The pleasant chirp, chirp, chirp of her alarm, starting quiet and becoming louder, dragged Waverly out of a dreamless sleep. Groaning, she fumbled for her phone, forgetting which side of the bed she’d left it on. Ah, there it was. She silenced it and turned on the bedside lamp, sitting up and trying to catch her bearings as she stretched her back. Now, where the hell was she?
Today was Thursday - so she was pretty sure this was probably Vancouver - and she had an hour and fifteen minutes before the crew van pickup. Time to get moving.
She sent Chrissy a quick text. What is the breakfast plan? By the time she had finished her morning routine, she’d gotten a text back: meet us downstairs, quarter after. Good, she didn’t remember if this hotel had a decent breakfast bar, so that was always a plus.
She’d neatly laid out today’s uniform last night, after the second day of a four-day trip. Waverly checked it again by the morning light; ready to go, the blouse and skirt immaculate, the flight attendant’s emblem neatly pinned over the left breast. Waverly quickly dressed, finished stowing away her gear in her small crew bag, and was ready to face the day.
Waverly loved her job, had been doing it for almost three years now. Flying for one of the large commercial airlines was a thing that suited her perfectly, she thought. The days could be long but they kept her busy, so she was hardly ever bored. Friends had warned her, when she had first been accepted into the training program, that a flight attendant’s job was both rigorous and mind-numbing, thinking she would burn out on it. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the travel perks of the job were pretty underwhelming, much more than most people thought - sure, she got to see a lot of airport corridors and the insides of hotels in many, many cities - the best part of it was the people. The crews she worked with were top-notch, and for every passenger who was a pill, there were a hundred who were sweethearts, or so it seemed. She enjoyed meeting dozens of new people on every flight, talking with everyone, helping make their day a little easier for the few hours they spent aboard. The smile and wave, which had always come easily to her, served her well in her position.
It helped that she and Chrissy Nedley were working together again. Childhood friends, they had miraculously gotten their acceptance letters at the same time and gone through flight attendant school together, a thing they had planned since their grammar school days. After they graduated, they’d been assigned to separate routes, but now that they’d climbed a smidgen of the way up the seniority ladder, they were able to start bidding on some of the same lines, and had managed to get assigned to the same cabin crew for over a month now. Waverly liked having Chrissy around; she was calm and easy to talk to, and always willing to lend a hand where needed.
The third on their cabin crew was a young man named Jeremy Chetri, who had been assigned with them a couple of times before. He was a little on the high-strung side, earnest and just a tad nerdy, but he was also quite sweet and sensitive, and good with the passengers, especially children. If there were unaccompanied minors on the flight, he would go out of his way to unobtrusively look out for them. He also had a knack for spotting problems before they became trouble - asking maintenance to fix something before it broke, bringing an item to difficult passengers to calm them down, getting people seated and belted before turbulence hit. Waverly had taken quite a liking to him, right off the bat.
Both Chrissy and Jeremy were already in the breakfast bar when Waverly came off the elevator. “Good morning, guys,” she greeted them cheerily.
Jeremy bobbed his head, having just taken a bite of his meal, while Chrissy smiled back. “Good morning, Waves,” she said, “I don’t know how you always look so ready for these early starts.”
“This is hardly early, didn’t have to get up at 4 am,” said Waverly, with a light laugh. “Besides, I didn’t stay up late last night. You just need to sleep more instead of going out partying.”
“It was just a couple of drinks, no biggie,” said Chrissy. “Wasn’t that late. Besides, I’m young. I’ll sleep when I’m old.” She offered Waverly a plate of fruit. “Here, I got this for you. The van is going to be here a few minutes early. And we’re getting a new crew up front today, in case you hadn’t heard. Dave rotated off.” Looking around the room, she added, “I don’t see them here, though, maybe they stayed at the other hotel.”
