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Hard Landing Ch. 02

Big Tits

*** This series was awarded Best Lesbian Story, as well as Most Literary/Genre Transcending Story in the 2019 Reader’s Choice Awards. Thank you to all who voted. ***

Hello, friend, welcome to Chapter Two of Hard Landing.

You can find the link to the Spotify playlist on my author bio page with the songs from this chapter. Please enjoy and leave a comment if you care to, or follow my playlist on Spotify.

~~ Arlington, Virginia ~~

JO

She listened to Suzanne finish up the lyrics to Hazy Shade of Winter, Bangles style, while she walked the last notes out on her guitar. She was watching ‘Blue Girl’, as she’d started to think of Jill Doran, dancing next to Steve’s girlfriend at the front of the stage.

Jo was thrilled to be on the beach tour with The Rotors again; it was her first time she was able to go on tour in three years. She had started trying to schedule her leave to line up with the tour dates well before Christmas last year. Nothing was better than jamming with Suzanne, Larry and her brother. Doing it over two weeks at seven different beach towns was just what she wanted before she headed out on her next deployment.

Looking over at Suzanne, she made a gesture to her throat. Suzanne caught it and made a ‘cut it’ gesture back, shaking her head. Time for a Steve song then. Suzanne got way more vocal work when Jo was leading the band.

I like female vocals better, so sue me, she thought, Steve needs to let her sing more anyway, she’s too good to just do backing vocals. But it looked like Suzanne wanted a break.

She caught everyone’s eye and called out, “One week!” As soon as she got eye contact from each of them acknowledging her call, she nodded to Steve who led in with the vocals.

It’s been one week since you looked at me,

Cocked your head to the side and said I’m angry.

As Jo started the bouncing chords of the Bare-Naked Ladies song, she saw Blue Girl react with delight as she’d done for most songs that night. Blue started jumping up and down, her feet hitting the floor in time to the bobbing neck of Jo’s guitar. She wasn’t the greatest dancer, but damn she was enthusiastic.

She was incredibly pale too. It crossed Jo’s mind that Blue Girl was going to get totally roasted on the beaches this week unless she went hard on the sunscreen. Her bright blue hair against her skin was just delicious, the platinum blond ends almost melting into her yellow dress. She also liked that Blue was taller than she was.

I wonder what that hair would look like spilled across her naked back, she thought, then checked herself.

“Take it easy Collins. You aren’t here to seduce the new girl on the bus,” said the Little Voice in her head. Little Voice had been with her since high school, usually chiming in when she was getting ready to fuck up or land in trouble. Steve would be beyond pissed at her if she stirred up drama on the bus getting laid. “Set your sights on some beach bunny groupie. You can probably fuck one or two on this trip,” Little Voice told her.

Still, no reason she couldn’t get to know the woman better. They had clearly connected during the set break and had at least one common interest in comics, although these days Jo was more into the movies than the actual books. It was much easier to bring her laptop and a USB drive with every superhero movie on it than it was to get comics delivered to Afghanistan. During her last deployment she’d watched the entire Marvel run three times and now there were four more movies to while away any idle time she’d have over there.

They seemed to share a sense of humor too. But then Blue had asked Jo about the band’s history and she’d started yakking about mom.

Little Voice spoke up again, “What the fuck was that anyway Collins? Blathering about mom to someone you’d met for like five minutes? Just… don’t do that again.”

Then Blue had to go and ask her about singing and she’d completely lost her shit. As usual. One hundred percent smooth, dumbass, she thought to herself.

“You going to be singing any of them for me?” Blue Girl had asked. She wants me to sing for her…

Jack waved his red flashlight towards the stage from his perch at the soundboard in the back, letting them know they were at time. She looked at Steve and he nodded to her holding up a finger. One more song. So, Blue Girl liked songs from Captain Marvel, huh? No reason not to give her one more thrill tonight.

She looked over at the rest of the band, waiting for a cue. Jo called out, “Celebrity Skin.” It wasn’t the greatest song for dancing, but playing it made her feel like a rock goddess. Suzanne nodded, resettled her bass around her shoulders and stepped up to her mic.

Jo killed the echo with her foot, spun the knob on her distortion pedal all the way up with the toe of her sneaker then spun the volume knob on her Telecaster to ten. şişli bayan escort This is when I wished it went to eleven, she thought, smiling at the old joke. The first chords of Celebrity Skin by Hole felt like a slap in the face from the amps; like she was assaulting the audience with sound.

