Fly Away by Amy Maurer Jones
May 8, 1940
I arrived safely somewhere in North Africa. Our trip over was very quiet and uneventful. One of the other companies had a lot of excitement in the form of torpedoes.
From what I have seen of these North African cities, I am left with the feeling of appreciation that I come from the good old U.S.A.
I am writing this letter from our new base, which is located on top of a hill overlooking a large vineyard grove. It's lovely, but pales in comparison to my memory of you and the shorelines of the Cape Cod Bay.
Your letter arrived yesterday, and I was overjoyed at receiving it. I always am. I was so thrilled when you agreed to write me back in Falmouth. Please don’t think I’ve got a string of girlfriends because I’m a pilot. I did go out quite a lot at home, but that was almost a year ago. I’ve not the slightest idea what you think of me, and I know perfectly well I’m no prize package. If you only knew how much I’d like to tell people you’re my girlfriend.
Well, Sherry, I will close hoping I receive another letter from you soon.
I lay wide awake in my cot surrounded by snoring men. I should be snoring too but as usual my thoughts drift to Sherry. Never before had a girl affected me so profoundly. What’s worse is that my best friend was drawn to her first. I saw Josh walking with her on the beach. They were strolling, arm in arm, talking and laughing. While Josh never proclaimed her as forbidden territory, it was obvious he was intent on making her his own.
I tried to steer clear of her, I swear, but it was impossible. Seeing her at the diner, day in and day out in that cute little pink uniform with her luxurious black hair twisted and coiled at the nape of her neck nearly drove me mad. I kept imagining her long, dark mane unfurling around her shoulders while she stood bare legged in one of my tattered old tee shirts. God help me.
I was a lost cause. When I saw her for the last time that morning in the diner, I’d asked her to write me to keep me company overseas. She agreed happily and we’d shared a few letters in the past months. I’d never mentioned it to Josh, and I wonder if she is writing him as well. The idea of the possibility makes me nauseous and jealous, jealous of my best friend. Damn it! This is so wrong, but I can’t help myself.
I finally managed the nerve to ask Sherry to be my girl, to make things official between us. Waiting for her reply has been hell. If she says yes, how will her choice affect Josh and my long cherished friendship with him? If she says no, will it mean she is in love with him and not me? Will I still be able to love Josh if she chooses him?
I both long for and dread the arrival of her next letter.
I could barely contain my excitement at seeing Joshua again today at school. His dad had held him on a short leash during summer break. While I’d texted and spoke to him nearly every day, I’d only actually seen and spent time with him on a number of occasions.
He’d spent the last month before school began with his grandparents in Florida. He hadn’t seen his mom’s folks since the Christmas holiday, and they begged him to spend part of the summer with them. Naturally, Joshua’s dad was thrilled with the idea since it meant placing more distance between us. You see, Joshua’s father, who is employed and presently brainwashed by Gracie Henderson’s father, is convinced my family is involved in some type of evil cult worship or equally bizarre and unappealing practice. Needless to say, he’s a bit uncomfortable with the idea of Joshua and me dating. He’s so paranoid he even made Joshua quit his job at Papa’s ranch. We can’t seem to catch a break.
My stomach tightened and my pulse raced at the sound of Joshua’s Jeep pulling into my driveway.
“I gotta run! I’ll see you after school!” I yelled to whoever might be listening before I shoved my strawberry Pop-Tart between my lips and darted out the front door.
“I sure have missed you.” Joshua beamed encircling me into a deep bear hug.
He’d been waiting outside the door to his Jeep like usual so he could help me climb into the massive vehicle.
“Me too.” I smiled, stretching onto my toes to give him a quick peck on the lips.
“Whoa, get back here! That wasn’t the type of kiss a guy gets from his girlfriend after a month of missing her in misery. You better give me some real sugar, baby,” he teased.
