Watching from behind her workstation at the TransMountain Air gate podium, she pegged Alex as a smart ass before the cocky looking teenager opened her mouth.
Call it intuition or call it experience. Twenty-two years as an airline customer service agent in Missoula—working for the succession of air carriers that had served and then abandoned the western Montana city—had made Mildred something of an expert on the flying public, not to mention general human nature.
Sure enough, Alex did not disappoint.
“That goddamn airplane has propellers on it!” the 16-year-old blurted out incredulously, pointing at the twin-engine turboprop parked outside. Drew thought he could feel his blood pressure going up about ten points.
Mildred had heard every customer complaint, every lame request, and every dumb remark a passenger could utter. This wasn’t the first time she encountered that line about prop-driven airplanes. Every resident of every one-horse town in America must think his sleepy little village airport deserves four-engine jet service.
For the polite, considerate customer, Mildred provided the most courteous and efficient of service. For little shitheads like Alex, she specialized in sarcasm dripping with honey.
“Oh, dear, you’re so right, young lady. That’s not supposed to happen. I’ll call a mechanic and have them taken right off!”
Joey could hardly contain his smirk.
“Shut up, geek boy,” Alex snapped. “I don’t want to go to Seattle in some World War Two egg crate held together with Scotch tape and chewing gum.”
Joey could hardly believe his sister was so smart about some things, so ignorant regarding others.
“This is a Bombardier Q-400,” Joey admonished incredulously. “It’s an advanced version of the Dash-8, and it’s one of the most modern medium-range airliners in the inventory. I can’t wait to see the cockpit. It’s all glass, you know; there’s not a mechanical instrument on the airplane. It has all GPS navigation and a military-style heads-up display for the pilots to use when approaching the airport in really bad weather."
“Hey, I don’t need a lecture from a walking rendition of Aviation Week & Space Technology,” Alex fussed, wounded by Mildred’s deflating insult.
“It has a composite airframe and its engines are very fuel efficient,” Joey continued, not seeming to have heard Alex’s protest. “Airline companies can actually make money flying these kinds of airplanes into small towns that can’t support jet service.”
“And I don’t need a Wall Street Journal economics lesson, either, dumb ass,” Alex snapped with discernible resentment in her voice.
“Alex, that’s five extra added to the rest of what you’re getting,” Drew cut in with restrained anger in his voice. “Aren’t you in enough trouble already?”
“Dad!” Alex protested.
This time is was Mildred’s turn to hide a smirk. She knew exactly what Drew meant by “five extra.” You didn’t have to spend much time in the Intermountain West to know that in Montana, many parents still spanked their teenagers and spanked them hard.
“Okay, guys,” Mildred intervened to diffuse the situation as she handed Drew their boarding passes. “Your flight to Seattle boards in 20 minutes . You’re in seats 3A, B, and C.”
Then the veteran ticket counter employee twisted the knife just one more turn: “I’ll talk to the pilots and see if they’ll show you the cockpit,” Mildred said as Joey beamed and Alex fumed.
* * *
Earlier that morning . . .
It had been a rough Saturday morning. Thank goodness for the Internet. As Michelle desperately looked for a way to get Alex a dose of emergency contraception, Drew put in a call to Harve, the family lawyer who was handling the adoption. His answering services said he’d gone out for some early-morning fishing, but he checked his messages hourly.
“None of the local pharmacies stock the morning-after pill,” Michelle reported at the breakfast table over a platter of cold pancakes and greasy bacon that nobody seemed the slightest bit interested in consuming. “There’s too much pressure by the religious right in this state. Even though Plan B One Step or Next Choice is available in other states as an over-the-counter medication—and is technically legal here in Montana—it’s very hard to get. The locals would rather have unwanted babies and welfare mothers than help a girl not have a kid.”
“Is there any other way to get it?” Drew asked.
“There is Planned Parenthood in Bozeman and Missoula, but except for the one Saturday morning per month in Bozeman where they do abortions, they’re closed on the weekends.
“I guess it goes without saying that you have to take the morning-after pill the morning after,” Alex mussed dejectedly.
“Not really,” Michelle replied. She had become an expert on the subject in the last few hours. “Less than 48 hours is adequate,” Michelle said. “Basically, the morning-after pill is a super dose of oral contraceptive that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting itself in the wall of the uterus. There’s a 90 percent effectiveness rate within the first couple of days, but it drops off sharply after that. You wouldn’t want to wait until Monday.
“Is there any other method of emergency contraception?” Joey asked.
“Two others,” Michelle answered, “but neither are ideal. There’s the so-called French “abortion pill,” RU-486. It works for up to six or seven weeks, because it causes an implanted fetus to detach itself from the uterus and pass out of the body. The FDA certified it several years ago, but as of yet, no American pharmaceutical company has stepped forward to distribute it here. Again, there’s too much politics involved.