Predictably, she saw Blue Girl yell, “Yes!” and start jumping up and down so hard her hair completely obscured her face, like an indigo version of Cousin It.

Layla, her guitar, was screaming the chords from the stage, like the old girl knew it was the last song of the night and she wanted to vent the last of her energy before she had to go back into her case. Jo had wanted to be a rock star before she became a pilot, and the guitars on this song were extremely her jam. Suzanne’s voice wasn’t the best for Courtney Love, but she was giving it her all.

“You know, you could sing this song just fine if you weren’t such a pussy,” Little Voice told her.

Shut the fuck UP! she snarled to herself and bent to the chords. Little Voice had been more annoying than usual lately.

They wound up the song and Steve thanked the crowd. Despite the cheering he called out, “Sorry folks, no encore tonight! We have to be set up at Cape May tomorrow morning. Hope see some of you on the beach tour!” He and Suzanne leaned down to exchange some high-fives with fans. It was already past eleven o’clock.

The courtyard lights came up as Jo pulled out Layla’s case and gently laid her into the velvet cushions inside. “Thanks for another great night girlfriend,” she whispered to her guitar. “You were amazing as usual.” She picked up the lid to her pedal case and turned back to the front of the stage.

Steve’s girlfriend Sara was coming up on stage, pulling Blue Girl by the hand. Blue looked a little like a startled deer in the stage lights. She’d said she played piano, but Jo was guessing she’d never performed much in public. She seemed shy just being on the stage in front of a crowd that was now far more interested in last call at the bar. The band quickly started breaking down their equipment, Jack jumping on stage to help. Steve was rolling up cables, while simultaneously showing Sara and Blue Girl the tricks of packing everything so they could help on the road.

When they finally pulled their cars up to Steve’s house in Falls Church it was almost one o’clock in the morning. The women started getting showered and changed while the boys unhitched the trailer from Steve’s truck and hooked it up to the tour bus.

Steve had befriended a country artist of moderate success who had chartered some helicopter flights from Collins Aviation. He took every July off to spend the month with his family on a houseboat, and was kind enough to loan Steve his tour bus for the beach tour, in exchange for a few free helicopter rides. It was what that made their summer tours as nice as they were.

By the time they had all the bags and a couple dozen boxes of Rotors t-shirts and hats loaded into the bus’s cargo lockers underneath, it was almost two A.M. Steve locked up his house and they all piled onto the bus.

“This is amazing, it’s almost bigger than my apartment!” Blue gushed. It must have been her first time on a tour bus. It was a pretty sweet ride, Jo had to admit.

There was a bedroom in the back with a queen-sized bed. Outside the bedroom, there was a tiny shower room on one side of the hall and a room with a toilet and sink on the other. Next, four twin-sized beds, stacked two-high on either side of the hallway, were built into the walls of the bus. Each bunk had sound baffling curtains, a small TV on the wall with a headphone jack, a reading light and even white noise generators. Up in the front half of the bus there was an area with a deep, plush couch on one side and a big flat screen TV. On the other side of the salon there was a small kitchen and dining booth with a table that seated four. Finally, two big, comfy captain’s chairs for the driver and copilot.

“Who’s taking first shift driving?” Steve asked.

Jack, who did most of the driving on past tours, said, “Man, I’m beat. I was up at six getting shit at work ready for me to be gone for two weeks. Can I get a pass tonight?”

“I’ll drive,” Jo said. “I got a nap this afternoon.” She left unsaid that she was probably the only person on the bus who was used to operating vehicles on little or no sleep.

Larry and Steve played rock-paper-scissors to see who got first pick of the sleeping facilities. Larry wrapped Steve’s rock with paper, which got an enthusiastic, “Yes!” and a fist pump from Suzanne. They said their goodnights and closed the door behind them as they claimed the bedroom. Jack went straight to the bunks, claiming the bottom one on the left and pulled the curtain. They could hear him snoring within minutes.

Steve and Sara stayed up for a while talking to Jill and Blue until they passed over the Potomac River and şişli escort crossed into Maryland. Steve stood up and stretched. “Ok, sis, we’re going to crash. Pull over and wake me up when you need to switch out.”

