Featured Fiction
// Tembra-Lynn Blair

I love airports. Not in a, I-think-they’re-nice sort of way, but the full out, plane-take-offsleave- me-breathless-and-check-in-makesme- giddy. I love the array of international magazines, and bringing light reading material, like that book I’ve been meaning to start for a while now but just haven’t quite gotten the chance to. It’s the thought of seeing the city I’m landing in from above, splurging on duty-free gum that may or may not actually be cheaper, and exploring all those special parts in terminals that nobody else can see without a ticket. The shops have everything, the candy is better, and the energetic hustle – view of the – and bustle – tarmac – boarding call – exhilarating!

It’s here, at the airport, taking in my surroundings, pen flourishing across the page when I know, naturally, the idea for my application. The setting is perfect, and like the opening credits of a movie, my future is beginning. My thoughts are falling into place, there are goose bumps on my arms, and the upbeat promise of what success means is surrounding me, motivating me to that first neuron spark.

Okay. You’ve got this. Part D, Berkeley 2005 Requirements for Original Composition (for full list of instructions see page 2). 2500 words. Topic: Dreams. Here goes:
I bet nobody’s done this before.
April 2015
Dear Journal, We arrived, early of course, and pulled into the loading zone, greeted warmly by the winding line of carts, baggage piles, and the desert stillness before the heat of the morning sun. The lights of the overhead walkway towards the terminal felt almost intimate. My suitcases rolled along the pavement, grumbling, as if still tired, one in Lily’s hand, one in mine. I looked at her; she caught my gaze and I grinned.
I loved early rising on travel days, the way I love fireplaces and a book on rainy afternoons...waking up before day break, the sun ascending with my anticipation. The suitcases switched to a purring, like engines of our adventure, revving softly as the ground smoothed near the entrance.

My backpack swayed on my shoulders, the weight reminding me of the length of our flight and where we were going. Wait, no, oh that’s right, Lily’s sport bag was slung around one shoulder and my purse was on the other. No wonder it was so heavy! That was trip two, with carry-ons, Lily’s luggage and an extra sweater in case the air-conditioning was too cold on the plane, tied around my hips in a way that could only be fashionable in airports. None the less!

I looked up. Oh, the signs! Arrows pointing this way and that.

Hang on; wouldn’t we have used a cart? Just go with it. Think more, write less. No! I mean, write less think – other way – write – less – more! International. Domestic. Car Rentals. Arrivals. Departures. Currency Exchange! “Yesss,” I said quietly, gasping, heart leaping and fluttering into my throat. We’d definitely need that. This was really happening. A feature film, and shooting on location, in Italy!

“Thank you Berkeley!” I thought. That school had been the perfect fit for me. The superb selection of fine arts courses, particularly in film, my passion and my major, coupled with my ambition, had successfully led me here to the Palm Springs International Film Festival for the debut of my first original short. Oh, how it had been wonderful.
Great plug. I smile proudly at the page.

Lily reached out and grabbed my hand. Turned to page two. Always, always a love interest. Where was that, A-ha! Please show proficiency in creating chemistry between characters. So typical. But of course.

Her grey Paramount Pictures sweatshirt was pulled up to her elbows. Her forearm grazed then rested against mine so softly my body tingled. She paused, tucking her hair behind her ears, checking our tickets, and when we interlocked hands again.
Is that really … can hands interlock? Wouldn’t that mean that – What would that look like? Only the fingers? Same? Godammit Allison, Google it later.
I tugged her towards me, pulling her in close as she giggled, blonde hair tumbling over blue eyes. She swept it back as she stopped, resting against my side. I slipped my hand into the small of her back, caressing it, and then held her, blinking as I met her eyes. She ran her fingers up my arm and tilted her head forward doing that thing where it looked like she was about to say something, then the corner of her mouth turned up, and she had that expression she gets where it seemed as though she was going to cry or burst out laughing and was trying to contain herself from doing either. Then, “I love you, you know.”

I held her gaze, looking into her eyes, and raised my eyebrows, saying, “You too.”
A passerby stopped, and I blushed. Her hand touched my cheek softly and our lips met. I grasped her sweatshirt, breathing in, closing my eyes, then rested my chin on her shoulder as she wrapped her arms around me and I put my face into her hair, her cheek against my ear, strawberry shampoo mingling with my Nina Ricci perfume.

I want – That was chemistry right? – now – My pen paused – So – foot tapping, hand squeezing – beautiful – Should I – Dizzy feeling – make it more – Breathe! I sucked air – erotic? No, samplers only, or else, let me into the program Berkeley! – Body tense, rigid – There’s a lot more where that came from! – like in preparation for – What would she really look like? – Normal – I could feel her now, touching me, lovingly, passionately, gently – her body on mine – she’d care about me – embracing – Read in-between the lines, my eyes – running her fingers through my hair – in the rain – cuddling – and want me. Romantic – Wrap her arms around my waist – wouldn’t let go – touch her – coddling – her body telling me – she’d listen – her voice so – wouldn’t judge me – tingling now – not disgusting, fucked-up pig – whatever I had to – or weird – say. It wouldn’t be awkward, it would just happen. It would be perfect, like Naomi and Emily in or Spencer and Ashley in . Maybe she’d be an actress, super down to earth, not like that stupid – that’s why, I was crying. I’d never get tired of spending – so – time – empty – with her. Not mundane – Always, when I needed her – nothing gross. We’d – Hours together, safe, free – a drop.

Thirsty. A sip of water, another, rearrange pencils, too much. Stretch. Keep it moving. C’mon, don’t freeze. You can do this. It’ll all happen when – don’t think – much – about that! – pressure! Sorry. Okay. Focus. Bring on Berkeley. Get back into the mindset. This whole thing about dreams … the residences would be SO much fun!

Not like: “You’re going to have an awfully hard time making friends you know. You can’t just leave your dishes in the sink there.” I won’t, I’ll … “It’ll be a wakeup call all right. They’ll hate you. You’re disgusting, Allison. And everyone else knows how to …” I do, I just forget; – “Lazy. Don’t tell them – If they knew – I wouldn’t …” Shut up. Shut up! Instant friends, always someone to do something with … Shopping together, the common rooms, sharing clothes … then by the time – I’d have these best – so close – Ah … it’d be very … Yes, exactly like that. Run their fingers through my hair like you would a – could touch – braiding. We’d – and I’d be the product of a girl who went to sleepovers as a kid – like camp – not sexual – trust – could drink again and would – not self-conscious – anxious – nervous – talking. They’d hold me if I needed to cry – know me – slap – it wouldn’t get in the way – me, playfully when we were joking around – ask about my day – know when I was lying – call. On campus I’d play Frisbee in-between classes on the lawn. I’d go for a run in swag I’d bought from the bookstore, sprinting down University Boulevard. Yeah, I’d totally have to buy a sweatshirt on the first day, and hang one of those pennants in my dorm room: Berkeley represent! I’d put a string of lights up like Ashley Tisdale as Savannah does in too! Oh, and my roomies, we’d have movie nights, it’d be okay if they – and sneak into the swimming pool – laughing – like that trailer for – so exciting!

Okay, okay focus. The sliding glass doors opened with our second load of luggage and I waved goodbye to the Palm Trees of Palm Springs … Always show gratitude. Umm … … thankful for the experience, ready for the ruins of Rome, as we were hit with a gush of cold air, already blasting in preparation for the crayon meltable sun.

// Tembra-Lynn Blair, Writer
// Illustration by Lydia Fu

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