“The other is an IUD, an intrauterine device. It has been around for birth control for ages, but if implanted in the first five days after intercourse, it’s 99% effective. It has the added benefit of being a contraceptive device you don’t have to manage very well. So if Alex is going to be sexually active from now on, that’s an alternative worth looking into.”
Alex shuffled uncomfortably in her seat at the breakfast table. All eyes were on her when Michelle made that remark about her sexual future.
“Look, I sneaked into Joey’s room and came on to him because I wanted to have sex one more time before we couldn’t do it any more,” Alex responded, half defensively, half with resignation in her voice.
"Several months ago, when Joey and I made love, it was the first time for both of us. It was special. I just wanted to enjoy it one more time. I didn’t want to fuck up the adoption; I was just stupidly pushy, and in our passions both of us were both careless about birth control. It's not like we're going to do it again, and I'm not going to be a slut at school."
“I really liked the way Alex came on to me,” Joey said. “Her aggression was so exciting at times. I kinda like having a girl tell me what to do.” Then Joey blushed and was embarrassed that he had been so frank about his submissive sexuality.
“Well, you’re not at all like your new father,” Michelle quipped. He takes charge in the bedroom, just like everywhere else. For only the second time this morning, Drew laughed.
“As I said this morning,” Alex continued, “it wouldn’t be fair to Joey or to me to prolong a relationship that just isn’t going to work out. Joey and I are much better suited to be brother and sister. We’ll love each other forever that way.”
“So, after this little incident is over,” Drew asked, “what do we have to do to take care of your contraception needs? We don’t want to go through this again.”
“Look, Dad, there are a few boys at school who are cute, but I can’t see myself getting involved with them. I’m not going to live in a small Montana town for the rest of my life and marry a tractor mechanic or ranch hand. When I’m off at college, it might be a different story. I’m going to major in business, but I’ll probably minor in boys,” Alex added with a mischievous smirk.
Drew’s disapproving stare made Alex regret that last bit of flippancy. She wondered how many extra paddle swats that little wise-ass remark would earn her, as she cussed herself silently.
Yes, she’s undoubtedly right, Drew thought. She’ll sleep around quite a bit and there’s nothing anybody can do about that. But no father wants to think of his daughter bed hopping at a fraternity house. Oh well, Drew though, he’d done his share to contribute to the delinquency of minor girls when he was a young stud, and none of it happened anywhere near such a intellectual place like a college campus.
* * *
Harve had practiced family law for decades. Nothing surprised him. So when Drew called with the news that potentially complicated the adoption, Harve readily provided reassurance.
“First of all,” the attorney assured Drew, “there’s no incest involved here. Alex and Joey live in the same family but they’re not biologically related. Secondly, the idea of sex between brother and sister doesn’t hold here. The adoption makes you and Michelle their parents, but the law has no procedure for making non-blood related children legally brother and sister. Adoption establishes a legal relationship between parent and child, not between siblings.
“They didn’t violate the law by getting together before the adoption, and although it would be morally repulsive if they continued a sexual relationship afterward, there would be no laws broken. That’s especially since they’re the same age, and Montana has a Romeo and Juliet Law. Neither of them is in danger of being charged with statutory rape nor incest.
“Look,” Harve continued, “the judge would take a dim view of their continuing having sex under your roof, and especially if Alex becomes pregnant. So you better take care of that emergency contraception and make damn sure they understand they have to cool it from now on.
“But quite frankly, I’m more worried about a challenge to your fitness as a parent because your criminal record. That’s where I’ve focused most of my time preparing for this case. If it could be shown that Alex and Joey’s hanky-panky stemmed from a general lack of supervision on your part, that could aggravate your case for adoption as an ex-convict. But everybody in town knows you’re a strict parent. Sometimes kids do stuff anyway."
“So, what should we do now,” Drew asked.
“You won’t be able to buy the morning-after pill in this backwards state,” Harve advised. “And I wouldn’t bank on getting it by driving to Wyoming or Idaho, either. There are too many Mormons and born-again Christians there. The drug stores won’t stock the thing under public pressure.
“If I were you I’d get on a flight with Alex to a nice liberal city, like San Francisco or Seattle, and I’d do it this afternoon. Rent a car and go to the closest pharmacy, where you can find Plan B or the other brand name sold over the counter there. Have Alex take it there, right on the spot. Then go get a hotel room, do some tourism, have a nice meal, and be back here for the hearing on Monday afternoon. Okay?”
“Yeah, that sounds like a plan,” Drew agreed. “I’ll probably take the other perpetrator with us, so he can see how much trouble we’re going through because of this.”
“That’s a good idea,” Harve chuckled. Drew’s lawyer had a pretty good idea of how Drew disciplined his teenagers, as well as to how he might get the point across.
Anyway, the lawyer thought, spanking across state lines wasn’t a federal offense.
To be continued . . .