Airships that Pass in the Night
Copyright 2008 by Linda Crist
Setting: This is a Kennedy and Carson short story, two characters first introduced in "The Bluest Eyes in Texas." It is set twenty years in the future. Kennedy Nocona is now Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and Carson Garrett Nocona is a successful film producer. This story is a stand-alone, but if you'd like to read "The Bluest Eyes in Texas," go here: http://www.academyofbards.org/authors/texbard.html
Mailing Lists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/texbard (updates + chat) and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/texbardupdates (updates only)
Feedback Welcome: email@example.com
December 31, 2028 …
The cell phone on the night stand buzzed loudly as it shimmied across the smooth, wooden surface. Carson grabbed it and glanced at the caller ID and then the time display. "Four a.m.," she groaned, hitting a button. "Hi, honey. You're lucky the maid polished the furniture so thoroughly. I forgot to put the ringer back on after I left the studio last night but the phone nearly slid off the night stand and I heard it vibrating."
"I know. I left you two messages last night." Kennedy laughed lightly. "Sorry to call so early but I wanted to catch you before you leave for work."
"Oh, god." Carson noticed the small blinking message notification. "Sorry. I got home at almost midnight. I didn't even eat dinner. Just washed my face and collapsed. I have to be back at Universal in two hours."
"Home?" Kennedy released a soft breath.
"Second home?" Carson rolled onto her back, staring up at the darkness overhead. "Or third? I don't know what else to call it. 'The penthouse' sounds so sterile."
"Sorry." Kennedy shoved down her irritation, knowing it for what it was -- a bone-deep loneliness that would only be cured by an armful of the woman on the line, who was currently an entire coast away. "I know. I just hate --"
"Admitting we live half the year apart these days?" Carson finished for her.
"Yeah." Kennedy sighed. "I miss Austin. I miss you."
"I miss you too." Carson gave the pillow she was holding a squeeze, wishing it was Kennedy's solid, warm body. Any word from the kids? I tried to call them during lunch yesterday but only got voice mail."
"Oh, yes. That's partly why I called. I talked to Parker last night. They're having a blast on the slopes in Vail."
"No long hours on the webcam with absent boyfriends?" Carson chuckled.
"I didn't say that." Kennedy smiled, then joined in the laughter. "And I don't think they're looking forward to going back to school after next week."
"At least I'll be there by then. Mallory will still be on vacation. A well-deserved one, I might add." Carson made mental note to send a thank-you card with a second annual bonus enclosed, to their nanny for the long hours she was putting in.
"We're long overdue for a vacation ourselves," Kennedy reminded her. "Are we still shooting for Spring Break back in Austin?"
"Yes. And I promise you I'll finish up what I need to do here by the end of next week. The rest I can do remotely from Alexandria." The alarm clock went off and Carson jerked in surprise, then reached over and turned it off.
"Gotta go?" Kennedy sounded almost forlorn.
"I can talk a little while longer," Carson pitched her voice to a soothing tone. "What time is your luncheon?"
"Noon," Kennedy groused. "Next time I accept a Chief Justice nomination, remind me to read the fine print."
" 'Next time'? Honey, you've got your current job for life." Carson laughed. "And you make a fine Chancellor of the Smithsonian."
"Bah." Kennedy got up from the bedroom recliner and padded over to the window of the brownstone. "I think they shoved it off on the Chief Justice because no one else wanted the job. First thing next week, I'm going to fire whoever thought a New Year's Eve fundraiser was a good idea."
"Honey--" Carson also got up and opened the closet, turning on a light and flipping through her clothing choices, picking out a pair of jeans, a button-down shirt, and a soft pullover to ward off the frigid studio air conditioning. "Not nice."
"Hummpphh." Outside, snow was falling in heavy, wet flakes, adding to several inches already covering the ground. "I'm freezing my ass off, I've been sleeping alone for three weeks, and I have to go play nice with a bunch of political wives. And now I get to spend New Year's Eve alone. I'm not feeling real nice at present."
"I thought you had a party to go to tonight." Carson shoved her feet into a pair of slippers and made her way into the kitchen, grabbing a carton of grapefruit juice from the refrigerator. She poured up a glass and took a sip.
"I'd rather have dental surgery than drive all the way over to McLean in the snow." Kennedy moved away from the window, turning her back on the muted morning light. "No, thank you. I'm going to curl up with a book and a glass of wine, call you, and be in bed before midnight, most likely. You gonna answer your phone?" She teased.
