AUTHOR'S NOTES: In this chapter, there is a groaner. You'll see it. I couldn't help myself :) . Feel free to complain about it. Again, my deepest apologies to any real descendents of John Paul Jones. ALL STANDARD DISCLAIMERS OF CHARACTERS, AND THE RIGHTS TO THEM, APPLY. "ETC" Chapter 2: The Path to a Ruined Weekend 1200 HRS. THURSDAY, JUNE 9, 1960. HOSPITAL PENSACOLA NAS "Beth." The sound of her name, spoken by Al Calavicci, made her heart flutter. In the doorway, holding a fresh salad and a pair of hot dogs with the works, stood the last person in the world she ever thought she would see again. In the last hour, Beth had managed to convince herself that Al Calavicci would forget all about her. "The dogs are mine, unless you want one. Are you ready?" He stepped out of the way to let her pass. "I hope Lenora Dubois doesn't see you and get the wrong idea," she said. "What do you mean?" "Well, a couple of days ago, she mentioned that she had.......plans for you this weekend." Al chuckled and shook his head. "She's wasting her time. I won't lie and say that I would pass up an invitation, normally. It's just I'm not in the mood to put up with her games." It was her turn to asked him what he meant. "Women like Lenora are after one thing. She's looking for a wedding ring. Lenora joined the service to find a husband. Once she has one, she'll get out." "We are *not* all like that," Beth replied, with anger. "Yes, I know that, and I didn't say you were. My last girlfriend, Theresa, wants a career. She is going to succeed, and I don't think her less of woman because of it." Beth opened her mouth, then shut it. His response was unexpected. The cafeteria was busy as usual but Al managed to secure a table, out of the way. "You know," Beth started, after they had been sitting for several minutes. "I heard of you long before I was stationed here." Al looked up, curious. "Lisa Sherman. She was my sponsor and we became very good friends. She told me about you." Beth held his gaze with her own. He appeared to mull over the all the implications those words carried. Finally, he asked, "Is the divorce final?" Beth nodded. "Good." He seemed very pleased. "Why? You weren't going to marry her." "I'm glad because Jack was no good for her. He was cheating on her from the very beginning and he ignored her. I don't think he hit her or anything, but he's a real nozzle and she deserves better." There was a hard edge to his words and Beth sensed it would be a good idea not to mention Lisa Sherman again. "So," Beth said, several minutes later, "you approve of women who want careers instead of families?" "Women can have both, you know." He was distracted by a line of catsup that was running down the side of his hand. Beth stared at him. The women's movement was still in its infancy. Yet here sat a man, in the Navy no less, who believed in some of its doctrine. And by his overall frankness, Beth was sure Al Calavicci meant what he said. "How did you end up in the Navy?" he asked. *Careful*, she warned herself, *what he thinks of me will depend on how I answer that*. "My grandmother has a nursing backround, and my mother always told me I took after her. It was also something I've always wanted to be. The Navy was the only way I could have afforded the schooling. Any you?" "I saw a movie once, where this kid ran away to join the Navy. He wasn't old enough, though. I remember wanting to do the same. I can't remember the name of the movie." "Do you remember if Frank Sinatra was in it?" "Yeah. He was in it, come to think of it." "'Anchors Aweigh'. My grandmother likes him." "Anyway, I applied for an appointment to Annapolis. I wouldn't have gone to college, either, if it wasn't for the Navy." "And flying?" Beth knew she was taking a chance by asking him about flying. Last thing she wanted to hear was a long winded speech on his flying abilities. Al's face lit up and his eyes twinkled more than they had in the short time she'd known him. A look of pure joy crossed his face. "There's nothing like it in the world. I would have to quote poets to come close to expressing what it feels like." Beth blinked several time, expecting more. There was more, as it turned out. "What I really would like next, is to join the space program, once all the bugs are worked out of course. To leave the Earth behind and explore the stars......that would be the ultimate freedom." Caught up in the excitement, Beth smiled. "Go to the moon, maybe?" Al smiled back. "Yeah." They sat in comfortable silence and finished their lunch. "I wish this area had decent Mexican food," Beth commented as they stood to leave. "Do you like Italian?" Al asked her as he walked her back. "Yes, and I understand from Kelly that you're a gourmet." "Yeah. I usually like to whip up some authentic Italian meals when