The Belle and the Flyboy

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Chapter Thirty-One

As Janice went in to work on Tuesday, she was more than a little down. She had gotten a call from David last night, and he sounded so happy to be back around jets and pilots that she was afraid she had lost him. She hoped there would be enough work waiting for her to take her mind off David.

Her inbox was filled to overflowing, and for once she was happy at the sight. What with tackling that, having a meeting with her foreman, then her department managers, she would be busy all morning. In the afternoon she would lead the tour, and then just walk around, chatting to her staff. It would be a long day, but at least she could stay busy.

Just before noon, her cell phone beeped. She picked it up and answered. Funny, no one was there. It beeped again. Still no one on the other line. With her frustration level already past its limit, she decided to have someone else fix this. She went out to her secretary’s desk, and gave her the phone.

“Fix this,” she requested.

Deanna looked at her, looked at the phone, looked back at Janice. “What’s wrong with it?”

“I don’t know. It keeps beeping, but there is no one on the other line.”

Deanna’s face cleared up. “Oh! You are probably getting a message.”

“I told you, I can’t be since there is no one on the other line.”

Deanna smiled. “Cell phones are a lot more than miniature phones, Miss Pickens. You can send someone a message by text, so they can read it. It’s great when you are in a place where you cannot speak to someone but want to let them know something.”

“So, how do I get this text stuff?”

Deanna checked out her phone. “I can show you, but that’s not what is happening here.” She took a quick glance at Janice’s face and hurried on to explain. “Someone is sending you a picture.”

“A picture? Like with a camera?”

“Didn’t you know your phone had a camera?” Janice’s blank look gave Deanna the answer to that question. “Anyway, you can take a photo with your phone and then send it to someone else’s cell. That’s what happened here.”

“So how do I see the photo?”

Deanna knew that her boss was in a serious relationship, and felt it better that she not see whatever picture was being transmitted. She walked Janice through the steps to saving the photo on her camera, and then opening it.

When Janice saw the photo, her spirits raised considerably. Deanna saw Janice’s mouth turn up in one of the biggest smiles she had ever seen on her boss.

“Thank you, Deanna,” smiled Janice. “You’ve been a great help!” Janice walked back into her office, leaving Deanna to wonder just what the photo was.

Janice sat at her desk, just staring at the photo. It was David, standing in front of some kind of jet. He was dressed in some green jumpsuit. He was smiling so big Janice was surprised he wasn’t swallowing gnats or mosquitoes. She took her finger and traced David’s image on her phone, smiling all the while.

Her doubts were all erased. Flying was definitely David’s milieu, and this photo confirmed it. She had made the right choice in sending him away. He needed to fly. She just needed to figure out how to function when he wasn’t around.

She swung back to her desk’s In-Box, with a cheerful disposition, determined to finish her work quickly. She couldn’t wait to show the picture to David’s mother.

When she finally left work, she drove directly to Charleston. She had promised to help finish up the boxes, but she would bet David’s mother would love the picture he sent as well.

She pulled up to the house, astounded at the number of cars in the driveway and on the street. Someone was obviously having a party. She hoped she wasn’t interrupting anything.

She rang the bell at the doorway. David’s aunt opened the door, and welcomed her with a smile. “We were hoping you would stop by today.” She led her into the front room.

Janice was speechless. There were at least twenty ladies in the front room. Most of the furniture had been taken out, and chairs had been arranged in a large circle. The ladies all had individual hoops, and were working on various parts of the large fabric in the middle. Mrs. Chapman looked up, and greeted Janice. “What do you think? We’ve made pretty good headway, don’t you think?”

Janice moved closer. This was one of the quilts she had found in the attic, rather, a replica of one. A good bit of the pattern had already been stitched in, and it really was starting to resemble the original quilt. “This is going to be an extraordinary piece of art when you finish,” she whispered in awe. “I cannot believe how gorgeous this is.”

The ladies laughed and tittered, and got back to work with smiles on their faces. Janice walked around the room, looking closely at each woman’s work. The stitches were tiny, but the execution of the pattern was incredible. When she got around to David’s mother, she dropped to her knees to speak to her.

“I am learning all about my cell phone,” she began. Mrs. Chapman looked at her with a slightly quizzical look on her face. Janice continued, “David sent me a photo today. I didn’t even know I had a camera on my phone.” She brought up the photo, and showed it to David’s mother. She wistfully smiled, and said to the room “I don’t know what happened, but my baby boy is all grown up now.” Most of the women nodded – they had all experienced the feeling.