"Yes." Carson finished off her juice, rinsed out the glass, and set it in the sink, then turned on the coffee maker and shuffled back through the bedroom to the master bath. "All I want to do is sleep for a week. Unfortunately I have to be back at work the day after tomorrow."
"Poor baby," Kennedy cooed. "I feel your pain, though. I just finished writing my opinion on that union worker's case Friday afternoon. I have a bunch of petitions to review next week and I need to talk to the maid about getting the house ready for the kids' return on Thursday."
"Please tell me you gave the poor woman more than just New Year's Day off," Carson chastised her. "It's nice for the holiday to fall on a Monday, but still."
"Oh, hell yes." Kennedy looked through her closet, choosing a charcoal gray suit. "She's been off since the Friday before Christmas. I've been baching it all week. She'll be back day after tomorrow."
"Good. Listen, honey. I need to get in the shower. I wish I could talk longer." Carson shrugged out of her pajamas and turned on the water in the free-standing frosted-glass stall. "I want to get to the studio before the amusement park opens this morning. They're having some big all-day and into the night bash for teens."
"Ugh." Kennedy also turned on her shower. "Are you working alone today?"
"Mostly." Carson realized her shower gel bottle was almost empty and retrieved a new one from a small storage closet just outside the bathroom. "I asked a couple of folks to work today. I'm paying them double time for it."
"Good girl," Kennedy praised her. "Happy new year, babe. Don't work too hard. I'll give you a call at midnight my time, how's that?"
"Thought you were going to bed early," Carson gently ribbed her.
"You're worth waiting up for. When the clock strikes midnight, it's your voice I want to hear in my ear." Kennedy sighed, almost silently.
"Awwww." Carson was touched. "Does that mean I get to call you at 3 am your time?"
"You can call me any time of the day or night, you know that." Kennedy smiled. "I would love to talk to you at midnight your time."
"I won't last that long," Carson admitted. "Okay, I really need to go now. Happy New Year. I love you."
"Love you too." Kennedy reluctantly ended the call and set the phone on the bathroom counter, then stepped into the shower.
Kennedy stood at the end of a receiving line, shaking hands and making small talk, as one by one, museum patrons and supporters stopped to chat, offer opinions, or just get a closer look at the relatively-new, attractive, first gay Chief Justice. Kennedy had been in the position for a little over a year, after having served as a federal criminal justice in Austin for several years before that. Though she was in her early fifties, she could easily pass for ten years younger. Only the distinguished-looking silver streaks at her temples gave away the years of legal and judicial experience she now carried under her belt.
At last, the final patron was shooed through the door and Kennedy and other Smithsonian board members breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you everyone. I know it was tough coming out here today, but we raised a quarter of a million dollars this afternoon."
"Good job," one of the board members clapped her on the shoulder. "You headed up to Bill's tonight for the party?"
"No." Kennedy followed the group to the coat check area, where she stood in line to retrieve her black leather duster. "I need a quiet evening after this past week."
"Been a bitch?" Jim, a board member, politely intercepted her coat and held it up for her.
"Thanks." Kennedy shrugged into the coat. "And yes, to put it mildly."
"Well, you and your wife deserve a quiet evening together then, I'd wager." Jim followed her toward the exit.
"Yes, if she were here." Kennedy stepped out into the falling snow and cold, biting wind, and handed her valet ticket to a parking attendant. "She' stuck in LA working on a film."
"Oh, that's too bad." Jim fished his own valet ticket from his coat pocket. "My wife is on a surgery rotation over at Johns Hopkins tonight. That's what we get for marrying career women, eh?"
"True. But I married her for better or for worse, and I must say, overall, it's been 'better'." Kennedy smiled. "She'll be home next week. Good evening. Tell your wife I said hello and I'm sorry she couldn't make it today." Kennedy nodded to him as her car pulled up. She handed the attendant a generous tip, then got inside the car, grateful for heated leather seats and an extremely efficient window defogger. Pressing the electric starter button, she felt, rather than heard, the engine kick on.
Making her way through fairly-light traffic, she turned onto 14th Street and drove south, crossing the Potomac River, but as she reached the other side, instead of heading straight toward Alexandria and home, she veered south onto a freshly-plowed George Washington Memorial Parkway. Soon, she found herself pulling into the special Judicial and Diplomatic valet station at Washington National Airport.
"This is crazy," she scolded herself, even as she got out of the car and handed it over to a security attendant. "I'll be back Tuesday morning at the latest, she informed a clerk. I don't suppose there's any chance one of the government planes is available?" She flashed her ID badge.