“Night,” Jo responded, her eyes never leaving the road. She reached over to the driver’s control panel and turned off the lights in the lounge area, leaving the interior of the bus fully dark as Steve and Sara climbed into the lower bunk on the right. Jo wondered if they were really going to ‘sleep’ in the twin bunk but then figured they probably would. Everyone seemed wiped out.

Everyone except Blue, it seemed. As Jo watched her in the mirror, she got up from the couch, put her backpack into the bunk above Steve and Sara, and then came back up and sat in the passenger’s captain chair. She dropped down the armrest and curled her legs up under her.

Jo glanced over and said, “Not sleepy?” Blue Girl had showered as well at Steve and Sara’s house and changed into yoga pants and a teal long sleeved t-shirt that said ‘Bitch Planet’ in big purple letters on the front. She’d put her hair into a thick braid.

“No, I’m wired! I don’t think I could sleep at all right now. I’ve never been on a trip like this, it’s going to be so much fun.” Jo made a wager with herself that Blue would be asleep before Baltimore. “How far is it to Cape May?” Blue asked as she kicked off her sneakers.

Jo looked down at the display in the console. The bus had Apple Car Play and she had connected her phone as soon as she had sat down behind the wheel. A screen to the right of the steering wheel was showing the Waze app.

“It says a little under four hours from here. We’ll probably get in right about sun-up as long as the assholes out there can keep their cars in between the lines.” She touched the screen to switch over to her Spotify app, touched a playlist labeled ‘Calm, Cool and Collected’, and then switched the screen back to Waze. Jazz guitar started playing over the speakers in the forward cabin.

Blue cocked an ear at the music for a minute. “This won’t make you fall asleep at the wheel, will it?” she asked.

“Not a problem,” Jo answered. “I’m normally a rock-and-roll girl. But when I’m task focused, I just need some background noise that doesn’t intrude. This is Larry Carlton, possibly one of the greatest jazz guitarists currently alive. He’s half rock-and-roll anyways, I could never drift off listening to him.”

“Hmm.” Blue Girl sat quietly for a few minutes, then said, “So I don’t know if this qualifies as talking about the Army, but Sara told me you fly helicopters and so do both Steve and your dad. Mind if I ask you how that became the family business?”

“No, it’s fine. My dad was a pilot in the Army when he was young,” Jo said. She seemed less tense about the subject here in the dark cab of the bus. “He served in Kosovo and the first Gulf War. After that, he got out and started his own charter business so he could be home with us more. He only had the one bird for a long time, but I was riding with him as early as I can remember. He started teaching Steve and I to fly as soon as we were tall enough to reach the pedals.”

Blue blinked at her. “Helicopters have pedals?”

“Oh boy. So, you’ve never been up in one I take it?” Jo laughed.

“I’ve only been in an airplane like four times. Never a helicopter,” Blue answered.

“Well. Yes, they have pedals. Anyway, when I got out of high school, I was pretty adrift. I wasn’t interested in going to college. You can go into the Army to be a pilot without a college degree, so that’s what I did,” Jo said, while signaling a lane change and leaning over to check the bus’s blind spot. “I had to argue with the placement officer for weeks to put me on the chopper track instead of flying cargo planes or something.”

“So, let me think. You’ve been in the Army for, what? Ten years?” Blue asked her.

Jo smiled. “Flattering guess. No, I went in at eighteen and I’m almost thirty-two. I’ve got thirteen years in, seven left until retirement.”

“That’s crazy to think you could retire before you’re forty. For most people our age, retirement hasn’t even crossed their mind,” Blue said. “I mean I’ll turn 30 next spring and I just started a 401k last year.”

“I could retire then,” Jo said, “Doesn’t mean I have to. And if I do I won’t move to Florida to play bingo.”

“Will you go into the family business with your dad and Steve? I mean you do the same job as your dad did in the Army. It seems like you could do the same job together now and it’d be nice.”

“Not exactly the same job. My dad was a snake driver and I fly slicks.”

“What are those?” Blue asked.

“It’s terminology that dates back to the Vietnam War. Snakes are attack choppers. My dad flew the Apache. It’s a two-person job that’s covered in guns and anti-tank missiles. They tore the shit out of Saddam’s Republican Guard in the first Gulf mecidiyeköy escort War. Slicks are non-offensive birds, mostly. I fly medevac choppers. I mean, we have mini-guns on the sides, but those are mainly for fire suppression when we’re going into a hot landing zone.”

“Mini-guns? So… they’re small?” Jill asked.