“Oh, okay, thanks,” said Waverly. She liked the cockpit crew they’d been with for the past couple of days, a couple of decent low-key guys (especially Francesco - Frankie - who’d been at co-pilot, who made the most magnificently awful puns Waverly had ever heard once he had a drink or two in him) but that was just part of the game, crews rotated in and rotated out. Half the fun was that you had new co-workers every day on this job. She had glanced quickly at the names but hadn’t recognized them, and Waverly wondered what the new crew would be like. Would they be okay, or cranky? A few pilots disliked morning commute-time flights with a passion, and if you got one like that who also ran the flight deck like his own little private fiefdom, well, that could make for a long day. But, like anything in the world, it was just luck of the draw sometimes; Waverly knew she’d make the best of it no matter what. Everyone liked her, after all. She ate her small breakfast, then went back and grabbed a couple pieces of fruit and a yogurt to stash in her lunchbag for later, and made a cup of tea. It wasn’t the best breakfast bar in the world, but with their pitiful per diem, it would be foolish to pass up a free meal offered by the hotel.
A few minutes later, the van picked them up and transferred them to the airport, Waverly practically trotting to keep up with Chrissy’s long stride as they made their way to the crew lounge. She was bubbling mad because on the ride over, she’d managed to spill tea on herself like a complete doofus. As soon as they were inside the lounge doors, Waverly made her way over to the chairs off to one side, to rummage through her bag, looking for the clean, dry scarf she knew she had tucked away inside. “Oh, crap,” she muttered.
A warm voice behind her said, “Uh oh. You okay there?”
She looked up, startled, and saw red hair, neatly braided, and soft brown eyes. The crewmember was leaning against the doorframe, and had removed her cover, was fingering the bill of the hat, watching her. She was tall, Waverly could see that, and had a warm brilliant smile that could light up an entire room. Waverly said, “Uh, yeah, just had a crazy morning,” as she ducked her head a little, wondering why she was unaccountably blushing. Locating the fresh scarf, she gave it a practiced fold and then arranged it around her throat, clipping it into place with the pin bearing the airline’s maple-leaf logo. “There. That’ll do. All better.”
The redhead tucked her cover under an elbow, the habit of motion making her look almost military, and extended the other hand. Waverly noted the four stripes on the sleeve: captain. “Nicole. Nicole Haught,” she said. As Waverly was about to speak, she continued, “and you must be Waverly Earp. I’ve heard a lot about you.” She leaned in as she dropped Waverly’s hand, saying conspiratorially, “Checked the manifest. I’ve worked with Chrissy before. She does like to talk.”
“Pleased to meet you, Captain,” said Waverly.
“Likewise,” said Nicole with a wide dimpled grin. “So, if you’re ready, shall we go in?” She lifted her hand in a small after you gesture, indicating Waverly to precede her into the briefing room, and Waverly shook her head, just a little bit in wonderment of how entrancing that dazzling smile had been.
The ground crew’s work was finished, the walkaround complete, the baggage was coming on. The copilot, Xavier Dolls, was seated in the chair, going through preflight, but Nicole still lingered in the open cockpit doorway when Waverly hung up the handset. “What did they say?” she asked.
“Gate agent is sending them down in three minutes,” replied Waverly.
“Guess I gotta go to work,” said Nicole with a small chuckle. “Just wanted to inform you. We heard from weather, looks like we’re going to have some rough air about halfway. I’ll let you know when I get updates.”
“Thank you, Captain. Would you like anything from the galley before you close the door?”
“Please, call me Nicole. Not right now, thanks. Maybe when we’re down again.” Nicole smiled. Turning back into the cockpit, she asked, “Dolls? Would you like anything?”
“No thanks, Haught.” He twisted around in his seat, to meet Waverly’s eyes, and nodded gravely. “Thank you.” A smile flickered across Waverly’s face at his seriousness, as he turned back to his tasks.
“Well, I’m going to leave the door open a little while longer while we’re boarding, but you know where to find me if you need anything,” said Nicole, giving Waverly the barest of winks before she ducked back into the cockpit and took her seat, slipping the headset over her pretty French braid.
A few moments later, Chrissy returned to the front of the plane, sliding in next to Waverly as she was giving the front galley one last once-over. “All set back there,” she said, and then gave Waverly a little hip bump. “She’s cute, isn’t she?”
“Who?” asked Waverly, feigning ignorance, which wasn’t going to work on Chrissy for one single minute. The look she leveled at Waverly, with an epic eyebrow arch, made her giggle. Shrugging, she said, “Yeah, I guess,” but there was a voice in the back of her mind hollering well, DUH.
