Cara’s father had had a saying.
“Ever since you could walk,” he would tell her, “you wanted to fly.”
It was the sort of thing only a doting father would say, and the sort of thing only a doted-upon daughter would believe. But Cara remembered those words long after her father died. And long after she’d lost any hope of flying away from the greying and dreamless town she had always called home.
She’d had aspirations in her youth of course. Her father praised her artistic skills and worked an extra job in a town where to have a job at all was considered very fortunate. It was clear to Cara that he sacrificed any dreams of his own for her, and she put the utmost effort into each and every one of her paintings. She studied diligently at school, and even managed to go to university.
But then her father had died, and her dream died with him.
Cara moved back home to care for her mother and younger siblings. Her sisters grew and married. Cara had a marriage of her own, which failed so spectacularly that it almost made her glad her father was dead. After her mother passed on, she briefly attempted a teaching job in another, larger town. But she felt just as anonymous there as at home, and soon returned to her birthplace.
She still painted from time to time, almost by rote, smiling sadly as she recalled her daddy’s words. She would wince with a pang of regret at times, and set her brush aside to become dry and brittle.
After having given up caring about what people thought of her, Cara began dating a man. Daniel was a schoolteacher himself, and a newcomer to town. What sort of man would move here, and a bachelor as well, God only knew, she thought. However, he seemed kind enough, was gainfully employed and was not terribly ugly. He would have to do.
The love of Daniel’s life was to hear his own voice. He seemed genuinely enthralled by his own opinions. Cara would pretend to listen, nodding frequently and occasionally raising an eyebrow or making some sort of exclamation. After a few weeks of listening to lectures on everything from tea to tits, she’d had quite enough, and decided to sleep with him just to see if it would shut him up.
It was all for nought. As they lie in bed afterwards, she interrupted his perpetual monologue abruptly by saying—
“My father used to say that from the time I could walk, I wanted to fly.”
“What?” Daniel turned to look at her, seemingly surprised that she could speak. Cara kept staring at the ceiling. She repeated herself.
“Fly how?” Daniel asked. “Did you want to be a flight attendant when you were a girl? Or a pilot–” he hastily added.
“No.” She thought for a moment. “I wanted to be an artist, I think.”
“Oh, but you are an artist! And you teach art, and that’s more important than–”
“No, Daniel. I wanted to move away from here. And be an artist. Or just move away from here.” Cara felt confused but also oddly giddy.
“Well then,” he replied in his professorial tone, ” there’s nothing to stop you, is there? After all, the gravity is no stronger here than anyplace else.” He held out his hands as if pleased with himself for having explained something simple to a simple person.
She turned to look at him. He was still smiling like an idiot, but she felt herself smiling too.
And she felt her father’s smile in her heart. She knew what flying was all about now.
As soon as Daniel fell asleep, Cara left the place that wasn’t home for good.