Lifeline: An extract from my novel

Okay, I’ve been busy writing away for the past few years – a chapter here, a chapter there – that sort of thing. Slowly, I am editing it all but, before I go any further, I wanted to publish an extract to gain some feedback. From this below, would you read on?

The extract comes about forty pages into the story and is pivotal for all that follows. I hope you enjoy. 

I propped myself up against the wall and threw my rucksack down beside me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see our aircraft being unloaded and made ready for our departure. Already, we were looking at a thirty-minute delay due to the aircraft being held up on its previous leg.

“Well, Straya certainly threw a curveball,” Simon concluded, folding his newspaper up. It only felt as if I had blinked a few times when the final passenger calls were already being made.

“It did, but it is progress and I’m not complaining,” I nodded and stood up, grabbing my passport out of the front compartment. There was just time for one last check of my mobile.

“Double meaning there?” Sam raised an eyebrow and helped me to hoist my heavy bag over my shoulder. And to think that the rucksack only contained half of my stuff!

“Give over,” I tutted but a warm feeling had engulfed me once more. It had been a theme throughout the day whenever my mind drifted from what I was meant to be fixating on. The tiny components of wheel arches were soon replaced with flashbacks from last night.

“He kept on glancing over at you like he has done for the past… I don’t know how long,” Sam mused as the first class passengers made their way onto the plane. “Too bad you were too bloody engrossed in that sheet of paper.”

“Hold my passport,” I shook my head, tittering as we joined the economy boarding queue. I drew out my phone which was vibrating. The incoming call was from William.

I held my device for a good few seconds as it rattled around the palm of my hand. Accept or decline… well, what he had to say could wait thirty-six hours. He hadn’t made contact in over a week so what use was it now? And if he wanted to know how to sort out the fuse box, then I certainly did not have time for that. He, as far as I was concerned, had not been on my mind since the bruise on my cheek had started to disappear. The initial mark from the picture frame was well and truly gone now and mentally, William was gone now too.

I pressed the little red button and my ringtone stopped. Neither of the boys said anything as I focused on the text from my brother. I really did need to ring him and have a catch up with him when I got to Singapore. I hadn’t spoken to him since qualifying on Saturday. Quite frankly, that felt like a lifetime ago.

Tapping at the keys, I formed a response before looking up to see a rather flustered air-hostess. She hadn’t been waiting that long, surely?

“Passport, boarding card!” She strained a smile as I passed her my documents. Things weren’t that bad, were they?

“Thanks, sorry.” I took them back once they had been stamped and made my way down the tunnel to the plane. Sam had waited for me so I walked the short stroll down the enclosed ramp with him.

“I’m guessing you’re sat with Joel? Wherever the hell he is,” he muttered under his breath as we turned right and proceeded to take our seats in the middle of the economy class cabin. Ten hours and I’d be able to crash in another hotel bed and, more importantly, have a bath.

“Pff, fuck him,” I sighed as I put my put my belongings away in the overhead storage space. The air hostesses were moving around frantically now, typically looking stressed as a small child began to cause a fuss.

“What was that?” I spun around to see Joel frowning as he ignored my struggle to reach the compartment. “Oh by the way…”

“Karin!” Now Evan had appeared as he took his seat in the row behind us. “You sly so and so, bagging yourself-“

“Shut up,” I hissed as my cheeks ignited. He leant over the bridge of seats and planted a kiss on my cheek. The same feeling Matthew gave me was not there.

“I am wanting to know all of the juicy details ASAP, it cannot wait until Singapore, I demand to know now. I need something to take my mind off of this long ass leg now, especially if there’s going to be that much turbulence and another flight. Jeez,” the blonde rattled various things off as he picked up the in-flight magazine. Seriously, I was going to have to get him an ‘OK!’ subscription for his birthday.

“No, you can wait,”  I tutted as he rolled his eyes and let me put my seatbelt on. Sitting in the row of four in the middle of the airbus, we had a lot more room than some of the others on the plane but it was nothing compared to the room they had in business or first class. Still, here felt more like home.

“I can’t wai…” he wailed. Thankfully Jacob had hit him over the head with his magazine and so briefly the mischievous mechanic was quiet.

“Bloody hell, if it means you two won’t keep me awake now during the night…” Joel folded his arms as he reluctantly buckled up next to me. Was it wrong to wish that there should have been a seat reserved for him outside on the wing?

No one said anything to Joel’s unnecessary remark as the cabin was secured for taking off, the mental countdown to landing had already started.

As the safety demonstration played, Evan was being Evan by leaning forward and distracting me, not that I didn’t know the ’emergency briefing’ off by heart by now.

“So go on then, how long will you be in your own bed for?” Evan muttered. I could hear the smirk coming through in his voice. “Unless you have already sealed the deal with him.”

I didn’t say anything as the pilots warned us of the turbulence that we’d encounter flying over Asia, but there was nothing new there. The route back to Singapore was rarely smooth.

