He stared out the hospital window for the tenth time in the last half hour. Watching the birds and the open blue sky, longing for it. He pictured himself flying, bringing peace into a moment he had no clue on how to handle.
“Mark, is something bothering you?” His mother asked for the tenth time in the last half hour.
Plenty of things are bothering me mom. He thought shoving his hands into his pockets harder, so he wouldn’t share his burdens with her.
“Nothing mom…” From the expression on her face he wasn’t about to get away with dismissing his own melancholy behaviour.
“Jason’s been really down since he came home that’s all…you know with his foster parents being killed and his dad…just worried about him.” Shrugging his shoulders.
That part was at least true, he was worried about Jason and how he lashed out at training the other day when he was told his dad was dead. They wouldn’t tell him how.
It was the part about training that bothered him more. Jason had become moodier, and more aggressive in the sessions.
“Have you talked to Chief Anderson about it?” She asked.
“Yes, he said I have to learn to deal with Jason.”
“In what way?”
He didn’t answer, all the talk of leadership daily was giving him a headache. Jason was giving him a headache and they clashed constantly. It was like the guy had to be defiant every decision he was making of late.
She picked up the homemade book and began flicking through the pages, smiling softly to herself… “I love reading this to you…you loved it to when you were little.”
Yeah, when I was three. I’m eight now mom- and I don’t want to know about it.” He made it final. He thought, feeling guilty at the same time for his disinterest in his biological family. He never talked about his adoption with his friends, even Jason didn’t know he was adopted.
His mother and father always respected him if he chose not to tell people. In many ways, they never pressured him about his choice to not talk to Ken and Jun any more.
It hurt too much to know he had a brother and sister out there somewhere- he didn’t know them and wasn’t being raised with them.
His sudden decision to cut off all contact bothered his parents. He couldn’t explain all of his feelings himself let alone to anyone else. Going off on his own cleared his mind- He loved flying with his dad. In the skies, it was like he could leave the world behind him.
“Mark if you want to see your brother and sister we can always fly to Utoland…” His mother looked concerned.
“Ma…no!” Mark responded more, irate than he intended.” Just drop it please.” He regretted his tone the moment it came out, bowing her head, she laid back down on the pillows and stared at the wall across the room. The emotional energy of the conversation exhausting her.
“I’m sorry son…I…” Her voice broke, and he was by her side in an instant holding onto her pale weak hand.
“I can handle Jason.” He faked a smile.” I’m not ready to talk again with Ken and Jun. I’ll let you know when I am.”
Slowly she curled her fingers with his.
“Remember when I told you about the time your father and I served in military?”
“Yes.” He said. “I loved those stories.” Brightening a little, he enjoyed his dad telling him about meeting his mother. He was a pilot running secret missions, and she worked in radar. He was smitten and never looked back, she stood by him when he crashed and couldn’t fly fighters again.
“Leadership is something you grow into Mark. You’ll make lots of mistakes along the way. Find a way to be friends with Jason even if you two disagree a lot.”
“Next time I’ll ask him why he’s angry with me. Will that help?”
“It might.” She replied. “Have you tried?”
He climbed up onto the bed and cuddling up next to her like he used to at five o’clock in the morning when he was a little boy frightened by nightmares and the boogie man.
Safely snugged in her arms, the scent of lavender surrounded him, a comfort- he didn’t want to face life without her. Choking back tears- He’d grown more scared than anything that he might lose her soon. She wasn’t getting any better, and the doctors in the last couple of days had been preparing him and his father for the worst…
A light tap on his shoulder prevented him from falling asleep beside her. Looking up Mark saw his father standing next to the bed watching her. He wondered how long he’d been there.
“Time to go…she needs her rest.” He whispered in hushed tones. “Careful how you get down Mark no need to wake her.”
Carefully Mark lifted himself from under her arm, gently laying it down next her and he slid off the bed standing next to his father who watched her silently with glassy eyes that spoke of his pain.
Gradually he blinked back the unshed tears, as he leaned down and lightly kissed her brow. “Love you sweetheart…” Picking up the book, and placing it into a draw close. He stole a glance at his sleeping wife, and quietly led Mark out of the room.
