Author: Guede Mazaka
There’s a rainbow outside. It’s perfectly circular, a loop of colors hanging in the air and it looks like a dream. Next to it is a cloud and Jess wishes on it, wishes at it. She tells it just a little more, a little right, and it listens. It slips right through to score and she almost forgets that one, it’s not footie and two, they’re on a plane and that’s even a worse place for cheering loudly than up in her room when her parents are entertaining downstairs.
But it really is a dream. Her lips are still tingling from Joe’s mouth, even though the stewardess has been around twice and Jess, remembering her mother’s teary last-minute advice, has been staying hydrated. Her eyes are tingling from seeing David Beckham on the very day she got to leave home and fly free, to land in America with a pitch waiting for her and no disapproving eyes to elude. She can’t help but tap her feet with excitement and she still hasn’t opened the little snack bag because her stomach is so queasy she’d probably upchuck.
Her shoulder is asleep. Or rather, it’s numb and Jules is asleep on it. She’d bounced on the plane and babbled with Jess—squeezed Jess’ wrist so hard during take-off that Jess would’ve winced if she hadn’t been squeezing Jules’ wrist right back—giggling over Beckham and worrying about American dorms and complaining about how her mother had woken her at five. In. The. Morning. Packing and repacking Jules’ bag, fretting about stupid things like whether customs would let you bring enough hairspray to do up the Statue of Liberty. Unspoken was that Jules had only been sleeping for an hour when her mother had come in because she and Jess had sneaked out for one last, laughing game on their home pitch.
She’d talked of American boys, too, and how she had heard they were all surfers with blond hair and laidback attitudes. There had been a bright, bright glint in her eye and her voice had run on just a little too fast, but Jess hadn’t seen any lingering accusation and so Jess thought it was fine. She hopes it was fine. It was going to be crazy enough just getting the parents to come round to this without also losing Jules’ support.
But Jess doesn’t want to think about that yet. Not when they aren’t even halfway over the Atlantic—and that is an amazing blue. Deep and shining and a little like Joe’s eyes when the light caught them right.
The head on Jess’ shoulder shifts, then drowsily tilts to look at Jess. Jules smiles, nervousness and exhilaration still seeping past the sleepiness, and grabs Jess’ hand. “We there yet?”
“No, we’re not there yet. We haven’t even gotten fed yet.” Bangs are falling in Jules’ face and Jess brushes them out of the way, grinning herself. First girlfriend ever—Pinky had always been three paces ahead of Jess and veering towards the boys, and the other girls had never known where Jess had been coming from and hadn’t cared if it didn’t get off guys’ shirts. It’s a warmth in Jess and it makes up for how her shoulder is cramping. She doesn’t make Jules move.
“Oh, God. I looked at the menu and it sounds so good you know it’ll be utter crap. Look—” Jules kicks at a plastic-bagged box in her footspace. “Last fish ‘n chips. It’ll be cold and slimy, but—”
Jess groans at the thought of no more fish ‘n chips. No more of her mom’s aloo gobi and flatbread. None of her dad’s funny stories from work, no hanging out in the park with Tony. No Joe till winter break, and that’s so far away that it’s a good and a bad thing.
“Hey. Hey. I meant to cheer you up.” Frowning, Jules reaches over and pushes Jess’ chin up. Then she puts the tip of her thumb against one corner of Jess’ mouth, tries to put the tip of her index finger in the other corner and misses. Second try, she gets it and now she’s making Jess smile. “Come on. California. Beaches. I’ve never seen a beach. Oh, do you think there’ll be sharks?”
It’s so stupid it’s funny. It’s so simple it makes all the complications whirling in Jess’ head calm down. “Well, we don’t have to go in the water,” Jess says.
That makes the tips of Jules’ finger and thumb slip into her mouth. So Jules wrinkles her nose at Jess, and Jess makes a pretend snap at Jules’ hand, like she is a shark. Her tongue accidentally grazes warm flesh because Jules is slow to pull away. Startled, Jules stares at Jess with a funny look that makes Jess want to duck her head and blush without knowing why. But then Jules cracks another grin and suddenly they’re laughing till the man across the aisle gives them nasty glares.
“Nah, we don’t,” Jules murmurs, snuggling into Jess’ shoulder. “Wake me when it’s time to eat, yeah?”
“Yeah.” Jess glances back out the window and she sees that the rainbow is gone, behind them. For a moment, she’s sorry because she’d meant to tell Jules, but then she figures it’s all right. She didn’t really see Beckham but she saw this, and Jules saw Beckham but missed this, so it’s all even. It’s good. Jess is going to America and she’s leaving behind everything except Jules, and it’s good.