Despite the laughter, it was the brown-hued flight attendant that really caught my eye. There was something familiar about her that I couldn't place and it nagged me all the back back home. It wasn't until I was safely curled into my bed that I recalled the SimAm poster I'd seen while waiting for Monte's flight. She'd been on it! In fact, I realized with a start, they all had!
Graduation also heralded the start of summer vacation for Sapphy and the departure of Uncle Minsk. He didn't go far though, he moved across town and actually started dating someone pretty seriously. At first I thought he was hovering, ya know in case we totally fell on our faces with this whole guardianship thing?
As we live in one of the dryer areas of Simerica, summers around here are hotter than Hades during the day. We tried, and failed, to take Sapphy and the twins to the park after lunch one day. After thirty minutes we were all burnt and exhausted just from the heat! After that, we made our trips pretty close to sunset so everyone could play in relative comfort.
Sapphy was off and running before we even got close to the park. She'd been so distant from all of us since the memorial service that I could barely coax two words out of her on any given day. It didn't help that just at the start of summer, her cat, Lola, had gotten hit by a car in front of our house. As if Sapphy needed more trauma in her young life right now! In spite of it all, she seemed to have fun at the park so the park quickly became a daily routine.
A tedious and slightly mind-numbing routine.
I shouldn't say that I suppose but it was. There are only so many times one can attempt to reason with a toddler about why it's time to get off the bouncy toy or to why it's not a good idea to eat sand.
My dear brother Cerulean was put on this earth to test every level of my sanity I think. Every single day he would cross his arms and pout when it was time to go. Every single day he was start screaming his head off and trying to smack me away when I pulled him from the toy. Every single day I got the nasty looks from the parents in the park who, in my mind, must of thought I'd gotten pregnant at fifteen and couldn't control "my child".
"Oh just let him play a little longer Zuli," Cobalt said with a shrug. He never had trouble extracting Chambray when it was time. She was an easy going child and tended to just go with the flow with a giggly smile on her face.
"You want me to reward a tantrum?" I asked. It would be so easy to just say, 'Oh fine Cerulean, you can play as long as you like,' but what good would that do.
"Well no...but it's not like we have anywhere to be," Cobalt pointed out.
"Fine, whatever," I muttered. He struck a particularly sore spot. Our lives were dull and predictable now - we never had anywhere to go. Home, park, store....over and over again. At eighteen, we were the most boring teenagers on the planet.
"Wheeeee" Cerulean's happy squeals drew me out of my mood and I chuckled at his happy bouncing play.
"Zuli?" Shamrock looked over at me in surprise. It was dark by the time I'd wheedled his location out of his secretary and gotten to the studio. "What are you doing here?"
I shrugged, delaying my questions as my stomach was twisting itself in knots. I glanced around the lot and took in the various facades that decorated the small space. In all the time my mom had been acting, I'd only been to the studio a few times and I was usually so full of bitterness and attitude that I'd ignore everyone and everything out of spite. "Wow..can they actually film anything on these little sets?" I asked, pointing out some of the narrower period "buildings".
"Well not a whole movie but a few small things, sure. They use these a lot for retakes of tiny parts of the film." Shamrock pointed out the tiny, fake castle and was chatting about on of his clients filming over there just the other day. "So, what's up Zuli?"
"Um...well I need access to my inheritance..." I said, looking at my feet.
"I already explained how your mother set up the inheritances Lazuli..."
"I know, I know - it's under lock and key until we're twenty-one unless there's a justifiable expense...I get it, I do!" I said, trying to sound certain. "But I need...out of here."
"Out of here? Zuli, what about..."
I cut him off, "not forever, not even for long! I just want to travel...." he looked skeptical so I said the first place I could think of, "to France!"
"Ah!" Shamrock was laughing then and nodded, "to see Monte?"
"Um...yeah?" Okay I hadn't actually been thinking of Monte at the time, well no more than usual, but if that's what it took to get the money, I could lie a bit.
