Cupid's Paradise takes you on a vicarious adventure - Hollywood style; a love story that pumps your adrenalin to the max.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.84(d)|
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By Albert Benigno
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Albert Benigno
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDoctor Lydia McKenzie was in the middle of a lecture on the molecular structure of hydrogen, when her telephone rang. She hated to be interrupted by phone calls during her lectures, but she walked the short distance to the wall at the rear of the lecture hall and answered it.
"This is Bob Kingston. I would like you to come to my office immediately after your class today."
"Sure Bob, anything wrong?"
"I don't know. It's not an emergency, but there's someone here to see you, and it looks important."
"I'll drop in right after I dismiss my class, Bob." Who the hell would come here to visit me? Distracted by being interrupted, she walked back to the podium, scanned her lesson plan, and continued her lecture. She found it difficult to concentrate. She wondered if all was okay with her parents. They were aging and anything was possible. If there was an emergency, she would have been instructed to immediately dismiss her class. She dismissed an emergency from her mind. She caught herself drifting from her lesson and looking at the clock on the wall at the rear of her lecture hall. Bob Kingston said it looked important. She had 20 minutes to the end of the session.
"Class, we're going to quit a little early today.I want you to read chapters 8 through 11, and write a 500 word report on the effects of bio-transference of Hydrogen Gas to liquid form. See you next time." As the throng of students left the lecture room, she gathered her lesson plan and reference sheets, stuck them in her brief case, and anxiously walked to Bob Kingston's office.
"Hi Bob, what's happening?" she said as she entered the office of the President/Administrator of Pilgrim State University in Massachusetts. She also saw a United States Air Force Sergeant, who sprang to his feet as she entered.
"God, no!" she cried. "Did something happen to my fiancé, Captain William Kelly?"
"No ma'am. I'm Sergeant First Class Emanuel Rivera, and I'm here to deliver this envelope. Are you Doctor Lydia McKenzie?" Sergeant Rivera eyed Lydia intently. She stood about 5 feet 7, blond hair that she wore to her shoulders, and deep blue eyes. She kept her weight to about 130 pounds, and she turned heads wherever she went.
"Thank God. You scared the shit outta me," Yes, I'm Lydia McKenzie." Lydia eyed Sergeant Rivera standing about 6 feet away from her. His over 6 feet frame towering over her, with a muscular build and dark complexion. His blue Air Force uniform neatly pressed and fit him like a glove.
"Can I see some I.D., please?" Lydia opened her handbag, retrieved her wallet and showed him her driver's license. Sergeant Rivera looked at her driver's license, at her, and handed her the envelope.
"I don't know ma'am, I'm only the messenger. Please sign here." Lydia signed for the envelope. "Thank you ma'am. Oh, will you please enter today's date." She wrote March 11, 2020. "Thank you, ma'am," and Sergeant Rivera left.
Lydia looked quizzically at the large blue cardboard envelope, with the letters NASA displayed on both sides.
"Well, aren't you going to open it?" Bob asked. Lydia quietly glanced at him, took a letter opener from his desk and ran it through the flap. She took out a letter size envelope, opened it and looked at a letter.
"Holy shit," she exclaimed. "It's from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration." She read the letter to herself. Robert Kingston waited until it was obvious that she had read the letter, and then he asked,
"Are you going to tell me what it says?"
"Oh, my God," she said aloud. "Dear Doctor McKenzie: NASA cordially invites you to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida where you will become acquainted with our goals and programs. We sincerely hope that you will agree to participate in our next space exploration endeavor. Your background as a Doctor of Bio-Chemistry qualifies you for this assignment. You are under no obligation to accept this assignment. However, please be assured that you will be serving your country and have the sincerest gratitude of all Americans everywhere. Please take time from your busy schedule to spend a week at the Kennedy Space Center at absolutely no expense to you. Simply call the number at the end of this letter, and arrangements will be made to fly you here and return you to your home in Massachusetts. Thank you. It's signed, Thomas Griffin, Chief Project Administrator."
"Wow." Bob retorted. "Do they name your replacement?"
"I never said that I'm going to do this. But a week in Florida, all expenses paid, I'd be a fool not to go. Bob, I'll fill you in on all of the details as soon as I know them. So long, Bob. See you tomorrow."
Lydia left the university and walked toward her car in the faculty parking lot. Her mind raced as she could not help wondering of what was in store for her. I wonder if Bill has anything to do with this - he is an Air Force Captain. But I'm sure he would have called me before Sergeant Rivera came to deliver the envelope. She unlocked her car door, got in and started the engine.
She found herself driving faster than she usually did on her way home, and she slowed to the speed limit, lest she would get a speeding ticket. She turned into her driveway. Carrying her hand bag and briefcase, she unlocked her door and entered, disarming the burglar alarm. She walked to her study, placed her bags on the floor beside her desk, opened the briefcase and retrieved the NASA envelope. She called the number as the letter instructed.
"Thomas Griffin's office," a female's voice answered.
"Hello. My name is Lydia McKenzie, and I have a letter here instructing me to call your office."