Janice whispered that she was going to the attic to attack more boxes, and Mrs. Chapman nodded in approval. As Janice left, she was busily planning which boxes she would work on tonight, and missed the hiss of whispers that began when she left the room. The man’s ring on her finger had not escaped notice. Mrs. Chapman started explaining David’s reasoning for not getting engaged right away, and the ladies nodded in approval, telling Mrs. Chapman that she had raised a very intelligent son.

The first box Janice tackled was full of household papers. The fun part was that the household was back in 1866 and contained references to tallow, and lye, to make soap. There were notes about how much cotton had been spun that day, which made Janice smile. Even back then they were making their own fabric.

She read a letter sent to Amelia Chapman by an old friend Delia. Her friend commented on the difficulties of visiting now that the Chapmans were in Charleston and not Columbia. Janice stopped at the phrase she encountered “If only William had not gone to Charleston. You might have kept the plantation if he had been there to defend it. Then I would not be missing your company so much.”

Something William had done in Charleston had started the family on its departure from their plantation. She wished David were here to fill her in on some of these details. Then again, he probably did not know either.

She made herself put aside the letter and continue going through the box. The farther back the boxes went, the more interesting the contents were. Janice decided she was going to make yet another stack of the boxes, and put items in there she wanted to examine or read more carefully once everything had been organized.

The sun had long set when Janice stretched. Since the attic had little available light even in the daytime, she had no clue how much time she had spent in the attic. She glanced at her watch. It was after nine o’clock. She was surprised at how fast the time went. She had arrived shortly after four, and wasn’t in the least bit tired. She placed the cover on the box she was currently examining, and restacked it in her “to do” pile. It was beginning to dwindle, thank heavens. Maybe it will be finished before David got back.

She went downstairs to find Mrs. Chapman waiting for her. “I had no idea you were still upstairs, Janice. This is horrible. You come into the dining room right now and eat some supper.”

Janice smiled. “Oh, please, Mrs. Chapman, don’t go to any trouble. I am really enjoying myself up there.” Mrs. Chapman had taken hold of her arm and led her to the dining room. Janice saw a plate with chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, and a tall glass of iced tea waiting for her. “You shouldn’t have,” she turned to David’s mother, “but I will definitely accept. This looks wonderful.”

As she ate, they chatted a bit about what she had uncovered. Rosemary wandered in and sat at the table as well, contributing a bit. They all agreed that soap was one of the things anyone living today would appreciate over the old lye and tallow days. Janice asked about the death of William Chapman, and what it had to do with losing Columbia, but Rosemary and Mrs. Chapman were as mystified as she. They all hoped to have more answers as the older boxes were unearthed.

At her desk on Wednesday, Janice kept wondering about that offhand remark in the letter. What could he have done in Charleston to affect the family as drastically as it did. Or, maybe it was just a matter of William being older. Jeffrey would not have been twenty when the war started, and maybe he didn’t have the mental strength yet to put up with soldiers all around. No matter how much she tried to figure it out, there was no answer to be found.

Janice found her days speeding by, with a certain rhythm. She had her regular work at the mill, and she continued to go out nearly every night to the Chapmans, ostensibly to look at more boxes, but really more of an effort to make sure Mrs. Chapman was not getting too lonely without David. That way there was always a willing audience to hear about David’s early exploits. And, of course, the evening phone calls with David that made her smile, no matter how risqué or technical he would get.

Janice could not believe that three weeks had flown by. She was on her way to the Chapmans, where she had only a handful of boxes remaining. In remembering David’s initial remasrks about the boxes, she had to agree. There were hundreds of them, and now the task was almost done.

In an attempt to keep Mrs. Chapman company, Janice typically brought down two or three boxes at a time, and sorted through them with her help. It made the progress slow, but excited Mrs. Chapman no end, finding out about her husband’s ancestors.

This night she brought down two boxes, one of them fairly heavy. Janice was sure it was just stuffed with papers. She placed it on the dining room table, and she and Mrs. Chapman unsealed all the tape around the ends.

“Hmm, the last time I encountered all these seals were on the boxes that had quilts in them,” Janice remarked. She looked up and caught Mrs. Chapman’s excited eyes. Her excitement was contagious. “Okay, let’s get ready. 3 – 2 – 1” she counted down, then lifted the lid off the box.

The box was crammed with material. When Janice carefully took the top set out of the box, she realized they were draperies. The pattern indicated that the drapes had been woven before the War. The colors were a bit faded, but she wasn’t sure whether that was due to all the years in the box, or if they were sun-faded prior to being put into the box.

