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The Belle and the Flyboy

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Chapter One

Charleston, South Carolina October 2003

As the convertible sped along the Battery, Janice Pickens untied the scarf that was holding her hair immobile. It hadn’t done such a great job, with brunette wisps curling all over her face, so she prepared to enjoy the fresh autumn breezes crossing the road. She felt herself relax as the rainbow pattern of houses caught her vision. Janice loved Charleston; growing up here was a present she appreciated now that she had grown up and left town. She found herself yawning a little, and politely put her hand across her mouth. She laughingly glanced at her brother Robert. From his position in the driver’s seat, he studied her with a stern face of mock disapproval.

“You’re putting in too many long days, Jan” was his only comment. He took a long look at his sister, wondering if she knew how she looked to others. He saw a very attractive, tall woman, curves in the right places, not too skinny, long dark hair, a ridiculously pixie nose, eyes of such a clear blue you could see dreams in them, and a scattering of freckles to enhance her elfish charm.

“At least, I made some time to shop for myself”, Janice yawned again. “Besides, with my dear brother acting as chauffer, I can afford to relax a little”.

“Hey, not for all that long, Sis”, Robert reminded her. “There’s no time for shopping today. I have to get back home in time to shower, shave, and get into my mess uniform for the reunion banquet, so don’t relax too much.”

“And how much time will that take?” teased Janice. “Ten minutes? Thirty, tops? You should see how long it takes us girls to get ready! Oh, yeah, I forgot, you and Diana play dress-up a lot. Is Diana looking forward to the evening?” Janice smiled.

“Oh yeah. Considering how expensive her evening gown is, that would be a safe bet”, Robert answered.

“She has a reputation she has to keep up. Besides, you know you love it when she glitzes up. Nobody remembers much about me, since I was the tomboy in the group. I doubt many will even recognize me. Now Diana, she really was the most beautiful girl in high school”, Janice sighed, thinking and reminiscing about the time she was a high school student at Charleston’s all-girl private school of Ashley Hall.

Janice had been a sophomore when Diana was elected the beauty queen of the graduating class. Diana had already been dating Robert at that time – Robert graduating the same year from Northwood Academy. After Robert had graduated four years later from the Citadel, he and Diana got married – just before he entered the U.S. Army

“Yes, she was – and still is, I may add”, Robert agreed with mock severity. Janice poked her tongue at her brother. Robert shook his head, though with a broadening smile.

“What is her dress like? Or do you even notice those things anymore? You’ve been married an awful long time.”

“”Hey, that doesn’t mean we’re fuddy-duddies!” Robert defended himself. “Diana’s gown is bronze, with a lighter shade chiffon overlay. At first I thought it was a bit much. It looks like she was going to attend the Oscars. But I was firmly reminded that a Citadel Grand Affair is very much like the Oscars. Wait until you see it. It looks so gorgeous, and extravagant it was worth the thought of eating bologna sandwiches for the next month or two.”

Janice sat up straighter. “Is it a designer dress? A couturier gown? Details, Robert, details!”

He shrugged his shoulders. “That’s about all I know. It goes swish when she walks in it, and I think the top is held up by special gravity or something, since it shouldn’t stay up the way it looks. But it sure will catch everyone’s attention, that’s certain. It caught mine instantly.”

“Perfect!” exclaimed Janice. “I can stay in the background as long as I want to tonight. I just hope I don’t meet anyone I know there. Most of my classmates are married with kids by now,” she grimaced. “Are you really sure you need me there? It’s not like I went to the Citadel or anything, no reason I can’t stay home and prop up my feet relaxing.

“Whoa, stop right there! Have you forgotten? You’ve got a date for this shindig, my ole roommate David Chapman. If he doesn’t come with a date he will be assessed a heavy fine. Please tell me you have a dress for tonight!”

“Oh, Bob, since you hadn’t mentioned it lately, I thought his cousin had gotten better. I really don’t want to have to make scintillating conversation all evening with a total stranger. It’s not like we have anything to talk about. Gee I’m sorry your cousin got the flu and couldn’t come to the dance. Then what? Can’t he just go stag?”

“No, he can’t. I gave him my word that I would help him out. A Citadel grad never welches on his word. And it’s not like David is a total stranger to you, Jan! You have met him, a couple times. Remember, at graduation and all the parties then?”

