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shuts the canopy, and ambles over to the Piper. Off to the right I notice Dave, Benson’s mate, has appeared, propping up the wingtip. Quickly I test the equipment: pedals (I hear the rudder move behind me); control stick—side to side (a quick glance at the wings and I can see the ailerons moving); and control stick—front to back (I hear the elevator respond). Right. We’re ready. Benson climbs into the Piper and almost immediately the single propeller starts up, loud and throaty in the morning quiet. A few moments later his plane is rolling forward, taking up the slack of the towrope, and we’re off. I balance the ailerons and the rudder as the Piper picks up speed, then I ease back on the control stick, and we sail into the air before Benson does. “Here we go, baby,” I shout to Ana as we gain height. “Brunswick Traffic, Delta Victor, heading two-seven-zero.” It’s Benson on the radio. I ignore him as we climb higher and higher. The L23 handles well, and I watch Ana; her head whips from side to side as she tries to take in the view. I wish I could see her smile. We head west, the newborn sun behind us, and I note when we cross I-95. I love the serenity up here, away from everything and everyone, just me and the glider looking for lift…and to think I’ve never shared this experience with anyone before. The light is beautiful, lambent, all I had hoped it would be…for Ana and for me. When I check the altimeter we’re nearing three thousand feet and coasting at 105 knots. Benson’s voice crackles over the radio, informing me that we’re at three thousand feet and we can release. “Affirmative. Release,” I radio back, and pull the release knob. The Piper disappears and I roll us into a slow dip, until we’re heading southwest and riding the wind. Ana laughs out loud. Encouraged by her reaction, I continue to spiral, hoping we might find some convergence lift near the coastline or thermals beneath pale pink clouds—the shallow cumulus might mean lift, even this early. Suddenly filled with a heady combination of mischief and joy, I shout at Ana, “Hold on tight!” And I take us into a full roll. She squeals, her hands shooting up and bracing against the canopy. When I right us once more she’s laughing. It is the most gratifying response a man could want, and it makes me laugh, too. “I’m glad I didn’t have breakfast!” she shouts. “Yes, in hindsight it’s good you didn’t, because I’m going to do that again.” This time she holds on to the harness and stares directly down at the ground as she’s suspended over it. She giggles, the noise mixing with the whistle of the wind. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” I shout. “Yes.” I know we haven’t got long, as there’s not much lift out here—but I don’t care. Ana is enjoying herself…and so am I. “See the joystick in front of you? Grab hold.” She tries to turn her head, but she’s buckled in too tight. “Go on, Anastasia. Grab it,” I urge her. My joystick moves in my hands, and I know she’s holding hers. “Hold tight. Keep it steady. See the middle dial in front? Keep the needle dead center.”

E l james grey  

Fifty Shades of Grey