“It’s an electrically powered machine gun with three rotating barrels that can fire three thousand fifty-caliber rounds per minute,” Jo said dryly.

“Oh,” Blue replied, her eyes wide.

“Yeah, they can ruin your day quick. My job is mainly to go in and get out guys who have been wounded. Sometimes it’s allied forces or Afghan army. Whoever I get called in to evac. The Iraqi army sometimes, back when we were still there. I did one tour there before we pulled out. But mostly I’m getting our guys. Sometimes the locals will call us in for an injured or sick civilian who needs to be airlifted to a hospital. Ground transportation in Afghanistan is pretty much a nightmare.”

“That sounds sort of heroic,” Blue said. Jo snorted. “Is that what your dad and Steve do with their company?” Blue asked.

“No, Steve is on the passenger side of the business. We have a couple of nice passenger models and he and a couple other guys pilot them when some dude needs a helicopter and he’s rich, but not rich enough to have his own. Dad finds that a bit too boring, so he hires out to Dominion Electric in Virginia or sometimes Delmarva Power in Maryland or Delaware, helping with high-tension line maintenance. He’s got a little MD-500, and he’ll take three or four guys up and hover over electric transmission lines so they can hop on and off the towers to work on the lines and not have to climb up and down.” Jo explained.

Blue stared at her for a moment then exclaimed, “That’s insane!” She put her hands over her mouth and glanced guiltily back at the sleeping area. She said more quietly, “Isn’t that like, really dangerous?”

Jo smiled again. “I think that’s why dad does it, otherwise he gets bored. Steve didn’t go into the service. There’s something a little different about flying choppers in the Army. Well… a lot different actually. Steve’s fine doing what he does and dad likes what he does. I think Dad’s still the steadiest stick on the East Coast.”

“What about you?” Blue asked, “What do you want to do when you get out?”

Jo didn’t say anything for almost a mile. “My job is to go get people who need help. That’s what I do. It’s…” She trailed off for a moment, then took a deep breath. “That’s my job.”

“Well, it sounds admirable,” Blue said. They rode in silence for a few more miles. Jo eased the bus off the beltway and they started heading north on I-95.

“Hey, I wanted to say that I’m kind of envious of your mom and music nights after you told me about that. She sounds like the kind of mom I wished I’d had. I know it must have been tough to lose her, but I’m glad you had her as long as you did.” Blue said. Jo said nothing, staring impassively ahead.

“Anyway, I know it sucks she’s gone but she sounds like she was a good mom,” Blue said.

“You lost your mom too?” Jo asked.

“Might as well have. I haven’t spoken to my parents more than once or twice a year since I came out to them.”

Jo glanced over. “Damn, I’m sorry Doran, that blows.” They drove in silence for a moment, then Jo said, “I didn’t figure out my own shit until I was in high school, a couple of years after mom was gone. Dad was totally blasé about it when I told him in eleventh grade. He said ‘Jo I just want you to be happy, no matter who you end up with. As long as they treat you right.’ And also, ‘Just remember to keep it to yourself if you’re thinking about the Army.'” Jo snickered. “I’d already been talking to him about enlisting after high school.”

“Why would he tell you to hide who you are?” Blue asked.

“You may not remember, but don’t-ask-don’t-tell wasn’t repealed until 2010. I was on the down low for my first three years in. I remember the day Obama signed the repeal. I wanted to be out so badly, I walked into my squadron leader’s office that morning and said ‘Major, I just want you to know I’m a lesbian!'”

Blue laughed. “Oh my god, how did he react?”

“She,” Jo corrected her. “Major Alice Wright was my commander on my first deployment and my mentor early in my career. She said ‘No shit Chief. Now tell me the sky’s blue, then go finish writing up your damn maintenance reports.'” Jill cracked up again.

“Is Chief your nickname, like Maverick in Top Gun?” Blue inquired when she stopped laughing.

“No, we mostly don’t do call signs in Army aviation. It’s short for Chief Warrant Officer. I’m a CW3. Warrant officers are above non-coms, like sergeants and other enlisted, but below officers like lieutenants, captains and on up. Don’t ever tell an old sergeant that though, unless you want a half-hour lecture about the importance of non-coms. Chief is a rank for technical personnel like pilots in the Army, or special equipment gunners in the marines. They keep trying to send me to O-school, but then I’d end up behind a desk instead of a stick, so that’s a hard negative from me.”

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