Conor put the final touches on the wing of his plane, then stood back, admiring it. Even since Le Brosse had been shot and plunged down to its fiery death, Conor had been working fiercely to improve on his design. He spent days and nights tirelessly reshaping, rebuilding. He was leaving for Glasgow soon, and he intended to be finished before he had to depart.
He was about to fix an imperfection he had noticed in the wing when his phone rang.
Can you imagine? thought Conor. Telephones! Isabella must have been busy while I was stuck on Little Saltee, despite Bonvilian.
The name Isabella brought a smile to his face. While he was in the prison, thoughts of hatred from his parents and her had plagued him. Even thought he had intended to go to America, the thought that his loved ones hated him had hurt.
But I mustn't dwell on that, he thought, hurrying over to the telephone.
"Hello?" he asked, still not used to speaking into the device, but finding it to be a helpful thing all the same.
"Conor?" asked a deep but familiar voice.
"Otto!" Conor exclaimed. He had wondered if he would ever hear from Otto Malarkey again. "Are you out?"
"Yep, I'm free as a bird. How have you been? I take it you got all the diamonds out of the prison?"
"I did," Conor said, feeling quite proud of himself in that moment.
"And my brother's got half?"
"He does. I would never break our agreement. Are you going to see him now?"
"I've got nowhere else to go," Otto said. "I just wanted to make sure that everything was in order. Zeb and I are going to America this week, gonna start a new life there, but I wanted to say good-bye to my friend."
"Will I be hearing from you again?"
"Of course." There was a pause from the other end of the line. "I gotta go. Zeb's getting mad at me for spending so much time on this gadget. I called a few other people before you. I could really get used to this thing."
Conor laughed. "Well, goodbye Otto, and have a safe trip. Do something useful in America, and don't get yourself arrested."
"Got it," Otto said. "Take care of yourself." Then he hung up.
Conor put down the telephone and sighed. At least Linus was still in the area. He shook the thoughts of Little Saltee from his head and turned his attention back to his aeroplane. It was so close to finished he could almost taste it. And this time he was sure that it would stay up. Maybe this time it would be seen by more and it could be recorded in the books and remembered forever.
He glanced up, wondering if Victor was watching him work. He still missed his teacher and the inspiration he would bring to their lessons.
Ah well, the least I can do is honour his memory by building this plane.
He peeled the tape off the side where the name was painted onto the white aeroplane. Isabella was the name he had chosen, thanks to Victor. The red script was in stark contrast with the rest of the plane. Conor thought it was perfect.
He lifted up the door to his laboratory; thankfully he had made it large enough to fit the plane through, and pushed the aeroplane out into the field behind his workplace, but not without a little difficulty despite the strength he had built in the prison.
When it was in position, Conor went back inside - keeping an eye on his invention - and gathered his goggles and gloves. Slipping the gloves onto his hands - covering the 's' branded onto his hand - and the goggles over his eyes, he pulled the door shut, then got into his plane. He didn't want a big production of the take-off, just in case the plane didn't work. Everyone would seen him when he flew over the palace and then he could make history.
He started up the plane, trying to ignore the slight spluttering of the engine.
It'll work, it just needs to warm up, he thought, trying to encourage himself.
He pushed forward on the throttle and felt the plane lurch forward, then start to move smoothly down the field before lifting off. The take off was much less choppy than Le Brosse's and for that, Conor was very glad. He let himself celebrate for a moment before directing his plane towards the castle.
On the way there, he saw people look up and wave, smiles plastered on all their faces. He waved back and grinned. He was flying again, and his plane was certainly more stable than the last one. He was thrilled.
He arrived at the palace quite quickly and picked out Isabella's room. He didn't know if she would be in it right now, but it didn't matter. She'd be somewhere around the palace and she'd hear the plane.
He flew past her room and was pleasantly surprised to see her looking out the window. She waved and smiled and he waved back. The she noticed the name on the plane. He saw her hands fly up to her mouth and the surprise in her eyes and it was anything he could have ever asked for. She couldn't have him hung again, that was certain.
However, the throttle slipped from his hand as he waved and the plane dipped towards the earth. Conor struggled desperately with the machine, but there was no saving the landing. He didn't crash, but it wasn't a soft landing either. The plane slid to a halt in the palace courtyard, a trail of torn up grass behind it.
Conor climbed out of the plane in time to see Isabella running up to him. She flung herself into his arms.
"Conor, you aren't hurt, are you?"
He held her with one arm while pulling off his goggles with the other. "I'm not hurt, but I think your courtyard is," he said, glancing back at his wake of destruction sheepishly.
"Oh, don't worry about the courtyard," Isabella exclaimed. "I'm just glad you're alright. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you again."
