AUTHOR'S NOTES: I apologize for the goofs in Chapter 2. I switched e-mails and I hadn't counted on the word-wrap to ruin my title. CHAPTER 3: GOING IN CIRCLES 0800 HRS. SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 1960. BOQ PARKING LOT, PENSACOLA NAS As payback, Al had to wait until the next day to hear what George had learned from Kelly. After Al had apologized to George, George left saying he was too tired talk anymore. He leaned against his black corvette and checked the time. For years now, if they were stationed at the same NAS, he and George had breakfast together every Saturday morning. They met mostly to reminisce about Friday night and it was always for 0800, regardless of how hung over Al was. The Pride of the Navy appeared and Al could tell that George was royally pissed off, but not at him. *Either Janet or Daddy Whitmore called.* George tossed his dry cleaning in the back and climbed into the passenger seat. Al hadn't moved. "Janet?" "No." Al climbed into the driver's seat. "So what did your old man want?" "I hadn't 'reported in', and he went into his usual tirade." "Give him some slack. He's up in DC, worried about what's going on down here. I'm sure *his* father gave him hell, too, once." Al paused. "Speaking of which, how's your grandfather?" George sighed. "Not so good. The doctor's don't know if he'll make it through the year." "That's the same thing they said last year. He's an old sea dog, George. He'll go when he's good and ready, regardless of what the doctor's say. In fact, I'll bet you he's holding on just to spite them." George chuckled, his mood lightened. "You're probably right." Neither spoke again until they were seated in the restaurant. Their usual waitress appeared. "The usual today, Al?" By the tone of her voice, one would never have guessed that she hadn't seen either of them in six months. "No, just some toast and coffee. Thanks" The older woman arched her eyebrows and looked over at his friend. "George?" "I'll just have cereal and coffee, Margie." "Quiet night, boys?" Al and George looked at each other. "Uneventful? Yes," Al started. "Quiet? Not by a long shot," George finished. Margie chuckled and left to place their order. "Have you decided on Miami for the Independence Day weekend?" George asked. Al knew George was stalling, so he played along. He shrugged. "It depends." Al did not look at his friend. George would know what 'depends' meant. Onece more they sat in silence until Margie placed their breakfasts in front of them. Al watched George toy with his cereal. "She's married." George shook his head. "She's engaged." George shook his head again. "She doesn't even have a boyfriend." George looked him straight in the eyes. "According to Kelly, even if she did, it wouldn't be a pilot. Lt. Townsend has told our Lt. Hardy that, 'any woman involved with a Navy pilot should be in a straight jacket'." "I wonder if she means Lisa, too?" His friend looked surprised. "How did you know she was a friend of Lisa's?" "Beth told me herself." "Why don't you tell me how the two of you met?" Without glossing over details or embellishingment, Al related the events of the last two days. George listened in silence. When Al was finished, he said, "Well, like I said, most of what I have is useless." "You don't know that," Al pointed out. "It's only useless if you don't know how to apply it." "Well, according to Kelly, Beth turned twenty-four on April 27. She was raised outside of Columbus, Georgia but not born there. Kelly believes she was born in Greenbelt, Maryland. She's Catholic, and as far is Kelly can determine, she is an only child. Beth hardly mentions any family at all except her grandmother and this led Kelly to believe that they're all dead or not on speaking turns with her." George paused. "Do you want to know who her room is decorated?" "Kelly told you that?" Al was surprised. "Why do you think I was gone so long? Anyway, it's decorated in watercolors and pictures of flowers and gardens. In fact, gardening is her hobby. She gave it up though, when she moved into the BOQ. She likes flowers in general, but her favorite is the calla lily. "What?" "Calla lily. It's tall plant with a white, petallike leaf enclosing a clublike flower stalk. It's usually available around Easter and is very popular at funderals." "Oh. You sound like a dictionary." "Yes, I know. I looked it up, because I knew you would asked me what it was. Anyway, her favorite colors are pastels. Particularly, but not limited to shade of blue and purple," George