By Amy Neufeld
Perfect Romance Ballooning Adventures wouldn’t refund her deposit, so rather than lose the money, Clarissa decided to fly solo. The basket didn’t look large enough for all six passengers plus the bored attendant, but somehow they fit. The red fabric of the balloon cast a pink glow. In the corner was an open bottle of champagne, already poured into three pairs of glasses, bubbles rising. Clarissa’s phone vibrated, and, exerting considerable control, she ignored it.
After a few words about safety, spoken by rote, the fire was lit with a sharp smell of gas and a loud whoosh. The balloon began to inflate and the basket rose. Someone applauded.
Clarissa looked around. To her left was an uninterested-looking older couple. Their tickets must have been a gift, Clarissa thought, from some well-meaning but clueless child. The wife dutifully took pictures. The husband brought a newspaper.
To her right was a young couple, the man sweating and nervous, a square bulge in his pocket. Clarissa groaned—a proposal. His girlfriend looked like the type that had orchestrated the whole thing.
And behind her was Marnie, the single there instead of Clarissa’s lost half, who introduced herself loudly to everyone. The older woman was teetering on the wrong side of middle age, with wild grey hair that refused to be contained, and a scattering of artistic and political buttons on her bag. Clarissa disliked Marnie immediately.
“I was so lucky to get a single ticket,” Marnie yelled over the noise, to everyone and no one. Clarissa didn’t engage. It had probably been Marnie who cheered when the balloon lifted. When the older woman pulled out a selfie stick, Clarissa turned away to hide her disgust.
As the balloon continued to rise, turning cars into ants below them, Clarissa’s phone buzzed again, and before she could catch herself it was out of her pocket. A series of texts with his face next to them. Anger about the cat, about her things not picked up, about the inconvenience she caused. She longed to text back the only message she sent him now: why? The list of texts on her phone grew heavier. She tried to focus on the view from this great height. She felt Marnie’s breath on her neck.
Clarissa decided to take a photo to replace her profile pic. She reached out to position her phone, and felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Marnie, offering the selfie stick. Clarissa shook her head no, and tried not to roll her eyes.
At that moment, her phone buzzed again, and Clarissa lost purchase on it. The phone squirmed in her palm, then leapt into the abyss below, taking with it every photo, every message, every video. Every scrap of what they had been.
Everyone gasped as Clarissa pushed to the edge of the basket, certain she was going to follow her phone. How amazed they were to see that she began to float. At first she reached down for her phone, but then looked up, wonder spreading across her face. As the phone continued to fall, she rose higher and higher. Lighter than air, she disappeared into the clouds. All they heard was her laughter.