Disclaimer: Not mine, I just enjoy playing with them.
Summary: Sara gets a not-so fresh new start.
Thanks to Chadini and Wiske, for their first-hand knowledge of air travel. I haven't been on a plane since the Ice Age, and they answered a few crucial questions for me.
I first spotted her by the boarding gate.
I noticed her, frankly, because she looked kind of pathetic: tall, thin, pale as a potato. Her eyes were tightly shut and you could easily make out what she was whispering, over and over again. "Please, please, please," as they announced the names of the lucky folks flying standby who'd be allowed to take this flight.
Hell, I was tempted to give her my seat except…you know…there was a jackpot in Vegas with my name on it.
"Sidle," they called and she opened her eyes and smiled in relief. Ten minutes later, I found out she was my seat-mate. Some airhead had given me the window seat in spite of me telling them I didn't want one, and I asked her if she'd swap with me.
"I'm no spring chicken, you know. As we're going up in those clouds, I might freak out if I see us passing one of them tiny angels with the harps."
This smile was more genuine than the first, and she reminded me of someone, but I'd be damned if I could remember who. She quickly settled in and looked out the window at the rain.
She still wasn't relaxed. That much was pretty obvious when she suddenly gasped and called over the stewardess…uh, air hostess.
"Is there time for me to make a quick phone call?" She asked, and was told she could. We had about five minutes before they'd be asking us to turn off all phones.
So, she took out her little fancy gizmo. I have one of those trac-fones, myself. Every once in a while, one of my kids will decide he or she has a mother and he or she has an immediate need to speak with her. And heaven help me if I'm not available 24 hours a day. All of a sudden, the National Guard will be showing up at my door. Oh, that reminds me. I better shut mine off or the National Guard might be tossing me off this tuna can on steroids.
"Gris? I'm fine, I'm fine. Are you at work? No double today? Well, good. That's…good.
I, uh, was just sitting here and realized I really should probably tell you something. Um. Well, I was sitting in the hotel and feeling a little…off, I guess. And then I thought about the day and the symbolism and realized that I haven't started a New Year without you in a very long time. And the thought of doing it now just kind of freaked me out. So…I'm coming home. I'm on a plane right now."
She sounded a little unsure of herself and I didn't hear the guy on the other end say anything. Not a single thing. I usually hear at least a mumble of some sort.
See, that's probably something one wouldn't expect from an old chick like me. I have really excellent hearing. And great vision. And none of it is device-enhanced. Just really good genetics. My grandma Michaelina lived to be almost 100 and still had all her original teeth, as do I, by the by. My mom is no slouch in the healthy as a horse department, either, as you probably can tell by the fact that I referred to her in the present tense.
But, back to Sidle…
He started talking again, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. She answered him in a business-like fashion.
"Flight 654. American. We should be there by 8:30. Uh, huh. Okay. I guess I should go now. They'll be telling us to turn off the phone. Yeah, I'll see you then."
And just like that, she turned off the phone, tucked it into her pants pocket, and leaned back in her chair with her eyes closed.
She didn't look terribly happy.
And she looked even worse a few minutes later when they told us our flight would be delayed.
Complimentary beverages would be served. Well, shit. You knew it was a holiday coming up. I haven't heard the word "complimentary" used on a plane in a real long time.
I ordered a coke and Sidle ordered a Bloody Mary. A double. She told the stew…air hostess…she'd pay for it if it wasn't covered under the whole complimentary clause (and, actually, the kid was right…it wasn't. They actually made her pay for that second shot of vodka).
Anyway, Sidle sucked it down pretty darned quickly and then ordered and sucked down another.
The hostess looked at her a little funny when she ordered a third, and Sidle changed it to a single. That seemed to do the trick and she was served immediately. Sidle set up the drink and then left it on the tray table. Something was wrong. Maybe she just needed a shoulder to lean on.
"Hey," I said, and she looked at me. I was right. There were tears in her eyes. "Hey, Missy. What's wrong?"