said in a singsong tone of voice. Al bit his tongue to keep from laughing. "Also, according to our informant, she likes frill, ruffles, and lace. And she has this darling little bed and curtain set." This time, Al couldn't help himself. Unfortunately, he was sipping coffee and nearly choked. George grinned. "I choked on my beer last night and Kelly nearly fainted." "I suppose," Al said as he wiped tears from his eyes, "she has a vanity set, too?" "Yes. It's an antique and so is her canopy bed." "She gave up gardening and doesn't date. What does she do when she's not at work?" "Reads, takes long walks, and searches for a good Mexican restaurant that serves hot spicy food and ice cold beers." "A woman after my own heart. Anything else?" George gave him a strange look. "Only that Layton considers her the best nurse on staff. She impressed Layton so much in the first week, that she made Beth shift supervisor." Layton, the head nurse, wasn't easily impressed. George was still looking at him oddly. Al ignored him. Instead, he picked up the bill and dropped a handful of money on the table. Al liked old Margie a lot, so he tipped her generously. "Put that back," Al said as George pulled out his wallet. "I've got it covered." "Why is it that you only want to pay when it's cheap?" Margie had approached the table as Al and George were standing to leave. Al grinned at the older woman. "So I can leave a bigger tip for my favorite waitress." He handed over the bill and her generous tip. On impluse, he gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "See ya next week, boys," she called out. "I see your mood has improved. I must've said something useful." "Very." Al felt practically giddy with excitement. "Oh, by the way, spread the word. Wednesday, we're going to Gino's Pizzeria." "Thanks, I've already figured that out," George said dryly. He slid into the passenger seat. Al took his place behind the wheel." "Al?" "Yeah?" "Aren't you forgetting something? About Beth, I mean?" Al frowned at him. "Are you turning in your wings?" "Huh?" "You are a pilot," George pointed out slowly. "She doesn't *like* pilots." Al studied his steering wheel, lost in thought. "I can't put my finger on it, but I think she lost someone close to her. I can almost see it in her eyes when I look at her. Her heart's been broken, George." He looked out the window. "I just know it has." George was studying him with a solemn expression. George and his family were the only others, besides Maureen McGinty and her parents, who knew the full history of Al Calavicci. George would understand what he was trying to say because he knew Al had seen more tradey and heartache in his twenty-six years than most people see in a lifetime. *A woman after my own heart,* Al thought as he put the 'vette in drive. 0800 HRS. SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 1960. MESS HALL, PENSACOLA NAS Beth stared at her toast and coffee, lost in though. She went over the things she said last night. *You love to give advice,* she told herself, *but you don't know when to take it or when to listen to your own*. If everyonew was being truthful about Al, then she should take *everything* into consideration. He wasn't currently involved with anyone. Unfortunately, this station had too many former girlfriends. And Lenora was a problem. The only time he touched her was when he held her hand. He asked her for her opinions and *listened*. He didn't brag about himself. *Well, a little when he was talking about cooking*. But he didn't go on and on. He left the dinner date up to her and even made it less initmate by inviting everyone. He was trying his hardest to see her without scaring her off. That much she was certain. *And I didn't have the decency to accept or decline his invitation. I just walked off*. She took a bite out of her toast and studied the roster in front of her. The Washington group would be back on Sunday. The night shift supervisor, Renee, was still on emergency leave. *But Samantha will be back tomorrow, so she can worry about the night shift herself*, Beth thought annotating the sheet. Samantha Freeman was the assistant night sift supervisor. Beth raised her cup to her lips and stopped. *Samantha*. Lt. Samantha Freeman was one of the few people Beth actually liked at Pensacola. The two women had hit off from the beginning. However, they worked different shifts, so they saw little of each other. Al had dated her. She wasn't married, now or then. She hadn't been reassigned. She wouldn't sleep