"I wish I could help you Zuli but your mom and Nepal set those up to protect you all. Granted it was mostly in place to protect your younger siblings - she never could have imagined what happened..." he trailed off, as everyone did when they mentioned the accident like that. "You can try talking to the accountant about it - maybe he'll sign off on the expense if you can give him a good reason for the trip?"
"Right..." I said, turning on my heel to leave.
"Or you could get a job...I bet I could get you a small role in a film or something," he called after me. I waved, but didn't turn back. I didn't want to be an actress but a job wasn't such a bad idea. It would give me something to do and would break up the mundane all in one shot.
Cobalt was waiting for me when I got home, having put all the kids to bed. "We need to talk," he said.
While we waited for the coffee to brew, I tried to think what was going through my twin's mind. Had Shamrock called him? Had he noticed my lack of enthusiasm for "family life"?
"Now, I think we need to figure some things out...about, well the future and everything..." he started.
"Such as?" I prompted
"Well, eventually I imagine one or both of us will want to move out of the house and start our own families..." he paused and fretted with his scarf.
"Come on Cobalt, out with it. What's got you so wound up?"
"I'm in love with Lotus," he said, sighing with relief as if he'd just spilled the biggest secret in the 'verse.
"Yeah, I sorta noticed that," I said with a laugh. Then everything clicked in my mind. Lotus was still in Sugar Valley and flying back and forth was going to cost a small fortune. "Lotus wants to move to Caramel Canyon..."
"Yes, but he loves kids and he knows everything of course! I mean you've seen how he is with the twins..." he was stammering over the words, trying to reassure me that he wasn't abandoning our siblings. In truth, he was adding another adult to the mix - another "parental unit". "I don't want to invite him to move in here without talking to you first though Zuli, this would affect the whole house."
"It's fine Cobalt. Lotus is great..." I said quickly. "In fact - it makes me feel a little better to know he'll be here."
"Why? What do you mean?" Cobalt asked, his relief disappearing almost as soon as it came.
"Well, I was thinking about getting a job," I said. "It's not about the money obviously I just need to...do something. Stay-at-home-sister was not really what I had in mind," I said with a chuckle. Until that moment, I wasn't really sure what sort of job I'd get but the poster from the airport popped into my mind then.
"I'm going to be a flight attendant," I said. Inwardly, I crossed my fingers and added, 'I hope.'
After two separate interviews and a drug test, I'd been accepted by SimAm Airlines to my great relief. By now, France had been pushed out of my mind for the most part - though if I did get there I'd be sure to look Monte up - I was just excited about the whole prospect.
Before I could actually join the ranks of flight attendants, I had to attend a two week training and orientation course. When I walked in, I noticed first that the room was clearly designed to host a large audience than just one. I wondered how many other potential flight attendants would be joining the class today.
There were thick binders - manuals as it turned out - sitting on the first table but none on the others. I'd always been a "back of the class" kind of girl but I didn't seem to have that option this time unless I wanted to stand out as the awkward, unapproachable type.
I was still standing at the door when I saw a familiar, pink-hued woman standing in the corner. She was wearing the SimAm uniform and talking on her phone so she didn't seem to notice me for several moments. Was she the instructor?
Still chatting away, she waved me to one of the seats at the front table. Guess so.
The minutes ticked by and the conversation, which was about a grocery trip as near as I could tell from the one side, continued. I'd flipped through the manual absently by the time she hung up. "Hiya!" she said, with a bounce in her step.
"Morning," I said, smiling pleasantly enough. It wasn't enough for her though. She spent thirty more minutes explaining the importance of having a good attitude at all time while serving with SimAm. By the end of it, I gave her the most cheerful "Good Morning!" I could manage and she seemed pleased.
Despite there being two other manuals laid out, it became apparent that I would be her only student. "Alrighty!" she clapped her hands together and the longest two weeks of my life (to that point anyway) began. Rouge - that was my instructor's name - was excessively happy and talked with her hand at all times. If I wasn't careful, she'd whack me in the nose in the process of explaining the process of serving drinks to the passengers!