"Nothing. I'm…I just want to get home."
"You live in Vegas?"
She seemed surprised at the question. "Yes…" she said, with a whole lot of hesitation in her voice. Weird.
I stuck out my hand. "My name is Betty, by the way."
She shook my hand. "Sara," she responded. MUCH better than just calling her Sidle. Although…the name now seemed vaguely familiar, too.
"Anyway, Sara. We'll be home, soon."
"You live in Vegas, too?"
"Nah. I live here, but I'm sick of staring at my walls. I have a butt-load of kids, all grown, some with kids of their own. But, they're scattered all over the place. So, yesterday, I decided, I don't want to spend another New Year's Eve watching the rock shows whose music makes my ears bleed. What I really wanted to do was hit the slots. And I'm a free woman, so…voila. I'm here!"
Sara smiled again. That was better.
She slowly took a sip of her third drink.
"Oops. I should tell him we're gonna be late," she said. Her words weren't slurred but there was something a little fuzzy about her. No doubt, at her weight, that alcohol probably shot right through her. At my weight, it would have had more room to mosey around a bit.
I put my hand on hers for a moment. "Why don't you wait for a little while? We still don't know how long we'll be delayed. It might only be a few more minutes, or it could be hours."
"Yeah, you're right," she said, and put back her phone.
"Husband?" I asked, nosy as hell but…who cares?
"Ummmm…no. Not yet, anyway."
Damn. She didn't volunteer much info.
"I'm going to call him," she said, to no one in particular, and this time I didn't stop her. And I didn't stop her as she downed the third Bloody Mary in what seemed to be one freaking gulp, either.
"Gris?" she said into the phone. What the hell kind of a name is Gris, anyway? Some nickname probably. Griz? Grizzly? Gristle? Uh. Young people. Whatever happened to "sweetcheeks' or "babycakes?'
"Our flight's been delayed. We haven't taken off yet. That's why I can call you…Yes, I have. How did you know? Well, yeah. I was nervous and thirsty…Why? Well, because…first, I didn't even know if I'd be able to get on this plane and then we haven't seen each other in so long. And then the stupid flight gets delayed and I think, well, maybe I've been paying attention to the wrong signs. I never even asked you if you wanted to see me again. Or if you changed your mind about waiting, in spite of what you've told me. That's why I called you in the first place. I had no intention of doing it but then I thought…what if I come home to surprise you and Heather or Teri or Sofia opens the door… who'll be surprised then?" The pale potato flesh got a little glossy and green and she mumbled an "excuse me,' handed me the phone and told me to hang up if the stewardess told us to, and then hightailed it to the lavatory.
Well, she didn't expect me to just hold the darned thing? I mean, that would be rude, no?
"Hello," I said into the phone, tentatively.
"Who are you?" Came a really pleasant voice, even if he skipped the niceties.
"I'm Betty. Sara's seat-mate."
"Oh. Where…what happened?"
"Sara is probably in the bathroom throwing up. I don't think she's had a lot to eat today and, well, she was all weepy about going home and all…the alcohol probably just got to her. Or that nasty Bloody Mary mix."
"I see. You think she'll be all right?"
"She'll be fine. I won't let her have any more. And I don't think she'll want it. I'll take good care of her. I have 8 kids of my own, you know. "
"Ah," he said. Poor schnook SO did not want to talk with me. And I SO wanted to ask him who the hell Heather or Teri or Sofia were and what he thought he'd be doing with any of them when he had the nice Sara being all mopey over him. But that would be kind of rude, too.
"She's coming back," I said, watching her leave the bathroom. The green tinge had faded a bit. I handed her the phone and signaled the hostess, asking her for a glass of ice water.
