ACROSS THE RAINBOW
By Victoria Chancellor
Copyright 1997-2005 by Victoria Chancellor, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction.
All persons, places and companies are fictitious or used fictitiously.
ACROSS THE RAINBOW is published by BooksForABuck.com.
This document is Chapter One only. To buy the entire eNovel for only $3.99, click the 'Buy Now' Button.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
"Daddy, Daddy, look!" Jamie ran into the airplane hanger, her new sneakers squeaking across the shiny concrete floor. "Daddy! Where are you?"
She squealed to a halt in front of the office. "Daddy!"
"What is it, Muppet?"
Uh-oh. There was a big stack of papers on his desk, and he looked really serious. But he just had to listen. She was too excited to wait for him to get finished, because grown-ups could work forever.
"A rainbow! A really neat one. I think it's the one, Daddy. If you go now--"
"Jamie, I'm not going anywhere. I have to finish the log books and then order some supplies for the weekend. I'm going to be really busy, remember?" He smiled just a little bit before he picked up the boring old papers again.
"But Daddy . . ." Jamie just couldn't make him understand how important the rainbows were. She just knew that if he'd listen, they'd all be happy again. He'd get a new wife and she'd get a mommy. And not just any mommy, but a princess. A beautiful, nice princess who would smile all the time and bake sugar cookies with sprinkles on top.
"Jamie, I know you think that rainbows are special, but they're really just an optical illusion. The sunlight passes through water droplets and refracts into the colors of the spectrum. We can see the rainbow, but it really isn't there in the sky."
Jamie planted her fists on her hips and frowned at her daddy. He was the most stubborn daddy in the whole world. "I know the rainbow is real because I can see it. And you could too if you'd just come outside."
"I'm sorry, Muppet, but I'm really busy." He didn't even look up from his ugly old desk. "Why don't you show the rainbow to Aunt Holly?"
"She's talking on the phone. And besides," Jamie said, wishing her daddy listen to her, "the rainbow is for you, not for Aunt Holly."
He finally looked up, a really serious look on his face. He was really handsome--a lot better than those men on the calendar in Aunt Holly's office--but most of the time he didn't smile enough. Aunt Holly said that he used to smile and laugh more, when Mommy was alive. Jamie didn't remember Mommy, but Daddy missed her a whole bunch. And all her friends had mommies, and most of them were really neat. Jamie wanted one too.
"Sweetie, I know you believe in magic rainbows, but I can't just fly my plane up every time we get a little shower and the sun comes out."
"But Daddy, how are you going to get happy again if you won't try?"
"When the time is right I'll start dating again. I'm just not interested right now." He sighed and picked up a pen, twirling it in his fingers.
"But I want a new mommy! This summer would be a really good time, so I could show her around the house before I go to first grade."
"I can't just order up a new mommy for you, Jamie. It doesn't work that way."
"Well, it could if you'd fly across the rainbow!"
"Jamie," he said in that voice he used when he was getting tired of talking.
"Okay," she said, miserable because he wouldn't listen. "But you'll be sorry."
Her daddy laughed. "I thought that was my line."
He pushed his chair back and held out his arms. Jamie ran to him, throwing her arms around his neck. Her daddy always smelled so good. And he gave big, strong hugs that made her happy.
"Jamie, honey, how can I convince you that flying across the rainbow isn't magic?"
Jamie pulled back so she could look at his face. "Why don't you just do it, Daddy. You know, like the commercial says. Just do it." She smiled, raised her eyebrows the way that made him smile, and waited for his answer.
He looked like he didn't want to smile, but he did. Her daddy was the most handsome when he smiled. Any princess would be happy to marry him and come back to live in their house.
"If I go up in the plane, fly across the rainbow, and make a wish, you'll be happy?"
She pushed out of his arms and jumped up and down. "Yes! Yes! That's all you have to do. I promise I won't ever ask you again!"
"Okay, Muppet," he finally said.
"Yeah!" Jamie grabbed his hand and pulled him outside the office. "Come on, Daddy. The rainbow might be all gone."
"Let me get my jacket," he said, pulling her toward the wall by the big doors. He always hung his soft leather jacket on a peg by the door.
"It's not cold, Daddy. Hurry!"
He laughed. "I'm coming."
Her sneakers squeaked as she ran ahead of him toward the doors that let the planes come inside so her daddy could fix them. Outside the wind was kind of cold, but not like wintertime when it snowed lots.
"I'm coming." He stopped just outside the doors and looked around. Daddy always did that, like he could see the wind or something.
