“And good riddance, too,” said Amelia, regaining her ladylike composure, although now with obvious frustration. “You wouldn’t believe what a whiney lout he was the whole time. ‘Check the altimeter, Amelia. Are you well hydrated, Amelia? Hell of a cloud formation, Amelia, I reckon we should duck it, Amelia.’ As if I wasn’t worth my salt. And do you know how many times that man said ‘reckon?’ Zounds, Sherman! He nearly reckoned my ear off. You wanna hear what I told him when we were going down? Just to get him back, just so, if we died, then maybe, somehow that peanut little brain of his would pick up on my contempt—I mean contempt—I said, ‘Hey Noonie! I reckon we’re wreckin’!’ And he missed it! Ha! The old bag missed it. Burst into tears. Thought I really reckoned something!”
“That’s good,” said Mason. “That’s a good one.” During her rant he’d found a spot to lean against one of the hut’s bracings, where he folded his arms and allowed himself to smirk.
“But I will say this,” said Amelia. She was nearly red in the face. “I did get some satisfaction in calling him Noonie that one last time. Well, if we’d of died, it would have been the last time. You know what I mean. He hated ‘Noonie.’ Loathed it. You wouldn’t mind if I called you Macie, would you?”
Mason smiled and appeared to be embarrassed in some small way, like she’d gotten to him somehow. “Call me whatever you like,” he said.
“And easy to please, too! I swear, Macie, I’m nearly embarrassed that you should find me in such a bedraggled state. I don’t believe this is a very good first showing. You don’t seem endeared to me at all.”
Mason smirked again. It was a dangerous thing, that smirk. Just as lazy and cool as you can imagine. “Am I supposed to be?” he asked.
“Well, a girl can dream, can’t she?” returning the grin, folding her arms in a similar impenetrable fashion.
“Just be careful about the ones you chase,” said Mason.
And then there was a strange and prolonged moment in which both Sherman Mason and Amelia Earhart felt supremely and unequivocally happy. It shined in their faces and tingled in their fingertips. It fluttered in their bellies and made them feel as though they’d touched somehow. Mason, because he’d managed to say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, for once, and Amelia, because she was the bearer of some secret knowledge, which had not made sense to her until that very moment.
“Did Dolly tell you that?” she asked.
“What?” said Mason.
“Dolly. Dolly told you that.”
And just as suddenly as he’d been elated beyond compare, Mason’s every tingle, every flutter, every gilded radiance became a hot, dull droning in his ears.
“How did you know that?” he growled.
Immediately, Amelia tossed her hands into the air and squinched her face, shook her head, as if this were nothing to worry about at all. “Oh, Macie,” she said, pacing again. “I don’t know.”
“How did you know that?” he said, fists clenching and unclenching.
Amelia stopped and cocked her head at him, as if expecting an explanation. “I don’t know, Macie!” she said. “It’s like this thing”—pointing—“is an antenna or something. I don’t know how I know Dolly told you that. I just do. There’s nothing malicious about it, sourpuss.”
Mason was slightly calmed. It was hard to stay angry with such a tawny little waif. “What else do you know?” he asked, nearly popping his blood pressure was so high, which he did a poor job of concealing.
“I don’t think it works like that.”
“I think you do know. I think you know how it works, and I think you’re hiding something. You’ve been playing it coy since I got here and there’s something to it,” he said, aiming a rigid index finger at her face. “So come off it.”
Amelia could have fired back with twice the force Mason had just displayed, she could have really hurt his feelings, but she took the calmer, more mediating approach. She started by folding her hands at her waist and softening her gaze.
“There’s no need to be boisterous, Sherman. You’re just confused is all—and I’m confused too! You can bet on that—and when there’s something we can’t quite wrap our little gourds around, we tend to get angry, and then we lash out, like you’ve just done. And I understand, and I’m sorry you’re confused. But that’s the one chance you get to raise your voice at me. You just get the once chance.”