Learning To Fly

Learning To Fly

A Story by Marie Harrison

A short love story that involves an airplane tragedy and college co-eds falling in love over the summer break.



Late afternoon sessions swimming laps at the university pool after studying and attending classes all day; helped me sleep soundly at night.  I would come home grill a hamburger and hang out with friends around the apartment pool to reward myself and relax afterwards.

My friend Danny and I met at the apartment pool late one night at an impromptu co-ed skinny dip in the pool.  He was an average looking 6 foot blonde man with freckles, dimples, fair complexion and a sly grin, around the same age as I. 

We could easily have passed for an amazing brother and sister duo, often people asked if we were related.  After a couple of times, we referred to each other as brother and sis.  In fact one night, he told me that my blue eyes reminded him so much of the sky blue eyes that his father, Daniel had.  In my most flirty fashion, I thanked him and told him that I thought his sparkling emerald eyes were smashing gems too!

For long hours at a time, each night Danny and I would end up having these deep meandering discussions about life and the world we lived in.  All alcohol induced, I’m sure.  We even got in a few heated tiffs many nights discussing politics and the oil industry.  Somehow it always ended up, just the two of us left at the pool.  Often we talked mostly about our strangest personal encounters with the paranormal, eccentric personalities we had met, our meager plans after college, dating, and everything else.  

Danny and I started hanging out more and more frequently, studying together in the library, taking weekend road trips to Austin or San Antonio together.  He knew I had a long-distance boyfriend and I knew he had a long-distance love too. Since sex wasn’t an issue with us, we seemed to have even more fun with each other than we had with our far away significant others. 

Just looking at him and I would burst out laughing, when he twisted his face with protest.  He liked to pull little jokes on me at the pool, like putting a goldfish in my Corona and giving me towel burns with his mighty towel pops.   We were just having too much fun together, becoming close friends.  Some evenings we might go clubbing, dancing or drinking together.  That summer we attended every outdoor concert and bought every tacky concert t-shirt that we could find, some of our other friends joined our circus show too.  We all were having the best summer together.

Late one night I just came back to my apartment, crashing on my twin bed from complete exhaustion after playing water polo in the pool with our friends. I was still wrapped in my chlorine soaked Speedo and bleached out beach towel.  Danny snuck into my tiny basement apartment with the allowance of my ditzy roommate Claire. He tip-toed into my bedroom and gently climbed into my bed as I was deeply sleeping and cuddled with me with his chlorine soaked swim trunks on.  Hugging me tightly and whispering softly in my ear, “Been thinking we should fly away together to our own tropical deserted island in this rickety old captain’s bed for weeks now. What d’ya think Sweetest Day of Sunshine?”  I giggled with submission.

He proceeded to whisper shyly how much he loved me, that I was his best friend in the pool and out on the groovy dance floor.  I would always be his banana cabana princess and the official water polo queen of his swimming pool.  It was a plush deep cotton, heavenly experience for me, where absolutely no kissing or sexual foreplay took place that night.  Just two lonely souls closely connecting over time and gently holding each other tight in spirit and in flesh, affirming their devotions of love to one another.  We both slept soundly together like that many nights, just like that until the summer ended.

Late one Friday evening, Danny and I had been playing Texas quarters at the poolside, and we were the last two standing at the end of the game. We agreed to call the game; otherwise it might never end because I had taught him the fine art of bouncing a quarter into a shot glass.  Afterwards Danny slowly started baring the private spot of his haunted soul to me over left-over tequila-lime chicken pizza in his apartment.  He started unraveling the secret story that he never about his deceased father Daniel, the story of his unexpected death one night. 

He started recanting his memories.  He seemed to mentally drift away to a far away place at first when started talking. He recanted how much he loved his father when he was little. How he often enjoyed sitting in his father’s lap as a little tyke.  His father had his wife dress Danny up in a little pilot’s navy sports coat adorned with tiny little gold wings and colored stripes just like his father’s when he was little. 

How he would sit on Daniels broad lap wearing a special hat his Dad bought him for his birthday, pretending to fly his father’s passenger airplane while his father actually flew the plane.  That was why Danny was attending classes at the university that summer, he was learning to fly. One day soon he would be certified to fly Daniel’s cherished 1979 Twin Admiral Cessna, as often as he pleased.

He showed me a picture of the red and white plane that was Daniel’s was absolute pride and joy.  In front of the plane was his only child Danny dressed as a future mini-pilot and his beautiful red headed, leggy wife and handsome Daniel with his arm around them both and a proud smile all over his face. It was a beautiful faded family photograph; that had to have been professionally taken. 

That evening, Danny looked a lot like his stoic father in the picture, only a few inches shorter and years younger.  That was the last picture of Daniel that was ever taken, it was shot 4th of July, just a couple of months before Daniel’s death.

Apparently, Daniel was a big wig pilot for a local commercial airline.  One tragic foggy evening in Boston, destiny rolled Daniel snake eyes when he was flying home on a red-eye as a passenger. Daniel was heading home to attend Danny’s Mother’s graduation ceremony for graduating from nursing school. There was an odd difficulty with the plane's engines that evening.  Something mysterious like a flock of bats or something else flew into two of the engines of the DC-10, causing the plane to go down in the Atlantic somewhere.

Danny never saw or heard from his Dad again, since the last day he saw him when he was 8 years-old.  He told me he can still see his father, Daniel waving good bye to his Mom and him with his crisp Navy blue pilot suit on from the Dallas Airport window one bright blue morning.

He told me on some days he looks up into the white billowy clouds in the sky and sees his Dad waving down at him smiling.  He told me of a song that was so special to him sung by Elton John called Daniel. The song was a tender ballad about a brother’s flight going down in mid-flight one night and how his brother remembered last seeing his brother off at the airport before he departed.  How he sung about watching the red lights of the airplane as it taxied to take off from the runway.