After that, passengers were coming down the jetway and through the door, and then it was the hectic routine of getting everything stowed and everyone seated and belted in. The captain closed the cockpit door (murmuring “see ya later” to Waverly, with a little smile as she did), the main cabin doors were locked and armed, and they pushed back from the gate on time. Waverly picked up the handset to give the safety instructions while they taxied, as Chrissy and Jeremy took up their positions to pantomime along while the passengers mostly ignored the whole thing. Six minutes later, Waverly was strapped into her jumpseat, hands in the safety position, as the airplane reached the head of the takeoff queue, turned, and throttled up.
Several minutes after leveling off, Waverly was preparing drinks in the forward galley when Nicole’s voice came crackling over the speaker. The familiar cadence of the “this is your captain” announcement, altitude and airspeed, the arrival time and the current conditions at the destination, always sounded a little more pleasant in a female voice, Waverly thought. Even the noise of the aircraft and the tinny quality of the intercom speaker couldn’t quite strip all the warmth from the captain’s voice. Waverly found herself daydreaming for a moment, drifting back in memory to their short conversations earlier that morning, before she shook her head and told herself to focus. Wake up, things to do now.
The mid-flight turbulence never got all that bad; Nicole had requested and gotten a change to their altitude so they were able to fly over the worst of it. The inflight service went smoothly and Waverly even had a little time to chat with some of the passengers. There was a sweet elderly lady seated in 6C, who told her that she was flying for the very first time when Waverly brought her a second drink. She was traveling to meet her first great-grandchild, she said, a baby girl born four days ago. Her grandchildren had surprised her with a first class ticket.
“Oh, how marvelous!” Waverly enthused. “What is her name?”
“Stella,” the woman answered. “She’s the moon and the stars in their eyes, so that’s what they named her.” Warm pride showed in her smile.
“Well, I hope you have the most wonderful trip ever,” said Waverly, touching the woman’s shoulder. “Enjoy it all.”
They touched down at their first destination of the day, Regina, busy with everything that came with a thirty minute scheduled turnaround time. Once the headcount of continuing passengers was settled, and foodservices was bringing on supplies, Waverly went to the open cockpit door and stuck her head in. “Hi, can I get you anything?”
Dolls looked up from the sheet in his hand, impassive. “I’ll have a coffee, thank you,” he said. “With sugar.”
Nicole smiled brightly as she turned toward Waverly. “Yeah, me too,” she said. “Cream no sugar if you don’t mind.”
Waverly brought two cups into the cockpit a few moments later. She handed them over with a wide smile, saying, “Here you go. Let me know if you’d like anything else.”
Nicole took a small sip. “Hmm. Not bad,” she said.
Waverly huffed, mildly indignant or at least pretending to be. “Not bad?” she said. “I just made that.”
Nicole shrugged. “You know the in-flight coffee is never all that good.” She looked up and, seeing Waverly’s face, softened a little. “It’s okay. It’s fine, thank you for making it.”
Waverly laughed, wondering if Nicole was pulling her leg or not. “Well, true. It’s not coffee-snob level coffee, that’s for sure.” She lingered just a little too long on those warm brown eyes, not certain what she was reading there. “There’s a little bistro near my apartment and they make the best cappuccinos in the world. I bet you would like those.”
Nicole smiled. It was a lovely, slow smile with more than a tinge of heat to it. “Are you asking me out on a coffee date, Waverly?” she said, laughter delicately lacing her words. Dolls eyed the two of them and started to smirk, hiding his small grin behind his cup. Waverly felt her ears burning, heated with embarrassment, and what the hell. It wasn’t like she was a stranger to people flirting with her, she would usually handle it like a pro, but something about Nicole and that million-dollar smile was putting her brain in neutral, rendering her incapable of coherent thought.
Waverly blurted out, “Maybe you should try asking me when we’re not mid-route,” as she quickly backed out of the cockpit, trying not to listen to the low chuckled laughter as she left. She stood motionless in the galley for a full fifteen seconds, wondering what had happened. Oh, I just got myself in trouble, didn’t I.
And she couldn’t deny that part of her was really, really hoping that yes, she did.