"Hold just a second, please." Lydia glanced at her watch. It read, 4:20. "Yes, Doctor McKenzie, can you make yourself available to be here on Saturday?"
"The letter says for a week."
"Yes, that's correct."
"Well, today is Wednesday, yes, I can make myself available for a week beginning this Saturday."
"All right. On or about 8 a.m. Saturday morning, a U.S. Air force automobile will pick you up at your home, and take you to Hanscomb Air Force Base. The driver will have all the necessary clearances. You will board an air force plane and fly to Kennedy Space Center here in Florida. Do you have any questions?"
"Do I need to pack any thing special, besides clothing?"
"Nothing special. Be sure to pack your medications. Just come prepared for 80 degree temperatures. NASA will provide you with any special clothing you may need."
"Okay. I'll be ready at 8 a.m. Saturday morning. Thank you. Good bye." If Bill knows anything about this and he hasn't called me, I swear to God, I'll hit him with something. She retrieved her cell phone from her hand bag, and called Bill.
"Hi, you've reached Captain Kelly. Sorry I can't get to the phone right now. Please leave a message, and I'll get back to you as soon as possible," the reply. Why the Hell does he carry a cell phone and never answer it? She looked at her watch again-it read 4:45. She decided to take a shower, have a snack with a glass of her favorite Pinot Grigio Merlot, drive to her parent's house, and tell them the news.
"Okay," When Rose and Mike McKenzie saw the smile and excitement in their daughter's face, they anticipated good news. However, their demeanors quickly changed as they listened to her tell them about the letter from NASA.
"Flying in airplanes with your boy friend is scary enough, but going to the moon in a rocket ship? Are you sure that's what you want to do?" Rose asked.
"Lydia," Mike McKenzie said in a very somber voice, "you're a grown woman with a PHD. I'm sure you know what you're doing. But please tell me for God's sake, why (are) you doing this?"
"Mom, Dad, I'm really not doing anything except going to Kennedy Space Center for a week. I have no idea of what they want me for. Nobody said anything about going to the moon. All I know at this moment is, they want someone with my background to be part of a space program.
"There are usually a few people in a space craft, but there are hundreds of people on the ground connected with the flight," retorted her father, "just don't do anything stupid."
"Trust me, Dad, I won't. Saturday is only 3 days away, and I've got a lot to do. I'll see you before then. Gotta go."
Lydia returned to her car and searched for her cell phone in her handbag. She found it, and dialed.
"Hi Gladys? Are you gonna be home for a while, I have exciting news. Okay, see you in ten. Bye." Lydia parked at the curb in front of her girlfriend's house, and walked to the door. As she neared the door, it opened, and Gladys, standing there, welcomed her.
"Hi Lyd. What's this exciting news? You and Bill gonna tie the knot?"
"No. Nothing that exciting. I'm going to Florida for a week, all expenses paid by NASA."
"NASA? Isn't that the outfit that shoots rocket ships to the moon?"
"Yes, it is."
"Okay, tell me all about it." Lydia filled Gladys in about the letter and the phone call. "Does Bill have anything to do with this, he being in the Air Force?"
"I don't know, and I don't think so. He would have called and let me know."
"How is Bill, and what have you two been up to lately?"
"I spoke to him about a week ago. He's still flying around the world. He calls me about once a week. We get together when we can."
"Do you ever talk about marriage? It must be hard being separated most of the time," Gladys replied. "So, what are you going to do?"
"I don't know. My biological clock is ticking. I'm 32 years old, and I do want Bill and I to be married. I think the next time I see him, I'll broach the subject. Meanwhile, I'm going to Florida for a week, all expenses paid. I'm leaving Saturday morning. I've got a lot to do. I'm gonna run. So long Gladys."
Lydia reported to work as usual the next morning. Before going to her class room, she stopped to see Bob Kingston.
"Hi Bob," she cheerfully said.
"Hello Lydia," he replied in a serious tone, "any news on NASA?"
"Yes. I'm leaving for Kennedy Space Center on Saturday morning. I'll be gone for a week. I'll be back for work the following Monday."
"Well, I guess The United States of America needs you more than I do, so I'll have to get a substitute for you while you're gone. Please keep me posted."
"I will. Thanks Bob."
Chapter TwoLydia rose at 6 A.M. on Saturday. She showered, donned a pair of panty-hose, and applied her makeup, dressed in a light-blue knee-length skirt with a matching top. She had toast and marmalade with a glass of orange juice for breakfast, and sat at her kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee, while glancing at the clock on the wall - it read 7:40. At 7:55, she put the empty coffee cup into the dishwasher; she took the handle of her packed Pullman suitcase with one hand, and her carry on case by its handle, and rolled them to her front door. She opened the door and stood looking out to the street for her ride to the airport. She glanced at her wrist watch-it read 7:59
A blue Chevrolet Sedan pulled to curb in front of her house and stopped. Lydia set her burglar alarm, walked out of her house, pulling her suitcases behind her, and shut the door. The driver saw her walking toward the car, struggling with her suitcases. He quickly went to her aid.
