Helen called Jane at 5 in the morning.
“There’s a hot air balloon here,” Helen said. “At the park.”
“Hot damn! I am on my way,” Jane replied.
It took Jane one minute to get dressed and out the door, and it took her five minutes to bike down to the park. This was one of Helen’s favourite things about Jane. When she said, “I’m leaving now,” on the phone, she would be out the door within a minute.
Jane parked her bike against a tree, and the two girls approached the man standing beside the balloon. The hot air balloon was part of a real estate agency advertising campaign, he told them. It was just going to go straight up and hang there, tethered to the ground by a long rope. But if they wanted, he could take them up.
It was wonderful. There was a flame thrower in the basket, pointed up into the balloon. When the operator pulled a lever, giant flame spewed upward with a roar, and the balloon lifted skyward. When it reached the end of the rope, they were almost twenty stories high. They could see the harbour, and the bridge. Nobody spoke for a long time. It was early morning, and the air was still cool, and they were flying.
“I got accepted to MIT,” Jane said, after a few minutes. “In their physics program.”
Neither said anything else. Helen didn’t know what to say. The silence stretched on and on. They just looked out over the city until the balloon operator cleared his throat.
“I should take you back down now,” he said.