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Authors: Kim Wright

Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #General, #FIC044000

Love in Mid Air


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2010 by Kim Wright Wiley

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.

Grand Central Publishing

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our website at

First eBook Edition: March 2010

Grand Central Publishing is a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The Grand Central Publishing name and logo is a trademark of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-446-55867-9





Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen


Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five


Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two


My deepest love and thanks go out to my friends and fellow writers: Alison Smith, Dawn Clifton Tripp, Laura Gschwandter, Mike
Iskandar, Jason Van Nest, and Jennifer Lloret. Special appreciation goes to my most important teacher, Fred Leebron.

Thanks to my agent, David McCormick; my editor, Karen Kosztolnyik; my publicist, Elly Weisenberg; and the entire team at Grand
Central and the Hachette Book Group, especially the foreign rights department.

And I am particularly indebted to the MacDowell Colony.


Chapter One

wasn’t meant to sit beside him. It was a fluke.

t’s the last Sunday in August and I’m in Phoenix for a pottery show. I won a prize for my glazing and sold seventeen pieces,
so I’m feeling good. On the morning I’m due to fly out, I go for an early hike in a canyon behind my hotel. Arizona’s deceptive.
It’s cool in the morning so you climb all the way to the top of the trail, but an hour later, when the sun is fully up and
you’re winding your way back down, you can feel a pulse in the dome of your head and you remember that this is the West, not
the East, and out here people can die from the heat. By the time I get to the bottom I’m so dizzy that I bend my head over
a drinking fountain in the hotel lobby and let the water run over the back of my neck until my vision returns to normal.

I drive to the airport, turn in my rental car, go through security, call home, eat a burrito, and drag my carry-on to the
plane. There’s a man beside me in 18A, a man with a strong accent who immediately begins explaining to me that his son is
stuck in 29D and he doesn’t have much English and would I mind switching seats with him? Twenty-nine D is a hell seat, near
the back and in the middle of a row. I don’t want to switch. There’s burrito juice all over my shirt and my hair has dried
funny from being washed in a water fountain. I’m hot and tired and all I want to do is get home. But when Tory was little
I was always asking strangers to help me in airplanes and most of them were nice about it. So I say sure, shove my magazine
into my bag, and go trudging to the back of the plane.

The kid in question turns out to be about thirty years old. I try to explain that we’re switching seats by showing him my
boarding pass and pointing to his and saying, “Papa, Papa,” but his dad wasn’t lying. He doesn’t speak a word of English.
Everyone in the vicinity of the twenty-ninth row of the aircraft gets into the act and for some bizarre reason the flight
attendant begins speaking French. We’re almost ready to pull back from the gate when he finally stands up and heads toward
Papa in the front of the plane. I crawl over the guy in 29C and drop into my seat, thinking this is one of those times that
you regret trying to do the right thing, only I’m wrong. This is one of those times that karma turns around faster than a

The man sitting beside me in 29E says, “That was a nice thing to do.”

He’s tall, so tall that he is turned slightly in his seat, his knees just on the edge of my space. I ask him why he was in
Arizona and he says he was on a climb. He’s an investment banker, he climbs mountains on weekends. He doesn’t like to fly.

He turns slightly more toward me in the seat and I turn slightly more toward him. I tell him it seems strange that a person
who can climb mountains is afraid to fly, and he shakes his head. It’s a matter of control, he says, and he tells me about
the scariest thing that’s ever happened to him on a climb. Years ago, when he’d just begun the sport, he’d found himself linked
to a guy who didn’t fix the clips right and something broke loose and both of them slid. There’s nothing worse, he says, than
to be halfway up the face of the mountain, past the turnback point, and all of a sudden to realize you can’t count on the
other person. I ask him what the turnback point is and he says there’s a place you get to in every climb where it’s as dangerous
to retreat as it is to advance. I nod. It seems I should have known this.

He asks me if I’m married and I say yes, nine years. “Nine,” he says slowly, as if the number in itself has a kind of power.
“Nine is sort of in the middle.” I don’t feel like I’m in the middle of my marriage—but I don’t feel like I’m at the beginning
or the end of it either. I find marriage immeasurable, oceanic. The man in 29C has put on headphones. We have our vodka and
pretzels by now.

“It’s such a funny sport,” he says. It takes me a minute to realize what he’s talking about. “Each time I summit I think the
same thing, that we shouldn’t have come here, that human beings have no business being in the sky. Every time I think, ‘This
will be my last climb,’ but then I get home and in a couple of weeks I want to do it again.”