Janice thoughts raced back to that day her brother graduated from the Citadel. Robert had introduced his family to David, calling him “his buddy through thick and thin”. After the ceremonies were completed, David introduced his parents to his friend and Janice. Janice remembered clearly the distinct accent that David had. It was not something that one forgot.

“You’re talking more than a few years ago, brother dear,” she drawled. “It may take me a while to remember how to understand that accent of his” she commented. “Where was it from, Australia or someplace wasn’t it?”

“New Zealand, Janice, New Zealand! If you ask him about Australia he will probably explode. There’s always been a rivalry between the two countries, something like the Yankees and the South here in America.”

“Since I know all too well about that type of rivalry, I will do my best not to even think about the topic when I am with him.” Janice winced as she recalled her parents’ last machinations with her social life, in the “interests of the Better South”. “You know, Bob”, she continued, “Sometimes I wonder why people can’t accept others as they are, instead of where they are from.”

Robert slowed the car prior to taking the exit ramp. He looked anxiously at his sister. Her tone was disinterested, but he sensed a lot of hurt behind the comment. “Do you still think Hugh was the real deal for you?” he asked sympathetically.

“Now that’s a good question. At the time I did. And of course I hated that Mom and Dad felt it their duty to tell him he didn’t meet their standards. What a crushing thing to do! But I like to think that any guy who really truly loves me will put up a bit more of a fight,” she added slowly.

“He will, Janice, I promise. You are worth fighting for, even if I am just your brother.”

Janice leaned over and kissed her brother on the check. “Thanks Bob. I’m glad you’re my brother … most of the time. Except when you’re dragging me out to parties and the like.”

Janice couldn’t shake off the feeling that her brother was holding something back. “Okay, Bob, a little more background about your friend. I haven’t seen him in years. What has he been doing?”

“With David, that’s not a question to answer in a couple words,” responded Robert. “I met him my first day at the Citadel. He was a year younger than me, since the New Zealand education system is different from ours. I do have to admit it took me a while to understand everything he said. But his Dad is from Charleston, from a South Carolina family older than ours, in fact. His mother is from New Zealand. When David was still very young, his father was offered the ambassadorship to New Zealand, and they took David with them. When his parents came back to the States, he came with them for elementary school, then went back down there for their equivalent of middle and high school, returning here in order to go to the Citadel.”

“Now that’s something I don’t understand. Why would someone from New Zealand want to go to the Citadel for college? Aren’t there good schools down there?”

“Janice, this is the South, where tradition is almost as important as your family’s pecan pie recipe. David’s father, grandfather and a couple of his greats went to the Citadel, so it was a done deal for him. He told me way back that it had always been his dream.”

“So what did he do after graduation? We know you became a big hotshot plantation owner after your army tenure; what about David?”

“He went back to New Zealand to join their Air Force”.

“Whoa. Back up a minute. He went to the Citadel, here in America, which is considered one of the best military colleges outside of our academies, and then went back and joined another country’s Air Force? I don’t get it.”

“Janice, I told you it was complicated, and we’re running out of time! Okay, when David was born here in Charleston, his mother also registered his birth with the Internal Affairs Ministry in Wellington, where the New Zealand Government is based. By doing that he became a New Zealand citizen as well.”

“So he’s not an American? I thought you had to be to get into the Citadel.”

“Well, that’s not true. A lot of countries send students to the Citadel. The Thai Army sends quite a few, almost one every year. But David IS a U.S. citizen. He has dual citizenship, for both countries.”

“Now I really am confused. I thought you had to give up one country for the other.”

“There are still a few countries in the world that offer dual citizenship to Americans. New Zealand is one, as well as Great Britain, India, France, Ireland and a couple smaller countries around the globe.”

He turned into the driveway of his parents’ house. “Now you had better hurry up and get ready. We will pick you up at 6 p.m. sharp.”

Janice looked at him as she shut the passenger door to the convertible. “You’re not getting out of this that easy. You owe me for going to this thing. You’ll never know when and where I will collect.”

Robert laughed as he put the car in gear. “Do your worst, Janice. Nothing could be more than what Diana would do to David and me if he went dateless.” He waved as he drove out of the driveway to the carriage house he occupied with his wife.

Janice thoughtfully walked up the path to the front door. She had forgotten most everything about this friend David. But she did recall he was tall, not to mention good-looking. Maybe she should have paid Robert for fixing him up with her. She reviewed the information Robert had given her. David was a South Carolinian with a New Zealand-born mother whose husband became the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, who got his high school education there, then came back to South Carolina in order to follow generations of his family and go to college at the Citadel, then returned to New Zealand to join their Air Force. That person had covered a lot of miles… And sounded very interesting indeed.

