“If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving is not for you”. Brian grinned inwardly as he read the flyer advertising a parachuting course at a local airfield. He liked the droll humour of the advert and this was just the kind of challenge a young,gun in his position ought to be pursuing to maintain the interest of the stockbroker’s daughter to whom he was engaged.
Ah, Janice! She of the long hair and the longer legs, the seemingly unattainable dream of every fellow graduate in his year. But he had done it. He had wooed her and ultimately won her over with a combination of suave charm, Michelin-starred dinners and the not inconsiderable attraction of the very expensive red sports car the trust fund had financed for him.
Next day the very expensive red sports car was at the airfield, parked outside the hanger housing the skydiving school. Brian sauntered inside and as his eyes adjusted to the gloom he saw the elderly, high winged Cessna, the battered desk, chair and filing cabinet in the corner, but most of all he saw rising from behind the desk some elderly, battered overalls filled by something that was all too obviously neither of these things.
“Hello”, smiled the vision sweetly, “Can I help you?”
“I want lessons. I’ve bought a parachute. Is the boss in?”
“You’re looking at her.”
“You own all this?”
“If you don’t count being up to your ass in finance then, yeah, I own all this.”
Brian looked around again. The wings of the Cessna seemed almost to be drooping with age as its vital fluids leached slowly onto the hanger floor.
“Nice setup. When can I start?”
“The sooner the better, frankly. The bank’s all over me like a rash. I need some money, like soon.”
“Saturday. Come at ten. I’ll tell Andy.”
Saturday eventually came and was warm and cloudless. To Brian’s satisfaction, Andy turned out to be a mournful youth working to build up flying hours for his commercial licence and who, without any enthusiasm, went through the checks and dragged the Cessna into the sky for yet another morning of straight-and-level flight interspersed with interminable landings.
The first jump was a tandem affair and he relished the first thrill of her closeness, her harness clipped to his as they hurtled earthward. That was it. He was hooked, and not only on parachuting. Further lessons followed with increasing frequency until barely a day did not find him driving with increasing eagerness to the airfield.
He arrived home late one evening – too late. It had long since gone dark. He poured a Scotch and slumped onto a sofa.
“Where have you been?” Janice was curled into an armchair and flicking distractedly through a magazine.
“Oh, just rehearsing the drills for tomorrow. It’s my first solo jump.”
“That’s nice. You seem to enjoy it”
“I do. Sorry it takes up so much time.”
“That’s all right. I’m tired. I’m off to bed now.”
Next morning found him crouched in the open door of the brand new Cessna he had bought for her, the wind whipping his face as he waited for the signal to jump. He went through all his checks remembering what she had taught him these past weeks and knowing that she would be watching and waiting for him on the ground. The green light flashed and he dropped out.
“Stabilise. Stretch those arms. Feel for balance. Wow! This is good. What a feeling! I’m flying! Check the altimeter. Ten seconds to go. Five…four…three…two…one… Pull!”
“Emergency chute. Pull!!”
“Oh, God! She knows. She knows what’s been going on. She knows about the plane. Why did I do it? Why did I……….?
The day after the funeral the very expensive red sports car drew up where Brian had first seen the skydiving advert. A beautiful woman with long hair and longer legs got out of the driver’s seat, gently kissed the young pilot beside her and, with a slight smile playing around her lips, slowly and deliberately sellotaped another flyer beside the original. “For sale”, it read, “One parachute. Never opened. Small stain.”