with Al when he had asked. *She* broke up with him when she found someone else she like more. Beth needed to talk to someone she trusted and she couldn't trust Lisa. Lisa *had* wanted to marry Al. Beth gathered up her things and headed back to the billets. "Beth, have you been to the pot office yet?" Kelly was standing outside Beth's room. "No, but I'm on my way. What do you need?" Beth couldn't find her room key in her purse. "I thought that you might want company." "No. Not today." The key had gotten jammed in her wallet. "Beth, I really need to talk to you." She froze in the act of opening her door and turned slowly to look at Kelly. Kelly looked miserable and the first thing that came to Beth was that Kelly was pregnant. That was only possible if she had been seeing someone in the last six months, while Tom was at sea. But Kelly could look miserable over burnt waffles, so looks alone told her nothing. "Go down and wait for me by my car. I'll be right out." Beth sealed her grandmother's package after going through the contents one last time, and head down. Kelly stood patiently by the car. "Here's the plan: we'll go to the post office and then will go to the running track to talk," Beth told Kelly as they pulled away from the billets. The track would be deserted at this time on Saturdays and Beth liked to walk it when she needed to do some deep thinking. As instructed, Kelly kept her peace until they reached the track. "I saw you and Bingo collide with each other on Thursday morning," Kelly started, hesitantly. "And later, I saw you at lunch with him." Beth stopped walking and looked at Kelly. "Yes?" "After work, he talked his way out of dinner and my first thought was 'Oh, good for Beth! Finally! Bingo will treat her right.' Yesterday, everything seemed fine when the two of you went to lunch. But I passed you in the hall when I was on my way to the cafeteria and you didn't even see me. You looked. . . tense." She paused and kicked a rock off the track. "He didn't look as chipper as he had Thursday. Bingo has a bounce to his step when he's happy. I guessed that something was said at lunch." Beth didn't trust herself enough to answer that and she certainly did not want to sidetrack Kelly. Kelly went on. "You were your normal self again last night and I didn't know what to think. Then George showed up at the Club and immediately speaks to me. ME! He rarely speaks to me and before I knew it, I was telling him everything that happended in the last six months. Al never showed up and Lenora was pissed. So was Janet and," she heaved a deep sigh, "so was Tom." *Trouble*, Beth thought. "Well, it *was* George Whitmore-Jone after all. He was so polite and thanked me for the information. Then everything started to happen: Lenora came back upset, Janet wanted to dance, Tom was drunk, and I was being blamed for the ruined evening." "It wasn't your fault," Beth told her soothingly. "Yes, I know. It's your fault." "WHAT?" "I was so thrilled to be talking to George that I hadn't noticed how much he was paying attention until," she paused dramatically, "I went over it again. George was listening and he was interested in what I was saying. When I mentioned your name, he sat up straight and listened *very* carefully. He seemed to hang onto every word." "I've never met the man, Kelly." Beth was still stunned by Kelly's previous statement. "I know. And there's only one reason why George Edward Phillip Whitmore-Jones would go out of his way to find out all he could about someone he's never met before." "Why?" Beth asked still confused. "Because Albert Calavicci asked him." 1300 HRS. SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 1960. BOQ, PENSACOLA NAS George hung up the phone. Gino's was happy to accept a party of nearly one hundred of Al's nearest and dearest friends. Al loved parties, throwing them and attending them. He was better at it than George, but couldn't expect Al to throw his own birthday party. The word-of-mouth invitation had already spread through the squadrons and the hospital. George had delegated most of the planning to their other friends. The one thing he did not trust anyone with was Al's gift. Al was a compulsive reader. He read almost anything as long as it kept his interest. He loved classical literture and George wanted to get him the complete works of Mark Twain. He went back to his room and rummaged through his desk for his wallet and keys. Janet and Lenora were at the beauty palor, so he was free for the afternoon. he really didn't relish