As the plane began to taxi to the runway I had one last check of my phone. William had left a voicemail. I strongly ignored that as I replied back to Thomas, my younger brother. My phone buzzed instantly… he spent far too much time on his iPhone.

I’ll give you a ring when you touch down later, give me a text when you do. Safe trip as always, try not to kill Joel.

I stifled a giggle as the man himself peered over my shoulder to read my message. I shielded my mobile away from him, leaning closer to Sam as I fumbled to reply in time. The plane was gathering speed now.

I sat back and relaxed, ready to embark on, admittedly, a daydream which would make the journey time fly by. No, of course, Matthew would not be thought about. Much.

I was incredibly tired by the time we boarded our connecting flight in Jakarta. So tired that I wasn’t even excited about being in a new country. Sam was a nervous wreck upon spotting who we were flying with and I was living off the smile Matthew had given me as our eyes met at the gate.

I was putting my rucksack away in the overhead compartment as the Australian approached me. The nerves hit me heavier than the force of the rain which was pounding the aircraft. It was raining, hard.

“Hey,” I spoke, letting Sam squeeze by and sit down next to the window. Unfortunately, I had Joel next to me again.

“Karin,” Matthew smiled and looked back down the aisle. Almost everyone was seated now. Despite our late group booking, the flight was still half empty. “Are you free tomorrow morning for a coffee?”

“I am, yes,” I answered, watching his eyes glint. The dimples on his cheeks had appeared again. “I’ll text you when we get to the hotel.”

“Sure,” he settled and gave me one final look before walking back down the cabin to take his seat next to his personal trainer.

“Because he couldn’t wait another two hours to speak to you!” Samuel mused, sniggering.

“Leave them be!” Simon replied from the row behind. Evan then made a typical remark which made me blush even more. Like before, Jacob whacked him over the head with a magazine.

With just under an hour left to go before touchdown in Singapore, the cabin lights had dimmed as effectively it was night time on the ground. The crew had passed through the space with our ‘snack bag’ some time ago and they’d be around in a few moments to collect the rubbish before we started to descend. Actually, scrap that, it seemed as if we were beginning to descend already. I stretched out my back as the aircraft bumped around in the turbulence. Seemingly the talk of a storm had been correct. That should make landing a fun one.

“Awake?” Sam glanced across to me as I took off my seatbelt. I really needed to use the toilet before they were closed for landing.

“I’m awake, I’ll be back in a minute.” I stood up and steadied myself on the chair in front, trying not to wake Joel (who was asleep for once). Maybe all of his late night action had caught up with him. I mean, he didn’t exactly do anything else.

I walked the few rows up to the centre of the aircraft where the cabin crew were immersed in conversation. One smiled as they spotted me. Crikey, she was looking stressed. Her once immaculate uniform was rather creased and crumpled.

Making it into the ridiculously small space, I locked the door and was then instantly met with my reflection in the mirror. Well, I was thankful that I hadn’t put any makeup on myself that morning.

I peered at the glass, leaning in closer to examine the incredibly faint mark that was left on my face. Unfortunately, my plans soon had to change as the plane bumped around a lot more viciously. It was beginning to lurch much more. Steadying myself on the towel dispenser, I was thrown completely as it felt like we were really dropping. Still, it was nothing completely out of the ordinary. I splashed some cold water on my face, waiting for the turbulence to pass before I even attempted to wrestle with the belt on my jeans. I gave it a few more seconds before I decided to give up and wait until the bad weather had eased. I unlocked the door to be met with the same air hostess. She really didn’t look too happy behind her thick layer of makeup. She glanced at her watch as I looked at mine too, we still had around forty minutes to go. I was mainly just tired now and I wanted my feet to be on firm ground.

As I sat back down in my seat, more of the guys were awake and they too were checking the time. This was all part of our usual jet lagged routine. I didn’t bother to buckle up since when the trembling eased I planned to make another dash to the toilet. The leftover water in my plastic cup had gone everywhere. I blame those bloody cumulonimbus clouds. Perhaps Emirates had been very wise to cancel their flight earlier!

Sam turned to me as I sighed and the plane banked to the right.

“I don’t like this,” Sam muttered as he stretched out. Very good with composites, not so good with being forty-thousand feet up.

“Don’t like what?” I replied as he leant in marginally closer to me. The plane was now bouncing around a lot. If people had been asleep beforehand then they were definitely awake now. Children were crying.

“This,” he reiterated as the plane dropped. I’d explained air pressure a number of times to him but, still, my explanations didn’t satisfy him for long. “You know who we’re flying with!”

“Right, so when the pockets of air…” I began as I yawned.

“Shh.” He elbowed me suddenly as there was an announcement from the flight deck.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you may notice that we are now beginning our descent into Changi International Airport. The weather is stormy and we are doing our best to work with it. Bear with us. The seatbelt signs are now on as we have requested to decrease our altitude to avoid the worst of the weather.” And that was it, the first flight officer concluded as Sam’s expression became more terrified.