"Oh, unfortunately, no." The clerk studied the badge. "Your honor. I apologize. Do you want me to arrange for a commercial flight for you? First class?"
"Yes." Kennedy clipped the badge back inside her coat. "LAX. Whatever will get me there the quickest." She waited while the attendant made a call.
He placed a hand over the receiver. "Touch-down in Vegas okay, your honor? There aren't any non-stop flights, so that one will be the fastest. You'll be in LA by six p.m. their time. No plane change, just a brief stop."
"Yes, fine. That's perfect." She watched as a ticket printed off and he handed it to her. Before she had time to think about what she was doing, a van was shuttling her directly to the gate, bypassing the terminal and normal security gates.
"No luggage today, ma'am?" The driver studied her. "Oh, Justice Nocona. How are you today, ma'am?"
"Now that I'm headed to LA, couldn't be better." She smiled. "Spur of the moment trip. I don't need to take anything. Everything I need will be there waiting for me." The van pulled up to the gate and she got out, forking over another generous tip. "Happy new year."
"Happy new year to you, too, ma'am." The driver smiled and touched the brim of his hat, then drove away.
"Yeah." Everything she needed was indeed in LA. "Happy new year to me." She grinned, ducking inside a private lounge until boarding was called.
"Perfect." Carson sat back and crossed her arms in satisfaction. Glancing over at one of her editors, she smiled. "So far, so good. It looks great. Nice work." She stood up and glanced at her watch. "One-thirty," she mumbled. "Okay, folks, that's it for today. I'll see everyone on Tuesday. Y'all drive safe if you're going out tonight."
As her skeleton crew gathered up belongings, laptops, and other assorted items, she fished in her pocket for her car keys and made a pit stop at the ladies room before stepping outside into the bright southern California sunshine. She pulled her sweater over her head and tied it around her waist, then made her way to the first parking space, a placard prominently marking it with her name.
While opening the car door, a plane flew overhead and she looked up, watching it bank and turn north and out of sight over the mountains. "Hmmmmm." She got in the car and sat there for a moment, grasping the steering wheel and studying her fingers curled around it, the ring on her left hand catching the light through the windshield and twinkling at her. "Okay, you're insane," she scolded herself, then started the electric engine and backed out of the space. "But Burbank is closer than Santa Monica," she reasoned.
Pulling onto North Hollywood Way, she pressed a speed-dial button on her phone. "Mark," she addressed her travel agent. "Sorry to call you on a holiday afternoon, but how quick can you get me to Washington D.C.? I'm headed for the Burbank airport as we speak. Any private jets I can catch last minute?" She waited, listening to him chit-chat as he looked up flight information.
"Yeah, I'd like to be there in time to ring in the New Year with Kennedy, if possible. No private jets, huh? Okay, commercial is fine. One connection? I guess that's not too bad, considering it takes off in an hour. Okay, book me, please. Bags to check? None. I'll have what I need there. Cool. Thanks, Mark. You have a happy new year, too." She placed the phone back in her briefcase and smiled, then hummed happily for the remainder of the short drive.
In a very short time she was settled comfortably in the first row of the plane, watching out the window as the sprawl of LA faded away from view. She looked up as a flight attendant brought her a glass of complimentary champagne. "Thank you." She smiled. "Where are we headed again?"
The flight attendant tilted her head in question. "You don't know where you're going?"
"Oh." Carson laughed. "I’m going to D.C. but I ran through the airport so fast, I didn't have much time to think about where I was connecting through."
"Vegas, ma'am." The attendant smiled. "We'll be there in no time. The D.C. flight will connect five gates down in the same terminal.
"Great. Thanks." Carson sat back and stuck her iPod ear buds in her ears, then closed her eyes to nap. "Need to be rested up for a nice evening with K," she mumbled, then dozed off. Soon, the attendant was touching her arm. "Huh?" Carson's eyes fluttered open.
"Ma'am, we've landed in Vegas. You're the last one on the plane." The attendant smiled indulgently.
"Ughh." Carson scrubbed her eyes with her fists. "Sorry about that." She stood and retrieved her briefcase from the overhead bin, and made her way into the terminal. "Lord, I may need to buy a coat. K said it was snowing in D.C. Or I guess I can call her and tell her I'm on the way. It would be nice to surprise her, but if she picks me up, she can bring my coat. Fine. I'll save surprises for another day." She fished her phone from her briefcase and hit a speed dial button, frowning as the call went directly to voice mail. "Okay. Guess I'm going shopping. There's an hour before my connection anyway."
