Authors: H. P. Munro
Tags: #Fiction, #Lesbian
[email protected], H.P. Munro.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means electrical or mechanical, including photocopy without permission in writing from the author.
All characters within this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
I stumbled across the premise of this story quite by accident. I wanted to try my hand at a capturing a period and remembered vaguely reading a story about a socialite in England, who flew planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), during the Second World War. I recalled reading the article about her with fascination and decided to find out more; it was then that I came across the American equivalent of the ATA…The Womens Service Airforce Pilots or WASP
The more I researched about the WASP the more interested I became, and the more determined to ensure that I did their story justice within the confines of my own little tale. I spent hours on a fantastic website resource Wings Across America, reading articles and documents as well as reading and listening to interviews with the WASP themselves. To say I became a little obsessed would be correct!
Many of the situations that occur during the book have been based upon real life experiences of these remarkable women and whilst I have tried to be as accurate as I can, there are occasions where I have used artistic license, it is a work of fiction after all and not a historical textbook.
I have many people to thank, so thank you to those that read this story in its original guise and my everlasting gratitude goes to those that subsequently became my guinea pigs - Angela, Karin, Jennifer, Jenny H, Margaret, Lesley D and Lesley P thank you!
Particular thanks go to Fiona whose ideas, questions, and feedback were invaluable.
Finally, all my love and appreciation goes to my wife for her encouragement and patience (particularly when editing and proofreading various drafts).
March 8th 2010 – Washington, DC.
Joanne Parsons yawned widely, her jaw popping at the action. She rolled her shoulder, careful not to inflict any further damage to it, silently cursing the injury that was preventing her from flying. Not being able to do what she loved to do was making her even more cranky than normal.
“Aren't you excited?” Jennifer asked pushing her tray along the shelf, frowning at the breakfast options available, finally settling on a bowl of oatmeal.
Grabbing a bowl of fresh fruit Joanne shot her a look of disgust, “No…why would I be excited?” She turned and started to walk briskly towards a table.
Jennifer gave the server a grateful smile as she scooted behind Joanne, “Did you not read the pack they gave us? These women flew for the military thirty years before women officially graduated from flight training. Why wouldn't you be excited by that?”
Tossing her tray down onto the table and flopping down onto a seat, Joanne picked up a fork and started to pick at her fruit, “Because they're old, they're going to be like, what, ninety? What am I going to talk to a ninety year old about?” She stabbed a piece of pineapple and put it in her mouth. Then, waving her fork in the air, she continued, “She'll be old and probably senile and...” she leaned forward conspiratorially towards Jennifer. “And, she'll probably smell of pee,” she nodded leaning back as if her case was now at rest.
Looking at her colleague in shock Jennifer shook her head slowly, “There are so many bits of what you just said that are wrong, that I don't know where to even begin.”
Shrugging Joanne continued to separate out the fruit in her bowl with her fork, “You know I'm right. Two days babysitting a pee smelly old woman is not why I joined the Air Force.”
Unable to respond Jennifer just sat with her jaw slack while Joanne ate her breakfast.
“What?” Joanne asked innocently, noticing Jennifer's expression.
“You are going to burn in hell,” Jennifer shook her head quickly, gathering her tray and standing up. She had known Joanne a long time and was used to her brusqueness but her response to what Jennifer regarded as an honor, surprised even Jennifer.
“Yeah? Well be sure to save me a space,” Joanne quipped not looking up from her plate. Jennifer spun round, glared at the woman and letting out a small growl felt her entire body tensing with frustration.
“Just because you can’t fly right now, doesn’t mean you have to be a complete bitch about everything,” Jennifer seethed. “I regard this as a privilege and you should too!” she added, before storming out of the canteen.
“Privilege my ass,” Joanne muttered under her breath, rolling her injured shoulder slowly.
Checking the flight arrivals board from California, Joanne frowned, the flight that she was there to meet had landed a half hour before and a number of people had come out of the arrivals entrance. She, however, was still there holding up a board like a damn chauffeur and was starting to lose the small amount of patience that she had with this assignment.
“Probably died on the flight or too busy changing her diaper to get her ass out here,” she grumbled aloud to herself, halting as she felt a tap on her shoulder.
Joanne turned round, her head recoiling slightly in surprise at the elderly Hispanic woman standing close to her. Deep brown eyes were studying the young woman in uniform carefully.
“I'm who you're waiting for. You'll be Parsons?”
“I…um…yeah. Where'd you? How did you?” Joanne spluttered as she cast a look back towards the arrivals gate. She was sure that this woman had not passed her.
“Abuela!... I said to wait!” running, pulling two suitcases behind her was a dark-haired woman in her thirties, her brown eyes similar to the older woman's. As she watched the woman approach, an unexpected flicker of attraction sparked in Joanne and she started to think that the assignment might not be as boring as she had anticipated.
“Hi,” she said breathlessly to Joanne. “I'm sorry, we came in with the pilots, they heard they had a WASP on board so they wanted to show her the cockpit and talk to her, and of course my grandmother couldn’t resist.”