the idea of driving from bookstore to bookstore, but he preferred it to spending the *entire* day with Janet. Al was on the phone when George came back downstairs. *He must be planning a surprise for his own party*, George thought as he waved at Al. The BX was his first destination. One could never tell and there was an off chance that the BX would have it on hand. A young enlisted couple, no more than nineteen-year-old, stopped him in the BX parking lot to aske direction. George, whose own grandfather and father had commanded at Pensacola, knew the base by heart. If that young couple hadn't stoped him, George would never have seen Kelly sitting at one of the outside tables belonging to the BX's snack bar. Her back was half-turned to him but he would have known that crown of fiery hair anywhere. George didn't recognize her companion though. The stranger wore a mint green sundress with a matching hair band and white sandals. George thought she looked a little like Senator Kennedy's wife, Jackie, and he had met the original. *She is pretty enough, I suppose*, George thought. He was seriously considering dumping Janet. As George drew closer, the possiblity that the stranger in green being the mysterious Elizabeth Townsend occured to him. If she was, he was out of luck. "Hey, Kelly." Kelly nearly jumped out of her skin and George realized that his tone had been too sharp. The frown on the stranger's face confirmed that. "Sorry." "That's OK. What can I do for you?" "Where can I find the complete works of Mark Twain?" Both women looked at him and blinked several times. *The library, dummy*, he thought. "At which bookstore can I find the complete works of Mark Twain?" If anyone had that type of information, it was Kelly. "It's a birthday gift." "Let me give you the name of a guy --" "I need it by Wednesday, Kel," George interrupted. "I know," she snapped back. While Kelly scrounged for paper and pen, George glanced at the stranger. She had watched and listened to the exchange without comment. "George Whitmore-Jones," he introduced himself. She smiled at him politely. "Elizabeth Townsend." *Sweetheart, whether you know it or not*, George thought, *or if Al even knows it or not, you are the future Mrs. Albert Calavicci*. George could feel it in his gut. Her smile had told him more than any of Kelly's reports could: this woman was close to being in love with a man she only met three days ago and who had a reputation that Don Juan and Casanova would have envied. And she was totally at a loss of what to do about it. 0930 HRS. SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 1960. RUNNING TRACK, PENSACOLA NAS "Are you sure?" Beth asked, barely audible. "You just admitted never meeting George. He and Bingo are thick as thieves." Kelly paused to collect her thoughts. "Al doesn't kowtow to George. He hasn't, even from the first day at Annapolis. He treats George like an ordinary mortal. Al isn't George's friend because George has gobs of money and a family older than dirt. He's his friend because they share a love of flying, the Navy, women, baseball, and a hundred other things." Kelly shook her head. "The others are Al's friends and Al is the bridge between them. If it was left up to say, George and Chip, Chip wouldn't spend time with George." The two walked in silence for several minutes. Kelly sighed and said, "I hate to say this, but Al treats people, women particularly, better than George. You're lucky that Al saw you first." The silence was longer this time. "Look, Beth I know I talk a lot and without thinking, but I never repeat a confidence. I only pass on. . .fluff. If you were to tell me your parents are Communists, I would never tell another soul." "What can you tell me about Al?" Beth asked, looking her in the eyes. "Not a whole lot, I'm afraid, except the usual fluff," Kelly said honestly. "He's an enigma. Fun to be with and everything, but no one, other than George, can tell you anything *really* personal about him." "Have you ever dated him?" "No." Kelly made a small face. "Oh, I like him and all, but he's just a really good friend. I think of him as a big brother." Beth wasn't sure if any of this helped or not. "Give me the fluff." So Kelly told her. Al was from Chicago, was fluent in Italian, did summer stock, was a Golden Gloves champion, was a great (and diverse) cook, and cared about the environment. He graduated at the top of his class in high school, at the Academy (even higher than the George), at the flight school, and was an exchange student