Maridell ran the back of her fingers along Gary's cheek just before she left him at the door to the VIP visitor's room. Her breasts brushed against the front of his jacket.
"I'll be waiting downstairs," Maridell said. "I'll be here through the whole mission. Right up until Helen finishes her last debriefing."
Gary's son watched Maridell sway down the hall. Charlie was fifteen now. It wasn't hard to guess what he was thinking. Maridell was tall and curvy and she covered her feelings with a seductive, continuously-smiling southern female façade.
"It looks like you've got something going there," Charlie said.
"She's a plane nut," Gary said. "She tried to be a professional pilot but her eyes weren't good enough. Then she tried engineering school and that didn't work out. So now she's here at the Cape saying bright things to astronaut's relatives. She says she's got a boyfriend in South Carolina but I suspect that isn't going to last much longer."
"You sound like you've been exchanging life stories."
Gary shrugged. "This is the third time she's been on duty when I checked into the Family Liaison Office. The last time I got here an hour before your mother was supposed to get out of the simulator. So naturally the training staff decided a storm had muddled up the primary landing point. Maridell and I sat in the visitor's gallery for five hours while your mother went through three extra orbits and some kind of extra-long approach to an alternate in the Indian Ocean."
Gary turned his head and watched Maridell step into the elevator. "She thinks it's really wonderful your mother has a husband who really understands the things some people feel when they look at an airplane."
Charlie frowned. "Are you worried, Dad?"
"Charlie-- in just about one hour your mother is going to be sitting on top of one hundred tons of liquid oxygen and kerosene. I think a certain amount of anxiety can't be considered unreasonable. Now let's go in there and do what we're supposed to do."
Copyright © 1999 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.
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