The Mission: Vectors (part 8)

Deborah Hendrick on Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

All Ginny wanted to do when she got home from work was sleep. Instead she pushed herself for a fast lap around the perimeter of the airfield, hoping the exercise would blot out her memories for a little while longer. Last night with Eli had been story-book perfect, but it could never happen again. She’d tried to slow him down, keep it light and fun, while keeping him at arm’s length, but then she’d turned around and danced away the night in his arms. “Not smart, old girl. Not smart at all,” she said to herself. She’d been saying it all day.

By eight o’clock she was ready for bed, wearing her favorite tatty pajamas. She passed on eating, but poured herself a generous Irish cream whiskey to sip on. While Clifford Brown played softly on the stereo, Ginny slowly opened her mail, devoting rapt attention to the eight pages of her phone bill, the renewal for her car insurance, and a compelling invitation to subscribe to Elle Decor.

When she heard banging on the door to the hangar, she was tempted to ignore it, but then the phone rang. It was Eli, waiting outside. He rushed in, happy to see her, and carrying two large gift bags. He dropped them on the floor and in the same motion scooped her into his arms and kissed her thoroughly. It was a triple whammy: tired legs from running so hard, whiskey-relaxed muscles, and now jelly knees. She slid to the sofa.

Before she could say a word, he started pulling presents from the sacks. First, a tiny potted rose (because you have a tiny house he said), a box of very expensive chocolates and a bottle of champagne. “Eli! Oh no–” she started, but he kissed her again. He sat beside her and unloaded the contents of the other gift bag between them. CDs, a lot of them, and a worn, dog-eared book. “This is Doug Ramsey‘s book,” he said, reading her the title, ” Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music & Some of Its Makers.” I’ve had it for a long time, and I know you’ll like it. Lastly, he pulled out a flat, square jewelry box, and tried to give it to her, but Ginny went wild.

“You will NOT bring me Tiffany blue boxes! You take that back, whatever it is.” She stood up so fast that the CDs clattered to the floor, and Eli jumped up to hold her. But Ginny would have none of it. “You take it all back Elijah Madden. Pack it up and go.”

“Ginny? Ginny darling–what’s wrong? Last night was–”

“Forget about last night, Eli. It was a lovely evening, but there can be no more. You take your pretty blue box and the other things.” She was crying and shouting. It was the only way she could get the words past her tears–by shouting.

Now Eli was angry. His insides felt like a meteor had burned through. But there was no way he was leaving. He sat down on the sofa, and waited while Ginny spent her anger on tears. “You want to tell me what’s wrong?” he demanded. “We can get through this.”

“There is no we, Eli. There is only you, and then there’s me. Never a we. I’ve had a wonderful time these past two weeks, but it stops now.”

“Ginny love, what’s wrong? I never dreamed I’d meet someone like you. I know it’s too fast, but that’s the way I live.”

“Yes, I know. Greater than Mach 2. That’s precisely what’s wrong. If you’d been an actuary, or a banker, maybe we’d have a chance.”

“You are talking complete nonsense. We’re meant for each other. There must be a matching marker in our DNA. You understand pilots and flying. You know what it means–”

“Damn straight I know what it means! My whole life, Eli, twenty-seven years … I’ve spent my whole life watching the men I love leave, and then waiting, praying for them to come home again. First my father, then my brothers. Think about Ace, whose very job is predicated on assuming the worst. All four of the men I care about, go out and leave the women behind. I bet you never saw your mother crying, but she did. I never saw mine crying, but I’m not stupid. Times four Eli. I can’t–I won’t do times five. I just don’t have it in me.”

“Ginny, this is who I am: an Air Force pilot. I’ve been preparing–”

“I’m not asking you to change, Elijah, to stop. Of course I understand pilots and flying. You bet I know what it means. It means constant ache, and I can’t–I won’t hurt for the rest of my life.”

“Ginny! I will always come back. I promise.”

“That’s not a promise you can make Eli.”

“I promise I’ll always love you.”

“Well don’t. You need to forget about me. Because I can’t be what you need, no matter what you think. So please take this stuff and go.”

“No Ginny. These are for you. I loved getting them for you. The music, the rose, Ginny. I spent an hour deciding if the coral pink rose was prettier than the dark red. And then I saw this one. The lady in the flower shop called the color ballet-slipper pink, but it’s the same color as your lips. The book–this is my book.” He held it toward her, open on his palm, like a preacher at a revival. “I got it for my birthday when I was fifteen. My notes are in the margins. It introduced me to another world, Ginny, jazz. It’s selfish I know, but I want you to share that world with me. I looked at hundreds of CDs, and I want you to have these. Look Ginny … here’s Lester Young, and Gene Harris, and–”

“Oh Elijah. It won’t work, don’t you understand? Get that rose. Take the champagne and chocolates home to your mother,” she said, packing the presents into the gift bags. “You can take the music back to the store. I’ll read your book, Eli, but I can’t keep it. And take away that box from Tiffany.”

“Don’t send me away like this Ginny. I leave in two days, and I don’t even have a photograph of you. I’m sorry that I’ve done this all wrong, but Ginny love, we have time to sort it out.”

“Like all fighter pilots, Eli–no reason for you to be any different–you have trouble with no. Please go now.”


It was late when Max and Sandy got in. They were surprised to find Eli pounding away at the piano, singing “Hit the road Jack, and don’t ya come back no more, no more, no more, no more … ” with a ripped open box of chocolates beside him on the bench, and a nearly-empty bottle of champagne standing in the ice bucket. “Mom! Dad! Go get some glasses. You can drink a toast with me! Here Mom, try one of these chocolates,” offering her the box, “they’re delish, deliciou–the best you ever tasted.”

“Eli? Son? What’s going on?” asked Max

“I”m drinking to the girl I’m going to marry, Dad.”

“You proposed to Ginny?”

“Oh no. Didn’t plan to–not yet anyway. I took her gifts,” he paused, to toss another chocolate into his mouth, “but she wouldn’t take them; she kicked me out. You’d think she’d like pilots, what with her daddy and two brothers fighter pilots. But she doesn’t want me. Nope, not at all. She invited me to leave.”

“Eli honey? You said you’re going to marry Ginny? But she kicked you out? I don’t understand.”

“That’s right Mom. Target analysis was all wrong. Had to disengage and extend. But this mission is not over.”

Topics: The Mission


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