"See the rainbow! Isn't it beautiful?" Jamie pointed away from the airport, out where the ground was real flat.
"It's a beauty all right," he agreed, zipping up his jacket and checking his watch.
"Come on, Daddy!"
Aunt Holly came out of the big building. "What's going on?"
"She finally talked me into it."
"No! Daddy is going to fly across the rainbow and make a wish. And then we'll all be happy again."
"I thought we were pretty happy the way we were," Aunt Holly said, ruffling Jamie's hair. "I'm happy. Aren't you, Muppet?"
"I'd be happier if Daddy had a new wife," she admitted. "You're a good aunt, Aunt Holly, but I think a mommy would be neat."
"And you think your daddy is going to get one by flying up into the sky?"
"Yes. And he has to make a wish." She turned to him. "Don't forget to make a wish, Daddy."
"David, this is silly," Aunt Holly said.
"Is not!" Jamie protested. What did Aunt Holly know about this really special rainbow?
"It'll make Jamie happy," Daddy explained.
"Besides, I could use a break from all that paperwork."
"Whatever," Aunt Holly said, shaking her head. She wasn't very excited about things except for working at the airport and going to her meetings. And she always told Jamie that her daddy was spoiling her rotten. Jamie didn't know what that meant, but she didn't like being called "rotten."
"Why don't you two watch me and make sure I get across that rainbow up there? I'll need some technical help."
"Because when I get up in the sky, I won't be able to see the rainbow. You and Aunt Holly will have to tell me where it is."
Jamie frowned. "Oh. Okay, we'll do that, won't we, Aunt Holly?"
"Sure. Let's get inside and get the headphones on."
"I'll see you soon," Daddy said to Aunt Holly. "And you, Muppet, need to watch very carefully and make sure that I get this right. I'm only doing it once. You understand?"
Jamie nodded. "I understand. I'll tell you exactly where the rainbow is."
"Okay." Daddy smiled. "You behave while you're on the radio, you hear?"
"I will, Daddy. I love you."
"I love you too, Muppet." He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "I'll see you in just a little while."
"Will you bring the princess back with you?"
He laughed. "I don't think so. I won't be landing my plane anywhere, you know. I think that if this wish is granted, she'll probably show up later."
"Then how will we know she's the princess?"
"You can always tell a princess," Aunt Holly said. "And if we can't, we'll just put a pea under her mattress and see if she tosses and turns all night."
Jamie laughed at Aunt Holly's joke. Daddy had bought a bunch of fairy tales and folk story books, and Aunt Holly read them to her at naptime. Jamie loved them, especially the ones about magic kingdoms and handsome princes. She loved them almost as much as her favorite Muppet movie.
"Bye, Daddy." Jamie waved to her daddy, then took Aunt Holly's hand and skipped toward the building, humming her favorite song, "The Rainbow Connection."
She was going to be so happy with Daddy's new princess.
David banked his Cessna 185 to the left, circling the airport so Holly and Jamie could see him before he climbed toward the rainbow. He'd told himself many times that her idea was silly, that he wouldn't give in and fly into the sky after something that didn't really exist.
But here he was, spending time and gas to humor his Muppet.
He smiled, remembering the expression on her face when he'd agreed to her fantasy. He dipped one wing as he soared over the right runway, then leveled off and climbed into the clear blue sky. She'd jumped up and down, her new red bibbed overalls and striped T-shirt a blur of color. Holly had separated her hair into puppy dog ears, and they'd bounced above her ears like soft little golden wings.
Jamie looked so much like her mother that he knew he'd never forget Catherine. Golden skin, gold-streaked hair, and hazel eyes with--what else?--gold flecks, he'd always called them his golden girls. Only now, there was only one. He'd changed Jamie's nickname to Muppet because he couldn't call her golden girl without remembering what life had been like before Catherine climbed onto that ledge to get the perfect shot.
Photographing bald eagles had been more important than her family. At least, that's the way he thought of her avocation. Knowing that he was not being fair to Catherine didn't help; he wished she'd been happy photographing roses or fruit or children. Anything but wildlife.
"Daddy, you're going the wrong way." Jamie's voice cut into his thoughts, bringing him back to the present, to his little Muppet.
"Is that proper protocol?" he asked, hoping he sounded serious enough to put the fear of the FAA in her, even if they were using his own channel on their separate transmitter.
"No, but I got to let you know. You need to turn--which way, Aunt Holly?"
"Left fifteen degrees. And climb to 8,000."
"That's right, Daddy, so you can get over the top of the rainbow."
"Okay, Muppet. Turning left, climbing to 8,000. Let me know if I'm off course."
