Author's Notes:  George's father will be addressed Admiral Whitmore,
whenever possible.  George's grandfather will be addressed either as
Admiral Jones or JP.  Technically, they are all Joneses.  Don't worry, they
don't stay long.

Chapter 10: Mrs. Johnson's Guests


	Standing on the front porch of the large house, Beth straightened her
dress and smoothed down her hair.   She was nervous about meeting George's
family alone.  Janet was called off leave, first thing this morning, but
Beth had the sneaking suspicion that Janet had chickened out and
volunteered to fill the shortage.  The men couldn't take leave: Rear
Admiral Whitmore-Jones was ‘reviewing of the troops', so to speak. 
	Beth knocked on the front door and Admiral Johnson's maid answered.  "Lt.
Townsend to see Mrs. Whitmore-Jones."
	"Please follow me, lieutenant."
	The maid led Beth into a tastefully decorated sitting room where Mrs.
Johnson was entertaining her guests.  It was obvious that the two wives did
*not* get along.  Beth's heart sank.  It was going to be a long afternoon.
	Mrs. Johnson was a sensible person and she would never put on any airs and
she greeted Beth warmly.  Mrs. Whitmore-Jones was a different matter.
George favored her in appearance: icy, blue eyes and blonde hair.  She sat
in regal silence.  She gave Beth the briefest nod and a cool "Good day."
	Fortunately, Beth was forewarned by Al, and was prepared for this.  She
retained her good manners and gave Victoria Whitmore-Jones the warmest
greeting possible without overdoing it.
	Edward St. John and Daphne Fairmont turned out to be down to earth and
friendly.  Beth took an instant liking to the couple.  Besides being in the
Royal Navy, Edward was an amateur photographer.
	"Lt. Townsend," Edward said, while Daphne and Mrs. Johnson discussed
English gardens, "Albert requested that you sit for me today."  He patted
his camera case.
	Beth smiled.  Al had said something to that effect last night.  "Whenever
it's convenient, let me know."
	"Well, why not right now?  Admiral Jones is upstairs resting and the
others are out.  This is the perfect time."
	"Where would you like me to sit?"
	"Oh, not in here.  The garden, I think."
	Edward led Beth out back to Mrs. Johnson's garden.  While he unpacked his
camera, Beth asked, hesitantly, "Do you think I could get one of Al?"
	"Certainly!  I'll just make a second copy of the one I took yesterday."
	Beth was puzzled.  "Yesterday?"
	"Admiral Jones considers Albert an honorary grandson," Edward replied,
checking wind direction. "So, when I take a picture of George for his
mantle, I'm required to take one of Albert, too.  If he's available that
is."  Edward led her to the wrought iron garden furniture.  "I suppose
Albert reminds him of what he was like when he was younger."
	It took them half an hour, moving the furniture twice, before Edward was
finally satisfied with the light and the angle.  He took several pictures
of her before he allowed her to move.
	"Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Edward said, repacking the camera.
"Would you like to stop by tomorrow afternoon to pickup the picture of
Albert?  It wouldn't be practical to take it to the gala tomorrow night and
I'm afraid that Daphne, Mrs. Whitmore-Jones, and I will not be here on
Sunday.  We are going to Miami.  If you can't make it, I suppose I could
leave it with the admiral."
	Beth considered it.  "What time tomorrow?"
	"Oh, around one, if it's not too inconvenient for you."
	Beth's hair appointment wasn't until 1500.  "That will work.  I'll be here
at 1300," she replied, as they headed in.
	Shortly after rejoining Mrs. Johnson and the others, the phone rang.  The
call was brief and Mrs. Johnson did very little talking.  She hung up the
phone and turned to her guests.  "Admiral Whitmore will be here in ten
	"Will the others be with him, ma'am?"
	"No, lieutenant.  Just the admiral is returning."
	It was the longest ten minutes of Beth's life.
	She was a little surprised when Rear Admiral Adam Whitmore-Jones entered
the sitting room.
	Admiral Whitmore was medium height, with plain brown eyes and hair.  Out
of uniform, he would be unnoticeable.  The uniform and his bearing made him
stand out.  It made him seem six feet tall.
	He walked with a very slight limp, and as he drew closer, Beth saw a pair
of gold wings above his impressive rows of ribbons.
	*Like father, like son.*  Beth found this peculiar. *If they aren't close,
why did George follow the same path?*
	"This is Lt. Elizabeth Townsend, Admiral," Mrs. Johnson was saying.
	Adam's full attention was focused on her.  He was staring at her, his eyes
	"Lt. Townsend is from your neck of the woods.  She's from Greenbelt," Mrs.
Johnson continued with the introduction.  The base Protocol Office had
provided Mrs. Johnson with some background information on Beth and Janet,
so she could properly introduce them to her guests.
	"Lieutenant, it's a pleasure to meet you."
	"Thank you, sir.  It's an honor to meet you."  Beth was surprised on how
calm she was, especially since he was still staring at her.
	"Lieutenant," he said suddenly, "Are you my son's girlfriend?"
	"No, sir."
	This brought a mysterious smile to the admiral's face and he turned toward
Daphne and Edward.  Beth observed him as he spoke to Daphne.  Polite, but
not affectionate.  Beth decided to wait a little longer before forming an