“Flying these days, it's like playing a God-damned computer game. All those dials and buttons, there's no finesse to it anymore!” the older woman started to shuffle off at a surprising pace for her age, the tip of her walking cane tapping against the tiled floor as she walked. “Well come on, can't wait all day…I could die anytime,” she shouted over her shoulder.
“Is she always like that?” Joanne asked.
“Oh no, she's on her best behavior today,” the young woman replied, setting off in pursuit of her grandmother. Joanne paused before tossing the piece of cardboard with 'Rivera' written on it into the trash and setting off after her charge.
“So have you been to Washington before?” Joanne asked awkwardly in her stilted attempt at small talk. She was never great with people when she first met them; the fact that the woman sitting next to her was stunning compounded this feeling.
Staring out of the window from the rear of the car at the passing scenery, Lily smiled in recollection, “Many a time, Ellie here studied nearby so we visited often.” Leaning forward, Lily checked the insignia on the shoulder of the young woman’s uniform. “So First Lieutenant Parsons, how old are you?”
“Abuela?” Ellie gasped. “I'm sorry, she can be…direct.” The woman apologized turning in her seat to glare at her grandmother.
“It's my age. I don't have time to waste with niceties anymore,” Lily grumbled from the back, taking several attempts to propel herself forward to poke her head between the headrests of the two front seats.
“Ma'am, you should put your seatbelt on,” Joanne said, glancing over her shoulder.
“Psh,” she waved her hand dismissively. “Just you drive carefully, so how old are you?” Lily repeated her question, ignoring the ongoing glare from her granddaughter.
“I'm twenty-eight ma'am,” Joanne replied.
“Enough with the ma’am. You make me feel old. It's Lily,” the elderly woman huffed. “Twenty-eight eh?” she gave a small smile as she recalled her own life. “I moved back to Florida when I was twenty eight, New York wasn't the place for two young children so Florida it was. You married?”
“No ma…Lily,” she corrected. “I’m not married.”
“Nope,” Joanne answered, risking a glance towards Ellie, who had turned to watch her response.
Something in her tone and the glance towards Ellie made Lily narrow her eyes before asking, “Girlfriend?” Lily’s eyebrow rose as she noticed Joanne’s grip on the steering wheel tighten.
“Abeula, seriously,” Ellie growled. “You can’t ask that, she’s military.” She flashed another apologetic look at Joanne.
“Stupid God-dammed policy. As if who you love means you can’t serve your country,” Lily sighed and sat back in the seat. “I don’t understand your generation, twenty eight and single. You’re a good looking girl,” she said tapping Joanne on the shoulder. “My Ellie here is a good looking girl but she’s single too. She’s too fussy to find the right person,” she added, watching Joanne’s reaction closely, a small sly smile appeared on her face as the young officer’s eyebrow raised at the use of the pronoun. “You can’t go through life without a little love in it girls. Life is over in the blink of an eye and love is precious, you have to hold onto it tightly.” Lily stared out of the window lost in her memories. Moments later the car filled with the sound of gentle snores from the backseat.
Joanne turned to Ellie who was smirking at her sleeping grandmother.
“So where did you study?” she whispered trying not to waken Lily.
“It's okay you can speak normally, she sleeps through anything. I studied medicine at Hopkins.”
“Impressive,” Joanne replied, flipping the indicator and turning towards the hotel where Lily and her granddaughter would be staying.
Ellie shrugged modestly, “My grandma always said that I was to leave the world a better place than it was when I entered it.”
Pulling the car to a halt outside the hotel, Joanne released her seat belt, “That's a big ask.”
“She also said that small victories were still victories,” Ellie responded, opening her door and stepping out.
Walking into the foyer Joanne pulled Lily's case behind her. “There's a breakfast reception tomorrow with dignitaries and similar folk, followed by a trip to the war memorial and then to the ceremony itself and tonight, if you feel up for it, there is a dinner with some of the other WASP attendees. They've brought in a whole host of memorabilia and photographs from the Sweetwater Museum and have set them up in one of the conference rooms here,” she completed her speech learned from half listening to Jennifer as she had repeatedly read out the two-day itinerary to her.
“Give me ten minutes to go freshen up then I want to go see the display,” Lily said as they waited for Ellie to collect their room keys.
Ellie walked over catching the last part of her grandmother’s announcement, “Abuela, are you sure you don't want to rest? It was a long flight.” She had promised her mother that she would not let the matriarch of their family overdo it.
Lily scowled at the younger woman, “It's bad enough that your mother is so worried that I'm about to up and die that she has you escort me Ellie, but don't you start to play doctor with me. I am fine, and I would like to go see the display before dinner where I'll be so busy trying to remember people’s names that I won't have time.”
Joanne fought the smirk that was threatening at the elderly woman's crusty demeanor.
“What you smiling at fly girl? You wait there and give me ten minutes to go change my diaper and I'll be back down.”
Joanne's eyes shot open in surprise.
“You don't wear a diaper Abuela,” Ellie said horrified.
“I know that, but at the airport Parsons here seemed to be under the misconception that I do,” Lily replied with a wide smile on her face as she hobbled off towards the lift leaving Joanne opening and closing her mouth at Ellie unable to create an adequate sound.