Alven Sydney wandered for almost an hour before he found his runaway. He called his wife from a payphone, reassuring her that their eldest child was safe – angry, but safe. He watched as the sullen teen made her way from the pier towards the arts center, where she was expected to be, almost an hour later than the start of lesson that didn’t exist.
“Amelia, I think a different detour might be in order. Don’t worry and don’t wait up.” He paused. “If she’s serious about taking a plunge, maybe I can oblige.”
“The kids would be jealous if they knew,” Amelia told him. “Fine, just don’t get yourself killed.”
Alven made one more call before he returned to the car, pulling up to the front of the center sometime later as though nothing was wrong. Alejandra slammed the door with enough force to rattle the glass. “I hate work. That old bat-.”
“What did we say about-?”
“What do you care? You’re only married to my mother and-.” The teenager stopped the moment Alven turned off the radio.
“What have you been doing all this time?”
Alejandra didn’t answer, picking at the stickers on her notebook. “How long are you grounding me?”
He sighed. “Tonight, we rewrite the rules,” Alven said. “If you want to jump, let’s make the jump worthwhile, shall we?”
“How come you never get mad?”
Alven smiled. “It’s like Einstein said, ‘“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’ It seems to me that most problems come from anger…and running away.”
She ignored him, ejecting the disc from the player only to find it blank. “Let me guess, ‘The Chipmunks’ Greatest Hits,’ right?” She spun it about on her finger a few times before returning it, then tapping the ‘play’ button.
While ‘Flight of the Valkyries’ filled the car, Alven watched Alejandra try to get her bearings. By the time ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ finished, they had arrived at their destination.
Alejandra wrapped her scarf about her. “What-?”
“I believe Albert said, ‘The only source of knowledge is experience.’” Alven stretched himself slowly. “Didn’t you say you wanted to know what it was like to free fall?”
She shoved her hands into her coat pockets. “Dad ordered me never to jump out of a plane, not that Mom will let me take lessons.”
“Wrong. You have money enough for-?”
“I don’t want you paying for it, though. My dream, my savings.”
Alven nodded. “Fair enough. As for diving, we don’t have to have a plane, just a plan.” He led the way to a tall, nondescript, windowless building, holding the door open for her before she could read the cardboard sign.
“Don’t expect me to be the miller’s daughter and spin straw into gold.”
“Then don’t expect me to be some boring professor who has only lived life through books. Let’s go. Bruce is expecting us.”
Alejandra followed him to the top of the stairs, feeling as though they were at least three flights up. “If you’re trying to scare me, it’s working.”
Alven put an arm around his daughter. “You and I are going diving, tonight.”
She shook her head. “That’s nonsense. You’re afraid of heights. You’ve always said-.”
“What I say and do aren’t often two different things. However, if you think you can run and hide from whatever you’re afraid of, I’m telling you – you’re wrong. You can never run away from yourself.”
“Who says I’m doing that,” Alejandra challenged.
Alven was silent as his friend Bruce took charge, explaining the basics of a simple skydive, while the three of them suited up.
Alejandra’s eyes opened wide as she stood at the edge of the wind tunnel below. Alven whispered as best he could, “Chin up, look straight ahead and let go.” He squeezed her hand. “My turn to follow your lead.”
After the lesson was over and another appointment made, Alejandra asked on the drive home, “What was that for?”
“Just following your lead,” Alven repeated. “Fly a plane, drive a speed car, scuba dive, I suspect you’ll rewrite whatever rules you’ve got in your head that are holding you back.”
Alejandra laughed. “I think ‘reckless’ describes you best.”
Alven gave her a side hug. “That’s a start. Sky’s the limit.” He whispered, “And next time you say you’re off to ‘violin lessons,’ be respectful enough to your mother and actually attend some, please?”