She was on a plane taxing toward the runway, sandwiched between her mothers. She was trapped. From her seat she could see out the window and along the glossy studded wing. The hinged edge deliberately flapped up, then it folded down, then rose again to settle flush with the curve of wing. The edge of the wing rippled in a mirage of heat, rising from the exhaust of the whining turbine engine.
Her mother, Veronica, was also mesmerised by the wing. A soft ping, from the panel above made her look up. The seat belt sign had just turned orange. She looked down at Charlie, and smiled.
"Put your seal belt on honey", her mother said.
Charlie shifted focus from the wing to her mother, who's expression appeared incorrectly clam.
"Are we going to die?" Charlie asked.
"No Charlie, we're not going to die, okay", she replied, carefully modulating her voice and maintaining eye contact.
The modulation betrayed her.
"Come now, where's the other end?" asked Veronica
Without understanding it young Charlie had tapped into the her mothers fear. Charlie started to cry.
Veronica was caught off guard and swallowed deliberately. She understood it. Her daughter had caught her lying. She was ashamed.
"Are you sitting on it? Becci ... could you help Charlie please", she continued.
She wanted to not not panic, but she wasn't sure how. She wanted to stroke Charlie's face, but stopped. If she did, she would loose the fragile remains of her composure. Fear is best disguised with anger. And when Veronica found calm detached tranquillity, in her partners face, the anger was welcome relief.
"Becci if it's not too much trouble, maybe you could, I dunno ... help?" asked Veronica.
The woman on Charlie's left was also her mother. Rebecca. She was buried in a book. She was always in a book. If she wasn't in a book she was in an office. Nevertheless she nodded and folded the top corner of the right page and clapped it shut, and stowed it in the net sleeve of the chair-back in front of her.
She looked at the red faced snivelling little daughter and lifted the arm rest between them. Rebecca looked around and shook her head.
"I can't see it. She must be sitting on ... Oh no. No. I'm sitting on it." she said.
She fished out the seat belt from under her and handed the tongue end to Charlie.
"There you go" said Becci, "you wanna do it?" she asked.
"Give it to me Becci!" insisted Veronica.
Becci looked at Veronica and said "she can do this, can't you baby?"
Charlie shook her head but took the belt anyway and fumbled the clasp into the buckle until it clicked.
Becci smiled, nodded at her and stroked Charlie's head.
The plane stopped on the runway. The whine of the turbines broadened to a roar and then the acceleration kicked in. Four magnitudes of gravity pressed down on the little Charlie, driving her into her seat. Everything she trusted was in jeopardy. The world you are on is the world you are in and in this world an earthquake was happening. The faithful floor bounced, the walls rattled and twisted, the passengers pretended and the buildings outside smudged. And then just like that it wasn't, the machine pitched into the sky, 196 tons of metal and man instantly became outlaws of gravity and escaped into the sky and this single moment of hysteria defined the future for one little girl.
What moment of fear welds you into yourself? What cocktail of emotion and time must convene to forge your future? What cruelty stands in contraction of your masterpiece and what fucked up force created that?