“You’ve lost your mind,” Helen argues, taking her eyes off the controls for just a moment. Amelia’s suggestion that she close her eyes demands a look of pointed skepticism.
Amelia ignores Helen’s raised eyebrows and instead peers out of the windshield. Rain beats against their little plane and she can feel how much effort Helen’s putting forth just to keep them steady in the wind. Lightning flashes around them and Amelia knows that if they don’t land soon, they’re bound to be hit and then they’ll be at the mercy of gravity and dumb luck. “You wanted to learn to fly in bad weather. You’ve got bad weather. It’s interfering with all of your instruments and the radio. Either close your damn eyes and land this thing by feel and guts or get the hell out of that chair and let me fly us in.” Lightning cuts a blinding white line across their path and Amelia blinks away purple spots. They need to get out of this storm, now. “You have three seconds or I’m taking over.”
Helen nods and takes a deep breath to steady her hands. She exhales slowly, terrified, and closes her eyes. “I’ll land,” she says, her voice far calmer than she actually feels.
Amelia doesn’t quite relax – she stays poised to take over in case Helen turns them around or is about to land them into something unfortunate, like the ocean or a side of a building – but she releases the breath she’d been holding.
Helen urges the plane forward, mentally mapping their course out from the airfield. She knows where the ground should be and she opens her eyes just long enough to catch a glimpse of the darkness ahead. There really ought to be lights to indicate that they’ve reached the shore, but there’s only black. “Bloody hell,” she mutters, thinking that she’s somehow managed to turn them around and take them back out to sea even though her mind tells her that she’s going the right way.
Breaking her number one rule about teaching, Amelia whispers a word of encouragement. “The power’s out, you’re fine.” She’s flown this particular course so many times that she actually has done it completely with her eyes closed.
Relieved, Helen closes her eyes again and begins the plane’s descent. Thunder crashes and rattles the hull of the tiny plane, sending vibrations up the joystick gripped in her hands. She opens her eyes. She can’t see a damn thing, but she can’t do this with her eyes closed. Her brain isn’t wired to be able to not look where she’s going. Not yet. She uses the brief flashes of light to gauge her position relative to the ground and carefully corrects her course.
Amelia grins as she watches Helen navigate them home. She hadn’t meant for Helen to fly the whole way with her eyes closed, merely made the suggestion so Helen would learn how to react when the analytical, logical part of her brain has no information to use.
Visibility isn’t any better lower to the ground; if anything, it’s worse. Helen turns the plane to face the runway, but doesn’t manage to catch a glimpse of how far above the ground they are. They’re too close to the runway for her to wait for another bolt of lightning and she stiffens, all knowledge of how to land a plane suddenly vanished from her mind.
In the dim light of the cockpit, Amelia sees Helen freeze. They have two choices: land the plane in the next twenty seconds, or gain altitude, turn around and try again. She’s not interested in trying again; Helen’s completely lost confidence and the storm is getting worse. They don’t have time to switch seats so, in defiance of everything she’s ever learned, Amelia unbuckles her seatbelt and stands behind Helen’s chair. She slides her arms around Helen’s shoulders and settles her hands on top of Helen’s. She smells Helen’s shampoo, but forces herself to ignore it. Nothing but her own balance is holding her steady. She hopes that the wind stays calm for the moment or she’ll be thrown sideways and take the plane with her.
With motions practiced hundreds of times, Amelia carefully brings them to the ground, letting Helen feel how she lands the plane without anything except her gut and the plane’s external lights to guide her.
They land with an undignified thud.
The impact throws Amelia backwards and the plane screeches as Helen slows them down. The wheels hit a puddle and the plane fishtails for one horrifying second before finding friction again. Amelia decides that it’s not worth the effort to climb back into her chair and opts to spend the rest of the taxi sitting on the floor, one leg braced against the back wall to keep her steady.
The external lights illuminate the runway enough that Helen can drive them into the hangar. She kills the motor and exhales loudly in the sudden silence. “I’m sorry,” she apologizes once her heart calms to a more reasonable beat.
Amelia rubs the back of her head where she hit the wall. She’ll have a bump, but she isn’t bleeding. “For what?”
The leather creaks as Helen turns in her seat to stare at Amelia in the dim light. “Panicking.”
Amelia shrugs and stands up to open the door. Even if the rain’s going to keep them in the hangar for a bit longer, she wants to be out of the plane. “That’s nothing,” she says with a grin, pushing the door open. She hops out, not bothering with the stairs. “First time I tried to land by feel, it was the densest fog we’d ever had. Nearly landed us in the ocean before turning us around and actually landing us on top of the hangar.” She’d broken an arm in the process, literally scared the piss out of her copilot, and the plane had certainly been beyond repair, but she’d learned to stop second-guessing herself.
Helen unbuckles her seatbelt and accepts Amelia’s offered hand as she jumps the few feet to the ground.
Amelia senses Helen’s disappointment; the whole point in going up in the storm in the first place was so Helen could practice flying and landing in bad weather. She reaches out and cups Helen’s cheek. “It’s the season for rain,” she says, “you’ll get another chance.”
Rolling her eyes, Helen shakes her head at herself. She wants to fly in sunny, perfectly calm weather at least once before trying her hand at inclement weather again. “Promise you won’t take over next time.” She’s glad Amelia was quick to take control, and knows it was necessary, but she’ll never learn if she’s always relying on someone else.
Amelia grins. “You got it.”