The plane touched down and taxied to the gate. Kennedy sat back, watching as most of the passengers on the plane exited, heading off for New Year's Eve in Vegas. A few faces she recognized -- a handful of senators, a couple of lobbyists, and a half dozen judicial clerks she didn't even realize were on the plane. Ducking behind a newspaper, she listened as the laughing, giggling group of law students passed her by, un-noticed.
Once the plane was mostly empty, an attendant came by. "Would you like another glass of champagne, ma'am? We'll be on the ground here for about thirty minutes."
"Sure, thanks." Kennedy folded up the newspaper and slipped it into the seat pocket in front of her. She had nothing on her but her wallet and phone. "Damn. I didn't even bring my charger. Oh, well." She shrugged. "I'll only be here a little over twenty-four hours. If it dies, I'll live." She closed her eyes for a catnap, hearing the various odd bumping and whirring noises as luggage was removed from below her, and maintenance crews went to work, readying the plane inside and out for its final short leg into LA.
Almost as soon as the first group of passengers left, the next group began boarding, straggling through the nearby door a few at a time, many of them obviously dressed for parties once they got to LA. She snorted, glancing down at her suit. "All I want is a private party for two. Clothing optional."
Finally, all passengers were settled and the flight attendants went up and own the aisle, making final preparations before they pulled away from the gate. "You know, I should probably call her and let her know I'm on the way, before she accepts some last-minute party invitation." Kennedy retrieved her phone and turned it on, watching as it came to life.
The missed call chime beeped at her and she checked her call log. "Great minds." She saw Carson's caller ID and clicked on it, listening to her message:
"Hi honey, it's me. I got a wild hair and I’m on my way to D.C. I'm in the Vegas airport right now, waiting for my connecting flight at 5:00 p.m. Can you pick me up when I get to D.C. I need my coat, if you'll bring it with you --"
Kennedy's heart skipped a beat and she looked at her watch. It was 4:30 p.m. "Oh ,hell!" She ended the message without listening to it, as she unfastened her seatbelt, hitting the call light at the same time.
An attendant stepped around from the galley partition a few seats in front of her. "May I help you?"
"I need to get off the plane." Kennedy stood up.
"We've already closed the door." The attendant gestured toward the exit near the cockpit door.
"I don't care. I must get off the plane. It's an emergency." She flashed her Judicial ID.
"Oh, of course." The attendant took a step backward, then turned and punched some numbers on a security pad and pushed the cockpit door open. Kennedy heard low mumbling, then the attendant turned back to her, motioning with one finger. "Right this way, ma'am."
The attendant turned the handle on the exit door and Kennedy hurried past her as the door swung open. "Thanks!" She ran toward the terminal, her phone at her ear. Carson's rang on the other end. "Come on." She stopped once she was inside, leaning against a support pillar and glancing around. "Damn." Carson's phone went to voice mail. "Alright, plan B."
Glancing around, she spotted a marquee showing departing flights. "D.C. . . . D.C. . . . Oh, hell." She scanned the lines, then re-scanned them. "Son of a bitch!" Finally she spotted the 5:00 p.m. flight to D.C. She was ten gates away from it.
"Dammit, dammit, dammit!" She took off at a run, coat-tail flying behind her. "'Sorry. Sorry." She shoved past the people milling about the terminal, dodging baby strollers and one rolling dog kennel with a yipping Chihuahua inside. At last, panting for breath, she reached Carson's gate. A few passengers were waiting in line near the doorway, but it appeared most had already boarded the plane, including Carson, who was most likely seated in first class.
"Excuse me." Kennedy approached the gate attendant. "I need to speak with one of your passengers, Carson Nocona, please." She flashed her Judicial ID again.
"Oh, certainly, Miss --" The attendant studied the badge. "Nocona? But the woman on the plane is --"
"My wife," Kennedy helpfully supplied. "Will you please call her back out here? And tell her to bring whatever she carried on. I'd like to surprise her, if that's okay. New Year's Eve and all."'
"Oh, certainly, but the plane will be taking off soon." The attendant frowned.
"Not with her on it, it won't." Kennedy grinned, then hid behind a wide pillar to wait, watching the doorway. After several minutes, Carson emerged, following the gate attendant and waving her arms about.
"Don't let the plane take off without me," Carson fretted. "Whoever called me out here, it better be a fucking emergency." She looked around.
"She's so cute when she's angry," Kennedy mused, then stepped out from behind the column. "Am I fucking emergency enough for you?"
