“This humidity! My hair is already a mess. I can’t imagine what it will look like by the time we get to London.”
“I hear they take really good care of you on the plane, Joan. I’m sure we’ll be fine.” Peggy paid the driver and wrote down the amount in her little expense notebook. A skycap, who clearly thought Joan’s hair looked just fine, materialized and begin loading their bags on a cart.
“Should I give him a whole dollar?” Peggy whispered. Joan nodded, looking superior and worldly in the face of Peggy’s uncertainty. She walked ahead of the cart, hips swinging, as Peggy scurried after, fiddling with a dollar bill from her purse.
At the check-in desk, their suitcases were weighed in. Peggy’s passed the weight limit easily, but Joan’s squeaked by at 47 pounds and 12 ounces. Now it was Peggy’s turn to look worldly. They each accepted a trim blue flight bag with the Pan Am logo, and walked toward the gate area.
“Those storm clouds look pretty dark,” Peggy said. “Aren’t you worried?”
“They won’t go up if it isn’t safe. Greg says they triple check everything on these flights.”
“Oh that’s right, you flew to your honeymoon. What was it like?”
“I admit I was a little nervous at first, but once you’re up in the air, it doesn’t even feel like you’re moving unless you look out the window.”
Just then, a loud clap of thunder rattled the terminal. The sky was nearly black outside the glass walls of the lounge. The two women looked at each other, eyebrows raised. A moment later, the lights flickered.
A rich, soothing voice came over the loudspeakers, “Ladies and gentlemen, because of sudden storm activity in the area, all Pan Am flights will be suspended until the weather clears. While they are waiting, passengers may obtain vouchers for food and beverages at the information desk.”
When they looked toward the circular counter in the center of the lounge, it was already mobbed by dozens of other travelers.
“I’m in no hurry,” Peggy said. “It’s still early. We can wait until the line dies down.”
Another flash of lightning illuminated the terminal. “Joan! Are you all right? You look pale all of a sudden.”
Joan swallowed hard and forced a smile, but her complexion was ashen. “It’s nothing. Why don’t we use our time to go over the plans for the new London office?”
Peggy pulled out a sheaf of neatly typed notes. “I know Mr. Pryce is hoping to hire his own secretary, but we’ll need to get at least three more girls, right?”
“Yes, one for creative, one for accounts, and one for reception. I’ve written ahead to two different staffing agencies, so we’ll phone them when we arrive and see what they’ve got for us. Of course Mr. Pryce had no idea who Putnam, Powell and Lowe used, so we’re kind of starting from scratch.”
“I think we’re going to have to rely heavily on references. The qualifications over there are so different. The A Levels, the O Levels – I don’t really understand how to judge their backgrounds.”
There was another flash of lightning, followed almost immediately by a deafening thunderclap. Joan gave a lurch and covered her mouth with her handkerchief. After a moment, she took a few deep, calming breaths before turning back to Peggy with an artificially bright smile.
“Joan, something’s going on. Are you that nervous about flying? I can see you aren’t well.”
“No, no, I always get this way when…. well, I guess you wouldn’t know about it. You barely felt a thing.”
This time it was Peggy’s turn to go pale. “Joan, are you…. expecting?”
“Ssshhh! Greg is the only one who knows. I don’t want to say anything before I have to.”
“But what did you mean, you ‘always’ get this way?”
“It’s hardly the first time I’ve been pregnant. I just had the sense to do something about it before I was married.”
Peggy looked chastened. “I didn’t know.”
“You weren’t supposed to. But since you didn’t even know about your own, I guess you’re lucky in a way. ‘Morning sickness’ is a real misnomer in my case. I’ve been feeling it full time for weeks now.”
“But Joan! That’s such exciting news! Greg must be over the moon!”
Joan blurted, “He is,” and then stood abruptly and rushed to the ladies room, leaving Peggy baffled and nervous among their carry-ons and rain coats. After about ten minutes, Peggy gathered up both their things and followed Joan into the restroom, calling her name.
At last Joan emerged from a stall, pale and shaking, with all her lipstick wiped off. On wobbly legs, she made it to the sink to wash her hands, and then carefully made up her lips again. This time her forced smile didn’t fool Peggy for a minute.
“I think you need to lie down. And you need to have something cold to drink.”
Joan blinked, but let Peggy take her arm and steer her toward the information desk. The crowd had receded, but the woman at the desk apologized, saying the only thing she could do would be to settle Joan in a quiet corner of the lounge and let her put her feet up. She spoke a paging code into a telephone and a few moments later, a stewardess in a blue suit appeared to escort them to an unused waiting area.
The stewardess settled Joan into a seat, then bustled away. She soon returned, balancing a bar tray with a wet cloth on a plate, a glass of ginger ale, and a small bowl of ice.
As Joan sipped delicately at the fizzy drink, the stewardess turned to Peggy. “Are you two headed for London?”
When Peggy nodded, she went on, “Fantastic, then you’ll be on my flight! I’m Maggie Ryan.”
Peggy did a double take. “I know I’ve met you before.”
Maggie stared for a moment. “Are you friends with Joyce Ramsay? Weren’t you at that photo exhibit at the Phoenix Gallery?”
Peggy looked at Maggie more closely. “You were one of the models, weren’t you?”
Maggie nodded. “But nobody here knows. If you wouldn’t mind….”
“Oh gee, I won’t breathe a word. The airline must keep such a close eye on you!”
Maggie gave a tight smile, then stood up. “It’s great to see you again. And I’ll be sure you and your friend are taken care of on the flight. Is she very ill?”
“Nothing a little time won’t cure. Thanks for your help.”
When Peggy turned back to Joan, her eyes were closed and the glass of ginger ale was mostly empty.
Peggy settled into the seat beside her and pulled out the typed lists again, making sure everything would be in order.