"Good morning. Are you Doctor Lydia McKenzie?"
"Yes, I am."
"Thank you ma'am, please, let me help you with that."
"Thank you," He placed the carry on bag on top of the Pullman suitcase, and rolled them to the rear of the car. He opened the trunk, and placed them inside. He went to the rear passenger side of the car and opened the door for Lydia.
"You're welcome, ma'am. I'll be taking you to Hanscomb Air Force Base. Its a little over an hour from here. Let me know if you want to stop for anything."
At that time Saturday morning traffic was light, and they made it to Hanscomb Air Force Base in under an hour. The driver drove to a guard house with a gate, and stuck his hand out the window with paper in his hand. The guard looked over the paper, lifted the gate, and directed the driver to a jet plane in the distance. The driver took Lydia directly to a double engine Air Force jet that waited on the tarmac. The driver exited the car, retrieved her luggage, and opened her door. She exited the car, and the driver carried her luggage to the steps at the plane.
"Have a good trip ma'am."
"Glad to be of service. Enjoy your stay in Florida ma'am."
A man in an Air Force fatigue uniform bearing Sergeant Stripes exited the plane and came down the stair. He took her luggage and said,
"Good morning, ma'am, please follow me."
"Thank you." Lydia was led to a first row seat. She glanced to the rear of the plane and noticed that no other passengers were seated. Wow, this whole airplane just for me.
"The rest room is that door right there (pointing to a door just in front of her seat). I'm putting your luggage on the seat behind you and fastening them with the seat belts. We'll be taking off in a short while, and I'll be serving you snacks and drinks after we take off. If there is anything I can get you, just give a holler," the Sergeant said.
"Thank you, Sergeant."
Several minutes later, the Captain and co-pilot entered the plane. They saw her seated, and they approached her. She saw them coming, and saw one of them ogling her legs as she sat with her legs crossed, and her skirt raised far above her knees. The Captain, the one ogling her, holding a clipboard said,
"Hello, are you Lydia McKenzie?"
"I'm Captain Lombardo, your pilot, and this is Lieutenant Jenkins, my co-pilot. Are you aware that you are flying to Kennedy Space Station in Florida?"
"Forgive all the questions; you won't believe how many times a woman gets onto the wrong plane. We'll be taking off in about 5 minutes. If you have to use the rest room, please do so now. You must be buckled up until we're airborne. It should be a pretty smooth flight; I don't anticipate any turbulence. We should make Kennedy in less than three hours."
"I'm fine, thank you." My fiancé is an Air Force Captain. William Kelly, would you know him by chance?" Captain Lombardo paused and thought for a few seconds.
"I'm afraid not, Ms. McKenzie. I don't know anyone named Kelly. How about you, Jenkins, do you know any Captain Kelly's?"
"Nope," replied the co-pilot.
"Captain, just when was this plane last serviced, and what model plane is it?"
"The Air Force inspects all of its aircraft on regular schedules. All of the cockpit instruments are checked for accuracy; the air, oil, and gas pressures are checked for leaks, including all of the hydraulic systems. This plane is a Lear twin engine jet. It has a cruise speed of Mach point 81. It has a maximum range of 2,200 nautical miles; its gross weight is 20,450 pounds; its length is 58.4 feet; its wingspan is 47.8 feet, and it seats up to 9 passengers." That should shut her up.
"You omitted the fuel capacity." Lydia sarcastically remarked. "A plane this size should have a fuel capacity in excess of 800 gallons." Captain Lombardo and Jenkins stared at her intently for several seconds.
"Doctor McKenzie, I only ..."
"Captain, as I said, my fiancé is also an Air Force Captain. I have flown with him in various aircraft - many times. I have never been in a Lear Jet before, and I was just a little curious. That's all."
"I'm sorry, Doctor. I didn't mean to offend you. I just tried to put you at ease. My experience with most women is they are very nervous and sometimes even fearful when they fly."
"You have not offended me, Captain. I'm just not accustomed to being lectured to because I'm a woman."
"Please accept my most sincere apology, Doctor McKenzie. I merely tried to be helpful."
"Thank you, Captain, you were very helpful."
"We'll be taking off now." Both Lombardo and Jenkins turned and walked through the door to the cockpit.
"When you see the lights flashing, you can remove the seat belt. We'll be about 3 hours before we land," the Sergeant said.
The Sergeant closed and locked the door to the airplane. The Lear Jet slowly rolled, it turned and stopped. It remained still for several seconds. It moved again picking up speed; the engines screamed, lifting the plane off the ground. Lydia pinched her nostrils together and swallowed causing her ears to pop. They were airborne. She unbuckled her seat belt, rose and turned to the seat behind her. She retrieved a stack of paper from her briefcase, and returned to her seat. She snapped on the overhead light, and began reading her students' paperwork; pleased at having the time to check her students' work.
Excerpted from Cupid's Paradise by Albert Benigno Copyright © 2009 by Albert Benigno. Excerpted by permission.
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