“Fucking ‘decrease altitude slightly’,” Sam gulped – his leg was twitching. “That is what woke you up from sleeping, that is why I gave you a look.”

“For crying out loud, Sam, just relax!”

“Alright, alright,” he stuttered as Simon woke with a start behind us. Jesus, everyone needed to calm down.

The pilots seemed to have sorted out the problem. Well, they hadn’t put the seat belt sign on so I took that as an opportunity to try and use the toilet again.

“You’re mad, sit down!” Sam intercepted as I got up to go.

“Would you rather me wetting myself over you?” I rolled my eyes, “Sam, seriously, the cabin crew are still moving around. Do they look as panicked as you?”

I said my sentence at totally the wrong time as the plane rocked and a cascade of screams echoed throughout.

Powering on anyway, I attempted to walk towards the front end of the plane to see if the air hostesses were faring better down there. I’d catch a glimpse of Matthew too.

“Karin, don’t you go anywhere,” Sam warned, unintentionally waking Joel. Bad move.

“Sam, stop threatening, this thing is state of the art,” I sighed and squeezed my way back into the aisle.

“Our fucking car is meant to be state of the art but that still breaks,” Joel groaned as Simon finally removed his earphones.

“I am quite capable of walking a few metres, I have managed enough times already,” I snapped as it seemed Joel was going to be determined to ruin my good mood, again.

I used the chairs to edge up the cabin until I sensed I was getting looks from the other passengers. I locked eyes with the same air hostess who was gripping onto the headrest in front of her. She broke away as the phone was ringing. The plane lurched uncontrollably to go into what seemed like a dive, and I fell forward as the cabin was filled with gasps. Maybe now my heart was beginning to beat a fraction faster. No flight that I had been on had ever done this before.

“Karin, I told you!” A strong pair of hands were placed on my shoulders which then proceeded to help me up. I didn’t need help; I could manage on my own. Especially if the help was coming from him.

“Get…off…me, Joel,” I stuttered but he didn’t release his grip. He was marching me back to my seat where everyone was now awake and looking extremely uncomfortable.

“No, just come and buckle up,” he persisted. This plane was making an awful sound.

“I’m not being funny but I really don’t want to adhere to your advice.” I flung my hand out as the plane went into yet another steep bank. Those pilots in charge of this thing had better know what they’re doing. No, of course they did.

“Please.” Joel’s face grew desperate as he tightened his grip to stop himself from falling. The cabin crew were urgently securing things now.

I looked at Joel and then across to Evan who wasn’t smiling at all. He was on his phone. Actually, most of the people seated were on their phones. Was I missing something?

“Karin, I’m not purposely a shit to you,”  Joel was talking as a last ditch attempt. This runway must have only been kilometres away. “You just let people get away with murder all of the time.”

“Oh piss off.” I tried to shake him off but he was making sure that I got back to my seat, “you enjoy being a total arsehole.”

“Now is not the time for this.” He forced my shoulders down into my designated chair as Sam took hold of my hand.

“Why not?”

“Karin, just listen to me! Put your seatbelt on, alright. You’re a great person, I just want you to know that, whatever your story is,” Joel stuttered as my phone went flying from the tray table.

Maybe this was getting serious now. No, just coming into land that is all. A totally normal, routine flight. All went quiet for a split second as the plane stopped roaring, or making any noise for that matter. Sadly, I knew what that meant. As did everyone else. Sam’s hand was quivering on mine as Joel leant forward to pick up my mobile. We were dropping at a terrifying rate. I wanted to get off this thing as soon as possible. Where were the lights of the runway? They were nowhere to be seen out of the window blind that one woman was hastily shutting.

Everything seemed to slow but I knew whatever was happening, was happening at an alarming speed. The aircraft was trembling, I was trembling. Sam was silent whilst Joel was still fussing with my phone.

“No, this can’t happen to Thomas!” I cried, realising what was going on at last. There were no lights. The cabin was immersed in darkness except the glows of mobile devices. Everywhere was black apart from that. Sam looked across to me as Joel sat back up, even he had given up now.

“Karin, it’s alright,” Evan called from behind but his voice was anything but level. “We’ll be alright.”

My breathing became ragged as we all waited for an announcement. Anything. Just something.

Sam’s knuckles were turning white as Simon remained silent apart from his breathing. I knew he had his eyes shut tight and his chest was rising and falling rapidly.

“This is the captain, brace for impact,” was the last message from the flight deck that came. They had done all they could. “Brace, brace, brace,” the voice repeated.

“God, I love you,” I whispered, taking in one final breath, unsure of who my message was aimed at. This could not be real. Tragedy could not strike me twice. I, my family, had never recovered from what had happened. William flashed through my mind but he was not the person I was thinking about besides my brother and parents. My mind was too clouded to make out the other figure that was in my imagination for a fraction of a second.

“Brace, Karin!” Sam responded, letting go of my hand to hold both of his ankles.

And, so saying my final goodbyes, that is what I did, what we all did.

I shut my eyes, plunging my world into further darkness. I braced.

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