"Will do," Holly said in her practical, efficient voice. He didn't know what he'd do without his "little" sister, who took care of Jamie when he was away with a charter, sometimes overnight or even a weekend, depending on the destination. For someone who swore she possessed no maternal instincts, Holly was great with Jamie. He couldn't have continued his charter air service without her.
Glancing down at the instruments, he saw that he was nearing 8,000 feet. He leveled his climb, checking the other gauges. Everything looked fine. There were no other planes in the air, the sky was nearly cloudless now that the morning rain had dissipated, and even the wind was calm. He couldn't have picked a better day to grant Jamie's wish.
"Two-one-two-five-Robert to base. How am I doing?"
"We can barely see you, Daddy, but the rainbow's still there."
"You appear to be on course, but maybe a little low."
"If I climb much more I'll be out of my lane. Should I go to 10,000?"
"No, stay on your flight path. You should be able to loop back in about five kilometers."
"Will do." He steadied the plane at 8,000 feet. "Jamie, what was I supposed to do when I fly over the rainbow?"
"Make a wish, Daddy! A wish for a princess."
"You're my princess."
"No, a real one. One that can get married to you so we'll live happily ever after."
"How about the poor princess?"
"Daddy! You promised."
David laughed. "I know. I was just teasing. I'll make a wish. And I'll see you soon."
"Okay. Make a really good wish."
"I will. Over."
He hadn't planned to make an actual wish. Not really. But part of his promise to Jamie was that he would ask for happily-ever-after. But what did he really want? A wife to replace Catherine? No, he would never want that. His wife had been a unique, vibrant woman with her own career and an infectious love of life. She was the kind of person that others flocked toward, for her insights, her humor, her beauty.
After Jamie's birth, he was sure Catherine would cut back on her assignments, especially the dangerous ones. But she hadn't. Motherhood had barely phased her.
He didn't think he could survive marriage to another Catherine.
Who, then? He couldn't imagine what kind of woman was his "type." Oh, he'd had his share of relationships: brief ones in the four years since Catherine's death, longer ones before they'd met. They weren't serious affairs. He couldn't imagine spending the rest of his life with any of those women, much less bringing one to his home as a mother for Jamie. Not that they'd been . . . bad. They just weren't maternal. Or wifely, come to think of it.
But they had been fun.
Maybe if he'd gone back down to Denver and spent a long weekend with Amy Whats-Her-Name, he wouldn't have seemed unhappy to Jamie. But the weather had been bad, with late snow when he was free to travel, and besides, Jamie had wanted to go skiing.
Hell, in the end, he just hadn't cared enough to make the trip. Not even for a weekend of mindless sex with a fun-loving woman who wasn't looking for commitments.
So that brought him back to making a wish. What would make him happy? If not "another Catherine," then what? He'd loved her, appreciated her, even liked her. They'd shared the idealism of youth and the joy of bringing a new life into this world. For Catherine, giving birth was enough; being a mother wasn't as interesting as she'd imagined. Always, the call of the wild beckoned. Endangered species, new vistas, exciting assignments. Catherine had loved her work--more than she'd loved him or Jamie.
No, not another Catherine. He wanted . . . he wanted someone who needed him. Someone who cared for him, and for Jamie, of course. Not some fairy princess, but a real woman with dreams of her own, and the capacity to share those dreams with her family instead of shutting them out.
"Okay, that's what I wish for. A woman who needs me and wants to be part of my family," he said aloud, feeling foolish for participating in his daughter's fantasy. But hell, what harm could it do? Keeping his word to Jamie was important--more important than talking to himself about his own personal wish.
"Two-one-two-five-Robert to base. Jamie, I've made my wish. I'm getting ready to turn around now. I'll see you in a few minutes."
"Will you have the princess with you, Daddy?"
He heard the yearning in her young voice, the desire for a storybook mother because she didn't remember her own. "No, Muppet, I don't think I'll have the princess with me. Will you still be glad to see me?"
"Sure, Daddy," she replied, her voice reflecting a degree of disappointment. "The princess can come later. I just want to meet her."
"There might not be a princess, Muppet," he warned, hoping she could understand that not all wishes were granted. But that would be like telling her that Santa Claus didn't stuff presents down chimneys, and the Easter Bunny bought his candy at the grocery just like everyone else.
"I can't hear you too good, Daddy."
"You're breaking up, David," Holly said. "Just turn around and get back to the airport."
