This is a little treat for you because I posted late last week and it looks like it’s going to be at least the end of the month before OUT OF CONTROL will be available.
This is short story I wrote when I was just starting to write, and I was still a military officer’s wife. It appeared in the OWC February magazine, in 1992. So some of it may be dated, but the idea still holds.
A LOVE STORY
By Bonnie Gardner
14 February, 1300 hours, Langley AFB, Virginia
It wouldn’t be the first time that Gib had missed being home for Valentine’s Day, and if the fog lifted it wouldn’t be the fourth time in a row. What had once been a joke was now becoming a bad habit. Gib had asked Meg to marry him on St. Valentine’s Day, and that had been the last time that they had been together on February fourteenth.
“Valentine’s Day is for lovers, not old married people,” Meg had joked when he’d missed the first one after they’d married. As the number had grown, her sense of humor had waned. Gib had seen the hurt in his eyes when he’d told her that he had a flight scheduled for February twelfth.
“It’s just a milk run,” he had promised Meg. “It’s a one-night layover and then turn around and fly back home. I’ll be back with a day to spare.”
Gib crumpled the Styrofoam coffee cup and tossed it toward the overflowing trash can at Langley Base Operations. He crossed a patch of sunlight that illuminated the worn linoleum and reached for the phone that connected Base Ops to with the weather station. It was perfect for takeoff here at Langley, but he couldn’t land at Pope AFB in North Carolina just a few hundred miles away. He hadn’t counted on the stalled front and the persistent fog that had blanketed the area around Pope for the last twenty-four hours.
4 o’clock, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Megan ended the call and tried to fight the tears that threatened. When she’d awakened yesterday to Gibby’s hungry cries, she’d seen the thick, silent fog and known that Gib wouldn’t be able to get in a day early, but she’d dared to hope that he could still get in today until that phone call confirmed her worst fears. All she wanted was to have him here for a portion of the day, just long enough to break the streak of lonely Valentine’s Days.
She crossed to the bassinet and gazed down at their sleeping son. Just six weeks old, he’d arrived on the third of January, three weeks ahead of schedule, too late to be a New Year baby, and too early for them to be completely ready for him. She chuckled as she thought about how he must have inherited his father’s sense of timing.
In the refrigerator were the makings for a romantic diner, including a bottle of alcohol-free champagne. Meg was too new at the motherhood business to trust her baby to a sitter, but they could have just as romantic an evening at home. The only ingredient missing was Gib. And he’d promised he’d make every effort to be there.
2000 hours, Langley AFB
“The front is starting to move again,” Rainey shouted from the weather phone across the room. “It should be clear enough to go by midnight.”
Gib flashed a thumbs-up sign. Maybe they could crunch the time frame and make it a little earlier. He decided to call Meteorology himself to make sure. The weather decision was up to him, and if he had anything to say about it, he’d be home before midnight.
It seemed to take forever for them to answer. What was wrong? There had been somebody there only a few minutes ago. Gib drummed his fingers impatiently as he listened to the rings.
“Finally!” he said in answer to the rapid-fire greeting at the other end of the phone. “Two questions: where exactly is the line between here and Pope? And how fast is the front moving?”
The meteorologist took forever to respond.
“Yes!” he cheered, doing a quick fist pump in the air. If his quick calculations were right, he could make Pope with an hour to spare if they left now. Gib dropped the receiver and signaled to the rest of his crew.
“We’re going to do pre-flight and get in that bird and be ready to fly as soon as that front moves enough to for us to go. We’re going to follow the rear edge of the front as it pushes through.”
Gib pivoted and strode out to the waiting bird.
10 o’clock, Fayetteville
Megan stretched plastic wrap over the salad and put it back into the refrigerator. Then she repeated the process with the homemade, special-recipe-spaghetti sauce she’d made. She knew it wasn’t Gib’s fault he’d missed her special dinner. He had tried. He couldn’t control the weather.
Still, tonight was to have been special for two reasons, they were finally going to break that streak, and she had gone in for her six-week checkup and all systems were “go.” Guessing they could wait one more day, she swallowed her disappointment. She had planned that to be part of his Valentine’s Day surprise. “Oh well,” she murmured. “At least, Gib wasn’t expecting that too.”
Once she had finished putting the kitchen in order and turning off the lights, she stopped to look at the romantic table setting and the dozen red roses that Gib had sent. She loved the gesture, but would have gladly traded the flowers for Gib. She fingered the velvety, soft petals and brought one opening bud to her nose and savored the fragrance. Then after one last, lingering look, she went alone to their room.
2330 hours, Pope AFB, North Carolina
To Gib it had seemed as if the entire post-flight sequence had been run in slow-motion. Finally, they were finished and he raced to his car, silently cursing the delay. He’d been putting off getting a new battery for the car and he fervently hoped it wouldn’t let him down.
He jerked the car door open and tossed his flight bag onto the seat and levered his legs inside in one fluid movement. Without meaning to, he realized that he was holding his breath as he waited for the engine to turn over. It coughed and wheezed and finally started. Exhaling, he backed out of the parking slot.
He glanced at his watch as he waited at a light just off the base. Eleven forty. It usually took fifteen minutes to get home, but the late hour was in his favor. With little traffic, he should make it with minutes to spare.
It was 11:52 when he pulled into the driveway. The house was dark, except for a light in the bedroom. Maybe Meg had waited up for him. Gib let himself in and hastened through the dark house, pausing to look in on Gibby as he passed his door.
Meg was asleep with a paperback, romance novel pillowing her face. Gib smiled as he noticed and appreciated the sexy, new gown, though he was far too tired to take advantage of what it implied. Carefully, he removed the book from beneath Meg’s sleeping form.
It was 11:57 and Gib debated whether to wake her or not, but he knew that she would want to know that their long streak had finally been broken. He gently touched her sleep-flushed cheek. Meggie, woke with a start. “I made it. Look, I’m here.” He held the clock up for her to see as she roused herself from sleep.
Meg looked more like a little girl with her cheek printed with the ink from the book she had been reading and creased from the wrinkled sheets. She rubbed her eyes and yawned. “What time is it?” she murmured sleepily.
“It’s 11:58. We made it.”
“Good,” Megan mumbled and then flopped back down to her pillow. “See you in the morning.” In an instant she had fallen sound asleep.
Gib laughed heartily, not trying to muffle the sound. As long as Meg remembered in the morning, he’d be satisfied, he thought as he peeled out of his flight suit and slid into bed. She moved away as he edged his cold body up against her, but Gib snuggled closer.
Meg fitted her body to his and murmured softly, “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Meggie Girl,” Gib whispered as he drifted off to sleep thinking, “Love means never having to say you’re tired.”