"K? Kennedy! Oh, my God!" Carson dropped her briefcase and flew into Kennedy's arms, hugging her fiercely. "What are you doing here?"
Kennedy pulled back, cradling Carson's face in both hands. "Coming to LA to get my midnight kiss in person." She tilted her head and brushed her lips against Carson's, then made another, more lingering contact. "Mmmmmm. That was worth three hours and a few thousand miles."
"Oh, yeah." Carson smiled dreamily. "Now what?"
"New Year's Eve in Vegas?" Kennedy grinned. "Dinner and a show?"
"Dinner in bed?" Carson suggested hopefully.
"Even better." Kennedy walked over and picked up Carson's briefcase, then draped an arm across her shoulders, steering her through the terminal. Carson was already on the phone, babbling away at Mark again. Kennedy merely listened, simply enjoying the closeness, until finally, Carson hung up.
"Honeymoon suite at Mandalay Bay good?" Carson wrapped an arm around Kennedy's waist, hugging her close.
"You in a bikini beside the pool? Oh, please twist my arm." Kennedy laughed.
Carson joined in. "You naked in the in-room Jacuzzi. After we share the steam shower, of course." She gave Kennedy a little nudge.
Kennedy stopped and turned, lifting Carson and hugging her close, swinging her around in a circle once, then set her back on her feet. Not letting go, she indulged in a slow, intent kiss. "This is gonna be great!"
Kennedy lay on her back in the middle of the bed, the sheets rumpled and shoved to the floor. A trail of discarded clothing led from the door to the bed. Carson's head was pillowed on her stomach, as the blonde woman dozed lightly. Kennedy idly stroked the inside of Carson's crooked thigh, enjoying the sensation of her still-baby soft skin. She inhaled deeply, drawing in their mingled scents with a sense of deep satisfaction. "Grrrrr." She purred softly, as she stroked higher, coating her fingertips with Carson's lingering wetness.
Carson stirred a little, a hand cupped around one of Kennedy's breasts. Her eyes fluttered open and she flashed a sexy smile, then turned her head, kissing Kennedy just below her navel. "That was nice."
"Mmmm-hmmm." Kennedy looked around the room, which was bathed in low indirect light. On a nearby table were two mostly-empty dinner plates. Next to the table, a half-empty bottle of champagne was chilling in an ice bucket. Outside the window, the lights of Vegas glowed against the darkened sky. She ran her hand over Carson's bare behind, giving it a squeeze.
"Mmmm." Carson slid up, capturing Kennedy's lips, as Kennedy slid her hand between them, stroking Carson lightly at first, then more firmly, as Carson buried her face into Kennedy's shoulder.
"One more?" Kennedy nuzzled the top of Carson's head, then kissed it.
"Feels so good," Carson murmured, nipping a tiny fold of Kennedy's skin between her teeth.
"Yes, you do," Kennedy's voice rumbled in Carson's ear, sending pleasant chills down her spine. "Come on, babe." She held Carson with her other arm, feeling her body shaking with her release.
"Lord." Carson kissed her again, then simply collapsed on top of Kennedy, feeling long arms and legs wrap around her. She hugged Kennedy mindlessly, her body craving the much-missed contact. "I don't want to be away from you so much."
Kenney held her breath for a long moment, then released it. She would never ask Carson to give up her film career, anymore than Carson would ask her to step down from the Court. "I’m just getting started, sweetheart. I don't see how --"
"I don't have to make movies." Carson rose partway up, placing one hand on Kennedy's chest and looking her in the eye. "I've been talking with the Travel Channel. They have an open Executive Producer spot."
"But you love making movies," Kennedy protested.
"I love you more." Carson brushed her fingertips against Kennedy's cheek. "I do love making movies, but I love the technical and business aspect of production, too. I can do that with travel programming."
"And they're based in --"
"Chevy Chase, Maryland. No more long separations." Carson smiled and kissed her.
"We could sell the brownstone." Kennedy's eyes were alight. "Buy something nicer a little further out -- more land. We could bring the horses up from Austin."
"We can be in one house together again. No more bi-coastal marriage." Carson searched Kennedy's face, their eyes meeting in mutual joy.
"God, I love you." Kennedy rolled Carson to her back and hovered over her, then kissed her soundly.
"Happy New Year, honey." Carson pushed Kennedy's shoulder-length hair out of her eyes. A glance at the bedside clock showed it to be exactly midnight.
"Happy New Year, sweetheart." Kennedy rubbed noses with Carson, then slid down next to her, cuddling her close as they slowly fell asleep together, bathed in the light of a new year.
Back to the Academy