Aaron grins at Conor. He’s not big for a five year old, but he is smart. In fact he is acting far more grown up than I thought he would. And there is no sign of trauma. I open my mouth to say something, but Max takes my arm and gives it a squeeze. He holds me back as the others leave the hangar.
When we are alone he turns me toward him. “Leave it.”
“What?” I say. I have an idea that he has been thinking the same as me.
“Conor…” Yep, he has.
“He should be acting… differently.”
“But he isn’t, and at the moment that is working in our favour. If we are still here…”
“I know,” I interrupt. “I’m just not sure if it healthy.”
“He is changing.”
I wince. Would Mel forgive me for turning her son into a monster? She wanted him alive but what about the cost?
“We couldn’t leave him,” Max says, drawing me into a hug.
“I know, but I still feel like a shit.”
He sighs and squeezes me tight. I wish he could take away all the worry and guilt, and it is guilt that I’m feeling. For a second I lean into him and close my eyes.
“It will all be fine.”
I just wish I believed him. “Come on. Lets go look at this helicopter.”
Maybe it is my voice, but he lets me go with a curious expression on his face.
“I hate flying,” I say.
“We met at an airport.”
“Yeah, but I was the last to leave because I had taken calming drugs so I didn’t panic.”
“How much of a panic?” he asks, following me out the door.
“Enough,” I say.
Conor is running towards us. I notice that he is moving at a more human speed and I wonder if he is doing it on purpose. To give us time.
“Aaron says that the chopper is good to go. It’s really nice inside,” he says. He is so excited that I try to muster to smile. The only problem is that it looks more like a grimace.
“That’s great,” Max says. But he has placed a hand on my back, forcing me to move at his pace.
Conor give me a very adult look. “Is your phobia going to be okay?”
“Phobia,” Max says quietly.
“Of flying,” Conor says.
Okay, maybe I hadn’t said phobia, but I don’t think it is. I mean I’ve never tried to claw my way out of an airplane, but then I’ve never flown without pharmaceutical help.
“I’ll be fine,” I say and I’m shocked that my voice sounds so quiet. I clear my throat and try again. Definitely sounded stronger that time.
Neither Max nor Conor say anything. We all traipse around the building. In the distance I can see some of the others watching us. The sun is starting to rise, so I expect them to disappear soon. I can’t tell from here but the simple fact they are just watching suggests that they are the smart ones.
“Do you think they will honour it?” I ask.
“Yes,” Max says.
I notice that Conor has fallen back a little so that he is walking closer to us.
“I won’t let anything happen to you,” I say.
He looks up and smiles, but I see the sadness then and I wish I could chase it away.
“So, this fear is a phobia,” Max says, as we round the corner to see Colin removing a cover from the front of the helicopter.
It looks massive and at the same time not big enough. “Not really a phobia, more like a fear.”
The only problem is that I can hear the weirdness of my voice. And I can feel the fact my mouth has gone dry.
“Right,” he says.
Conor has gone over to Colin and I can now see Aaron in the cockpit.
“Is he alright to fly?” I ask, trying to moisten my mouth, and wondering where all my spit has gone.
“I’m sure he is.”
Max is now pushing me along and I’m resisting. “Can’t we drive?” I ask, hating the pleading tone in my voice. “We could meet up with the soldiers at the Tate Modern and…”
“No,” Max’s voice is strong and forceful. “It will take too long.”
I sigh and let him push me toward the chopper. “Shouldn’t it be bigger?”
Colin looks up with a grin. “It can take six passengers.”
I don’t say anything. I don’t think I can. Max’s other hand takes my arm. He is now pushing and leading me toward the door on the side. I stand and look at the step up.
“It’ll be fun,” Conor says. He looks to happy that I force myself to take that step. I start to sit, but Max guides me into the middle seat.
Aaron turns and looks at me. “Fear of flying?”
“Don’t worry, the Bell 429 has a good safety record.” Yeah, I think, but you’d say that anyway.
Max has pushed me in the seat and is doing up the buckles on the safety harness.
“We are in luck,” Aaron says. “She is full of fuel and prepped.”
“Do you think anyone will be back to collect her?” Max asks.
“No, this is more like a night-before check. If anything, I bet she was meant to go out the morning it all happened.”
“So when can we go?” Conor asks, practically jumping from one foot to another.
“As soon as you want,” Aaron says, smiling at Conor.
Max nods and goes to the door. Colin comes over and they talk in hushed tones. I hear things like water and provisions. Aaron joins them and then he gets in the back. I relax a little. If the pilot is back here we are in no danger of taking off.
Aaron smiles and gives Max a thumbs up.
“That’s a ploy,” I say. “For you to be back here so I relax.”
“Max’s idea,” Aaron says.
“Where are they going?” Conor asks.
It’s then that I realise that Max and Colin are nowhere in sight.
“They’ve gone to get provisions, food and water,” Aaron says.
In a flash Conor is gone and I know he has decided to help. I don’t blame him. It must be very boring to watch his over-wrought aunt. Aaron pats my hand and sits back, closing his eyes.
“Are you going to be okay to fly?” I ask.
“I am. Luckily it will only be just over an hour to get there.”
Aaron is leaning back in the seat and has his eyes closed. I can see dark circles and his face is more lined than earlier. He looks tired. I know I ought to let him sleep but I have so many questions.