"Please watch your step there Sally! Am I climbing too fast for you? Just say the word!"
"Ah, no, I think I'm getting the hang of it!"
Sally lies twice to the flight attendant. But that's not all Sally's good at; she has the best grades in her class, she is a starter on whatever team has the most pressing need for a woman of sports, and is unfailing as a leader for her peers. That's why she's heading to Venus, after all, in this tube with narrow corridors where it's easy to get a concussion if you're not especially good at being aware of your body.
"Oh my god! Are you alright dear?"
The flight attendant who has taken such a shine to Sally is concerned but Sally says not to worry, she bumps her head into things all the time and probably her large and unnecessary military jacket or luggage caught on something. Responding immediately with reassurance while her head is swimming is another of her talents. She thinks about hands holding her head, gently rocking against her temples. So gentle, then she kills the thought. Neither Sally nor the flight attendant spends more than a second thinking about what's implied in "bumps her head into things all the time" but that's part of the list of things Sally's so bad at which are: remembering due dates, remembering where her head is, remembering to make her flight on time, premeditating what comes out of her mouth, using makeup, having a sharper than vague sense of whether or not she's being flirted with, and keeping unwelcome thoughts out of her head.
This is also why she's heading to Venus.
"I'm glad you made it, we wouldn't have a full flight without you. Almost no one goes in the summer."
"It's supposed to be very mild this year. The forecast said it's likely almost no one will die."
"How lovely! Here's your seat."
Sally is seated in layer 7, near the top. The layer has twelve seats, arranged in a circle, big and soft and firmly bolted to the walls. One of them is reserved for Sally. One of them is occupied by M, who is sitting with his legs crossed, taking up as little space as a little thing like he can in a mostly empty room. He's curled over a book; maybe he's trying to be inconspicuous, or maybe he is embarrassed and trying to hide it. Sally sets her bag in the seat next to her and pulls her legs onto the chair and rests her chin on her knees. She is also bad at posture. But she is good at being comfortable. She likes the security of holding her whole body. She had a bad dream this morning and is allowing herself to feel less guilty about making a childish impression. She thinks about hand on her shoulders. She snaps the hair tie around her wrist. While it stings she smiles pleasantly at Katie.
Katie, annoyed, says something hello-like in Sally's direction, and Sally says something much more sincere back. Katie is small but is taking up as much space as possible, trying to get something done before takeoff that the world can probably wait for but she cannot. Katie always seems like she might be on the verge of breaking something, the way she leans into her chair, bends the spines of her books, bends the pencil between her fingers. Katie is very strong. She spends a lot of time on her body. It didn't come naturally to her.
With all this space, Isabel is sitting next to M, holding one of his books and being mercilessly fashionable while watching Katie like she's in-flight entertainment. Isabel looks too perfect to be here but that's why she's here. Maybe she is bullying M? But he never seems to mind. That could mean all sorts of things. Sally thinks there's something tryhard about the way that Isabel is cruel. There's something lukewarm in it.
There's a perfect balance of usefulness and liability to the young for which Venus is the most perfect solution.