She reached inside and took out another stack. It was the same pattern, but a different color scheme all together. The third stack was smaller, possibly for a child’s window. It had a nursery type scene, in rich colors preserved for posterity.

Mrs. Chapman was still sitting, staring at the drapes. She looked up at Janice. “I have a very important request to make, Janice dear.” Janice looked over at her.

“I remember reading that the family history is contained in these drapes. That is why the pattern is the same and only the colors change. Is there a way you could duplicate the design for me, and some other Chapman family members?”

Janice looked a little more carefully at the patterns. She saw the horses, and the trees, and bushes, so common on drapes in the period. But a closer look revealed that there were men in some of the bushes. The riders on the horses were wearing clothing typical around the American Revolution. She realized that these were indeed family history. The part she had just studied indicated the family members who fought with Colonel Frances Marion, the famous Swamp Fox.

“Mrs. Chapman, I would love to copy the design and make you a complete set of draperies for the house. You just tell me how much yardage you need.”

Mrs. Chapman smiled up at her. “I know I should protest, should say it is too much trouble, but I would love to see these back in the family again. So I accept your offer.”

When Janice got home that night, she was too excited to sleep. She took out the sketches she had started while at the Chapman house, and made some notes about colors, fabrics, and other design specifications. She was busy shading in one of the drapes when her cell phone rang. The caller ID identified it as David, and she got comfortable for another one of their chats.

“How’s my sweetheart?” he began. She always felt surrounded by his warmth when he said that.

“I’m just fine,” she answered. “Missing you like anything and trying to stay busy.”

“Mmm, so what are you doing right now?” he asked.

“Making a sketch of some drapes we just found in the attic,” she replied.

“Really? That must have been exciting.”

“Oh, your mother was like a kid who had found treasure,” was Janice’s response. “I made her a deal. I will copy the designs and make drapes for the whole house.”

David whistled. “Do you have any idea how many windows you will have to cover?” he asked.

“Yes, but once the pattern is done, it’s just a matter of milling it. Not a problem.”

“Okay. I have a favor to ask you as well.”

“My day for doing favors for Chapmans,” she teased. “What can I do for you?”

“How about driving out to the Air Base?”

“Oh, David, it is so late, and I am so tired. Why in the world……David Chapman, if you are playing a joke on me I will beat you silly.”

She heard the smile in his voice. “No joke. I just flew in. You can’t get in to the base this late, but I can walk to the gates, and you can pick me up there.”

“How, why, what,” Janice sputtered.

David laughed. “I’ll explain it all to you soon. Just come and get me.”

Suddenly energized, Janice jumped off her chair. “I’m on my way. I’ll call when I get close.”

“Perfect. See you then. I have missed you so much,” he added in a low voice.

“Oh, me too,” she cried. “I can’t wait to see you!”

They hung up, and David sat back to wait. Janice ran to the car and started it up. She wondered how much a speeding ticket would cost, and decided it didn’t matter. The sooner she got there the sooner she could touch him again. She raced out of the complex driveway, on her way to the air base.

When she drove onto Air Base Highway, she dialed David’s cell. He picked it up first ring, saying “how close are you?”

“I’ve just gotten onto the Air Base Highway,” she answered.

“And you say that I am a low-flying pilot,” he chided. “You’re about five minutes away then. I’ll get myself to the gate.”

When she pulled up to the gate, she saw a tall figure in uniform standing at the gatehouse talking to someone inside. When he saw her headlights, he turned and waved. He shook the guard’s hand, and came walking up to her.

He stooped down to the passenger window, which she had lowered. “Hey, lady, any chance of a ride into town?”

“Well, I don’t know, they say there are all kinds of strange men lurking around military bases nowadays.”

“That’s certainly true. If I guarantee to behave, can I get in your car?”

“Certainly not. If you guarantee to misbehave, get on in.”

With alacrity, David opened the door and slid in the car.

They reached for each other, and just hugged. David could feel Janice’s heart pumping madly, and knew his was doing the same. He had missed her dreadfully.

As they pulled apart, she gave him a light slap on the chest. “That’s for trying to trick me,” she pouted. “Why couldn’t you tell me you were coming home today?”

“Because I didn’t know it until today,” he replied. “Really!” he protested, a little leery at the skeptical look in her eye.

“So why, then?” she asked. “Did you hitch a ride with someone?”

“No, they needed a jet flown into Charleston Base, so I volunteered.”

“You’re kidding. They let you fly back here?”

“Hey,” he protested, a wounded look on his face. “I am a fully qualified pilot, you know.” He pointed out the double set of wings on this uniform.