"I'm sorry, Grissom. I just …yeah, I'm fine." She gave a small, unamused laugh. "Yeah, I did get rid of the alcohol. All of it, I think. And, FYI, vomiting Bloody Marys is …like reenacting a crime scene. I swear I haven' t turned into a drunk in my spare time. I just…oh, she told you, did she?" She asked, giving me a small smile and laying her head back with a wince. The hostess brought the ice water, and I took out my handkerchief, dunked it into the glass, and then squeezed out the excess moisture. I placed it on Sara's forehead and, after an initial moment of shock, she held her hand against it to keep it in place.
"Gil, I'm sorry about what I said a few moments ago. Maybe I should just get off this plane and go back to the hotel. I really thought I had everything together. And I wanted to see you so badly. But, then I got on here, and you didn't seem overjoyed at the thought of my returning home, and the flight was delayed and I just thought…what if I'm wrong? What if it's not the right time? What if I fall apart again?"
I heard him talking for a really long time. I could make out a few words here and there, including "let me be your glue,' which made her smile again. A different kind than the ones she gave me. She had a little space between her front teeth. Like my granddaughter, Beatrice. It's supposed to be a sign of intelligence. Beatrice was smart as a whip, and cute as a button. Just like this girl, here.
I took off the now-heated handkerchief, gave it another dunking and gave it back to her.
"What!" she exclaimed, genuinely surprised at something.
He repeated whatever it was he said and she pulled off the handkerchief and laid her head against the window.
"I can see you there," she whispered and took her hand and laid it flat against the window.
Shit. That must have been some potent alcohol. I didn't see anything but a rainy runway.
"No, I know we haven't left San Francisco, but I can still see you..."
"Ladies and Gentlemen…" the intercom interrupted Sara and she quickly said goodbye to her Gris person and shut off her phone. She lay the handkerchief back on her head.
I pretty much let her stay that way during take-off and for the next hour. But, you know. I was married. For a very long time, God rest Stanley's soul. I knew men preferred their women looking, and smelling, a little fresher than Sara did at the moment.
I nudged her a bit and she woke up from her light dozing.
"Are we there yet?"
"No, honey. We have another half hour. But, we need to get you prepared. First, swallow these," I handed her some Advil and a glass of water. She did so gratefully. I cursed myself a little for not doing that before she dozed off.
"Now," I rummaged through my old-lady bag to find my Zip-loc bag and came up with my mini-sized bottle of Scope (under 3 ounces and within national security guidelines, thankyouverymuch). "Hold this in your mouth for as long as you can stand it, and then spit." She stared at me for a moment, then looked at the unbroken plastic safety seal, and opened the bottle. I handed her the empty cup and she held that Scope in her mouth for quite some time before spitting it in the cup. While she was doing that I gave her a discreet sniff. She smelled all right but, I had a little rose water in my purse, too. Less than 3 ounces, mind you. Gilding the lily was always a good thing, in my book.
She was surprisingly docile as I pulled out my old lady makeup and patted her nose and forehead with a little face powder and put some rouge on her cheeks. Then I put a tiny bit of it on her lips and used my eyebrow pencil to line her eyes. Not bad at all. Maybe I had a new career for myself. Or maybe she was just young and beautiful enough not to need much help from lotions and potions.
"You might want to fluff up your hair a bit," I told her.
She nodded again and went off with a brush she had pulled out from her own handbag.
"Thank you, Betty," she said, when she had returned from her trip to the ladies room. Her hair was down and there was now good color to her cheeks, thanks to my little rouge.
"Not a problem. I talked to your young man for a few moments before."
"I know. He told me."
"Yeah, well, I don't think he wanted to talk to me, much. He was too worried about you."
"Anyway, he sounds like he really cares."
"He does," she said, slightly dreamily. "You know, when I called him back that second time, he told me he was already at the airport? During our first conversation, I wasn't even sure if he wanted me to come home, but he just dropped everything and raced on over. I could just see him at Arrivals, looking out the big window, trying to spot our plane."
Ah, now all that visionary stuff made sense.