I first get back to port, but I can't always get a kitchen. If I happend to be visiting George's family, I cook at least once while I'm there. Admiral Whitmore keeps offering me a chef position at Evermore Castle." He shook his head. "I would love to prepare an old family recipe for you." Beth smiled. "I would like that." "Can I have lunch with you again?" Beth thought about it. "Sure. Tomorrow. And I'd like to try one of those hot dogs. Just like you had. It looked pretty interesting." He nodded. "Until tomorrow." And then he was gone. *Now that wasn't so bad*. Beth didn't need a psychological evaluation to understand her weariness. No one, not even Lisa, knew that Elizabeth Townsend was illegitimate and she had no clue to the identiy of her father other than he was, at the time of her conception, a Naval pilot. For all she knew, he could have been killed in World War II. Throughout high school and college, Beth lived with the stigma. She didn't date until college, and then only sporadically. Of all the men she dated, not one had made her *feel* the way Al Calavicci did with just his smile and laugh. Beth resolved to more on her guard. 1200 HRS. FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1960. HOSPITAL CAFETERIA, PENSACOLA NAS "Just like you asked. The works." Beth looked up from the hot dog that Al had set in front of her. Al was sitting across from her, dressed in khakis this time, watching her. He looked good in that uniform. She found herself wondering how he looked in dress whites. The dog was smothered with catsup, mustard, relish, onions, and sauerkraut. Gingerly, she pick it up and took a bite. Pure heaven. True, it wasn't Mexican, but it beat another salad, no matter how much she loved them. She gave Al a thumb's up and he picked up his own dog. "Thank you. It was delicious. Messy, but delicious," Beth said when she was able to speak again. "How do you feel about pizza toppings?" Al asked as he wiped his hands. "Everything but the kitchen sink." Visibly impressed, Al said, "I know this little pizza place that you would love. Unforturnately, it's too far for lunch." This was different from a promise to whip up a meal. Looking him in the eye, she asked, "Are you asking me for a dinner date?" Both eyebrows rose. "It's your call. It doesn't have to be tonight or even this weekend." Old doubts and fears started to work their way back into her thoughts. Beth had no qualms, now, of accepting lunch dates. A dinner date that required traveling was something different entirely. And there was his reputation to consider. As if reading her thoughts, he added, "We could get a group of friends together and celebrate my birthday on the 15th." Abruptly, she stood up. "I'm sorry, but I really need to get back to work. Thanks for lunch." She turned and left before he could stop her. 1800 HRS. FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1960. BASE EXCHANGE PARKING LOT, PENSACOLA NAS Beth doubled checked her purchases against her shopping list: toiletries, hose, a new novel (which wasn't on the list; it was a treat), sun tan lotion, a swim suit, a new sundress, two new pairs of shoes, the dry-cleaning, and the contents for Gran's care package, including a crisp $100 bill. Beth sat back in the driver's seat, thinking about her grandmother, who now lived alone outside of Columbus. Beth last saw her at Christmas, before she left for Florida. *"Gran, I would really like you to move to Florida with me."* *"Beth, I'm too old and set in my ways to be traveling the world with you." She had paused and touched Beth's cheek. "Besides, you're young and you need to live your own life. I can't bear the thought of you wasting your life away, looking after me. You've given up on so much and have lost so much already, dear. Please don't throw away any chances at future happiness.'* Beth sent her money every month and claimed her as a dependent. One of Grace Townsend's neighbors looked in on her daily and drove her to Fort Benning at least twice a month. But Beth still felt guilty. The sound of a car horn brought her back to the present. She turned the key in the ignition and pulled out of the parking lot. 2015 HRS. FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1960. AL'S BOQ, PENSACOLA NAS He stood in his room, looking into the night sky, thinking. Thinking of her. She was lovely. Her beautiful smile took his breath way every time she smiled at him. She had the most beautiful warm, brown eyes he had ever seen, even when they flashed with anger. He could still feel her soft hand, even though he had held it for a few brief seconds. In the barely two hours Al Calavicci spent in the presence of Elizabeth Townsend, he had learned that he must tread carefully with her. *Slow down, buddy boy*, he cautioned silently, *or you will scare her away.