Message From Above

by Aidee Ladnier


“Heads up!”

Stan stumbled to a stop, looking right and left to determine where the warning came from.

“Up, up!”

He shaded his brow with a hand and squinted into the sunshine. A dark outline against the blue sky waved at him from atop the pole ahead. The figure tossed something down at him. He could barely make out the speck floating on a whisper of breeze. Stan dove to catch it.

A tiny paper bird alighted in his palm.

Stan pinched his fingers around the tail and lifted it to inspect the origami crane.

“Open it.” The gentle voice urged him from above.

Stan inspected the paper bird, looking for a place to unravel the intricate folds. With a pang of regret, his fingers scrabbled at the edge and straightened out the slip of paper. Written in block script the words, “Does Frieda have chicken and dumplings for lunch?” marched across its surface.

Huh?

Stan looked back up.

“Well?” The voice floated back down to him.

Stan cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted to the sky. “Yes.”

“Great. I’ll come down.”

Stan watched the figure move to the side of the platform and gather skirts to walk down the rungs welded into the side of the pole.

It was only then that he noticed the sign pounded into the ground nearby. Black letters and tiny clouds painted on the blue face announced, “Gigi of the Flagpole. Watch out for falling origami. Paper cranes are lucky!”

Bobby had told him about the woman who sat high above the Moonlight Market, raining down tiny folded paper animals that the visitors fought over below. Stan hesitated. He was new to the Market this year, just moved in with his sister and brother-in-law. He’d jumped at the chance to earn his keep when Bobby offered to pay him to help with the fairground security. Stan had spent the whole morning cooped up in the security office, manning the walkie-talkies and communicating information and problems between the walking members of the team. Although he’d graduated from physical therapy, he still stumbled with a limp after the motorcycle accident that mangled his leg. Bobby planted him the chair and told him not to move, but a morning of little exercise left him aching and in need of a short walk. He hadn’t realized the Market performers would already be out as well since the sun shone high in the sky. They only came out in the moonlight, right? Like fey creatures too shy to be seen by daylight mortals?

Stan waited below the pole, unsure what to do. Should he go? Did the flagpole sitter expect him to stay? He rubbed his fingers on his jeans.

Stan saw the wind flirting with the diaphanous layers of Gigi’s dress. It was a frothy blue confection that floated against her legs as she descended. Her long brown hair whirled around her, caught mostly in a messy ponytail that ended well below her waist. Her assured movements brought her closer and closer to the ground until Gigi stood on the last rung, a good two feet from the trampled grass and dirt. Stan couldn’t help himself. He looked.

Gigi’s light brown eyes caught him first. And then her wide mouth over a too strong chin. The delicate hollow of her cheekbones drew his eyes to the dangling silver earrings that winked amid her wild hair. She was slender, the curve of her breasts subtle under her lacy neckline. She held out an oversized hand, the fingertips painted a pale pink.

“Can I bother you for a hand down?” Her soft contralto wavered as if the words were unsure of their welcome.

Stan realized his fingers clenched in the loose denim material at his thigh. He’d lost weight after the accident and he hadn’t had the money to buy new jeans. Stan untangled his fingers and limped closer to the pole. He saw the frown pucker between her meticulously shaped brows. Stan clamped his teeth on the explanation. He got so tired of explaining what happened, what changed his life forever, what had lost him everything. He pasted a bright smile on his face and held his hand out to her.

Stan felt the warmth of her grasp and the softness of her palm settle in his.

“Here,” he shuffled closer, “lean on my shoulders.”

Gigi withdrew her hand and placed both palms on his shoulders. Almost as if drawn to it, his hands slid around her slender waist, his thumbs bracing her as he swung her from the pole to the ground. As she alighted, he found her as tall as he was, their faces close, intimate. He saw the quick pink of a blush stain her cheek. She clawed the ponytail holder out of her hair, setting the wild mass of hair free to frame her face, softening her features, drawing attention to the lightness of her eyes.

“I’m Gigi.” The breathy words spurred Stan’s lungs to constrict.

“St..stan. I’m Stan McKittrick.”

She stepped out of his arms and Stan realized he still held her waist. His hands dropped to his sides.

“You’re new. Security?” She smoothed down her blue dress.

“Yes, ma’am.” Stan showed her the white block letters on the back of his black t-shirt.

“Well, Stan, I’m going to have lunch at Frieda’s. Would you like to join me?” She smiled shyly and Stan’s mind blanked.

Her words registered just as she glanced back at the pole top, the hurt look flashing before a mask of resignation settled on her face. He poked out his elbow like he’d seen his grandfather do when walking with his grandmother.

“If you don’t mind walking slow, it would be my pleasure to escort you, Ms. Gigi.”

Her light eyes flicked to him and then stayed, warming. She threaded her hand through his arm resting her fingertips against the inside of his arm. “I spend so much time aloft, I forget what everything looks like down here. Going slow is preferred, so I don’t miss anything.”

Stan grinned. They walked together to Frieda’s tent.

Copyright 2017, Aidee Ladnier. All rights reserved.