They scrambled up to the cockpit, two chairs side-by-side with a small space between them. Pete motioned for Ben to sit in the left side, the captain’s chair, and sat in the co-pilot’s seat. The cockpit smelled of leather seats, hot metal baking in the sun and the pungent tang of engine oil. Ben delicately ran his fingertips over the controls, his hands over the stick.
Stuck in the bezel around one gauge was a small snapshot — Ben recognized it easily. He and Bets and Pete — their arms slung around each other, sitting on a couch at a party. Pete was kissing Bets on the cheek. Bets’ head was thrown back; her mouth was wide open, obviously cackling. Ben was looking straight at the camera, his eyes bright with laughter.
“It’s the first thing on my pre-flight checklist. I put it in my flight jacket pocket, and every time we land, it comes back out and goes right here. It’s my good luck charm,” Pete said softly. “I told them it’s the best picture I have of my sweetheart back home. It’s the only one I carry of you. It’s what reminds me that I need to come home, every time.”