Feb 24th 2023
Jose jumped from the third step and landed with a thud on the tile floor. Heavy again. His feet dragged along the tiles as he headed for the kitchen. A breeze puffed the curtains, carrying the heady scent of jasmine. He tried to savor the sweetness, but the air seemed as thick as water.
The curandero said when they were ready to fly, they would become light. For the past week, he’d focused his meditations on freedom and joy, lit luminarias and burned incense. Today, his body might as well be made of lead.
His vid screen buzzed. Jimena appeared, her face flushed. “Jose,” she said, hands waving with delight. “I am light!”
Jose’s breath caught. This was the moment he’d feared since they joined Los Volantes. This intelligent, beautiful woman, this love he didn’t deserve, would learn the secrets to lightness before him. He swallowed the lump in his throat. “We promised to go together, querida. Would you leave me behind?”
“Si, si, we promised and I’d never go without you, but what if I’m never light again? You’ll be light too, Jose. Being near me may be enough. Look.” Jimena stepped back. A blouse tied over a skirt emphasized her slender waist. Her brown eyes glistened with tears. She did a pirouette, arms arched overhead like a ballerina, a curtain of dark hair around her face. She paused, then leaped into the air. Instead of sinking, her bare feet hung above the tiles. Jimena hovered for a moment, then her toes touched the ground.
“Did you see?” She wiped away tears. “Please come, querido! Let’s go together and fly.”
Jimena ran to Jose’s waiting car, a backpack slung across her shoulder. With her hair gathered into a high ponytail, she looked young and innocent, but her eyes shone with knowledge, and something else. To Jose, it seemed like greed.
He bent to kiss her, but she pulled away. “We must hurry.” She settled into the seat. “They gather and I don’t want to miss the first flight of spring.”
Heart aching, Jose nodded. “Can we wait, mi amor? Many Los Volantes never return. We are betrothed. We must go together.”
Arms crossed, she pouted. “If you love me, you will do this. You will be light if you believe. Now drive.”
They drove in silence, out of the city and across miles of bumpy roads. Jose searched for the words to make her change her mind and send them back to the city. He found none.
They reached an iron gate spread across a dirt road. Jose stopped and slid it open. Trees and vines scraped the car as they drove through puddles and muddy ruts. The scent of acacia filled the air. The road ended in a clearing filled with several cars and the curandero‘s rusty van.
Dressed in white and green robes, the curandero greeted them. “Are you light today, children? Will you fly?”
Jimena nodded. “Si. I am light, but not Jose. Can you help us? Can he be light?”
The curandero considered Jose for a moment. “Clear your mind, my son. Picture yourself with her, among the trees. Embrace her joy. Embrace your freedom.”
Jose closed his eyes. He drew a deep breath, savoring the sweet acacia. He imagined twirling with Jimena among the trees, arms and hearts entwined. A trickle of cold water seeped into his boot. His feet sank further into the soggy ground.
Jose tried to swallow, but his throat was dust dry. The curandero took his hands and held his gaze. “You are heavy, my son,” he said. “A burden binds you to the earth. “
Jose fought a wave of despair. “How do I lift this burden?”
“You will know at the proper time, and then you will embrace it, or you will never fly.”
When Jose turned, Jimena had already gone up the path to where the flyers gathered. He stood forgotten as she rushed toward the laughter and shouts of joy. He followed, feet making muddy prints in the ground where her light feet hadn’t left a mark.
The scent of spring blossoms greeted them in a grassy field bordering a winding river. On the far side, stands of acacias formed a wall of soft green and gray. Along the river, people lifted into the air. Some ran with awkward leaps; others merely jumped and caught a breeze. Many laughed, with joy or nerves. A few looked fearful as their feet bounced along the ground, arms flailing.
The experienced ones who had flown before, called to the newcomers. “La Volantes! Be light! Rise and be free of the earth.” One by one they rose, some spinning, others flapping their arms like birds, until they hovered over the treetops. And they danced.
Tears ran down Jose’s cheek. Besides him, Jimena clapped her hands. She threaded her arms through the backpack and secured the strap around her waist. She would leave him and fly away.
Jose fought the quiver that rose in his throat. “Jimena, please. Don’t go without me. Wait and let us go together. Please.” He reached for her, but she pushed him away. What else could he say? “I love you, Jimena. Fly with them today, but return to me. Come back.”
Jimena stroked his face. “I am sorry, querido. Don’t you see? If you are not Los Volantes, we cannot be together.” She took both his hands and squeezed them. “Be happy for me. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
He blinked back tears. She deserved to be happy. If he loved her, he should embrace her joy. “Fly, Jimena. I’m happy for you. I release you from our promise. Be free.”
She ran toward the flyers, her feet lifting now and then. Jose fought the urge to run after her. He took a step forward and then another. “Jimena, wait!” He could beg her to stay, but she wanted to fly more than she wanted him. “Fly, querida! Find your joy,” he whispered, voice breaking.
Then his feet left the ground and he rose toward the trees.
Jose searched for his love, but Jimena was back on earth. She flapped her arms and jumped, but landed with a thud. As Jose hovered, he spotted the curandero. “Jimena is grounded. Why doesn’t she fly?
The curandero shook his head, eyes sad. “The soul must be light for the body to fly.”
Jose tried to return to wait for his love, but as he rose, his heart filled with joy. He soared higher, his soul as light as his body. He caught a glimpse of Jimena standing on the river bank, as he flew up to the trees and began to dance.
Sandra Skalski is an engineer, wife and Mom who scribbles SF and fantasy stories in her spare time.
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