Moments and Memories
The things we do for family, Trixie thought with a sigh.
She was absolutely exhausted. Securing leave to travel home for her brother’s wedding to her best friend had been difficult, and the number of days granted had been few. Trixie was grateful for what she had and didn’t want to push her luck with her captain, so she made her travel plans to fit into the allotted time. She hadn’t thought it was any big deal.
Funny how reality didn’t feel quite so good.
Stationed aboard a naval ship off the coast of Korea, she had finagled a helicopter ride to shore. Unfortunately, the ship had not been near any major cities on that day. A week prior, it had been as close to Seoul as it could get. The day Trixie was scheduled to leave, the ship was sailing around the southern tip of South Korea. Trixie’s chopper dropped her off in Tongyeong. Not far in as-the-crow-flies miles from Busan, this didn’t seem so bad. Unfortunately, her ride from Tongyeong to the airport in Busan had taken nearly four hours. Then was the hour-long flight from Busan to Seoul, which was the opposite direction of where she wanted to go.
She had a three-hour layover in Seoul. From there, she flew to Tokyo and San Francisco before heading for New York. The Seoul to New York flight was listed at 25 hours with layovers. Naturally, there had been delays, resulting in missed connections. Now, her plane was touching down at John F. Kennedy International Airport a mere 47 hours after she’d left her ship – at the end of a 12-hour duty shift.
God, she was tired.
Usually, she was able to sleep on planes. At times in her life she’d been too excited to sleep or too worried. Although she was excited about her trip, it shouldn’t have kept her from sleeping. And she wasn’t the least bit worried. Again, she’d had a string of bad luck. First, there was the very talkative Korean mother and her small child. Then, there was the large man in the tiny seat next to her. Then, there was the scared elderly woman who just needed someone to keep her company. During one layover, she’d been next to an excited teenaged traveler chatting away on her cell phone. During another, she’d been subjected to honeymooners who couldn’t wait to get to their hotel. The last leg she’d been in first class with an empty seat beside her, but they’d had terrible turbulence almost the entire way.
The thought of another three-hour car ride to get from JFK to Sleepyside-on-Hudson was making her head throb (because she knew, no matter what Google Maps said, there would be ridiculous traffic and it would take three times as long as the mapmaker believed). As much as she wanted to be at home in her own bed in her parents’ house, she was so tired she wanted to cry. Walking to the closest airport hotel and crashing sounded blissful.
As it was, Trixie had no idea who was meeting her at the airport. Every time her travel plans had changed, she’d let her family know. The time of her arrival had changed seven times. People’s work schedules and the travel plans of other wedding guests would have surely affected the arrangements for getting her home. She was beyond caring, however. From baggage claim on, it was someone else’s responsibility.
Knowing she didn’t have the energy to rush down the aisle, Trixie waited for the more hurried passengers to deplane. When she got up, it took every ounce of energy to straighten her uniform and stand at attention. She doubted she’d succeeded; she prayed there were no fellow Navy officers traveling through the airport today. It was unlikely she’d pass a visual inspection and she hated disrespecting her uniform. She really should have changed into civilian clothes in San Francisco.
Once past the gate area, Trixie trudged down the concourse. She reached into her carry-on bag to find her cell phone. Trying to focus her tired eyes on the buttons, she managed to find the speed dial for her best friend and soon-to-be-sister-in-law, Honey Wheeler. Stepping out of the flow of weary travelers, Trixie leaned against a wall and waited for her to answer.
“Trixie! Are you in New York?” Honey practically shrieked into the phone.
In spite of her exhaustion, Trixie smiled. Just hearing Honey’s friendly and excited voice cheered Trixie through and through. “Yes! Finally. And now I ask, oh Queen of Details, how am I getting home?”
“That depends. Are you tired?”
Trixie paused. She had come all this way just to participate in Honey’s wedding. If there was some type of pre-wedding festivity on the schedule for this evening, she really ought to participate. After all, it was only 6:00 p.m. here on the East Coast of the United States. The evening was young.
