"She felt a moment’s stabbing sorrow then. But she knew from past experience how to push that sorrow down and bury it"by Tessa Hadley / July 16, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
Tessa Hadley is the award-winning author of six novels. Describing her exclusive new story, “Flight,” Hadley says: “The story began with the woman returning home on the flight—that strange otherworldliness of an aeroplane at night, the hush and the dim lights and the sense of hovering between worlds. I began imagining the story when I was on a flight myself. And then I felt Claire’s rootlessness, and her own belonging nowhere, and I began to wonder what she was running away from, and what her history was.”
Claire had to fly over from Philadelphia to the UK for a business meeting. The night before the night she flew, she made a stupid mistake, drank too much and went to bed with a man she didn’t know very well, didn’t even like all that much. Her plane left at six the following evening, flying against the setting sun. The alcohol was still toxic in her system, she wasn’t a great drinker and wasn’t used to it, hadn’t done anything stupid like that for a while. She didn’t want to eat anything and could only drink tonic water. When she took the fizzing glass she saw that her hand shook, and felt humiliated though no one else could have noticed; her pulse was fluttering and jumping. One of the flight attendants in business class, an Englishwoman with an eager, bony face, too elaborately made-up, probably in her early forties—Claire’s own age—wanted to make a fuss of her, admiring her coat, gushing over her handbag while she stowed it for her in the overhead lockers. She offered up that comedy of a greed for material things, designer goods, which was a currency between women. But Claire wasn’t in the mood for female solidarity, she cut her short and the attendant treated her after that with careful respect, no hint of resentment. Even this little display of her own power struck Claire bitterly, like a foretaste of England. If ever she was stand-offish at work her American colleagues held it against her, putting it down to British snootiness, probably believing she came from the British privileged classes.