* "If you haven't already," he muttered aloudl. He turned away from the window and sat down at his desk. He picked up his book, again, and tried to read. It was no use; his mind drifted back to her. He got up, again, and began pacing....again. Inevitably, his footsteps led him to his window. It was the fifth time that evening he had gone through the same drill. He ran through everything he knew about her: her name, rank, and job. She liked salads, Mexican food, Italian food, pizzas with everything on them, and hot dogs with the works. She knew Lisa well enough for Lisa to tell her about him. There was a rap at his door, followed by George's familiar voice as he entered the room. "Hey, Al. Aren't you coming with us to the Officers' Club?" Al didn't turn. "No. Not tonight. I heard Lenora's trying to get her claws in me and I'm not in the mood for her games." He heard the door close behind him and George came to stand beside him. "Same with Janet. Fortunately, she rather not risk losing me and she'll do anything to make me happy." Al didn't respond nor did he look at George. "Al?" There was concern in his friend's voice. He turned and looked at George. "Are you OK?" A plan began to form in Al's mind. "Will you do me a big favor, George?" 2045 HRS. FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1960. OFFICERS' CLUB, PENSACOLA NAS George Edward Phillip Whitmore-Jones, a descendent of John Paul Jones and a long line of aristocratic British Naval heroes, stroud across the O'Club parking lot. Running to keep up was his current girlfriend, Janet Thomas. Al had asked him to find Kelly, ask her "What's new?", and then listen for, and remember, anything pertaining to Lt. Elizabeth 'Beth' Townsend. This didn't surprise George. Since the first time they met at Annapolis, George was aware of Al's fondness for the opposite sex. He loved women and he loved being with them. What surprised George was, why hadn't Al talked to Kelly himself? Al had already sweet-talked himself out of preparing dinner for Kelly and Tom, so he had no reason to avoid her. Of course, if Lenora was on the prowl, Al was safer where he was. George never heard of Elizabeth Townsend, in the last two days, unitl Al spoke her name. Granted, he had been busy and hadn't had the chance to fill up on current gossip. Sitting outside the O'Club was Lenora. She recognized George and immediately looked past him. But Janet was the only other person outside. *Hussy,* George thought disdainfully. "Where's Al?" George shrugged. "Maybe he had a few thing to take care of." He opened the door for Janet, but she had stopped to talk to her best friend. "He might be here in a few minutes, Lenora. If not, you could always check back at their place or our place." "But no one will be at our place to tell him where we are!" Lenora protested. "Yes there is. Beth was engrossed in some book earlier. She'll be there, I'm sure of it." *Well, well, well,* George thought, frowning. George was still holding the door open for Janet and she thought the frown was for her. She rushed past him. George didn't bother looking back at Lenora. "Where's Bingo?" Chip asked as soon as George stepped up to the bar. *Here we go again*. "I don't know." Chip wasn't buying it. The problem was that they all knew each other too long, and well enough, to know when one was lying. Surprisingly, Chip didn't push the issue. With a beer in one hand and Janet's arm in the other, George scanned the boothes until he found Tom Crenshaw and the lovely, but talkative, Lt. Hardy. "May we join you?" he asked politely. Kelly was thrilled. Janet wan't. "Oh, sure. It it's OK with Tom?" Tom shrugged. George slid in first, so he'd be facing Kelly. Janet reluctantly slid in next to him, facing Tom. Sometimes, being the closest thing to royalty had it's advantages. "So, Kelly, what's new around here anyway?" 2345 HRS. FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1960. BOQ RECREATION ROOM, PENSACOLA NAS "You owe me, big time." Al, who had been shooting pool since George left, looked up. He had givne up on reading. Pool took less of his concentration. George was furious, that much was obvious. "What happened?" he asked, mildly surprised. George didn't answer him. He jerked his head up and Al followed him upstairs. "Did Lenora ever stop by here?" George asked as they entered Al' s room. "Not as far as I know. I was in the rec room all evening." "Well, she was waiting for you outside the Club. Janet assured her that you would show up there, or at the Nurses' BOQ, or that you would still be here. Anyway, I had to listen to Kelly give a run down of the local gossip in *alphabetical* order. It took her and hour and forty-five minutes just to get to Townsend who, by the way, was all by herself at the BOQ the entire