Her smile stayed on her face as she let herself in the door, humming as she raced to her room to begin preparing for the dance.

David Chapman fastened his last cuff link, and checked himself out in the mirror. Not bad for a hard-driving pilot, he mused. He picked up his wallet, stuffing it into the inner pocket of his uniform jacket. He thought he was doing the Royal New Zealand Air Force proud, and hoped the Board at the Citadel would think the same. Since he was staying at the Francis Marion Hotel, he assumed its staff had seen a fair number of formally dressed military during its time and would approve as well.

It was bittersweet looking at himself in the mirror. This was one of the last times he would be qualified to wear the Royal New Zealand Air Force uniform. And here he was, in a hotel room in Charleston, just minutes away from his mother, and she couldn’t see him in it this one last time. She had been born and bred in New Zealand and had given up that part of her life when she married his dad. She deserved this one last link to her homeland, but he was in a hotel room instead of making her proud in her living room.

He knew she had a virulent case of the flu. In fact, it was one of the reasons he had flown to America a week early, because she had been so sick. But she refused to allow him in the house, for fear he would pick up the infection and not be able to go through with his plans on the timetable given him. It just wasn’t fair she couldn’t witness the swan song.

David’s cell phone beeped. Walking over to the dresser, David picked it up. He instantly recognized the number of the incoming call as his friend Bob Pickens. He turned on the phone.

“Hey, Bob”, David said, “I take it you’re outside in the lobby?”

“Yeah, I’m in the limo”, Robert confirmed, “Why aren’t you downstairs waiting? We are on a schedule, you know. Maybe YOU want to be fashionably late, but remember all those traditions, all those fines…”

“Yeah, yeah”, David interjected, “I forgot my wallet, and I don’t want to end up in deep doo-doo if I have to pay a fine to Mr. Vice. I’m on my way down”.

“Great”, David replied, “Diana and Janice are both in the limo, so we’re all set to hit the road”.

“On my way”, David said as he clicked off the phone. Quickly patting his pockets, he left his hotel room, closing the door behind him. He kept trying to remember what Bob’s little sister looked like, but kept flashing on a youngster still in her teens. Try as he might he could only picture Bob in long ringlets.

Shaking his head at that internal picture, he laughed to himself and scurried to the elevator. Whatever she looked like, he owed her big-time. Since this was the tenth reunion, all alumni were expected to have a date, preferably a spouse. Any singles would have to pay a large fine.

A quick trip down the elevator got him to the hotel lobby. David quickly walked through the foyer, barely noticing that others in the lobby were looking at him – or more accurately his Royal New Zealand Air Force Mess Dress Uniform. The trousers had a sharp crease down the leg. The short mini-tuxedo jacket was covered with miniature medals he had earned in the Air Force, as well as bullion-embroidered wings that advertised he was a military pilot.

Outside the hotel entrance, the limousine was waiting. Robert saw David first and said, “Here he comes, and he certainly is dressed for the occasion”.

Janice looked out of the window to see David approach. She noted with approval that the mess dress uniform wasn’t as garish as Robert’s. It was in the cut of a tuxedo in a mixture of slate blue and grey, with David’s insignia of rank denoted by two gold stripes circling each sleeve. David’s pilot wings and a small number of miniature medals were on the right breast of the uniform, and stiff boards on his shoulders that probably indicated some military information. He wore a sword belt – complete with a scabbard and sword -- around the waist. David’s officer service cap – which he had tucked under his left arm – completed the ensemble.

Now Janice was intrigued. She truly had forgotten how good-looking David was. He looked to be someone you could trust. Suddenly she felt that her brother had just done her a great big favor. She could certainly see herself spending the evening chatting with him, although she predicted that a lot of the time she would be protecting him from the predatory females of Charleston. If they weren’t single, there would be mamas of nice Southern Belles trying to nab him.

Janice noticed that David wore his class ring – what the folk at the Citadel call ‘The Band of Gold’, which Robert wore as well.

“I see he’s wearing his ring”, Janice commented, “Just like you, Bob”.

“It would be a shock if he wasn’t”, Robert replied, “Actually that ring got him into some grief down in New Zealand. It’s a story in itself. Remind me to tell you about it later.”

The driver of the limousine opened the door for David. Nodding to the driver, he climbed in. The driver closed the door after him.