He had no idea why the radio receiver wouldn't be working properly . . . until he looked closely at the sky. Although visibility had been clear just minutes ago, directly ahead some misty clouds obscured his line of sight. Sunlight reflected off the thin layer, throwing prisms of light. Casting an almost magical glow. A rainbow of colors.
Now he was getting maudlin. Perhaps he'd been listening to Jamie too long; he'd certainly read enough magical stories to her at night. Or maybe celibacy was the problem; he should have gone to Denver, had some mindless sex with Amy.
He'd told his daughter dozens of times that there was no such thing as a real rainbow, but damned if he wasn't flying into one.
"Two-one-two-five-Robert to base. You're not going to believe this, but I can see the rainbow."
He waited for Holly or Jamie to respond. Nothing. No static, just dead silence. He checked the frequency.
"Two-one-two-five-Robert to base. Come in."
The colors of the rainbow reflected throughout the cockpit. A tingling started in his hands, which gripped the wheel tightly, continued up his arms, then radiated out through his body. The feeling of color, he realized. The warmth of red, the vibrancy of green, the peace of blue. Each one ricocheted through him like shock waves.
And then the colors were gone. The sky loomed clear and cloudless around him. David took a deep breath, eased his hands from their death grip on the controls, and checked his gauges. Okay. Everything was okay. He'd just experienced some atmospheric anomaly. Probably a drop in pressure or a pocket of high humidity. There was nothing to worry about.
"Two-one-two-five-Robert to base. Can you hear me?"
"Dammit," he muttered, taking the plane in a wide right turn, back towards home. He checked the navigational coordinates, but that frequency was dead too. The radio was must have malfunctioned.
Leveling off, he couldn't make out any landmarks except the Tetons, west north west of his location. He checked the controls, which seemed to be working normally. Still no highways or power lines, although the geographical features looked familiar.
A sense of panic washed through him. His hands tightened on the controls as his heartbeat accelerated. Ahead, the green foothills of the Grant Teton National Park rose rapidly toward the mountains. Snow capped the familiar jagged peaks. To his right, the red rocks of the Gros Ventre range formed a natural horizon in the south. West of his location, the Snake River twisted a muddy path through valleys and canyons.
The airport should be directly below.
There was nothing down there but grass.
Analisa Ludke reined her mare to a halt, listening to a strange, far-off sound. If she were lower in the valley, she'd be able to tell where it was coming from. But up here in the foothills, what she heard seemed to be a large honeybee, flitting everywhere. Coming first from the stand of pines behind her, then from the direction of the stream to her left. Or maybe from the mountains, jagged and snow-capped ahead.
Her mare stamped her foot, bobbed her head up and down with impatience, and flicked her ears.
"Easy, Tommelise," she said in a soothing tone. "We'll find out what is making such a noise."
Analisa pivoted on her mare's broad, gray back. From here in the high meadow, she could see in every direction. Not even a cloud marred the blue sky. The sound of buzzing grew louder, yet no swarm of bees appeared. As she listened, she realized that the noise wasn't really a buzz. It was different, a sound she'd never heard before. A sound that seemed to echo through her whole body.
Tommelise stepped sideways, snorting in disapproval.
"Easy, girl." Analisa slid from the mare's bare back, not willing to take a spill and have her horse run home without her. Walking back to the homestead wouldn't be difficult since it was downhill, but she didn't want to risk a bump on her head or worse. Not since she lived alone.
A year ago, she wouldn't have been so concerned for her safety. No longer. She had to accept that Papa or Jurgen would not come looking for her if she was late to dinner.
She shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun, looking everywhere for the steady, deep buzz. Tommelise danced, her hooves crushing the bright green grass, filling the meadow with the smell of damp earth and summer.
Suddenly, sound roared through the meadow. Tommelise reared, pulling against the reins. And when Analisa looked up, she saw the source of all that noise.
A huge white bird--or maybe not a real bird. The wings didn't move, yet it glided through the air like an eagle in an updraft. The body had an unnatural shine to it, and the shape of the wings and head did not look like any real bird she'd ever seen.
The thing swooped from the sky, coming closer each moment. Analisa cried out, afraid of this monstrous winged creature. She ran for the tree line, Tommelise snorting, pulling, dancing beside her. The air in the high meadow seemed too thin. Her lungs burned as her heart beat faster, as the sound grew louder.
A shadow passed over her as the flying beast swooped low, two strange, round claws extended straight from its belly, below the wings, and another came from far back on the body, below the tail. With a cry, she stumbled across some loose shale, falling to the ground on her hands and knees. Curse her luck! She'd run nearly to the sheltering trees.
Tommelise whinnied in fear, pulling against the reins. But Analisa would not let them go, even when her arm felt as though it might be pulled from her body.