She traced the wings with her fingers. Such small wings, meaning so much, to him, to his family, to his country. Remembering an old movie about wives and sweethearts pinning wings onto their man’s uniform, she pouted a little about her not doing it, but the fact that David was here more than compensated.

“I wish I could have pinned the wings on you,” she said softly.

“I know, sweetheart, but I qualified faster than they thought, so there wasn’t even time to arrange for you to fly up. Besides, knowing you, I was probably spared the blood wing tradition.”

“Now, David, that’s an Army tradition. Far be it for me to use an Army tradition on a genuine Air Force officer,” she commented, tongue in cheek.

He grabbed her fingers and pressed a kiss to them. “Whaddya say we get out of here before I get arrested.”

“David!” Janice’s voice was shocked. “What have you done? Did you steal that jet to get here?”

He laughed heartily. “Now who’s the gullible one? I mean get arrested because I want to do, and say, a lot more to you than ‘hello how was your day’. Get moving!”

Janice was glad of the dark so David couldn’t see the blush appearing on her face. One would think by now that she would be used to double entendres, but apparently not.

David stretched out his legs in the Saturn’s passenger area. “Ah, it feels good to stretch. I’ve been cooped up in an A-4 most of the day. I must say, it never gets terribly comfortable.”

As the car sped up the highway, she asked him “Do you want to stop at your mother’s first?”

David’s horrified “No!” satisfied her. Besides, his mother was probably already asleep. No thoughtful son would want to wake her up this late. She smirked as the car came closer to Summerton.

“So, why were you in this A-4, and why did it have to be in Charleston?” she asked.

“Well since, I flew A-4 Skyhawks back in the RNZAF, and there were a couple that had to be ferried out to Nellis AFB, I got ‘volunteered’ to fly one. Charleston is an overnight refueling stop. Tomorrow, I take it to Lackland AFB in Texas, then after that, Nellis”.

“So you’re only here for tonight”, Janice said sadly. David nodded.

“Now that my flight assessment has been finished, Nellis is where I’m assigned”, David said, “My A-4 experience is needed there. I’ll have just enough time tomorrow to see Mum, and then I pretty much have to get on my way.”

“Nevada”, Janice muttered, “that’s a lot further than Langley”.

“I know, Sweetheart”, David said quietly, “but they want A-4 drivers out there to act as aggressor pilots for Red Flag. I have the credentials as a Test pilot, plus A-4 experience”.

“Red Flag?” Janice asked, “Aggressor?”

“Red Flag is a simulated combat course for fighter pilots”, David explained, “An aggressor pilot is a pilot who acts as the enemy. Since an A-4 is small and very maneuverable, they make for good aggressors. Normally, F-16’s are used, but since most of the pilots at Red Flag are used to the nuances of the F-16, they can pretty well gauge how an aggressor F-16 will fly. An A-4, on the other hand will add some uncertainty to the equation”.

“So you’re going to be playing a bad guy”, Janice commented, “but what about being a test pilot?”

“After Red Flag is completed, I’ll be assigned to flight test. I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more beyond that”, David answered, a little embarrassed.

Janice nodded. Test piloting meant flying secret aircraft, and David would be obliged not to say anything about it to persons without a security clearance, including her. David didn’t like keeping secrets from Janice, but this was a business matter, not personal.

“So how did the flight assessment go?” Janice asked, changing the subject a little.

“It went great”, David replied, “The planes I got assessed in were just like the ones at Empire, and I got my wings very quickly. After that, I got checked out on the F-15. That is one great plane!”

Janice could see that David loved talking about his flying. He was just an eager little kid, but with a very big toy.

“And how are you getting along with the other pilots?” Janice asked next.

“They were ribbing me some about the accent, and the ‘funny-looking’ RNZAF wings when I first came in, but I think that my piloting ability helped to quiet them down some”, David replied. “I still carry the ‘Kiwi’ moniker though.”

“Well, no surprise in that”, Janice replied, “but it’s a pity you can’t stay longer than tonight. I wanted some time with my flyboy…”

“That’s good, because I definitely want some quality time with my girl as well.”

When they had safely arrived, David wrapped his arm around her waist and guided her into her apartment. As soon as they were in the door, he removed her jacket, and brought her close. At first the hug was sufficient. She could sense the strength that was David, and cuddled closer. But it wasn’t enough. She lifted her head to see David looking down at her. She smiled, and reached for his face, bringing it down towards her, for a welcome back kiss.

The welcome was quickly followed by a passionate, no-holds-barred kiss that should have scorched all the paint off the door. David was laying his hands on every part of her that he could reach. She in turn was causing him torment by unbuttoning his shirt and massaging his muscular chest.