evening." *Too bad I didn't know that earlier. Maybe I could have talked to her*. Al thought. George had already started again. "Then she went on for almost an hour about Townsend. Most of what she said is useless and I'm not sure I remember all the details. At some point Lenora came in from whereever she disappeared to and Janet went to talk to her. Janet was not happy, and neither was Tom. Lenora left, Tom joined Chip in drinking game, and Janet watched. Fortunately for me, there wasn't much, alphabetically, going on after Townsend. I had to patch things up with Janet, so we danced for awhile. Tom was drunk so I drove Janet and Kelly back to their place and Tom over to building two." "So, where did Lenora disappear to?" "Damned if I know. I wasn't in the mood to ask," George snapped. The room was eerily silent. No jets, no music, no voices in the hall. Al remained quiet until he was sure that George wouldn't bite his head off again. "You know," George said several minutes later, in a more civil tone of voice, "Tom isn't the right guy for Kelly. I don't think he cares two bits for her." "I agree with you. Tom is not the right guy for such a sweet kid like Kelly. If she ever shows up with bruises or becomes introverted, I'll rip his heart out personally." Al was dead serious. He had little tolerance for men who felt they had to strike a women, especially since he had seen it first hand at North Island. He paused and looked up at the tall, blond pilot. "I'm sorry, George. Next time you feel obligated to take Janet to some upscale resturant, I'll double date, even if it means taking Lenora. However, if I'm lucky, it will be Beth Townsend." 1915 HRS. FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 1960. NURSES' BOQ, PENSACOLA Once her purchases were put away, Beth got changed, grabbed her book, and set out to have a cup of tea before the Friday Night Ritual began. Tea ready, book in hand, Beth went undisturbed for a total of forty-five minutes. "Beth, could I borrow your black clutch?" "Beth, could you zip me up?" "Beth, which dress should I wear, the blue or the red?" "Beth , does this lipstick look good on me?" "Beth, could I borrow that cute dres you wore to Margo's wedding?" "Beth, I hate seeing you sitting alone every weekend." This was from Kelly. "Why don't you join us at the Club?" "Thanks, but I would be a third wheel. You go have some fun," Beth reassured the redhead. Kelly still looked anxious. It wouldn't be the normal Friday Night Ritual if she didn't. As always, the halls fell silent as the women headed out in search of fun and romance. Beth preferred reading about romantic exploits. She had left her watch in her room so she wasn't sure what time it was when the sound of Lenora' voice startled her. "Beth, has Al come by here or called?" Lenora looked ticked. Beth shook her head. "Where can he be?" she asked no one in particular. She turned and left. Beth had to get up after drinking so much tea. She grabbed her watch while she was up and noticed in was 2230. Lenora returned at 2320, just as Beth was getting ready to go to her room. Lenora was angrier than before. "The nerve of that man!" "What happened?" Beth asked stifling a yawn. "He stood me up! He never showed up at the Club!" Beth looked at Lenora, shrewdly. "Did he ask yu to the Club?" Lenora fidgeted, but did not answer. "Lenora, how could he stand you up if he never intended to be there?" "He said he might be!" she snapped. "'Might' isn't the same as 'will', Lenora." "Stop acting like a dorm mother, Beth Townsend.!" Beth drew herself up and coldly looked at the other woman. She sorely wanted to tell Lenora that she warned Al. That knowledge was the only thing keeping Beth from slapping Lenora's face. Further conversation was prevented by the arrival of Kelly and Janet, who were bickering as they enter the billet. "You didn't have to sit there for nearly three hours and talk his ears off. He's my boyfriend, not yours." "It's not my fault. He wanted to know what was going on. He *wanted* to listen and he could've told me to ---" "Put a sock in it, Kelly!" "For Heaven's sake," Beth said, raising her voice, "they just got back from a six-month cruise! Give them a few days! They've been under a lot of stress!" Janet, Kelly, and Lenora stared, dumbfounded. Beth picked up her book. "Look, I don't know these men as well as you do. Maybe I'm wrong, and they're not as interested in you as you are with them. But give them the benefit of a doubt before you start pointing fingers and making accusations." She took a deep breath. "Now, let's get some sleep." #################################################################### I didn't intend for this to be as long. The REAL chapter one is 55 pages, double -spaced. I'm trying to breaking it down without slowing it down.