“I took the only course that desperation suggested and that of course was the wrong one.” –Casanova-
Roxanne looked up from her book, laughing silently at her “dear friend”. That’s how Jacque Casanova referred to his future readers two hundred years ago. She looked up into the handsome face of a young man returning her smile. He took that as an invitation and sat down on the bench in the airport waiting room one seat away from her.
Roxanne folded the collector-edition volume shut in her lap and scooted up a bit in her seat in anticipation of a conversation.
“Picking up or headed out?” she asked with a smile and dancing, painted eyebrows.
“I’m picking up a couple of new guys. I work on the Coast Guard Cutter “Anacapa”. You?”
“I’m picking up my sister. We’re opening our family cabin up the Stikine before everyone else gets here.”
The public address system announced that flight 65 should be landing at James A. Johnson shortly. Roxanne took the interruption to study her bench mate. The coastie struck her as a handsome young man, maybe in his early thirties. His short hair wasn’t quite the shade to be called “sandy” nor as red as as her own. The word “ginger” came to mind. He sat in profile, so she could see his tan face, light blue eyes, shortened chin and dreamy grin.
“You’ve got a smile that won’t stop, dearie. What’s up?” she asked as the announcement ended.
Chris, she’d discover later that his name was Chris, blushed, then turned his face more fully to the bright eyed, stylish, big bosomed woman he suspected was old enough to be his mother.
He leaned closer and announced, “I’ve been made an officer over in Sitka.”
Roxanne slapped her hands together as though in prayer and clapped the fingers while beaming with happiness. “Congratulations! Sitka is one of the prettiest places in the Southeast!”
Chris accepted her congratulations with a shake of his head in disbelief at his great good fortune.
“Oh!” she added hurriedly. “And congratulations on becoming an officer.”
They discussed the high cost and low availability of housing in Sitka, the attitude of his teenage children about the move and the difficulty of flying in and out of the primary town on Baranof Island. As they spoke the sun, rarely seen during the spring in the Alexander Archipelago continued his track just barely above Raven’s Roost Ridge. At this angle the sun’s rays blasted across the single runway, shot under the building’s overhang and filled the little airport waiting area with warmth and sunlight. As they spoke, Roxanne absently rubbed her chin in some subtle fascination over the fact that Chris, unlike her husband and brother-in-law, did not have a dimple in his unshaven chin.
The jet, flying low, screamed by. This was the signal for the local folks of banner-hung Petersburg to head to the airport. It would take the jet a while to taxi back to the terminal and deplane the passengers. Roxanne was confident one of them would give her and her sister a ride to where their boat was tied up.
“You are still beaming! Is this officer thing a surprise?”
“It sure is, if you know how far I’ve come.”
With a nod of her head and weep of her open upturned right hand, she ushered in his apparently oft-told tale. He told of good parents, a good family and without specifics of his rebellious youth. Roxanne nodded knowingly, thinking of her grandson Deuce. The story led to his dropping out of high school and joining the Coast Guard at seventeen.
Clutching her ample bosom Roxanne asked with a furled brow and lips pursed in woe, “How could your mother sign the papers?”
“Out of desperation, I suppose. I would've gotten in trouble. The Coast Guard was a good fit for me. I got my GED, my education and even…” here he leaned forward conspiratorially, “my masters. It’s all a miracle.” With a big smile on his face, he continued to shake his head in disbelief of his great good fortune.
Roxanne mumbled, “God be praised.” As they, both turned to watch the jet turn off the runway for the terminal. The gathering crowed moved towards the windows to watch their loved ones and neighbors disembark. Chris and Roxanne rose from their bench so their respective people could see them. With passengers lined up to board, other passengers entering the waiting area and with the hubbub of greeting and hugging; Chris and Roxanne lost track of one another. When the room eventually cleared out again, the luggage arrived. Chris and Roxanne met there and swapped name amongst the chaos around the luggage bin.
“How long till you go to Sitka?” Roxanne asked, as her sister slipped away through the throng in search of her suitcases.
“Two months; July.” Chris shouted back above the tumult as he herded his crewmen toward the exit.
She extended her right hand. He took it with his. Her left grasped his right too. “Dearie, it’s been a delight… Oh, give me a hug! Have a wonderful time in Sitka!”
They departed one another’s embrace. Roxanne’s sister wasn’t there for most of the conversation and couldn’t follow it when she was there due to the noise. Besides, Roxanne hugging perfect strangers is perfectly routine. However, as they hurried outside into the morning sunshine trying to flag down a friend for a ride, Roxanne’s sister saw tears in those emerald eyes.
“Roxanne? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, I am just desperate to tell you a wonderful story, later…”