She also talked constantly. She could talk about SimAm blankets for an hour if left to her own devices. After fifteen minutes and about a dozen synonyms for "soft" I interrupted her so we could move on. I found, to my dismay, that this was required on nearly every topic. Seeing as the first several chapters of the manual covered common sense things (like how to assist a a passenger with their tray table), I was eager to move on sooner rather than later.
Every chapter was accompanied by a video and a quick review. The videos were over acted and cheesy to the max but a welcome relief from Ms. Talks-with-her-Hands.
The second week of training was dedicated to emergency situations and basic medical training for any in-flight emergency. We were joined by an on-staff medic for this thankfully because I'm not sure I would have retained much from Rouge's chatter.
As I was the only student of the session, Rouge was volunteered to be the passenger/patient during the training. She was a woman in labor, a passenger who'd been cut badly, someone with a nasty stomach virus, a fainter and finally a heart attack victim.
"You did very well Lazuli," Rouge said on the final day of our class.
"Thank you, what happens now?"
"Well, first you need to be fitted for a uniform. The airline allows the uniform to be tailored to choice of coloring - with approval of course. And every flight attendant may choose a scarf of their choosing. I will put in a call to the salon in town and someone will be waiting for you."
"From there you will do a series of shadow flights. You'll be assigned to shadow other flight attendants and crews on a variety of the planes in the SimAm fleet before you're assigned to your normal crew. You have to shadow for a hundred flight hours before then."
As expected, there was someone waiting for me at the salon when I arrived. "Lazuli Dust? SimAm?"
"Yes, that's me," I said, trying to bury my awkwardness. What would Rouge say if I couldn't even greet the stylist?
"Come with me and we'll get started."
Little did I know that "get started" meant I would be poked, prodded and measured from every angle imaginable. Then he had me twist and turn so many times I was getting dizzy. Periodically I'd see him examining a particular feature of my body and grunting or making some silent comment about it. "Is all this really necessary?"
"Mmhmm," he muttered. He pulled out the measuring tape again and took all the same measurements a second time.
"Look, are you really the stylist or is this some excuse to check out my ass?" I jumped off the little platform and crossed my arms over my chest.
"Just being thorough," he said with a smile. "Alright, I have everything I need, come back next week and bring your scarf."
When I returned, I half expected someone to look at me as if they had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe the guy from the week before was just a townie who had wandered in and decided to play with my head...but then he'd known my name...
"Welcome back," he said with a pleasant smile. "I have your uniform, if you go through those doors, you can try it on and we'll see if it needs any adjustments."
"Are they always this tight?" I asked, twisting my body in the snug skirt proved difficult at best.
"Yep, that's the look of SimAm - clean and firm lines," he said. He had me lift my arms and twist in the fabric to be sure it would move how it should. "I think it's just right."
"If you say so," I muttered. It felt unnatural to me...but then I always wore pants or shorts so any dress would feel awkward I suppose.
Sapphy sulked to the side as I tucked the last of my things into the small SimAm carry on I'd been given. I had a large suitcase for longer flights but this one, my first one, was just a two hour flight to Razzledale with barely any layover.
"So, how do I look?" I asked.
Lotus, now a permanent resident of our house, nodded, "perfect." Cobalt joined in his praise but Sapphy kept her mouth clamped shut.
"Sapphy?" Nothing, should have known. The few words I used to get from her had all but disappeared when I told her I'd be traveling so much. "I'll be back before you go to bed Sapphy alright? You can pick out a story for us to read?"
Though she didn't say anything in response, she nodded and then allowed me to give her a hug. I think it was a little tighter than the last hug she'd given me. As if she was afraid to let go.
The same brown skinned attendant I'd seen in the airport on the poster was waiting for me when I arrived at the plane. "You Lazuli?"
"Yes, you can call me Zuli though." I offered.
"Well, welcome aboard. Your first flight right?"
"Yes," I said, placing a hand over my stomach to settle the butterflies who had taken flight in the last few minutes.
"Are you ready?" she asked with a chuckle.
"I'm not really sure," I replied, trying to laugh at my own anxiety.
"Well, I'll show you to the bathrooms, just in case," she said with a wink.