“Well, well”, Robert said, “Welcome to my humble conveyance, Flight Lef-tenant Chapman” he mocked, flipping him an informal salute as David got himself settled in.

“Glad to be here, Major Pickens, Sir”, David replied with a smile.

“Oh, my brother outranks you?” Janice asked. David nodded.

“Flight Lieutenant is the RNZAF equivalent to a Captain, Miss Pickens”, David informed her. Janice couldn’t help but smile at David’s pronunciation of ‘lieutenant’, using the British ’lef-tenant’. It sounded much sexier when David said it than her brother’s mockery seconds before.

“Well, one learns something new every day”, Janice said as the limousine moved off.

“I appreciate your filling in, Miss Pickens”, David said to Janice, “I really do apologize for any inconvenience that this may have caused”. Janice smiled at David’s formality.

“You know, you can call me Janice”, she said, “’Miss Pickens’ really is a little too formal. I am sorry your cousin is sick. This promises to be an entertaining evening. Anyone who could use connections to get tickets to the dance were doing so.”

“Really?” asked David, with eyebrow raised. “It’s just a simple reunion dinner dance, nothing too fancy. Except, of course, the dress-up we get to play”, he smiled, indicating his and David’s getups. “And please, call me David.

“I will”, Janice replied. She was impressed with David’s manners and disposition. She could not put her finger on it, but David was a relaxing presence to her. Of course, his looking so incredibly gorgeous was helping her relax as well. No one would feel pity for her tonight, that was for sure.

David was surreptitiously eying Bob’s sister. He didn’t remember her looking like this back at graduation. Back then, he thought she had the makings of a ditzy blonde airhead. He tried to remember what Bob had told him about Janice. She ran one of the family businesses, which of course, could be something simple. But there was an intelligence in her gaze that caught him, as well as the impish gleam that was currently in her eyes.

“You know, you could comment on my dress”, Janice said to David, “Doesn’t it look gorgeous? A comment or two would not go astray”. She brushed away an imaginary piece of lint from her dove gray chiffon skirt. She observed that her grey dress could almost have been made as a companion to David’s dress uniform.

“It left me speechless, Janice”, David hastily replied with a slight blush. Janice giggled, with Diana joining in.

“Nice save, David”, Janice replied, “Looks like I may enjoy the evening”.

“I’m enjoying it already, Janice”, David said, “By the way, Diana, it’s good to see you again as well. And yes, your dress is very nice”.

Diana turned to her husband and said, “Between his manners and accent, I’m enjoying the evening already myself.”

“And the best is yet to come” announced Bob, as the limo turned the corner to its destination on Hagwood Avenue – the Citadel Alumni House – where the reception and formal banquet was being held.

“You’ll like the Alumni House”, Robert said to David, as it came into view, “It wasn’t built the last time you were up here”. David nodded. The last time he had been in Charleston was in 1998 – just before his father’s funeral. The John Munroe Johnson Alumni Center – the formal name of the Alumni House – opened in September 2000.

“How much of the old class is going to be present?” David asked.

“When they heard that you were coming”, Robert answered, “the projected total went from sixty percent to nearly eighty. I think they want to see that uniform of yours, not to mention that sword”.

“What’s so special with the sword?” Diana asked, “I thought that was standard for all officers”.

“David here was one of a few New Zealand Air Force officers who went to the British Royal Air Force College at Cranwell, England”, Robert explained, “He won the Sword of Honor as the honor graduate in his class”.

Janice looked at the ornate sword hilt and scabbard that David carried with him. David shrugged.

“It only meant that they had a lot of rather low intellects in that class of mine”, David replied uncomfortably, “I was rather surprised to get the sword”.

Janice looked at David with approval. A rather modest individual, she noted. She made a mental note to inquire about his miniature medals to see if she could get him to blush some more throughout the evening. She was really feeling optimistic about the evening ahead.

“Ah, here we are”, Robert commented as the limo turned into a driveway. The façade of the Alumni Hall looked imposing, but the gaily-lit windows showed that there was a lot of activity within. Some limousines were already there ahead of them.

When their vehicle pulled up to the front entrance, the driver got out of the vehicle and opened the door. David let Robert and his wife emerge first. As protocol demanded, the senior officer present would emerge first. After Robert took Diana’s hand and stepped away from the car, David emerged, then offered his gloved hand to Janice, who took it.

Assisting Janice out of the limo, David nodded to her, then quickly placed his cap on his head. He then offered his arm to her, which she took. David then turned to Robert.

