A few weeks ago, I handed off a final copy of Drake and the Fliers to some proofreaders. One of them asked if there was a story before the book, describing what took place before we join Drake in the office tower. There isn’t, but her question gave me an idea.
Welcome to Part 1 of Before the Flight, a prequel/serial of Drake’s world before and during the virus. This also begins the bonus material section for Drake and the Fliers.
Before the Flight: Part 1
“Happy birthday, Drake!”
His mother approached from behind his seat at the dining room table and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek before she stomped into the kitchen. A clip held back her brown curls, and her loose robe flowed like a cape around her pajamas.
He wiped his cheek with the back of his hand and swallowed his bite of cereal. “Thanks.”
She put a mug under the single-cup coffee brewer. The machine spurted and hissed as it dispensed her drug of choice. “Sixteen! I can’t believe it. What do you want to do today? I can take you out for more driving practice.”
“He told me he wants to get a haircut,” Kelsey said from the hall, appearing in the dining room a moment later. She tucked her hands into the wide front pocket of her hoodie, likely clutching her phone. She’d been texting non-stop since she came home from college for the long weekend.
Drake scowled at his sister. “I like it this way.” He brought his hand to his hair, which had developed waves as its length neared his ears.
“Dad will never let you keep it like that. You look homeless.” Kelsey walked up to Drake and ruffled his hair.
“Maybe that’s the point.” He batted her hand away. “And it’s my birthday. You’re supposed to be nice to me. Why don’t you go text your boyfriend some more? I know you want to.”
She glared. “He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Because all guys text girls for no reason. Okay.” Drake sipped his juice while keeping his eyes on Kelsey.
“All right, you two. Knock it off.” His mother tapped a spoon on her coffee cup and joined them at the table. “I still remember the day we brought you home from the hospital. Kelsey wanted to hold you all the time.”
Kelsey huffed. “Really, Mom? You have to tell this story again?”
His mother laughed and took a sip. “It’s nice to remember a time when you actually wanted to be together. Anyway, Kelsey wanted a baby sister so badly she put her dolls’ bonnets on you.” She laughed again. “I’ll have to look for the pictures.”
Drake held up his hand. “You really don’t need to.”
“Don’t be such a spoil sport.” Her phone rang from the counter. “Hold on.” She returned to the kitchen.
Kelsey wrapped her arm around the back of Drake’s shoulders. “Happy birthday, stinker.” She pulled an envelope from her hoodie. “Here.”
Drake opened it and removed four tickets. He read them. “Fall Out Boy? Seriously?” He’d wanted to go to that concert since he heard of it months ago, but tickets were gone the first day they went up for sale. “How did you get these?”
Before Kelsey could answer, their mother’s raised voice carried into the dining room. “Wait, what do you mean you can’t leave?” She held her phone to her ear, apparently talking to his father, who’d been called in to work at the hospital last night.
He can’t leave? Drake stared in her direction, hoping to glean any meaning from her statement.
Kelsey approached her. “Mom, what…”
His mother waved her hand at Kelsey to quiet her. “I don’t understand. They said it wasn’t a big deal. Are they sure?” Tears welled in her eyes.
His mother never cried.
“Okay. Should we stay here?” She leaned on the counter and wiped her face with the sleeve of her robe. “I love you too. Call me when you’re cleared.” She sniffed, looked at her phone, and squinted before setting it on the counter. “That virus . . . ten people showed up with it at the hospital last night. Everyone’s been quarantined.”
The virus. Images of internet news reports flashed in Drake’s mind. While treating a population of indigenous people in the forests of Brazil, an American doctor contracted a new illness. He was kind enough to carry it into Rio Di Janeiro before it killed him a week later. By then, five percent of the city’s population was infected, either from him directly or from the people he’d interacted with.
The virus spread like a brush fire. In two months, it had infected most of Rio’s population, moved through the continent, and spread north into Central America and Mexico. There were deaths, but the initial numbers were so huge that the media claimed countries in the region exaggerated the seriousness of the situation to receive more aid.
Because of that skepticism, most countries were too slow to close their borders to travelers. In spite of the U.S.’s early screening process and subsequent closed borders, the virus was now on the west coast of the country. Apparently, as of last night, it had started to take San Francisco.
Drake eyed the four concert tickets, one for each member of his family. “So Dad can’t come home?”
His mother placed her hand on her forehead and shook her head.
His stomach sank. The virus moved more quickly and aggressively than anyone could predict. His father would likely be infected, if he wasn’t already. He’d be dead within two weeks.
Drake pushed his bowl away from him and set the tickets next to it.
His mother picked up the bowl and carried it into the kitchen, where she put it into the sink. “He said we should leave. Let’s pack up and head to your grandparents’ house.”
“In Denver? What good will that do?” Kelsey put a hand on her hip.
Her mother stared back. “Kelsey, do you have any comprehension of what this is? Our best chance is to get away before everyone else in the city realizes what’s happened.”
Kelsey pulled her iPhone from the pocket of her hoodie. She was texting as she walked back to her room.
Drake’s mother left her coffee on the counter and reclaimed her seat at the table. She focused on the wall behind him. “Your dad isn’t sick. He has to stay at the hospital until they’re sure no one else was infected. He’ll be cleared in a week.” Her zombie-like tone told Drake she didn’t believe her own words.
“Do you really want to go to Grandma’s?”
She nodded. “He’ll meet us there. It’s better to get away from this.”
Two hours later, Drake watched the Golden Gate Bridge disappear through the rear window of his mom’s Explorer.
Click here to continue to Part 2.