“You Can Fly If You Want To” by Alex Thornber

Our Dad always told us that we were capable of anything, as long as we believed and had confidence in ourselves. You want to be a famous musician? Go for it. You want to travel the world? I won’t stop you.

What my sister wanted, more than anything, was to fly like Peter Pan. She was eight. I guess Dad didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was impossible. She spent hours and hours in the garden on our trampoline, trying to bounce as high as she could. Eventually she would come down breathless and say, “almost had it that time”. A few times, when she felt like she was actually high enough to take flight, she launched herself away from the trampoline; weightless for just a second she smiled, before falling to earth heartbroken and once arm broken.

Dad was terrified when we had to take her to the hospital, his daughter covered in bruises and scratches from previous failed attempts. He knew what they would think and it broke his heart. When the Doctor asked her what had happened, she replied without a moment of hesitation, and as if the question itself was ridiculous,

“I’m learning to fly.”

Dad and I cracked up; I couldn’t tell if the doctor believed her.

She was back on the trampoline again before her arm had the chance to heal. Dad kept catching her and bringing her back down to earth. I couldn’t tell who was more upset by this, Dad or my sister. For the first time ever Dad told her she couldn’t do something.

One day I was in my room when I heard her giggling through the open window.

“I’m doing it, I’m doing it,” she yelled.

I put my head out the window to tell her to stop, that Dad would be back soon and that she’d be in trouble but the moment I opened my mouth she launched herself off the trampoline again. I closed my eyes for a second, unable to watch the moment of impact, but when I opened them again, she was gone.

I ran downstairs and outside but I still couldn’t see her. I could hear her giggling still though. I looked under the trampoline, thinking she might have rolled underneath, but then I realised the giggling was coming from above. I looked up and there she was, flying high above me in circles around the garden.

“I told you, I told you I would,” she yelled, full of glee.

I got my phone out to take a picture; no one would ever believe me I thought. I smiled at her twirling in the sky just like the little Peter Pan she’d always wanted to be.

She comes back to visit sometimes, literal flying visits so we can see her, and she’s all smiles and waves before setting off again. The problem is that all her confidence and belief was built into being able to fly, that I guess she never spared any room to figure out how to land.

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