“After you, Sir”, David said formally to his friend. With his wife holding onto his arm, Robert walked into the entrance – advertised above with a sign reading ‘Welcome, Class of 1993’. David – with Janice holding onto his arm – followed Robert and Diana into the entrance.

“Major Robert Pickens, United States Army Reserve, and Wife”, Robert informed the doorman. The doorman nodded and quickly checked off his name. David then walked up.

“Flight Lieutenant David Chapman, Royal New Zealand Air Force, and escort, Miss Janice Pickens”, David informed the doorman.

The doorman noticed that David’s date was not whom his list has mentioned. He scrawled a quick note, and then handed two cards to a senior Citadel cadet, who would be escorting the party. The cadet saluted.

“If you would please follow me, Sirs and Madams”, the cadet formally requested.

Nodding, the four of them followed the cadet through the lobby and towards a set of double doors. Two Citadel cadets opened the doors.

As they stepped through, the escorting cadet announced, “Major and Mrs. Pickens, United States Army Reserve”.

Janice noticed that a number of Citadel cadets had formed two lines on either side of the door, forming an honor guard. As Robert and Diana walked between the honor guard, the cadet spoke again:

“Flight Lieutenant David Chapman, A.F.C., Royal New Zealand Air Force, and Miss Janice Pickens”, he announced.

As they walked through the honor guard, Janice whispered, “What does ‘A.F.C.’ stand for, David?”

“Air Force Cross”, David replied equally quietly, “Robert must have tipped them off”.

After they passed through the honor guard, several couples who had arrived earlier walked up to Robert and David. A lot of handshaking and shoulder-patting ensued.

“Hey, Kiwi!” one of the greeters called out to David.

“Hey, Dan”, David replied warmly, shaking hands with him.

“I see you’ve dressed for the occasion”, Dan teased, “Jolly good show and all that”. David rolled his eyes at that.

“’Kiwi?” Janice inquired. David nodded.

“That was the moniker bestowed upon me at the Citadel”, David explained, “It was my fellow classmates’ way of making sure I remembered I had an accent.”

“You’re right about that, Kiwi”, Dan amplified, “That accent of yours really got you a lot of attention, and not just from your classmates! D’you remember ..?”

“Dan, we’re forgetting our manners”, David reminded his friend, “This is my escort for the evening, Miss Janice Pickens”.

Dan formally kissed Janice’s hand in greeting. Janice smiled.

“I am Daniel Eckelberger”, he said to Janice by way of introduction, “a class buddy of Kiwi – I mean David’s. I take it you’re related to Bob?”

“I’m Robert’s sister”, Janice confirmed.

“Your brother and Kiwi here were inseparable at the Citadel”, Dan said, “Where one was, so was the other. We were thinking about calling him Mrs. Kiwi, but Bob was bigger than the rest of us!”

“And what did your fellow cadets call you?” Janice asked with a smile.

“Ma’am”, Dan replied with a slight blush, “in deference to the presence of a beautiful woman like yourself, I’ll avoid answering”.

David and Janice laughed. A waiter came over with a tray of champagne glasses. David raised his eyebrow to Janice in a silent question. Janice nodded.

Taking two glasses of champagne from the waiter, David handed one to Janice. Both of them saw that Robert and Diana had also taken a glass of champagne each.

“What shall we drink to?” Robert asked his friend.

“How about… to the Class of 1993?” David suggested. Bob nodded.

“To the class”, Robert said, raising his glass.

“The class”, David, Diana, and Janice replied. They quickly sipped their drinks.

“If you’ll excuse me, David”, Robert said suddenly, “I spy Eric. I want to have a chat with him”.

“Go ahead”, David answered, “Remind him about the fifty bucks he still owes you”.

As Robert and Diana moved away from them, Janice remarked, “It’s easy to see the class graduates here, given those rather gaudy rings you all are wearing”.

“The Band of Gold is hardly known for being modest, my dear Janice”, David replied in a non-serious chiding tone, “It is a well-earned mark of honor and I’m proud to have continued to uphold the class pledge regarding it”.

“And that is?” Janice inquired.

“The pledge we took when we received it: “I pledge – as a symbol of eternal brotherhood of the Class of 1993, to never allow the ring to leave my person, and to wear it at all times, so help me, God’”, David said.

“Robert told me that your ring got you into some trouble”, Janice said next.

