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     Nadia sat with her head against the Greyhound window watching the pine trees along Interstate 10 roll past. The rain beat against the glass as the gloom of the day poured through the bus. The steady hum of the tires and churn of the engine soothed her mind as anticipation of arriving countered the calm by pushing butterflies through her veins. The ride from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas to her new duty station in Biloxi, Mississippi was a long one, but road trips always gave her time to prepare her mind and daydream of the future.

                There was a dirty-blonde haired girl in the seat beside her. She was chatting a mile a minute to a girl across the isle. Her mouth had not been idle since they had left San Antonio 6 hours ago. Annoyed and wanting solitude, Nadia slid her headphones back over her ears and turned on the familiar lyrics of the Counting Crows. She pulled her hands into the sleeves of her military jacket and closed her eyes. She cranked the volume up to drown out the rest of the world. Only four more hours until they would reach Biloxi, Mississippi.

                As she drifted off to sleep her mind rolled back over the last several months of life. The summer had been a trance of hot sticky nights on the Florida Gulf Coast, live music, scoring alcohol from men that thought they had a shot at drinking it with her, and making love to her boyfriend on the white sugary sand. She was a little wild at heart but very soft if you she let you  get to know her. The walls she built to keep people at a distance were very high but the climb was worth it. Once you had Nadia in your corner, she was loyal to a fault.  In the last six weeks she had endured basic military training, graduated, and was now headed toward her training center to learn what she would be doing for the next six years. Her adventurous spirit was high. Traveling to far off lands had been the driving factor when she had gone to see the Air Force recruiter.

                Her semi conscious daydream was shattered by the sound of the air brakes bringing the bus to a stop. The rain had quit and all that remained was the grey gloom hanging just above the trees. The bus had stopped at the front gate of Keesler Air Force Base for security to check I.D. cards. They had arrived. Nadia looked around at the drab colors of a base that had long ago been forgotten by anyone high enough up the government food chain to put an ounce of work and effort into fixing up the place. But regardless of the dreary feel, her spirits were high. She was taking on a new path in her life’s journey. Excitement burned in her mind as she listened to the chatter of the other people around her. These would be her fellow classmates in the weeks to come, yet at this moment she knew none of them and her shyness and inability to connect easily with strangers was setting her apart. She was going to have to break free from her comfort zone.

                The blonde leaned over to Nadia, jabbing her in the side with an elbow, “Hey, you’re finally awake! I was hoping you weren’t gonna sleep the whole ride, but you did. Check it out! Did you realize there are only 4 girls on this bus? We are surrounded by 75 hot guys that all just spent 6 weeks without having sex, and who knows how long before that! The world is our play ground girl, get up and look around! Take your pick!”

As she spoke the last sentence, she stood and swung her hands around her as if she were casting all the men on the bus in her own personal porn video. Nadia couldn’t help but chuckle. This girl was a riot. Not the typical person she would befriend, she thought. As that sank in, she decided to partake in the conversation. She pulled her headphones down around her neck and stood to admire all the men on the bus. The audacity of the moment hit her in a wave and she felt her face flush as she ducked back into her seat.

The blonde jumped back into her seat as well, “My name’s Jolene Boisier, I’m from New Orleans. I’m going to work on planes, like my daddy did… and I’m going to make all these boys fight over me.”

             Jolene’s southern accent was thick and her personality was obnoxiously bubbly. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a bun but loose strands kept falling across her face. Aqua colored eyes gave her the depth of the waters and sparkled mischievously when the light caught them just right. Light freckles ran across her nose giving her the all American girl look.  She wasn’t beautiful in the sense that she would turn every head in the room by walking in but add the personality and jaws would certainly drop. It was obvious that with her demeanor and charm she did very well with the guys. Even as she had referred to them all as steaks only moments ago, several of them were grouped up passing whispers about her.  Her eyes sparkled as she rambled on for several minutes about nothing in particular, while Nadia took in this gigantic personality sitting beside her.

“So come on, tell me about yourself, how much are you going to make me pry out of you,” Jolene chided as she finally sat quiet for a moment.

Nadia knew she wouldn’t have long to speak with this conversation stealer beside her, so she bashfully straightened her jacket and looked up at Jolene.

“Well, my name is Nadia Arshan, I grew up not far from you in Destin, Florida. I am going to be working on planes too. That’s all there is to know,” Nadia trailed off hoping that Jolene would drop the curiosity towards her.

     “That’s it? That’s all I get? Nadia from Florida? Hmmm… I think there are many layers to you Nadia. But that’s okay, the mystery is kind of hot too. We are going to be the best of friends! I am just telling you now, I don’t want you to be surprised later,” Jolene pushed herself into Nadia’s shoulder and erupted in giggles.

     Nadia had no idea what to say to this forward stranger that was stating their new friendship out loud and so factually. She just grinned at the change in her day. It was nice to not feel alone. It was nice to make a friend that had no idea who Nadia was in her past. Jolene knew nothing about her and seemed to like her anyway.  While she was thinking about her new friend the bus filled with four military police officers that began checking identification cards and throwing their weight around on all the new trainees. This part of the military was annoying and Nadia hated the power tripping that some of these guys had when they were around people with less power. She rolled her eyes as she handed over her I.D. card. The cop glanced at her I.D. and back at her and then pointed to one of the monkeys with him.

“Look at this Bradford, a sassy new chick thinks she can roll her eyes at me. Did you see that?”

Bradford walked down the isle toward the cop in front of Nadia, “Nah, I didn’t see that. Doesn’t she know who the fuck you are?”

“Apparently this little bitch has no idea who she is messing with, do you… Airman Nothing Arshan?” he glared at Nadia as his tone mocked her.

     Nadia could feel the anger rising in her as she tried to maintain her composure. She didn’t like all the attention and the entire bus was looking at her now. She knew these guys weren’t anybody special, but she didn’t want to cause herself any problems before she even got on the base. She decided to play nice this round.

“No, I’m sorry for rolling my eyes, I don’t know who you are,” she hardly whispered as her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

“Oh I am your worst fucking nightmare darling, I promise you that. Now, I am going to ask you one more time, do you know who the hell I am?” as he said the words his face became incredibly close to hers and the fire in his eyes was enough to cancel her intimidation and ignite rage.

“Um… let’s see, well you are a military cop… so apparently you are…” she paused and tapped her finger against her mouth as if she were deep in thought,  “Mmm… someone that scored worse on your evaluation tests than … well pretty much everyone else in the Air Force? Either that or you came in the military as a cop on purpose because you are an ego tripping douche bag, either way… it doesn’t make you anyone important. You and your whopping three stripes,” she snapped.

     Her words were sharp and they immediately hit a nerve in him because everyone on the bus including his friends erupted in laughter. She snatched her I.D. out of his hands and sat herself down in her seat quickly. She tried to look angry, but she was really quite terrified of him coming unglued. She knew if she looked completely disinterested his wounded ego would make him walk on. He was too proud to land himself further in a battle of wits with her when he really had no power to do anything to her to begin with.

Jolene sat down giggling hysterically and grabbed Nadia’s hand.

“See, I told you, we are going to be best friends. I didn’t know you had it in you,” Jolene gushed still laughing.

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