at MIT (the last two years at the Academy). He loved parties, loved women, love to read, and so on. Beth got an earful. Kelly confessed to never revealing a confidence, so if Al had told her a deep, dark secret, she would never tell Beth anyway. "What did you tell George?" Kelly, wanting very to be trusted, launched into her recital about Beth. She was a little annoyed at some of the things Kelly told George. By the time she finished and started heading back to the car, both were hot, tired, and hungry. Kelly was thirsty. "I'll treat you to lunch," Beth told her, parking the car in the BX lot. "Thanks, Beth. I know you're mad at me," Kelly started to say. "No, Kelly," Beth interrupted gently. "I'm not mad at you. Annoyed, yes, but not mad. When it's all said and done, it's not your fault anyway." Kelly looked relieved and Beth felt better, too. During lunch, Beth got the impression Kelly wanted to be trusted with the problems Beth was having with Al. "Listen Kelly," Beth started,"I will tell you that I've heard a lot about Al when I was at Balboa. Fortunately, most of it's true and good. But I've just met him. There isn't anything to tell." Beth was half-aware of the tall, blonde man walking up behind Kelly, but she ignored him. "Hey, Kelly," the stranger said sharply. Kelly jumped, startled. There was something arrogant in his manner. *He must be a pilot*, Beth thought. She frowned. "Sorry," he apologized to Kelly. Kelly seemed eager to please and Beth wondered if this was Tom Crenshaw. *But Tom's not a pilot*. "Where can I find the complete works of Mark Twain?" *Is he serious*? The man realized his error and rephrased the question. Beth thought him to be haughty. *A birthday gift*? In that moment Beth was sure he was George. She wasn't impressed with him and his brief exchange with Kelly did nothing to improved it. He introduced himself, confirming her suspicions. Beth managed a polite smile and introduced herself. He seemed distracted for a moment, and then Kelly handed him a sheet of paper. "Just tell him what you want. He'll tell you if it's available in the area and where. If it's not, he can get it to you by Tuesday night, but only if you call *now*." "Thanks, Kelly. You saved me the trouble of driving all over the place this weekend." "You're welcome." "I almost forgot. Wednesday, Gino's. Everyone's invited. Word's been spread, but just in case, pass it on." Beth waited for George was out of earshot. "What's Wednesday?" Beth asked, playing dumb. "Bingo's birthday." "Oh." *The complete works of Mark Twain*? "Are you going?" Beth shrugged. "I don't know." 1000 HRS. SUNDAY, JUNE 12, 1960. NURSES' BOQ, PENSACOLA NAS "How as DC?" Beth asked Samantha Freeman the next morning. Samantha was busy unpacking. "Humid." "I hate to do this to you, but can I talk to you, Sam?" "Sure." Samantha gave her a knowing look and Beth's first thought was, *Kelly*. "What's that look for?" Beth asked. Sam hung up her uniform and said, amused, "Because I know Al Calavicci better than you. I know he prefers brunettes and Lenora's already complained to me that she hasn't been able to catch his eye in four days. She's suspicious and think's he's seeing someone else already. It would have to be you or Sarah Cunningham." Beth stared at her friend, dumbfounded. *Sorry, Kelly*. What makes you so sure it's me?" Samantha laughed. "Something has you all perked up and confused." Beth felt herself blush. "I'm not seeing him." "Yet," Samantha added gently. "Al's very patient." Beth was silent. "Beth, he's a great guy. He won't pressure you, if that's what you're worried about. I told him no and he was very understanding." She paused. "I started seeing Gary before I broke it off with Al. Neither has ever found out, forturnately." "And Theresa?" "She felt he was getting too serious. The strange part is that Al never asked her to marry him or even discussed the possilbity of marriage and family. I guess she just assumed he was thinking along those lines. Then she was reassigned." Beth was more confused than before. Her perception of Samantha and Theresa had changed and not necessarily for the better. She excused herself and locked herself in her room. She could no longer feel open with Samantha. The only person who can out favorably was Al. He had been honest with her from the beginning. Beth lay on her bed and stared at the canopy. She had less than four days to decide whether or not she would go to Gino's ######################################### Does she or doesn't she? Stay tuned.