In an instant his lips were on mine. At first the connection was soft and tender, but eventually his lips parted and his warm slippery tongue begged for entrance into my mouth. I obliged happily. I savored the taste of his delicious tongue snaking along my teeth. He moaned contently as he licked my lower lip. My tongue traced along the edge of his mouth until his lips parted wider. I darted my tongue inside his mouth and he responded by sucking hard on my soft flesh. Soon we were panting and frenzied. Finally, we forced ourselves to break our embrace.
“That’s more like it,” he breathed in a daze.
I giggled, pleased with his satisfaction.
“Remind me to pick up where we left off later, but right now we better get to school,” I reminded him as I lightly kissed the edge of his jaw line.
“You’re killing me, Laney.” He half smiled at me mischievously. “But you’re right.”
He opened the door to his Jeep and assisted me as I hoisted myself into the passenger seat.
“So, the Hendersons still have your dad convinced that Laney is a bad influence?” Carly inquired innocently.
“Carly,” I warned.
“No, she’s right.” Joshua sighed. “My dad’s still freaked out about the fact that Laney and I tried to run away together last winter. Granted, Mr. Henderson doesn’t help matters much, but at the end of the day he’s mostly afraid of losing me.”
Mike Bangs had lost his wife, Rachel, to cancer a little over a year ago. Of course the thought of losing Joshua too would be unbearable.
“But Laney isn’t trying to come between you and your dad,” Carly persisted.
Joshua shrugged at her words, unable to respond. He agreed with Carly, but he had failed to convince his father of the truth her statement offered.
“Let’s talk about something else,” I suggested.
“At least he’s compromising,” Carly continued as if I’d said nothing at all.
I rolled my eyes as Joshua glanced at me in sympathy.
“Well, I’m off to the library. I’ve got to find something interesting to pass the time in history today. It’s going to be so boring!” Carly complained.
And she was gone.
“She’s right, you know. Dad’s being ridiculous. I’m just glad you put up with him. Any other girl would have bailed by now.” He grabbed my hand and kissed my knuckles.
“I don’t have a choice. I love you,” I explained.
“Thank God.” He smiled impishly. “You wanna come over and work on our homework this afternoon?”
“I suppose I could pencil you in,” I teased.
“Please do. I’ve been looking forward to finishing what we started this morning all day long.” He winked.
My stomach tightened at the memory. God, I love him!
Homework after school at his house was his dad’s only concession where I’m concerned. No ranch, no visits to my house and no dates. Of course, that won’t stop us from getting creative. Joshua realized he could tell his dad he had plans with Scott while conveniently leaving out the detail that it was a double date including me. And, if all else failed, we could still travel together in the spirit world, but that would be a last resort.
We’re three weeks into the new school year and Gracie is still pining away for my boyfriend. After a summer almost completely void of Joshua, we are still going strong. It’s doesn’t matter however, because Gracie believes she’s got a chance at stealing him away from me. She’d finally given up on Jordan after he’d gone to the principal last year and proven that she and Laura Rice planted the ritual knife in my locker. Laura’s dad is our school janitor and Gracie convinced her to steal his keys to gain entry to the school building afterhours.
As usual, Gracie sweet-talked her way out of any severe punishment by placing the majority of the blame on Laura. She claimed that it had been Laura who led her to suspect that I was a witch. She chalked up Laura’s motive to jealousy over Jordan. It was no secret that the poor girl had a crush on him. By the end of her sob story, she’d insisted that she was just as much a victim in the matter as I was due to Laura’s deception and manipulation. Because Laura was so fearful of being socially outcast and her father’s job security being placed in jeopardy, she’d neither denied nor defended Gracie’s allegations. When all was said and done, Laura’s father nearly lost his job, Laura had been suspended from school for ten days and Gracie walked away with the equivalent of a slap on the wrist, three days of in-school suspension. It wasn’t the sweet revenge we’d all been dreaming of, but it was something.
At first I was relieved when Gracie gave up on Jordan. I hoped I might finally be able to be friends with the guy without interference from the hag from hell. Unfortunately, that relief faded all too quickly when it became obvious that she had set her sights on Joshua as a replacement for her previous obsession.
