perhaps he felt he couldn't keep chatting to her.

Or perhaps, like her, he couldn't stop thinking of all their previous very inappropriate conversations.

Juliet would have felt more relaxed once they were airborne were it not for his presence beside her. Every fibre of her being was conscious of him.

To distract herself she played around with the in flight entertainment system. It was frustratingly unresponsive compared to a regular touchscreen, you had to keep jabbing it to get the menu options to change. She scrolled through the choices and ended up on Classic Favourites and The Sound of Music. It was a guilty pleasure: Margot and Fhemie would have totally teased her for choosing such an old movie.

Just as she put her headphones on and panoramic scenes of mountains began playing she cast a glance at Mr Spencer's screen. Only to see the exact images on his player. They were nearly in sync.

She caught his eye and he looked at her screen and back at his, and laughed. "I guess we'll be watching a movie together," he said.

"If only there was some popcorn."

The tension was broken and the two of them sat there, both watching Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and assorted children sing and dance their way around Salzburg. Juliet particularly loved the nuns.

She didn't dare look at Mr Spencer when the gazebo scene came on with the romantic declaration between Captain Von Trapp and Maria. Julie Andrews was singing about how she must have done something good in her childhood to deserve such perfect love.

If that was what it took to find happiness, Juliet was going to be out of luck, considering her own past.

As often happened with this and other ridiculously schmaltzy movies Juliet found her eyes brimming with tears. She was mortified. She tried to surreptitiously brush them away but Mr Spencer saw her.

"Is something wrong?"

Juliet wanted to die of embarrassment. She could hardly blame it on onions or hay fever at ten thousand feet. "Nothing."

He frowned and then he guessed and his expression turned to amusement. He looked at her questioningly and her fiery blush gave it away. It wasn't just the romance. It was the family, everything. All the things she had never had: siblings, a loving if stern father, a wonderful, kind young mother. A beautiful home.

"It's all so perfect," she told him, trying to explain. Except for the war and Liesl's heartbreak and having to flee their homeland, of course. But none of these things mattered because they were all together. Juliet would have lived in a one room hovel with a leaking roof if she could have had a family life like that.

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