“Your choice, sweetheart,” he murmured huskily, “but you have to make your decision in a hurry. Either right here at the door, your kitchen table, or your bed, doesn’t matter. But I have to have you now!”

Janice thought the idea of the kitchen table sounded pretty inviting, but right now they were both too heated up. She dragged him by the hand to her bedroom. Not even turning on the light, she started undoing all his clothes, complicated by his hands trying to accomplish the same thing with her clothes.

As they bounced onto the bed, still kissing madly, he rasped, “please tell me that you still have some lucky foils stashed away.”

“Just stretch out your right arm,” Janice answered. I even took one out of the drawer after you called.”

David brought his head up to smile at her. “Oho, so you did have designs on me”.

“Of course I did,” she replied, pulling his face back to be kissed. “And still do,” as she worked her way down his torso, kissing every spot she passed.

She vaguely heard the sound of foil tearing as she was distributing her affections, but soon David pushed her back. “My turn,” he announced, and was nibbling and kissing her front side. Janice fought back a scream as he began to suckle, and begged him, “please, please, David,” although she couldn’t phrase exactly what she wanted.

He knew what she wanted, and after a little rub with his fingertips to make her more wild, he settled in between her thighs to give her what they both wanted the most.

After the first passion had subsided, and they lay panting in each other’s arms, David pressed his lips to Janice’s forehead. “I really missed you, Janice.”

She turned toward him, and laid her arm over his chest. “I missed you so much, David. I was pretty much living each day so that the evening would come and I could talk to you again.”

“Does the fact that I can’t always tell you what I am doing bother you?” he asked.

“You mean, the top secret stuff? No, not really. As long as you do not find yourself carried off on a UFO! Nellis is way too close to that Area 51 place, to my way of thinking. But since the UFOs are probably all test aircraft that you flyboys play with, there shouldn’t be much chance of aliens taking you.”

David stared at her, open-mouthed. He had been afraid she would balk at not being kept informed about everything, and here she had heard it, weighed it and accepted the situation so matter-of-factly.

“You know, Janice, sometimes you are too good to be true.”

“Me!” she squeaked, surprised at the comment.

“I expected you to wheedle, beg, try to find out whatever you could.”

She could see he was being serious, so matched him in intensity. “David Chapman, what was one of the first things I found out about you? Your integrity. So that, and your great body, got me to keep finding things out about you. Why in the world would I change now? If you didn’t have your integrity, you wouldn’t be the man I fell in love with. And if I were able to wheedle and cajole top secret information out of you, not only would I not be the woman you want, but you would hate me later. Sorry, guy, I am sticking to you for the long run. Can’t get rid of me that easily.”

David did not know how to reply to her. To say that she was an answer to most guys’ fantasies was one thing; to find out that she really understood him, and what was important to him, was quite another. He breathed in a sigh of thanks that the woman next to him had somehow wandered into his orbit.

He rolled her quickly so that she lay on top of him. “Well, if I can’t get rid of you, I guess I had better get used to you.” He began to kiss her in a slow, gentle manner that put Janice in mind of the South – slow, easy, and very, very enjoyable. She enjoyed his ministrations, bending her head so that he could nibble behind her ear, down her neck. He kept nibbling, she kept moving around, and nature began having her way again.

Janice reached beside her into the bedside drawer, taking out another foil packet.

“Say, David,” she drawled slowly, staying in that slow, soothing pace, “are we venturing to repeat our Richmond performance?”

“Mmm, I don’t know, why?” he asked, his voice half smothered by being busy exploring her navel.

“At the rate we are going, if we don’t slow down the pace, we will be down to zero rations by early morning,” she pointed out.

“That’s okay,” he replied. “I still have to go see Mum, and then they will call me when the jet is ready.”

“David?” came another question.

“Hmm, mmh?” was the reply.

“Wanna play flyboy?”

She felt his tongue stop licking, and his body still.

“How do you play that?” he asked cautiously.

She slid back down his body, twisting and shifting as much as she could while doing so. His shuddering response made her smile.

“Well, you have to have a plane, and you have to have a hangar.”

By then they were laying eye to eye, and she saw the smile begin in his. “All right, but I get to be pilot first.”

“But of course,” she murmured. “I think it’s time to taxi up the runway now.”

“Roger and wilco” he replied, as he rolled over, putting Janice on the bottom. He slowly stroked his hands up her body. “Runway is definitely in sight.”

Janice thoroughly enjoyed their game, and was thoroughly enjoyed. Her last thought before nestling her head next to his was that they should have called it baseball, because that last activity was definitely a grand slam.

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