“I guess once you start, it’s hard to stop,” I say. I’ve never met anyone who used the word “summit” as a verb. But he has
shut his eyes and leaned back in his seat, as if just telling the story has exhausted him.

I pull the
magazine from my bag and the cover says “48 Things to Do to a Man in Bed.” I bought the magazine just for this article. Defying
all logic, there is still a part of me that thinks I can save my marriage through sex. Gerry—his name is Gerry—opens his eyes
and begins to read over my shoulder. His minute-long nap seems to have revitalized him because he suggests that we go through
the list and each write down three things we’d like to try. Wouldn’t it be something if they were the same three things?

I strongly suspect they will be the same three things. He’s married too, of course, married to someone he met in the drop-add
line his freshman year at UMass. At one point they’d been together so long that they just looked at each other and said, “Why
not?” Two boys and then a girl, and the daughter especially, she’s the love of his life, he says—but his wife, that’s a whole
other issue. He has pressed his thigh against mine, opened his legs as if I am a weight he must push away in order to make
himself stronger.

“Marriage is difficult,” I tell him. “It’s the only thing in my whole life I’ve ever failed at.”

I’ve never said this to anyone, never used the word “failed,” but it rolls off my tongue like a fact. Maybe this is the way
you should always confess things—just like this, in mid air, and to a total stranger. I wait for him to convince me that it
isn’t true. God knows if I tried to say this back home, a hundred people would rush in to correct me before the words were
even out of my mouth. They would say it’s just the vodka talking, or the altitude. Or maybe my desire to intrigue this man
by saying something dramatic, anything that will keep him turned toward me in his seat. Any marriage can be salvaged, my friends
would tell me—especially a clean, well-ordered little one like mine. No, of course I haven’t failed. We’re just going through
a rough spot.

But this man doesn’t correct me. He is smiling as he screws the top off his second bottle of vodka. His hands are very beautiful.
I need for a man to have beautiful hands, hands you can imagine slipping down you at once, hands that can make you feel a
little breathless even as they go through the most mundane of tasks, even as they rip open a package of pretzels or reach
up to redirect the flow of air.

“The list?” he says, pointing toward the magazine.

“Do you have paper?”

He digs something out of his pocket. “You can type it into my BlackBerry.”

“I’m supposed to type three things I want to do in bed into your BlackBerry? Are you going to delete it?”

He smiles. “Eventually.”

The flight goes fast. When the pilot comes on to say we are beginning our descent into Dallas it startles me so much that
it’s like I’d forgotten we were even on a plane. “Can I hold your hand?” Gerry asks me. This is the part he hates, the landing.
This is the part where you are statistically most likely to crash, and he explains that this is true for climbers too, that
most are killed on the way down. He smiles again as he tells me this, flashing strong white teeth. I have visions of them
ripping flesh from bone. Good hands and good teeth. He’s a type, of course. He’s a player. He’s the kind of man who meets
women at 30,000 feet and persuades them to type sexual fantasies into his BlackBerry, but for some reason I don’t care. He
asks me how long I’ll be laid over in Dallas.

Almost two hours. He thinks maybe we should have a drink. There’s definitely time for a drink. At least a drink. He says he’s
a little lightheaded too, the result of the climb. It’s been so strange, such an intense day. He changed planes at the last
minute, and maybe he needs something to press him back into himself. This is probably all quite meaningless. He’s probably
the sort of man who does this all the time. People meet in planes and do it all the time, huddled under thin airline blankets
or in those cheap hotels that offer shuttle service from the terminals. An in-flight flirtation, nothing special, and I shouldn’t
even be talking to him. I have not had sex with any man other than my husband in nine years.

“I suppose we could have a drink,” I say.

“Here comes the dangerous part,” he says, and he reaches out to hold my hand.

We land without dying. He helps me retrieve my bag from the bin above row 18. We walk down the tunnel and find a departure
board. The time at the bottom flashes 5:22.

“That can’t be right,” says Gerry.

We were supposed to land at 3:45. We were supposed to have a two-hour layover in Dallas. I look at my watch but I’m still
on Phoenix time and when I find Charlotte on the departure board I see that my flight is scheduled to leave in fourteen minutes.
“What time is it?” Gerry asks the guy standing beside us, who got off our flight and presumably is privy to no more information
than we are. He looks at us with a kind of pity and says, “Five twenty-three,” and then adds, “We circled fucking forever.”

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