“Want to go and work on our plane?” His dad placed an affectionate arm around his shoulders.
“I’d like that.” Mark managed an empty smile, he needed time out, and the skies had become the best place in the world to be for it.
A twinge of guilt dampened his mood, from not suggesting they invite Jase to come along too. But his moodiness tended to be unpredictable and he preferred racing cars to planes.
He had this gut feeling that there was something else going on with Jason too, after the way he behaved during a ‘training’ session at Dr. Anderson’s lavish home Mark was ready to punch him. He came close to losing it.
The only thing that stopped was his father’s voice in his head. “That’s not you Mark, you’re better than that…”
Jase came close to making Mark wonder if he was losing it completely. When he asked him, what was wrong Jason shoved him away. “It doesn’t matter now…” He turned he punched the wall hard with his closed fists, then picked up some feather darts and hurled them at the board across the room hitting his target with each one. Dr Anderson appeared impressed…
Mark tried to understand. “Does this have to do with the surprise you said you were bringing back from the Bahama’s…Jason…I know your foster parents--“
“--It’s not about them…it’s about him…I hate him Mark…he abandoned me again.” Jason had angry tears sliding down face, using his arm he wiped them away but it didn’t do him any good. Throwing his last dart Jason stormed from the room.
“Him?” Mark mused quietly- he figured this had to be about someone else who let him down.
His instincts screamed that Jason had more than the death of his foster family to deal with. Could it be that Uncle he spoke of once about a year ago, when Mark noted the photo and asked who the man in the picture was? The one who’s photo sat beside his bed. According to Jason his only living relative who has his eyes and demeanour only older.
Mark looked over at his father- they had been driving for about half an hour heading out of the city towards the airfield his father bought not long after they moved to New York in America from Utoland City.
He loved the time they spent together there…today they hadn’t spoken a word since leaving the hospital. He was grateful for the silence- it allowed him to sort through the mess in his mind about how he was currently feeling about his own life.
He turned off the freeway and after a few more turns they headed down the familiar dirt road that lead to the airfield and the old shack that stood close by. Some weekends they would stay there together just for father and son time- that was before his mother became very ill…
“What’s on your mind Mark.” His dad asked. Not taking his eyes off the road ahead of him for a minute.
“A lot of things…” Mark admitted as they pulled up outside of the shack.
A slow haunted smile spread across his fathers, face. “I know what you mean…how about we talk about it over an engine...something to distract us for a while from our thoughts.”
“Sounds like a plan dad.” Mark felt some of the pressure he’d been feeling over the last few days, ease just at thought of getting grease on his hands. He hoped his dad would suggest they take her up for a test run after they checked the engine of the small plane his dad bought recently.
The thought of soaring through clouds lifted his waning spirits if only a little bit. The thing is he had something he desperately needed to talk to his father about. And he wasn’t sure how to approach it.
“Can you pass me the screw driver?” Dad asked a once he opened the hood to look at the engine.
“Sure dad.” Mark passed him the tool and watched close by how his father tuned in the small plane engine. After a minute his dad looked up at him concerned. “Son, what’s bothering you?”
Mark stared out at airstrip, scuffed the dirt with his sneaker.” Jason’s bad temper!”
That happened to be part of it but not all of it, he could handle, Jason’s hot temper in normal circumstances.
“Mmmm…and?” His dad responded, waiting for Mark to elaborate, he knew him well.
“I know he’s been though, a rough time recently it’s just that he’s so hot headed and touchy about almost everything now.” Mark let it all tumble out.” How can he be…someone I might…who knows depend on one day if he can’t control it?”
“And right now, look whose, talking.” His dad stopped what he was doing and picked up a rag to wipe the slick grease off his hands with disapproval written all over his face.
Mark pursed his lips and he didn’t back down. “I can control my temper dad, just right now I’m mad, and showing how I feel just like you told me too, you told me not bottle it all up...”