On the other hand, she was too tired to even attempt to lie.
“Bone-tired. Exhausted. I’m not sure I remember my name right now.”
Honey chuckled. “That’s what I figured. I also thought the best thing for you tonight would be about twelve hours of sleep – which you won’t get if you come here. I swear, every relative either one of us has is in town! It’s like a week-long family reunion. I love it, but you need to be rested to face this.”
“Oh, dear God.” Trixie couldn’t think of a more articulate response.
“You are going to owe me, my soon-to-be-sister.” Honey’s voice was rather smug.
Curiosity began to penetrate the haze of Trixie’s sleep-deprived brain. “For what, exactly?”
“I have made very special arrangements. You will be going to the Doubletree Hilton JFK, where you will crash for twelve hours in Doubletree’s ‘Sweet Dreams Bed’, have breakfast by room service, and be completely refreshed before you complete your journey to Sleepyside. At which time, you’d better be prepared to be mine for every moment until the wedding.”
“On the one hand, I could say that if I had wanted to stay in a hotel I could’ve done that in San Francisco. On the other hand, the sleep sounds like pure heaven. What name is the reservation under?”
Chuckling evilly, Honey replied, “Frayne.”
Trixie was so tired that it took her more than a full minute to comprehend what her friend had said: the reservation was in her fiancé’s name. She stood up straight, and her heartbeat quickened. “Is he here?”
“Waiting in baggage claim.”
“I owe you, Honey,” Trixie exclaimed as she began to move rapidly towards the appropriate exit.
“Yes, you do. Moms was okay, but your father was a hard sell. This took a lot of effort, so enjoy every minute.”
“Oh, Lord, will I ever. Even just sleeping is so much better in his arms.” Trixie knew she was gushing, but she didn’t care.
“I know that feeling,” Honey said. “Why do you think I dragged you 7,000 miles to watch me get married?”
“That’s Saturday. Tonight is all mine, my friend. Thank you, I love you, and I’m shutting my phone off now.” Trixie didn’t even wait for a response. She was riding the escalator down to the arrivals level of the terminal and had spotted a distinctive head of red hair waiting near the baggage claim. She turned the power off on her cell and zipped it back into the pocket of her bag while she waited impatiently for the escalator to reach the bottom.
She wound her way through the crowd towards him. She could feel the change in the air the instant he spotted her. She forced herself to maintain a dignified pace until she stood in front of him.
“Lieutenant Belden.” Jim’s words were formal and polite, but the smoldering look in his emerald green eyes told her exactly how he’d prefer to greet her. Too bad they were in a crowded airport.
“Dr. Frayne.” Trixie attempted to return his greeting in a like manner. They both knew, however, just how long formal and polite would last between them.
About two point five seconds.
Trixie threw herself into his arms. Jim caught her and crushed her to his chest, burying his face in her hair and breathing deeply.
“Oh, my God, I’ve missed you!” On the verge of crying, it was impossible for her to hide the catch in her voice.
Jim didn’t try to respond with words. He pulled back from her just enough that he could see her face. He cupped her cheek with one hand and leaned in to taste her lips with a deep, possessive kiss that left them both breathless. When they came up for air, he leaned his forehead against hers and held her close.
“Let’s get your bag and get outta here. I need you all to myself for a while.” Jim was afraid that if he didn’t make a move toward some rational activity, he was simply going to ravish her here and now, right in the middle of the airport.
Then she looked up at him. Her big blue eyes were welling with tears… tears that spoke of her love, her loneliness, her eagerness to be with him, but along with all of that they showed very clearly just how tired she was.
Jim’s libido dialed down a few notches, and the tenderness he felt toward the woman in his arms took over. They didn’t say anything else. He reached into her jacket pocket, knowing he would find her claim ticket for her luggage. After retrieving her bag, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder and guided her toward the loading area for the hotel shuttle. Aboard the shuttle, she rested her head on his shoulder and nearly dozed off.