“Hi, Joshua, my dad’s planning a big party this weekend to celebrate the fifty-year anniversary of our family business. He said to make sure you and your daddy are invited. He’s really fond of your dad and admires his work ethic. It would make his day if you both came, and I know neither of you would dream of disappointing him,” Gracie babbled excitedly, feigning friendship with my boyfriend, who couldn’t stand her.
Her voice was her usual sickening sweet purr, but there was a definite subtextual threat in her message. She was letting Joshua know that he’d better be there, like it or not, because his father’s job depended upon it. Gracie has never been above blackmail to get what she wants and now she wants Joshua.
“I’ll be sure to mention it to him,” Joshua replied coldly between clenched teeth.
“Great! I’ll see you there!” She smiled with exaggerated enthusiasm. “Oh, and don’t bring her.” She gestured toward me with disgust. “You know how my daddy feels about the Stillwaters.”
She spun around on her heels and trotted back down the crowded hallway without waiting for Joshua’s reply.
“Bitch,” Joshua uttered under his breath.
We all heard him anyway.
“So, looks like your plans are open this Saturday, Laney. You wanna catch a movie?” Jordan bit back a smile.
Jordan knew all too well what it felt like to be caught in Gracie’s snares and he was enjoying Joshua’s discomfort a wee bit too much.
“Don’t, Jordan,” I warned.
I could see Joshua’s muscles flexing under the fitted fabric of his tee shirt.
“What? It’s just a movie. You can bring Carly along if it makes him feel less threatened. I just wanna hang out,” he continued casually.
Carly had been gone for six weeks over the summer. She’d spent the majority of the vacation at a cool art camp in Boston. With both her and Joshua absent, I’d faced a very lonely summer if not for Jordan. He and I had done a lot of hanging out while Carly created art and Joshua’s dad scheduled endless activities, leaving my boyfriend too busy to spend time with me. I never kept any of our outings from him. Any time I’d spent with Jordan I’d made sure my boyfriend was in the know. I felt guilty knowing that it made Joshua jealous, but the truth was I enjoyed spending time with Jordan. Neither one of us had ever crossed the line. Our relationship was strictly platonic, although Jordan wasn’t above allowing Joshua to wonder about what we’d done when we were together.
“Sorry, Jordan, but she’s not going to be available,” Joshua protested.
“Oh, but it sounds to me like she will be, Romeo,” Jordan sneered.
“Stop it, Jordan.” My voice trembled.
I didn’t like the idea of Joshua spending time with Gracie any more than he liked the idea of me spending time with Jordan. I know Joshua loves me and he knows I love him. Still…
Jordan instantly recognized the pain in my expression and simultaneously regretted his words and recoiled from my reaction.
“You know he has to go, Laney,” Jordan said gently.
“I know…but you don’t have to gloat about it,” I snapped.
Jordan still wants me. I know this. I should end our friendship since he can’t accept the fact that I’m in love with Joshua, but I can’t. I love Jordan too, just not the way he wants me to.
“No way! Dad can go to the Hendersons’ party for all I care but we are going to have some fun this weekend. I’ve already worked out the details with Scott. I’m trading the Jeep for his mom’s station wagon and we’re heading to the beach in Falmouth,” he insisted.
“I would love to spend Saturday at the beach with you, Joshua, but you know just as well as I do that you have to go to that stupid party.” I forced him to see reason. “Your dad could lose his job if you don’t play along with Gracie’s little game.”
“At least there will be a lot of people at the party so she won’t be able to corner you so easily.” Carly attempted to comfort both of us. “…and I will definitely chaperone Ms. Stillwater and Mr. Stone at the movie theater,” she promised.
This allowed the two of us to relax a bit. Joshua trusted Carly’s ability to defuse anything Jordan may be planning, and the realization that Joshua wouldn’t be left alone with Gracie at the party loosened the binds squeezing at my heart, if only fractionally.
“This sucks.” Joshua acknowledged the inevitability of the situation.
I grabbed his hand and squeezed it tightly in my own.