By A.L. Boyd
Just in time for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta! Soaring Hearts is a fictional story that takes place at one of the world’s largest ballooning events.
Will hearts soar when pigs fly?
Alex’s job working for his family-owned radio station once took him all over the city reporting on major events—until the accident. His scars, both physical and emotional, cause him to withdraw into a self-imposed, semi-reclusive lifestyle. When his dad requests that he go to the world’s largest hot air balloon festival, he has to find the courage to break his isolation. Now he needs to find the courage to trust and love again.
Jeff had already been planning a move to Albuquerque when he lost his home, parents, and dog to a wildfire in California. To begin his new life, he agrees to help his sister and brother-in-law with their balloon at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Now he’s seen pigs fly and bees kissing, but will he find the love he’s been searching for?
People blanketed the field, waiting to see the mass ascension. The green of the grass became invisible under the sea of blue, brown, and red patches of cloth as the crowds wandered about.
Safely off the field, Jeff sat in one of the chairs, pouring the coffee into his cup. People were scurrying around the billowing fabric like ants. The colors of their jackets were muted by the vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds seen on so many of the balloons. The phewooo sound of the propane burners drowned out the sounds of thousands of people talking, as the giant pillows of nylon in every imaginable color and pattern inflated.
From behind him a voice said, “Pretty, isn’t it? I love this time of year when all the balloons show up.”
Startled, he jumped at the unexpected disturbance, nearly spilling his coffee down the front of his shirt. He tried hard not to growl at the intrusion. He didn’t want to make enemies on his first full day in town.
“Yeah, it’s nice,” Jeff replied. He kept his eyes on the kaleidoscope of colors inflating in front of him.
“I’m Alex Mullen, I work for one of the local radio stations in town. During the Fiesta, we play interviews from participants and visitors to the event. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Jeff didn’t turn to watch the man standing behind him, but the soft tenor of the voice intrigued him, so he answered.
“Hi, Alex. Have a seat, and watch the display with me.” He gestured to the extra chair next to him, and the thin young man stepped into his view, swinging a backpack off his back. Before he sat down, he pulled out a few items. Jeff had only gotten a glimpse of the man’s handsome face and smooth jaw line before his long blond hair fell forward, when his rainbow-gloved hands set a recording device on the small table and set up a wireless microphone.
That quick glance was all it took to spark Jeff’s interest. “I’m Jeff. This is my first year here with my sister and brother-in-law’s balloon.” He scanned the sky to see if he could spot Danny’s balloon, then he pointed to one with a yellow and green geometric design. “That’s it right there.”
Alex looked up where Jeff was pointing. “Oh, isn’t that one of the Gibson brothers’ balloons?”
“Yep. How did you know?”
“I’ve interviewed most of the family over the years.”
“Yeah, you probably would have met some of them, considering someone from the family comes every year. Danny made sure to tell me all about that this morning.”
As he set up his equipment, Alex asked, “Do you mind if I use your last name in the interview?”
“No, I don’t mind, but I guess that means I’ll have to tell you, huh?” He chuckled. “One of these days I’ll get introductions right.” He reached out his hand as if to shake it. “Hi, Alex. I’m Jeff Bowen. It’s nice to meet you.”
He cocked his head a little toward Jeff, and took his hand. “Nice to meet you, too, Jeff.”
Jeff held on to Alex’s hand a moment longer and examined the gloves. “Nice gloves. Are they handmade?”
Alex stared up at him for an instant before his cheeks reddened, and he stammered as he pulled his hand away. “T-thanks. My sister made them.”
Jeff wanted to see more of those beautiful blue eyes, but Alex kept his gaze lowered and continued on as if he hadn’t felt the same spark that had caused Jeff’s hand to tingle.
When Alex sat down, he pulled out a small note pad and pen. “Usually I like to ask a few questions before I start the recording, to get people relaxed about the interview process. Once I turn it on, I may ask some of the same questions you already answered. Is that okay with you?”
Jeff flashed him a smile. “That’s fine with me. I don’t mind at all.”
Alex responded with a relaxed and beautiful smile. Jeff shivered, but not from the cold this time. It had been a while since he’d been with anyone, and Alex’s smile made him think lusty thoughts that he needed to keep under wraps for now.
“When you introduced yourself, you said this was your first visit here?” Alex fidgeted with his note pad and pen.
“Yes, I came with my sister and her husband. You saw them up there.” He gestured skyward. “They were one of the first to go up. Usually they go up earlier when the conditions are right.”
“So they’re part of the Dawn Patrol?” Alex asked excitedly. “That’s wonderful. Few people can meet the requirements for Dawn Patrol. I wasn’t aware that anyone in the Gibson family met the qualifications.”
“Yes. Danny’s excited; this is the first year he’s qualified. He has a lot of experience. I know he’s a second or third generation pilot.”
“That’s great. Is this your sister’s first time at the event also?”
“No. My sister’s come with him the last couple of years since they got married. And this year, they finally dragged me along as well.” He chuckled a little at that.
Where to find Soaring Hearts:
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A cartographer by day, A. L. Boyd spends most of her free time with her horses, gardening, or reading. She never intended to be a writer, but stories like this one sometimes just pop into her head. The writing came about as a way to get the stories out.
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