“That was something of an understatement”, David replied, “It was down in New Zealand. When I went to Command Training School in order to become a RNZAF Officer”, he began, pronouncing the initials as ‘Rin-zaff’. “One of the instructors noticed the ring on my finger. He informed me that since it was a non-regulation piece of jewelry I had to remove it”.

“They don’t have rings in the New Zealand military?” Janice asked. David shook his head.

“Nor in the schools either”, David replied, “It’s an American tradition. Anyway, I pointed out to the instructor that it was my graduation ring from the Citadel. He wasn’t impressed and again ordered me to remove it. I refused”.

“Uh, oh”, Janice commented. David ruefully nodded as well.

“It got even better”, he continued. “The instructor threatened me with a charge of insubordination if I did not remove the ring. I still refused. He then tried to take the ring off my hand - forcefully. I took that as an assault and flattened him”.

“Were you court-martialed?” Janice asked quickly. David was impressed by her knowledge of military protocol.

“It came pretty close”, David explained, “I was placed under arrest and charges were drawn up, but I had the opportunity to call my father. He got onto his friends in the Pentagon, who then got onto the Defense Attaché at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington. It then went down to New Zealand Defense Force Headquarters in Wellington, and then it went to Command Training School”.

“What happened then?” Janice asked.

“Once he read the information, the Commanding Officer realized that I had made a solemn oath at a military academy to always wear the ring, and that an Officer and Gentleman had a duty to uphold such oaths. Therefore it was proper for me to do so. But…. given that I had – in front of other officer cadets – assaulted an instructor senior officer, it raised an awkward question of what to do with me. That’s when the miracle happened”, David replied, tapping the sword.

“I was wondering when you would explain the British Air Force sword”, Janice commented.

“The United Kingdom allows a certain number of individuals from various Commonwealth countries to attend Cranwell. It was at that moment the Commanding Officer had received a communiqué from Defense HQ informing him that the cadet he selected to go to Cranwell broke his leg in an accident. He decided that Cranwell would be the place to put me”.

“Shuffled out of the way by being kicked into a prestige assignment, you mean”, Janice said, slightly shaking her head.

“He said that my honor and integrity had been proven beyond question, and that my Citadel grades – which he had received courtesy of my father – showed that I met the program’s qualifications, so two days later, I was off to Britain and RAF Cranwell”.

“And evidently by that sword of yours, you got through that okay”, Janice observed. David nodded.

“With my sword and my commission in hand, I returned to New Zealand and learned to fly jets. After a couple of years with the RNZAF Strike Wing, I was sent back to Britain to attend the Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Downs. I was only the third RNZAF member to ever go there”.

“So you’ve been pretty busy as an Air Force jet pilot with test pilot credentials”, Janice said, “but I heard from Robert that it all came to a crashing halt?”

“Yeah”, Robert confirmed, “The New Zealand government – citing a ‘benign defense environment’ – terminated the RNZAF strike wing, and so no jet fighters or attack aircraft are left in the RNZAF. A lot of my colleagues decided to transfer to the RAF and the Royal Australian Air Force rather than fly transport and maritime patrol aircraft”.

“And you decided to do what?” Janice inquired.

“I decided to come back here in order to go into the U.S. Air Force”, said David, a solemn look on his face.

“Normally, I would not have had much of a chance getting back into jets over here, given the fact that New Zealand’s strike wing only consisted of obsolete A-4 Skyhawks”, David explained, “but since Empire Test Pilots School is also attended by USAF personnel, that credential gave me the necessary edge”.

“So is everything arranged?” Janice asked as she sipped her champagne

“I hope so”, David replied, “At the end of next week, I head up to Washington and to the New Zealand embassy so that my formal discharge from the RNZAF will take effect. Then it will be a quick trip to the Pentagon to be sworn in as an officer in the US Air Force. I’ll be going in as a Captain”.

“Darn. So my brother will still outrank you”, pouted Janice.

David laughed. “He may think he does. But I look around and see that I scored the prettiest girl in the room, and feel I rank way above him.”

“Wow, David,” exclaimed Janice with wide eyes. “Does New Zealand have the equivalent of the Blarney Stone? Because I think you must have kissed it.”

David’s eyes lit up with mischief. He twirled his imaginary mustache, saying “you’ll never know what to expect from Kiwis, after all. Be careful what you trust us with. And we’re a nocturnal breed at that” he leered.

Janice felt herself blushing. Goodness what was happening here? He was, well, flirting with her. And she loved it!

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