His father became thoughtful for a minute. “I know I told you not do that Mark, hold it all in like a time bomb…It’s just that doesn’t sound like the Mark I know…The Mark I know is slow to anger and is a good friend to his best mate during times like this…I also talked to you about control remember son…” Words of wisdom Mark had heard since he was a little boy, it always diffused his anger.
“I…I…dad, he won’t tell me what else’s is upsetting him…I guess I can’t help a friend who won’t talk to me.” Mark confessed- his anger dissipating more into frustration.
“You’re a good friend, give him time to comprehend everything that’s happened in the past few weeks, when he’s ready he’ll talk to you about it. Until then have some patience with him…Jason will come around you’ll see. “His dad ruffled his hair affectionately and smiled. “Let’s, take her up for a flight…this bird is yearning to stretch her legs.”
Mark jumped into the plane before his father could utter another word…starting the engine, the propeller slowly turned with the hum of the engine.
Times like these Mark could almost forget his troubles with the world around him, and become one with the plane.
Sometimes he imagined he was able to fly like a bird, today it didn’t bring him the same joy, tainted with the sadness of his mother dying Mark fought back a tear …
“Want to take us up into air?” His dad taxied the plane to the runway and handed Mark the controls of the small two-man plane.
“Wow…really?” Mark gawked- his heart pounded from the excitement, usually his father did the take-off and landing and he flew for a while under close instruction.
“You can do it Mark, and I’ll be right here if you get into trouble.” He smiled and indicated for Mark to jump into the pilot’s seat as he vacated it.
“Do you mean that?” Mark knew it had a double meaning to it, but something inside of him wanted to be sure his father would always be there for him, he was already losing his mother to some unknown disease.
“Mark, I promise, I always keep my promises.” Mark felt his reassuring hand on his shoulder. Letting out a slightly nervous breath he didn’t dare broach on the other topic that was causing reservations at the moment two people he had a connection to, yet felt like strangers to him.
Ken and Jun…his feeling had become so mixed up about them of late after the last time he spoke to them on the phone he felt so angry that they would say they couldn’t raise him and then get married anyway… and have more kids. Mark pushed his anger about that to the back of his mind he needed to focus on getting the plane off the ground safely.
“Good work.” His dad said proudly after they levelled out over a nearby field, allowing his dad to take back the controls for a while Mark relaxed and enjoyed the wonderful sensation of floating above the Earth, he wondered what it would be like to do it without needing to be inside of a plane…
“Why don’t you want to talk to Ken and Jun anymore?” His dad broke into his thoughts. Mark shrugged to try and make it sound trivial. “Got a lot on at the moment dad, and well, who says I have too? Just because we have the same DNA…” He blurted out.
His father became silent again like he was picking his words carefully. “Mark, we made a promise-“
“-You made those promises not me.” Mark huffed, ungraciously folding his arms he glared at his dad to drive his point home. Now I’m acting like Jason, startled by that thought it forced him to calm down and take control of his emotions and unfold his arms.
His dad didn’t let it go like he hoped he would. “Okay, I get that bit. It’s just that up until now…did they say something to hurt you?”
“No…well…kinda…dad…” Mark drew in a deep breath. This was hard- he didn’t want to say anything that would hurt his parents. Why didn’t they try harder to keep me if they wanted to have a family together, is there any real excuse for giving me away? He thought.
What could have been so bad that they would do it, and have the hid to tell me it was for my protection and not be able to go into details.
I bet Ken beat her up, robbed a bank or something like that. Glancing over at his father Mark remained silent and quickly looked away like his could read his mind.
He felt guilty for thinking that way about his birth father, his dad would never approve. “I don’t know them…not really its, not like they live close.” He finally said.” We talk for an hour once every few months…they have their life and I have mine…with you and mom. I just need some space that’s all.” To sort it out in my own mind, Mark thought to himself.
His father seemed to accept his explanation for now. Knowing his father, he would likely ask if he wanted to visit them later on, Mark already knew his answer to that question too. No.
“Dad…when did you decide to become a fighter pilot?” Mark asked casually to quickly change the topic, and he needed a lead in for something that was important to him and he figured that would be the best way to start.