	Admiral Whitmore didn't speak to his wife before heading upstairs to
change.  Mrs. Whitmore-Jones stayed with them a full minute after her
husband left before she too left the sitting room.
	Mrs. Johnson and her company sat in awkward silence for several minutes.
Beth couldn't bear the silence another moment.  She mentally scrambled for
a topic of conversation.  "You have a lovely garden, Mrs. Johnson."
	"Thank you, lieutenant."
	"Do you like gardens, Beth?" Daphne asked her.
	She nodded.  "I had a small garden back home in Georgia."
	For the next hour, Beth engaged Daphne and Mrs. Johnson in a discussion on
gardens and flowers.  Edward joined in, now and then.
	"Excuse me, my dears," Mrs. Johnson said, rising, "but I should oversee
the start of dinner."
	"Ma'am." Beth started, also rising, "May I sit in your garden for a little
while?"  She didn't want to be there when the Whitmore-Joneses came back
down.  Beth was determined to wait for Al outside.
	"By all means, lieutenant."
	"If you'll excuse me?"  Beth asked the couple, politely.
	"Oh, please, don't feel obligated to keep us company," Daphne replied.
	It took all Beth's willpower not to rush out the front door.  She
retrieved her book from her car before going to the garden.  Once settled
contentedly in a lawn chair, she became absorbed in the book.
	The sudden sensation of being watched finally made her look up.
	"Al!"  She jumped up and through her arms around his neck, kissing him
more ardently than she had since the first kiss.  Momentarily startled, it
was a second or two before Al responded in kind.
	"Gee, Beth," Al said breathlessly when she finally let him go, "it's only
been less than 24 hours since we last saw each other."  There was a
mischievous twinkle in his eyes as he leaned forward to whispered in her
ear.  "Imagine if it had been six months."
	Beth blushed.
	"So, how was your day?"
	Beth recounted the afternoon.  "Why don't they just get a divorce?" Beth
asked, after she told him about Adam and Victoria.  "If they don't love
each other, why keep up the charade?"
	"Appearances.  I hear he's thinking of entering politics and she's the
perfect hostess.  Besides, it'll ruin both their financial situations and
she wouldn't want to move out of.  Evermore."  Al studied her.  "Are you
having second thoughts about coming here tonight?"
	Beth smiled at him.  "No."
	Al looked around the garden.  "I was a little surprised when they told me
you were out here."
	"I like gardens, Al.  You have a bad memory.  Kelly told you that months
ago, remember?  Besides, it was awkward in there."
	Al chuckled.  "Yes, but that seems like a lifetime ago."
	"I miss my garden," Beth said wistfully as she sat back down.  Al took a
seat across from her. "It was my refuge."
	"I'm surprised your great-aunt even allowed you to have one."
	"It kept me out of sight," Beth replied, "when her friends called for a
visit.  But I never minded that."
	"Where did she send her sister, when these friends called?"
	"Oh, Gran wasn't shunned."
	"I'm surprised.  I was sure your great-aunt would have sent her to the
kitchen."  Al was annoyed, it seemed, by her great-aunt's treatment of her.
	Beth was gratified. "Aunt Milly had better sense than that.  Besides, she
had a housekeeper.  In fact, Tess Brown's granddaughters were my childhood
	Linda and Karen Brown were still close friends of Beth.  Their friendship
had made making other friends in high school difficult.  Shunned during her
childhood for her illegitimacy, Beth had found her herself being shunned in
high school for ‘associating with colored folk'.  Not all her peer group
felt that way.  Eventually, Beth had discovered others not so closed
minded, and she was able to make a few more friends.
	"I just don't understand people who treat their own family like that," Al
was saying still annoyed.
	"Al, she was just old-fashioned.  Believe me, she didn't mistreat me.  She
just couldn't accept the fact that I was illegitimate.  Aunt Milly refused
to pay for my schooling, but when she died, she left everything she had to
Gran and me."
	Al was still annoyed.  She decided it was best to change the subject.  "Al?"
	"I didn't know Admiral Whitmore was a pilot?"
	"He's not."
	Beth looked confused.  "But--"
	"I know," Al said, "the wings."
	"Why is he wearing them?" Beth asked, curious.
	Al sighed.  "Back before George was born, he *was* a pilot, but not for
long.  You see, after George was born, Adam was in an accident."
	"That explains the limp.  Was it a plane accident?"
	"No, a car, or so I was told.  Anyway, he healed pretty well, but long
flights were excruciating for him.  He could barely walk after each flight.
 So he gave it up.  He still takes his private plane up from time to time
and occasionally he gets to fly the prototypes.  I mean, who would tell him
he couldn't?  Anyway, he only just started wearing the wings again."
	"It's just a little strange, to me, that George became a pilot too."
	"Well, both his father and grandfather would have supported him, no matter
what profession he chose.  Now Victoria is different.  I think she wants
him to resign his commission and enter politics, too.  I think it irks her
to no end that George rather stay on active duty."
	Beth nodded.  Curiosity satisfied, she let the subject drop.
	Al took her hand and they sat quietly until dinner was announced.

	* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

	Adam Whitmore-Jones was seriously reconsidering his future.
	He had been prepared to retire from the Navy, becoming the first in his
family not to wear four stars, and enter the world of politics.  All that
he had seen and heard this afternoon, had planted a seed of indecision.
Adam never had this problem before, he had always known what he wanted.
	The desk where he sat, reviewing the retirement paperwork, overlooked Mrs.
Johnson's garden.  A movement in the garden caught his eye.  He glanced out
and saw Lt. Townsend  reading.  He wondered how long she had been there.
	Adam smiled gently.
	The sound of Victoria emerging from the washroom, forced him to look away.
 He wasn't in the mood to listen to her accusation this afternoon.  She
left the bedroom, presumably to hide in one of the other spare rooms or
return to the sitting room.
	Adam resumed his contemplation of the young nurse.  *Al certainly has good
taste,* Adam thought.
	Another movement caught Adam's eye and Al entered the garden, unobserved
by the young woman.  Curious, Adam sat up straight and watched.  Al was
able to walk up to her and stand there several seconds before Lt. Townsend
realized he was there.  Her reaction upon seeing Al surprised Adam.  Al
looked surprised, too, as far as he could see.  Adam continued to watch the
exchange and wondered what they were saying.
	The sound of movement in the next room told Adam that his father was up
and would be heading down at any moment.
	He gathered up the paperwork and began putting it back in his briefcase,
until he came to the retirement letter itself.  Adam paused, staring at the
unsigned document.  He glanced once more at the couple in the garden.
	He made his decision
	Adam removed the paperwork and began tearing the documents, starting with
the retirement.  He stuffed the evidence back in his briefcase.

	* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

	Hand-in-hand, Beth and Al entered the dining room.  The rest of the dinner
party was already assembled.
	"Al!  Glad you could make it.  Thought you had gotten lost."  Admiral John
Patrick Jones looked sickly.  Too thin and frail, but his sharp eyes and
strong voice, belied his features.  Those eyes rested on Beth.  "Ah.  Who
could blame you?  Stop grinning at me like a ninny and introduce her."
	Beth couldn't help but smile.  Al greeted the old man with genuine
pleasure and affection.  And for his part, the admiral was just as happy to
see Al, and just as fond.
	"Call me JP.  ‘Admiral Jones' is too formal.  So, what does *he* call you?"
	"Beth," she replied, taking his frail hand.
	"A pleasure to meet you, Beth."  He looked at Al.  "Your taste is
improving with age, Al."
	"Thanks, JP."
	"Beth, Janet," JP called to the two nurses, "sit beside me.  Sorry Daph.
I can sit with you anytime."
	"No problem, love," Daphne replied, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
	Overall, the dinner was awkward, in Beth's opinion.  Only JP, Daphne, and
Edward made conversation:  JP amused the two nurses, and Edward and Daphne
conversed with the Johnsons.  George and his mother sat in identical
silence.  Admiral Whitmore attempted to hold a conversation with his son,
but got nowhere.  Al, who sat across from Beth, listened to JP's stories
and watched her.  She smiled at him, whenever he caught her eye.
	Half way through the meal, Al decided enough was enough, and started
talking to Adam, throwing a dirty look at George, who ignored him.
	After dinner, Al, Beth and Janet were able to make their escape.  Janet,
who came with George, had to catch a ride with Beth.  None of them wanted
to be around when Admiral Whitmore had it out with George.
	"Maybe we should invite the Johnsons over for coffee and cake?" Janet
said, looking back over shoulder as they walked to Beth's car.
	Beth tried to imagine Rear Admiral Johnson and his wife, sitting in the
day room of the women's barracks, and started to laugh.
	Janet gave her an odd look, and turned to Al.  "What's with George lately
	Al shrugged.  "I don't know.  He doesn't act like this at sea or in the
air.  He's your average Joe then.  I thought you could answer that."
	"Me?  I seldom see him these days."
	Beth stopped laughing and glanced at Al, who was frowning at Janet.  He
turned back to look at the house, lost in thought.
	"Al?" Beth asked.
	He turned back to the two women.  He gave Beth a quick kiss.  "Be careful
getting home, honey.  I'll call you tomorrow."  He waved to Janet before
getting into his car.
	Janet and Beth stared at each other and Beth shrugged.  "Men," she said.
	"Speaking of which," Janet said, sliding into the passenger seat, "did you
notice how much Admiral Whitmore was staring at you during dinner?"
	Beth turned to her, startled.  The only one she noticed looking at her was
Al.  "No.  Was he really looking at me or his father?"
	Janet face was serious.  "He was looking at you.  Be careful, Beth."
	"Do you think anyone else noticed?"
	Janet nodded.  "His wife."
Christina's Corner  *