Deleted Hot Air Balloon Scene

A note from Cidney:

A Flight in Time was a really hard book for me to get “just right.” In the end, I cut over 70 pages that had  never quite worked, and that meant writing a new 70 that did work. It was so disheartening at the time, but I ended up with a story I loved, so it was worth it!


As she drove DaVinci south to Los Angeles, where they would be picking up Halley and Edmund, Jillian found herself in the strange position of having to calm DaVinci’s fears about flying in a balloon.

“And how did you come up with this crazy idea?” asked DaVinci.

“Well, I didn’t, actually.” She explained about Marva the gate agent.

“So this is sort of like horseback riding. Like how you used to say after a fall, you’ve got to get back on that horse.”

“I guess,” said Jillian. It was true she’d had a couple of “falls” when she’d been unable to get on a plane.

“Except for the part where here, we would fall out of the sky instead of the saddle,” said DaVinci.

Jillian frowned and gripped the steering wheel more tightly.

“That was a joke. In very poor taste.”

“I know. I should have laughed. That was rude of me—”

“Oh, my God, Jillian. You’re not seriously apologizing. I was the one who exhibited poor judgment.” DaVinci, her red-gold hair backlit by sunshine streaming through the window, was frowning. “So, it’s not going to happen, right? The part about … falling?”

“No. I’m sure of it.” And somehow, she was. “How could anything aeronautic go wrong on Wright Brothers Day?”

DaVinci turned to face her, eyebrows raised.

“That’s an actual … thing? Wright Brothers Day?”

“It commemorates the day they first flew. December 17,” explained Jillian. “It’s the reason for the air show.”

“Oh. Oh, right. Wright Brothers Day. Who knew?”

“Branson did.”

DaVinci sighed. “Branson.” She patted the picnic basket at her feet, which Branson had packed for them, complete with a thermos of his best homemade hot cocoa, as the southern California temperatures had plunged to a dismal 52 degrees.

They stopped in LA to collect Halley and Edmund, and by 5:45, they were in the line of cars waiting for the gates to open. By 6:45, they were boarding one of several hot air balloons offering rides.

Halley had protested loudly when she found out Jillian had prepaid. “I’m the only one of us who’s gainfully employed. And your parents are cutting you off—”

“Consider it your Christmas present,” said Jillian, interrupting.

They approached their balloon where the four were given instructions for take off and landing, after which they boarded the basket. DaVinci, upon feeling the basket tip and sway, nearly got out, but Halley convinced her to stay.

“We’re doing this for Jillian, okay?”

DaVinci pouted but remained aboard.

No one was surprised ten minutes later when she turned out to be the most enthusiastic flyer of the small group.

“This is incredible! You can see everything from up here. Look how tiny the people are! Look at the planes down on the ground! They look like model aircraft! This is incredible. Edmund—how can you be silent about this?”

Edmund, a small smile playing on his face, said, “It is wondrous.”

At his side, Halley murmured, “Wonderful.”

“Most wonderful,” agreed Edmund after nodding his thanks to Halley for the word choice correction.

Jillian knew Edmund had asked Halley to correct his English, but she was a little sorry to see his odd English slowly disappearing. Moments like this, where he was amazed by something, were still good for catching him speaking like an Elizabethan earl instead of a blond surf rat, which was what DaVinci insisted he looked like—minus the tan. Edmund still had difficulty believing it was safe to walk around without a shirt, exposing large swathes of skin to the “dangers” of vapors and miasmas of the air.

Jillian crossed to a corner of the basket, straddling the pressurized canister, and leaned out as far as she could. The air was colder up here, and she was glad she’d bought the rather cheesy and seriously overpriced aviator cap and goggles from a vendor below. DaVinci had persuaded her, reminding her that “that final month’s allowance isn’t going to spend itself, you know.”

Jillian felt herself relaxing as they drifted in near silence over the hubbub far below. She saw other balloons, brightly striped or chevroned, on either side of them, some higher, some lower. It was as peaceful as a sunset sail. As peaceful as riding at dawn. She could understand the appeal. She could write treatises on the appeal. She just couldn’t take that appeal and cart it over to her feelings about airplanes. Telling herself to let it go, to enjoy the moment, Jillian turned her face into the gentle breeze and simply focused on the peace, the quiet, the beauty.

All too soon, the balloonist announced they would begin their descent in five minutes. Halley came to stand beside Jillian.

“Thank you,” she said, giving Jillian a one-armed hug. “This is probably the most incredible thing I’ve ever done.”

Halley reached over and squeezed Jillian’s hand where it rested on the rim of the basket. “So what’s your next step?”

“Well …” She chewed her lower lip. “I made an appointment to see my doctor and discuss alternatives to Valium, which made me sick when I was a kid, the last time my parents had me fly.”

“Children can take Valium?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure. We were in Europe at the time, though, so maybe US regulations didn’t apply?”

Halley shrugged.

After another minute passed in silence, the balloonist announced they were commencing their descent.

“So,” said Halley, “Drugs, huh?”

Jillian felt an uncomfortable prickle on her palms. “It’s not the optimal solution.”

“No, no. If that’s what you want, maybe it’s exactly the optimal solution.”

“What I want is to be able to get on a plane without being afraid. On my own. Without medication.”

“Oh.” Halley was quiet for several minutes.

As the balloon drifted lazily down, Jillian noticed she couldn’t even sense that they were dropping in elevation. It just looked as if the ground and all the objects on it were gradually growing.

“Is it so much to ask?” murmured Jillian. “To conquer a phobia?”

Halley’s lips pulled into a thin line. “You can totally tell me to shut up,” she said, “But I think you were on to something with your de-sensitization approach. It’s how my online support group has me working with Mom. With how Mom gets under my skin, I mean. I’m learning to become less and less sensitive to what triggers me in that relationship.”

“I bought an app that was supposed to do something like that, but it didn’t work. The visualizations just didn’t work for me.”

“Visualization can be a powerful tool,” said Halley. “We use it in our group. Maybe you’re not visualizing the right things?”

Jillian shrugged. “Maybe. My theory is that I’m the kind of person who has to experience things herself. In real life.”

“Hence the ballooning,” said Halley.

“Did you just use ‘hence’ in a sentence?”

Halley rolled her eyes. “Oh, I’m the worst. I’m saying ‘aye’ instead of yes, like, so often that the shop crew call me Cap’n Hal.”

Jillian laughed. “Cap’n Hal. I like it.”

Halley rolled her eyes again.

“Okay, everyone,” called the pilot, “Landing positions, please, just like we practiced on the ground.”

Jillian assumed a crouching position and grabbed a rope. The balloon skidded along the grass, bumping along. Jillian found herself laughing after the first bump, laughing even harder after the second and third. It was fun. As much fun as she’d ever had in the arena with Bucephalus, in fact.

Who was she kidding? She didn’t want to merely “survive” a flight over the Atlantic, drugged up so high she couldn’t remember any of it. She wanted to enjoy a flight over the Atlantic.

She needed a better plan. [end of scene]

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