"He's surprising, sometimes," she said, and I knew—then—that he was the right dude for her, as my granddaughter, Jessica, would say. "I put too much stock in the meaning of this day, and then just let my emotions take over. But, he went along with all of it."
"Eh. Don't be so hard on yourself. Everyone falls for that new year, new start kind of thing. And, it's not really wrong. I mean, yeah, it is just a day like every other day but maybe it's the only one we treat right. Every day has the potential to be a new start. People are born every day, get married every day, start new jobs, new lives. Each day could be special, if we give it its own …weight. You know? And just because it seems kind of clichéd for us to be giving New Year's day its due, doesn't mean it can't live up to its reputation, you know?"
She nodded. And she got it. I know she did.
We landed a few minutes later and I got up and told her to make a run for it. Well, not literally, but I could see she'd probably be polite and wait till I got all my crap together and walk slowly out with this old broad…and, shit, she had a man waiting for her. If I had a man waiting for me…I wouldn't let some old codger hold me back.
So, off she went.
And I reached into the overhead compartment to get my jacket and it hit me. No, not the jacket…Sara Sidle.
And shit some more.
That pretty face was all over the news a few months ago. Just for about a day because then they concentrated on the capture of that nutty serial killer but while she was missing, Sara's picture was up there on the news all the time.
And I was giving her these pep talks like an Up With People reject.
Boy, here I kinda thought she was returning home after some goofy lover's spat. What that kid went through went…beyond…anything I could think of. I felt a little stupid, to tell you the truth.
I walked out of the plane and down the corridor through Arrivals when I was greeted with a very uplifting sight. Sara was in a clinch. I mean, a REAL clinch with this guy who was probably a little older than I expected but man, was he all over her. They were kissing like they were the only two people in town and people were starting to look.
I couldn't resist. I mean, hey, I'm old. I need to get my kicks somewhere. I went up to her and put my hand on her back. She tore her lips away from his and smiled at me, "Bet…" she started to say but her Gris…whatever that stood for…put his hand under her chin and guided her lips back to his. I laughed right out loud and Sara moved one hand away from his shoulder, and held it out to me.
I took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
God speed, Sara Sidle. You'll be just fine, kiddo. You're in good hands now.
And I'd tell her all of that personally but I wasn't in the mood to wait for airport security to come and hose them down.
After all, we were ending an old year, leaving our troubles behind…and beginning a new one where anything was possible.
And the odds of winning that jackpot seemed to suddenly rise…in my favor.
Honestly, I don't know what possesses me. I haven't been on an airplane since 1989. And a lot has changed since then.
So, I set my story on a plane.
I figured I'd write a cute little fluff piece about Sara getting drunk during an hour and a half flight, while talking on a cell phone to Grissom.
No cell phones allowed.
Pay phones? They have them on there, no?
Well, no. Apparently, most flights don't.
And what about the net? They can IM each other? Nyet.
So, whatever. I made do with what I had. If I screwed up, don't blame me too much. Blame my neurotic fear of…everything…that's kept me off a plane for a decade or two.
I once wrote a fic dedicated to one of my grandmas, and this one is dedicated to the other. Fic "Betty" is nothing like the real Betty except for the 8 kids and the gumption. But, it's the thought that counts. And, somewhere in heaven, I'm sure real Betty is getting a great big kick out of it.
And, since I'm back in cheerleader mode, remember—anything is possible. I mean, look what we got in the past year…Sara shaving Grissom, arm sex, "Gil' (not that I'm all that thrilled with that one), Bruno/Hank the dog, Sara surviving a serial killer and being 297 shades of awesome while doing so, and a proposal complete with bees! And we even got a (sob) kiss!
So, in 2008, we'll see the return of Sara and at least one more kiss without the angst, this time. And a happily ever after.
I've put it out in the universe, so…go forth and multiply, little thought!
(Believe it or not, I don't drink, although I might have killed off a few brain cells in my misspent young adulthood)
Happy New Year, folks! Blessings to all of you for a really wonderful 2008.