She couldn't worry about her mare or any injuries now. The noise of the flying creature changed to a lower hum. Analisa levered herself to her feet, watching as the thing glided toward the ground.
She'd seen an eagle do that once on a lake. When it rose into the sky again, a fat trout dangled from its talons.
She would not be a fish for this strange creature.
"Whoa, girl. Whoa. You must quiet down. We must get away from here, and fast."
Her knees ached, her hands burned, and her shoulder throbbed. Still, she wrapped the reins tightly in her fist, grasping Tommelise's thick mane with one hand to pull herself on the mare's back. Why hadn't she taken time to throw on the old saddle? She'd never been able to mount without a tree stump or fence, but this was a good time to try. If she failed, she might not get another chance.
"Please, be still. Whoa," she called, hearing the panic in her voice. Her fear would not calm the horse. She needed to get down the hill fast, back to the safety of her house, hidden from the grasp of the winged creature.
"Tommelise, please!" The mare stepped sideways, her eyes rolling, nostrils flared. "Stop your antics. I have no mounting block here, so you must . . ."
Analisa stopped, her heart pounding in the stillness of the meadow. She heard only Tommelise's breathing as her hooves struck a cadence on the ground.
The creature rested silent and still in the middle of the meadow.
Fascinated against her will, she looked closely at its long smooth sides, huge narrow wings, and straight rigid legs. Except for a few black and red marks, it was entirely white. What would it do now? Begin the awful noise again? Fly into the sky?
Even Tommelise quieted, standing still as she gave her full attention to the meadow's strange visitor.
Analisa reminded herself that she must leave, that now was the perfect time to flee. But she wanted to know what would happen next. She had the crazy urge to creep closer to the thing, to see if it was alive, if it had eyes to see her and a mouth to eat her.
If it wasn't alive, what could it be? Houses and wagons didn't fly; she knew that for a fact. But it didn't look alive. Even from this distance, she noticed lines on the sides and tail, like seams on a quilt. This thing had been built by someone! But who, and for what purpose other than to terrify women and horses?
With trembling legs, she walked toward the unknown object, dragging her reluctant mare behind her. You shouldn't be doing this, she told herself. Get away now, while you can. But her legs refused to obey her mind's wishes. She continued to walk until she was close enough to read the writing on the side and the odd tail that pointed toward the sky.
"Two-one-two-five-R," she whispered. In smaller letters, the words "Terrell Air Charter" were printed neatly on the shining white surface. What did that mean?
As she watched, a part of the side opened away from the body. She tightened her grip on the reins, ready in case her mare bolted again. But Tommelise seemed as fascinated as she, trembling as she watched the wonder of this monstrous object.
And just when she thought that she couldn't stand the tension any longer, something began to emerge from the side. A leg? Yes, and then the rest of a man.
He jumped to the ground.
The man's black hair gleamed with silver-blue highlights in the bright sun. His eyes were covered by odd glasses, dark and shiny. On his body he wore a short leather jacket, and on his legs, tight blue pants.
Even from this far away, she could tell he was frowning. He placed both hands low on his hips, bent one leg slightly, and looked around the meadow. Obviously, he didn't like what he saw. He pulled off the dark glasses and rubbed his eyes, then pinched his nose up high, just like her brother used to do when he was tired and angry.
He said something, but she couldn't hear the word. Only the tone. She suspected he'd just cursed. He brother had done that also.
Suddenly he looked up, stared right at her. With slow movements, he placed the dark glasses back over his eyes. His body came alive with movement, striding toward her with such masculine force that she took a step back.
And collided with her mare.
Tommelise danced away. Analisa regained her balance, gripped the reins tightly, and prepared to run. This was no boy or old gentleman. This strange visitor was a man in the prime of life, blessed with a lean and strong body. His hands fisted at his sides, he seemed to stalk her as a mountain lion tracks a deer. She didn't know why he was angry, but she had no intention of allowing him to take his fury out on her.
If only she could find the strength to run . . .
He stopped as suddenly as he'd started, tension radiating from his body like mist from a hot spring. Whipping his dark glasses from his face, he stared at her, his full lips turned down and his wide brow furrowed.
She was too astounded to speak . . . or to run. He was the most handsome man she'd ever seen. More handsome than she'd ever imagined a man could be. More handsome than the princes in her precious fairy tales. Could he possibly be real?
She watched, fascinated, as he parted his lips. Would he speak her language? Would he greet her or threaten her? Her heart beat faster as she listened to his first words.
"Where in the hell am I?"
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