When they reached the hotel, he guided her straight towards the elevator. He’d checked in already and had the room key in his pocket, so there was no need to stop at the front desk. Arriving at their room, he set her bag down to unlock the door, then held it open and waved her ahead of him.
She stepped into the room, stopping and staring about her while Jim brought her bag in and locked up. There were twinkles of candlelight everywhere. The small table was set with a dinner for two; covered dishes sat across from each other and a bottle of wine sat chilling in the ice bucket. Soft music wafted from a stereo. Jim walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. Trixie leaned back into him and reveled in being here, alone, with the most wonderful man in the world.
Tilting her head up to see his face, she said simply, “I love you.”
Jim smiled and kissed her. “Do me a favor, and just let me take care of you tonight.”
Trixie nodded. “Please.”
He pushed her towards the table while he explained, “When I saw your itinerary, I figured you wouldn’t eat much on your way. Every time you got delayed, it only got worse. Once I knew what time you were really landing in New York, I figured you’d be in desperate need of food and a shower before you could even consider sleep, no matter how exhausted you were. I just decided that a good meal, some relaxation, and a hot bath would make it even better.”
She looked at the simple meal of seared steak, glazed carrots and garlic mashed potatoes, before sending a seductive look his way. “By the time I finish that agenda, I’ll be out cold. Sure you don’t want to spend what little energy I have left in other ways?”
Grinning wickedly, he whispered in her ear, “You need to be well-rested for the welcome home I have in mind.”
She giggled and sat back to enjoy her dinner. He pulled his chair around next to her, and they held hands as they ate, eager to have even that simple contact after so many months apart. When they were done eating, Jim announced it was time for her bath.
Trixie raised an eyebrow. “I hope you weren’t planning on leaving me alone.”
He stood up and offered her his hand. “I want every minute I can get on this trip,” he said, his voice husky. He pulled her to her feet and led the way towards the bathroom. “Besides, I thought you enjoyed the last bath we had together.”
She smiled at the memory. After Christmas, they had managed to get away together for a couple of days. Instead of choosing a quaint bed and breakfast, which was really more their style, Jim had chosen a luxury hotel in New York. If they wanted to go out, there were a thousand and one things they could do in the city. And if they wanted to stay in, the room had everything they could possibly need… including a large whirlpool tub. They had thoroughly enjoyed that particular amenity.
“Are you aiming to recreate that particular evening?” Trixie asked, actually purring.
Suddenly serious, Jim held her face tenderly with both hands. His emerald green eyes, dark with desire, looked deeply into hers. “Making memories, Trix. To keep us both warm during the many long nights we’ll be apart before it’s finally our time.”
Trixie’s heart skipped a beat. She felt like she would melt into a puddle right there. It wasn’t just Jim’s arms wrapping around her and pulling her close. As her body molded to his, she could feel his love, his very soul, embracing her. For all the years that she had loved him in silence, waiting for him to see her in some light other than as a mere friend, she had never imagined what it would mean to have him love her in return. As their lips met, she trembled. Her love for this man knew no bounds; the fact that he felt the same was the most incredible gift she had ever received.
Between kisses, she mumbled, “Definitely worth waiting for.”
Remembering those were the exact words she’d said after the first time he’d ever kissed her, Jim’s heart swelled. Deepening the kiss, he fought back the urge to beg like a small child for her to just go AWOL and run away with him forever. He loved her so much, and he just couldn’t stand the thought of spending more time apart. Their carefully constructed plan of waiting out her tour of duty while he worked towards building his school sounded fine when they were halfway across the globe from each other, but being separated again was too painful to think about right then.
“Trixie, remember,” he paused his kissing long enough to utter, “the here and now. Nothing else matters.”
“The here and now,” she agreed. Breathing heavily, she begged, “Make me forget the rest.”
Jim spent the rest of the night trying to accomplish just that.
A very special thank you to my Dearheart, Susan, for the quick edits. It's such a relief to finally write something Susan enjoys. :)