Je t’aime, François Laurent le Vieux d’Arlandes
Marie Magdeleine Pilâtre de Rozier stared at the globe aérostatique. The polka-dotted Rozière balloon, the hybrid type named after her ancestor, floated, waiting, for her. A strong breeze blew auburn hair in her face, and a white laced gloved hand carefully tucked it back in place, pinning it back with her antique Cloisonne Barrette. With the wind at her back, Marie advanced upon the air craft.
Mlle. Pilâtre de Rozier felt all eyes were on her as she walked along. Staring straight at the object of her desire, Marie got to the basket. Her pilot nodded, held out his hand to help before he remembered and pulled it back. Marie gave him a sharp look as she vaulted over the side, her skirt flying. She landed, gracefully, settled her outfit, and took her spot.
The pilot, Henri, gave her lace gloves a scowl and shoved his own hands into his leather ones. Checking one last time that the burner was properly working and the envelope was filled with the hot air, he signaled the ground crew. With a slight jerk the craft began to rise. Marie caught one of the lines of the gondola, steadying herself.
As she rose in the air, Marie swayed in the wind. Her eyes closed for a moment, she drifted high above the trees, above the rolling blue river, just high enough to almost kiss the clouds. This was her peace. This was her bliss. Soaring above it all, the noise of the fire rushing up the only thing that broke the drift silence.
Eyelids rising, Marie took in the view. She opened herself up to the beauty of it all. It flowed through her, more intimate and complete then any other experience she’s ever had. This flight, the last she would take in this magnificent ‘gas bag’ before she had to turn it over to the new owners, was magic.
The sun was beginning to set, time had passed while Marie was lost in the wonder. Henri coerced the vent to open, allowing some of the trapped hot air escape, and they started their descent.
“So soon?” she asked him, imploring in those two words for more time. Henri, used to this question, pointed at the setting sun with an open palm, and she knew he was right.
Mlle. Marie Magdeleine Pilâtre de Rozier sighed, drawing in the vista that surrounded her. “Je t’aime, je t’aime, ” she whispered, as the ground came up to meet them.