A warm smile spread across his face. “From time, I was little boy, I watched planes take off from an airport close to home…I just wanted to be on one just know what it was like to float through clouds.”
Mark licked his lips and waited for a second, this might be easier than he thought.
That was until his dad spoke again. “You know my dad hated flying, he never wanted me to be a pilot…them when I told him I wanted to be fighter pilot when I turned eighteen we had a huge argument about it, my mother cried and he told me I’d end up dead if I pursued that kind of career. I should be like him, go into finance- and make my fortune there…safer he said…”
“Then why did you do it? Why not just follow your dad’s advice?” Mark looked for the right angle to come in with his question.
“Because I was so passionate about it, I needed to do it Mark…” His dad sighed sadly. “And that burn to be a fighter pilot almost killed me… and almost made your mother a widow.”
“Oh,” Mark responded, he had a lead in and decided to go with it. “You did it right though, followed your dream and your heart just like you taught me to do.”
His dad’s eyes narrowed suspiciously and so did his tone. “You could say that Mark, depending on your point of view.”
“You wanted to make something of your life…just like me.” Mark blurted out. A heavy silence fell between them.
“Want to take over…do some more flying?” His dad offered. Mark took hold of the controls, his dad watching his every movement making Mark think he has taken the wrong tactic.
“Mark, you’re right I did become a pilot to make a difference…is that what you want to do one day? Become a pilot because you know I understand it’s in your blood so to speak, you know Ken-“
“Stop talking about him. This isn’t about Ken or who I’m supposed to be like dad, you raised me remember.” That was enough for Mark-- didn’t he say he didn’t want to know anything about Ken at the moment.
“Okay.” His dad called truce by holding up his hands and smiling lighting up the atmosphere inside the plane- Mark glided it over the bay and turned them back towards land a few minutes later.
He finally felt safe to ask his father the question that had been hanging over him for weeks. “I want to start training now…Dr Anderson’s recruiting for a special team and he wants me to be the leader…”
“No.” His father said flatly, it took all of Marks efforts to keep his focus on flying, he felt crushed by just that one word.
“What do you mean no dad…you haven’t even said…Son…I’ll think about it…nothing…” Mark couldn’t hide his disappointment.
His dad tried to explain. “Mark, programs for training pilots will always be around- you’re far too young to do anything intensive like I bet Dr Andersons proposing. He’s a good man Mark, but I wish he’d talked to me about it before he spoke to you.”
“Why? It’s my life…mom would let me.” Mark pursed his lips and turned the small plane towards the airfield, he knew the navigation to get them back there by heart.
“And at the moment you’re a minor, not even ten yet, way too young to be training for a special team, whatever Dr Anderson has in mind can wait a few years for you…you have school to finish, and them when you’re eighteen you can go and join the air-force.” He offered.
Eighteen! That’s old and its ages away. Mark thought wildly. Jason was part of the new team now along with a pretty girl they all called Princess, not that he liked girls, or girl germs.
But he had to admit she’s pretty with green eyes and dark hair framing her heart shaped face, Princess was girly and acted it even thought at times she looked incredibly sad. He sat down next her one day and asked her what was wrong and she mentioned her parents died in a car crash and she missed them.
No clue of what to say, he put an arm on her shoulder to comfort her- she smiled through her tears and asked him to be her friend. Mark naturally said yes, even if she is a girl.
Then there was another kid called Tiny who showed up a few days ago…Today they were going into hospital for check-ups Dr Anderson said they are getting implants in just like him and Jason!
“Dad.” Mark asked seriously. “Why do I have this implant in my brain, then if I wasn’t meant to do anything special?”
“Time will tell, I promise I’ll go and talk to Dr Anderson about what he’s proposing…for now son, land the plane…I’ll be here to help you.” The tension between them had dissipated to nothing.
Relaxing, he accepted control of the plane, excitement filled the space of where tension once existed, at least his dad was considering it- he had that much to cling to.
Together they started to go through the landing sequence so they could return to the hospital, and be with the woman they both loved.