He told me how this song always reminded him of his Dad, how he also waved goodbye to his Dad in the airport with his Mom as his airplane taxied off too.  Tears filled his sad green eyes as he played the song for me.  As the mellow song poured out of the speakers of his stereo, it choked me up too.   I remembered how beautiful, I thought the song was before when I would hear it on the radio.  Now hearing the song sent chills up my spine, as I sat recounting Danny’s story in my mind as we listened to it play together.

I grabbed both of his hands as we listened to the song and streams of tears flowed unabashedly down both of our faces. But, we didn't really care at that moment.  How brave he was to share his story with me, I thought.  I was so moved!

Still holding my hand, Danny began disclosing to me what he remembered about that morning he last saw his Dad. He recalled his father putting down his suitcase to pick Danny up and kiss him goodbye. He could smell the fresh clean smell of his father's aftershave. He also replayed out loud intricate details of his Dad’s passionate last kiss to his Mother, and watching him walk off with a confident swagger to his awaiting airplane. 

Since that morning whenever he looks up at the blue sky above, Danny still sees his Dad as a star in the face of the sky for Danny.  Daniel would always be his bright star in the face of the sky looking over him, giving him courage to carry on without him.  He told me that he can’t help but think of Daniel each time he looked into my sky blue eyes too.

He cupped my face and whispered softly to me as he admitted to me, “Looking into your heavenly pale eyes that looked so much like my own father’s eyes, gives me a sense of peace.  I almost feel like a part of him is looking back, smiling at me.”

Feeling his warm breath so close to my lips, I couldn’t help but reach out and kiss him longingly, as I had daydreamed so often of doing.  He touched me deeper with his words than my restless heart had ever been tenderly touched before.   For the first time together, Danny and I shared an amazing night of sexual passion that special evening that spilled over until late afternoon the next day. 

Our mutual passion and electric chemistry erupted into a carnal explosive volcano that evening.  Apparently the daily stoked, slow-heating fire of our fleshly desires combusted with our warm embracing intertwined heart strings of friendship and emotional intimacy together to create a raging bonfire of passion.  We were overcome with our emotional and physical desires.  Our steamy nights of passion and deep intimate connection we both enjoyed throughout the duration of that summer, has never been expressed in such an overwhelming way to me since that special summer with Danny.

I often wonder what happened to my cherished best friend, Danny.  Unfortunately we lost touch after our summer semester was over, both of us flying off to our long-distance relationships.   We were both guilty of getting lost into the mesh of our own lives again. 

Off and on for a while, we would send each other bizarre postcards;  ones that only we would find humorous.  But somewhere in the mix of one of our moves to a new exciting location, we lost touch of one another. So sad when that happens to the ones we hold so close to our hearts forever, strong ties severed by the speed of light pace of our mundane lives.

But every time I hear Elton John’s song Daniel, I have to stop and listen to the words and tears well up and fill my eyes thinking of my dear friend Danny flying across the sky in his father’s red and white Cessna.  I bet he’s still yearning to see his bigger than life father up there in the white clouds.

Does Danny still feel the stinging pain of those scars that refuse to heal from missing his Dad?  I wonder if Danny still sees clouds in his eyes from looking for Daniel’s bright star face in the sky.  Does Danny ever dream of me?  Does he still see his father Daniel when he remembers looking into my pale blue eyes? 

Some nights I still pretend that Danny is cuddling me and singing me to sleep, like he used to do so well.  I wonder if he feels me caress his handsome face in his sleep at night as I dream of him.  Oh, how I loved Danny and I miss him so much. 

Many nights I dream of his bright green eyes looking into my eyes, before kissing me goodbye at the airport on our last night together.  My heartbreaks, watching Danny waving goodbye to me, as my plane taxies down the runway leaving him behind forever.


© 2010 Marie Harrison

Author's Note

Marie Harrison
I've been writing a lot of poetry. I thought I would try a short story. This is one of my first short stories. I wrote it yesterday. It might have a few typos.

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Featured Review

I'm leery of titles that have been used over and over..give your story
something original. it would stand out more
the story is too long to read in one sitting for my taste, because it would take me an hour at least, if you broke into short chapters, i'm sure it would
create a bite. let me know if you revise this it. have fun :)

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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this is a touching story for sure

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This was very very beautiful. So touching, and yet so intense. Thank you so much for entering my contest. I can safely say you contend to win. This story really moved me. Thank you so much for writing it. I will look into your other works as well. =]

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I can relate. And I love your description and detail, it makes me see things from another perspective.
~Gage Troy

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

this is an excellent story and so very easy to read for me! and that says a lot because i tend to lose focus with stories but you really engaged the reader and took them on an emotional and mental ride of every smooth transition between scenarios. i found it ironic how these two characters invested so much value into each other but once the physical manifestation of passion took place it became awkward...how everyone longs to have this mental, emotional and physical connection but we separate ourselves and compartmentalize physical passion elsewhere instead of allowing a friendship to progress into something signficant and solid. I found it interesting how Danny was drawn to his lady friend through the reminders of his past (his father) and how the character wanted to save him from his sadness....

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I'm leery of titles that have been used over and over..give your story
something original. it would stand out more
the story is too long to read in one sitting for my taste, because it would take me an hour at least, if you broke into short chapters, i'm sure it would
create a bite. let me know if you revise this it. have fun :)

Posted 9 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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5 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on May 26, 2010
Last Updated on September 12, 2010
Tags: Love, Tragedy, Death, Healing, Co-ed Life


Marie Harrison
Marie Harrison

Atlanta, GA

Momma told me to get out and enjoy life, so now I'm going to dance. more..


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