"I don't know what I'd do if I was taken away from you again," Conor muttered, kissing her gently.
After a moment, Isabella pulled away and looked back at the plane. "You named it after me!"
"Victor's idea," Conor said. "Before I was put in prison, I told him about how I had feelings for you and how I thought you were mad that I gave you a glider instead of something more special. He suggested my plane be named after you."
Isabella couldn't help but smile more as she gave him a hug. "Conor, I knew I'd never find another like you, ever since you came barging into my room all covered in mud to keep Prince Christian from stealing me away." She laughed.
He lifted her off her feet with one arm and shut the door of the plane with the other. "I'm going to miss you when I have to leave. This was sort of my goodbye to you."
"Well it was wonderful Conor. I don't want you to leave though."
"Still trying to talk me out of it? I already paid for my ticket. I'm leaving, no matter how much any of us may want me to stay. But I'll be back; it'll only be a year. Then you can hang me again."
"I'm not going to hang you again; my goodbye present to you." Isabella smiled. "And this," she kissed him again, oblivious to the guards trickling in from the rest of the palace to see why the grass in the courtyard was torn up.
Conor wrapped his other arm around her waist, wondering how he was going to spend a year in any place without her or his family.
He set Isabella back on her feet, then took her hand. "Is it possible for some of your guards to set my plane back upright again?"
"Of course." Isabella called out the names of a few of the guards. "Could you three please set Sir Conor's plane upright? Be careful."
The guards nodded and went about their duty.
Isabella then pulled Conor into the palace, down some hallways and up some stairs to a hatch leading up to the roof.
"What are we doing here?" Conor asked, eyeing the hatch.
"I found this after you were proclaimed dead. I came here to think a lot." She pushed open the trapdoor and pulled down the ladder. It unfolded and clunked to the floor.
Conor waved his hand at it. "Ladies first."
Isabella smirked. "No chance. You aren't the one wearing a skirt."
Conor turned a light shade of red at that and climbed the ladder quickly to cover his embarrassment.
Isabella followed them up and both were soon sitting on the roof, looking out over Great Saltee. The sun was near the horizon but not yet setting.
They sat in silence for a moment before Isabella looked up at him. "What was it like?"
"Well, that too, but I meant the prison. You never really told anyone what happened there."
Conor sighed. "I don't really like thinking about it, but I've been wanting to tell someone for a while. I wonder if sharing a load lightens it."
"It always does," Isabella murmured, taking his gloved hand in her bare one. Conor often wore gloves now, just to cover the Little Saltee kiss. He didn't particularly enjoy being branded a traitor and criminal.
He sighed. "Well, I think you already know the beginning. I was disguised and my father proclaimed his hate for me thinking I was someone else." Conor felt his heart start to break on the spot, but Isabella's touch held it together.
She nodded. "I wouldn't be able to imagine."
Conor sighed and proceeded to tell the rest of his story, from the diving bell, to Otto Malarkey, to the coral wall. When he was finished, Isabella hugged him.
"Thanks for telling me. You feel better?"
"Wait, you became a member of a gang?" Isabella asked suddenly, her eyes wide.
Conor nodded. "I had to. It was that or kill the guy. I didn't really want to do that, considering that he became my friend."
"I guess so." She sighed. "I'm so sorry that I never got you out, that you had to go through all that."
"It wasn't your fault, you didn't know. Thanks to Bonvilian, you all thought I was dead." Conor's other hand clenched into a fist at the mention of the traitor who had killed Isabella's father and Victor and put him in prison.
Isabella sighed. "Conor, he's dead. Forget about him. I know it isn't easy, but you shouldn't carry this the rest of your life."
Conor closed his eyes for a moment, trying to suppress his anger, then opened them again and pulled his hand out of Isabella's, ripping off the glove. He showed her the mark on his hand. "I won't ever forget it Isabella. I'm going to carry this with me for the rest of my life, forbidden to forget."
Isabella grabbed his hand again and examined the brand. "What is this?"
"Haven't you heard of it? It's the mark they give you when you first go to the prison. They call it a Little Saltee kiss, but it's nowhere near as pleasant as one," he muttered, anger still darkening his eyes.
"Conor, calm down," Isabella said, rubbing his arm. "It's alright."
Conor closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. Then he opened them again, the anger gone. "I'm better." He glanced over the island, noticing that the sun was about to set.
"Shouldn't we be getting back inside soon?" he asked.
Isabella shrugged. "Probably, but you're going tomorrow. I'll have a whole year to be inside at the right time." She leaned back against the roof as the sun dipped below the horizon.
"Good point," Conor muttered, lying down beside her.
Isabella leaned against him as the first stars began to poke through the black veil of the sky. "I really am going to miss you."
Conor looked down at her, sadness flooding his eyes. "Me too."