Home > Tilly in Technicolor(4)

Tilly in Technicolor(4)
Author: Mazey Eddings

My jaw has plummeted through the floor of the plane at this point as I continue to stare at him.

Umm, what fresh hell is this? He thumps me on the head with his sharp and gorgeous chin then tells me to ice it? He didn’t even ask if I’m okay. Hot Lad? I’m sorry, more like Hot … Wanker. Or … git! Or whatever other words mean jerk.

I huff, crossing my arms over my chest and looking at the cracked pleather of the seat in front of me.

Call it clairvoyance, call it intuition, but I have a feeling this is about to be a very, very long flight.



Chapter 4

Eye Contact and Other Hard Things



I keep feeling the eyes of my peculiar seatmate on me. I can always feel when people look at me, and, more often than not, it’s horribly uncomfortable. There are a handful of people that I’ve never had an issue making eye contact with, like my mums or my sister, and even fewer people I’ve built up comfort with over time. But, generally, locking eyes with a stranger makes my skin crawl and my soul feel like it’s being pulled out of my body it’s so intense.

Teachers used to try to get me to hold their gazes, saying it was good practice for me to build social skills, and I’d always end up crying, squeezing my eyes shut and clutching my chest like my heart would punch out of it.

Mum and Mãe put a stop to that as soon as they found out.

“They don’t have the right to make you feel uncomfortable to fit their ideas of what’s proper,” Mãe had told me, holding my cheeks between her hands. “You don’t have to look at anything you don’t want to, amorzinho,” she’d added, kissing me on the cheek. Although she moved from Lisbon to London years ago, her Portuguese endearments always roll richly and readily off her tongue.

So, following Mãe’s advice, I avoid eye contact most of the time. And interacting with people feels all the more comfortable for it.

I continue to focus on the view outside my window as everyone on the plane bustles about. I’m actually rather sad to be leaving Cleveland. As much as I’d doubted Ohio’s offerings before my trip, my two weeks spent interning with the Cleveland Art Museum’s curators and exhibit designers were incredible.

The background hum of the airplane grows as we start to taxi across the runway, and I grind my teeth together. This is the worst part about traveling. I don’t know how neurotypicals so easily ignore the deafening drone of electricity in spaces like planes or kitchens or … pretty much anywhere, when I feel like the dissonance is cutting my nerve endings open. My leg starts bouncing, fingers tapping at my side, focusing that jarring energy into my movements.

I reach for my backpack, pulling out my headphones and slipping them on, my brain breathing a sigh of relief as the din is muffled. I can still hear some of the static hum, but it’s better, and I fix my eyes outside, peacefully drowning in all the colors.

I quiz myself on their names, my favorite way to calm my buzzing brain. The large poles down the runway are Pantone 15–1360, Shocking Orange; the vests of the people moving across the tarmac in small vehicles are 13–0630, Safety Yellow. There are calmer colors, too—sooty blues and gentle browns—all creating a soothing harmony through my limbs.

The plane turns and picks up speed. I watch the black slashes of tar blur into a beautiful flow against the gray asphalt as we barrel down the runway.

We take off, and I press closer to the window, watching the world change from large and imposing to a soft palette of color.

The roads turn into a miniature web as we go higher, the veins of the city weaving until they give way to blocks of lush-green and golden-brown fields. It’s one of those perfect days for flying, where I can see the landscape spread beneath me like a colorful quilt that doesn’t disappear until we reach the misty clouds.

Everything goes white as we soar into the cloud layer. I always hold my breath for this part. It’s mesmerizing and terrifying to be surrounded by the culmination of every hue; the intensity of everything that makes the world colorful combining into the brightness and sharpness that is white.

And then, just when I think I’ll get lost in the clouds—lost in that endless ocean where every color exists all at once—we pop out into a brilliant blue. Today, the sky matches Pantone 2190. A soft blue. Delicate. Deep. I decide I like it.

I grab my phone, taking a picture of the vast sea of sky with soft puffs of white cushioning the world beneath us. I’ll post it when I land.

“Damn, your phone has a nice camera.”

I jump out of my skin, the closeness of the voice and the breath sliding across the back of my neck jolting me from my thoughts and plunking me back into my seat. My phone shoots from my hand, and I fumble for it, batting at it as it arcs through the air. The corner of it lands smartly on the bridge of my nose, and I groan, cupping my hands over my face and hoping there’s no blood.

“Oh shit, my bad,” my seatmate says, panic in her loud voice. She leans closer to look at me, invading my space even further. “Are you okay?”

Her words are muffled through my headphones, but the pitch of her voice somehow travels through. I tug them down.

“I’m fine,” I mumble, trying to blink back sharp pokes of tears at my stinging nose.

“You sure? Sounded like your nose crunched when your phone hit it.”

I’m tempted to tell her that I’m thoroughly concerned I won’t make it off this flight without being permanently maimed by her, but I have a feeling that isn’t the politest way to phrase it, so I grunt in response.

There’s another pause, and I feel her stare on me again.

“You’re sure sure you’re okay?” she whispers. “Because I can track down some ice.”

“Please stop asking,” I grind out, glancing up at her.

The girl flinches like I smacked her. She blinks at me, and, oddly enough, my gaze gets caught on her eyes. I wouldn’t call this eye contact though. No. It’s more of an … analysis. Her irises are a fascinating shade of gray, the color charged like the underbelly of storm clouds illuminated by a streak of lightning. Pantone 536, I think.

“What’s your name?” she asks.

My eyes finally unhook from the intensity of hers and land safely on her cheek.

“Oliver,” I say. There’s a pause.

“Oliver.” She repeats it like she’s trying out how it feels on her lips. “Well, Oliver, I’m Tilly. And I think maybe we didn’t have the greatest start to this trip.”

I don’t say anything in response because, yes, that’s rather obvious. I notice splotches of pink rise on her cheeks as the silence stretches on. I’m probably supposed to be filling it with small talk. I’d, quite literally, rather dump a boiling pot of tea on my head than expend the energy small talk takes.

“Anyway,” she says, her hands fluttering up and hovering in the air. “I guess we both need to … er … keep a stiff upper lip on this one there, right-o?” she says in a horrible attempt at what, I think, is supposed to be a British accent.

“Sorry, what?”

Tilly’s hands land on her throat like she’s trying to stop the babble of words coming out, but the accent continues.

“Right. Cheerio. Just taking the piss,” she continues, slipping into something that’s close to … Cockney? What the devil is she on about?

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