Krista could fly forever.
Up here the world is her and Bobby and Lady Lou and a land bathed in light late into the night. On days like this flying is easy and instinctive and she takes it for granted, without any conscious thought, that she and the plane are almost part of each other. These flights are few and far between – no noisy passengers, no dangerous cargo, no storm clouds rolling in or warning lights shining on the dash. Roads and settlements, lakes and forests roll by below them, each one a familiar checkpoint marking off the miles from Norman Wells to Yellowknife.
“It's beautiful,” Bobby says softly, his voice breaking into their warm and comfortable silence. At first Krista thinks he's talking to himself rather than to her, but then he looks up and smiles. “Remember when our fathers took us up to Inuvik?”
They'd been a couple of times when they were younger, with her dad or Silas or both, but Krista thinks she knows which trip Bobby's talking about. They were twelve or thirteen at the time, and her mom was in one of her heavy drinking phases. She knows now that Mel and Silas had taken them along on a cargo run just to get her out of the house, but at the time all she'd cared about was that it was their first chance to see the midnight sun. “I remember. I think it was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen.” She remembers two skinny kids, up way past their bedtimes, sitting huddled close together wrapped in blankets, looking up into the sky. “We've come a long way, haven't we?” she asks, knowing even as she speaks that she's edging into dangerous territory.
“Yeah. You and me.”
“Always.” Krista wants nothing more than to hug him, to feel the solid, familiar warmth of him pressed against her body. Her life lately has been a careful balancing act between reason and instinct, pain and hope and confusion. “You know that, right?” she asks, finding herself attempting to bridge the gap she had created.
“I know,” Bobby says and then adds, after a long pause, “Can I ask you something?”
Krista bites her lip and breathes in. “Sure.”
Miles and minutes pass by before he actually does. “What makes you think you're going to lose me?”
On another day, in another place, she might have refused to answer or brushed him off with a flippant response. But she's still thinking about those two kids in Inuvik, and the people they used to be. “Because if I screw this up,” she says, forgetting that, by her own rules, there is no 'this', “then we'll lose everything we ever had.”
“Well, what if I screw it up? What if you get blown up or I get shot or we get burned alive?” There's no harshness in Bobby's voice, only frustration, and Krista can't blame him for that.
She turns to look at him fully for the first time since this conversation started. Ten years apart and yet they still get each other in a way she's never quite understood. She remembers that moment after the fire, when exhaustion had won out over restraint and she'd put her head on his shoulder and wanted to stay there forever.
It could all be so easy, if she'd let it.
“I'm just scared, Bobby,” she says, with every ounce of honesty she can muster and then, before she can stop herself, she reaches out and takes his hand, and holds on tight.
Bobby rubs his thumb over her skin. “What of?”
“Everything.” Krista taps the fingers of her free hand against her leg, wishing, not for the first time, that she hadn't pushed him away after the fire, that she'd made a hundred different decisions. “I keep thinking that it would be easier to not – to not have this thing between us because if something happened to you, or I screwed up or whatever, then maybe it wouldn't hurt so much.” She looks around her again, watching the world – their world - slip by thousands of feet below them, miniature and perfect. “But maybe I'm more scared of missing out,” she says, only realising the truth of the statement after she's said it.
“You know we can make anything work. We always could, right?”
Krista nods – because now they've come too far to turn back, even if she wanted to - and looks at him again as an idea forms itself in the back of her mind. “Remember my friend Amy?”
“The brunette?” Bobby asks, apparently confused by this sudden change of topic.
“No, the other one, with the red hair.” Judging by the blank look on his face, apparently he has no idea who she's talking about. Krista readjusts her headset to buy herself a few seconds and then says, in a rush, “Well, she's getting married up north next week. I'm one of her bridesmaids. I was going to go with Blake, but obviously not now so, um, we could go.”
“Like a date?”
“Yeah. Like a date.” It's the most awkward invitation she's ever issued and yet she can't bring herself to care because Bobby's grinning at her and she just might be grinning back. If anything in the world is worth the risk it's him, and she's so damn tired of running scared.
“Okay then. I'd like that.”
Ahead of them a dark blue line spreads itself out across the horizon. Great Slave Lake. Krista watches for a moment as it begins to take on its familiar shape, then squeezes Bobby's hand tightly again before letting go. They're almost home, and she has a DC-3 to land.