Chapter 22: Almost there
The landing in Oslo was as Steven expected, even though the taxiing on the runway was longer than what the captain had told them through the flight. Steven took a glance outside at the mountains and slightly regretted for not doing it from the air as he looked at the Alps when he landed in Geneva. Darkness was creeping and the rain felt like long ropes falling from the heavens. On the bright side, the long conversations with Chrissy had compensated for it in spades. In the course of one small flight, they had become fast friends. She had also taught him a great deal more about the Facility and he now had a clearer view of what his role could be in the project.
Fangs was the first to exit the plane, covering her head with her luggage, cursing at the rain, the no smoking sign and something else they couldn’t manage to make out as they ran inside the terminal. Steven and Chrissy thanked the pilots who were still in the middle of their arrival checklist and disembarked together. As they entered the private jet customs area, Fangs was already being interrogated by a customs officer and helped by what seemed to be a project representative. The man was explaining to both Fangs and the customs official that the government didn’t have the time to issue diplomatic visas to them yet and to allow them to enter the country on a temporary basis, at least until the issue is resolved. Steven and Chrissy joined in and were introduced to the customs official.
He asked their names and noted them down as the agent stamped their passports and made a quick phone call. Soon, all were allowed to enter the country on a provisional basis until the UN
could issue their blue United Nations Laissez-Passer passports. Or as many diplomats call it, the Fuck-Off passport, referring to the ability of the bearer to pass customs in the diplomatic lane without being questioned or searched.
“Nancy Fox, I like it more than Dark Fangs. It sounds nicer, don’t you think?”
“Whatever makes you happy Barbie,” replied Fangs frowning.
As they exited customs and made their way to the main terminal along a suspended bridge, they noticed that the sun was slowly setting down behind the mountains. At the end of the glass corridor, their escort left them in front of the arrival hall where they were to be greeted by their driver. Minutes passed when finally another tall man appeared, holding a Polo men’s purse tucked under his arm. He was wearing a black suit and perfectly shined leather shoes. His face was tanned and didn’t look Norwegian at all. If they had to guess, they would have said Middle Eastern.
As he saw them he quickened his pace to meet them. “Hello Miss O’Donnell, Miss Fox and Mr. Mitchell, welcome to Norway. We have a long journey ahead of us and the others will not be there until tomorrow morning at the earliest,” the driver explained. “So, I have taken the liberty of reserving rooms for you at the Radisson Hotel attached to the Airport which should allow you to rest and wait for the others before we all depart together.”
“How long is the drive to the place?” asked Fangs. “I have about six takeoffs and landing in my ass and fifteen hours of flight, plus all the waiting for these peeps—in short, my dogs are tired!”
“It will take us about twelve hours to get there, so a day-and-a-half. But, it’s a nice drive.” replied the driver.
Fangs was floored by the reply and just contented herself with following the group.
“Thanks for booking hotel rooms for us. It’s very considerate of you,” said Chrissy.
“The hotel is at the end of this terminal,” reassured the driver, looking at their concerned faces. “Don’t worry; it’s all inside walk from here.”
They rolled their carts along the terminal which was rather long and still proudly displaying banners and images of the very successful Lillehammer Olympics. At the entrance to the hotel they were stopped by a bellman who took their luggage carts and promised to have them delivered to their room shortly.
The driver handled the check-in as they sat in the lobby. Chrissy was the first to notice the look of disappointment on his face when he returned. “I have to apologize. It seems that there is a conference in town and the hotel is nearly fully booked. They only have two rooms available,” he said looking at the girls. “I hope you won’t mind sharing one?”
“Is it a smoking room?” asked Fangs with a discernible look of, that trip couldn’t get any worse on her face.
“Yes, it is a smoking floor. I have managed to get one for you with two single beds and the other on the non-smoking floor for you Mr. Mitchell, but I’m afraid that it has twin beds rather than only a large one.”
“Thanks dude,” said Fangs, grabbing the key cards and handed one to Chrissy. “The room is 310, Barbie,” and she made her way to the elevator without even looking at Steven or the driver.
“She is so charming, “observed Chrissy sarcastically and thanked the driver. She looked at Steven who had been handed his card. She tilted the sleeve in which the card had neatly been placed and took a second to memorize the room number.
“Thank you sir,” said Steven shaking the hand of the driver. “At what time do we need to be ready tomorrow?”
“It will likely be late in the morning or early afternoon. I have been told that your two new colleagues have missed a connection in Newark; they will not land until eleven.”
“Thanks for the information,” replied Chrissy.
“Would that be all?”
“Yes, thank you,” said Steven, bowing his head slightly and smiled.
“Steven, I’m hungry… do you want to go and eat a little before turning in?” Chrissy asked.
“I didn’t have a proper meal since I woke up this morning and I hate eating alone,” Steven answered, thinking that he would have said yes even if he had just finished eating half a cow. “Can you give me thirty minutes so I can take a quick shower and wait for my luggage to arrive in my room?”
“Sure, meet you here in thirty minutes,” she repeated joyfully.
They both took the elevator together. Steven waved at her as she exited on the smelly third floor and he continued to the eighth. As he arrived at his room, the bellman was already there and Steven tipped him with some US dollars thinking that Italian Lire wouldn’t do. He entered the room and put his backpack on one of the beds and sat on it. The smallness of European rooms was sinking in once more. He stopped for a moment thinking of Chrissy. You are born under a lucky star, my friend.
He then closed the air conditioning and jumped in the shower. The pressure was great and he lingered there for a while, letting the hot water relax his muscles. Soon he felt clean, but didn’t stop the shower just yet. The heat was just too soothing for him to turn the water off. His joy was soon interrupted by a knock. At first, he thought that he must have hit the wall with his elbow, but the knock repeated. Someone was at the door.
Steven quickly dried his short hair and fastened the long towel around his waist, and opened the bathroom door. The cold air sent goose bumps along his arms and hardened his nipples. “Wait a minute!” he yelled as he motioned to dress up and changed his mind halfway to the chair where his clothes lay. People who don’t mind disturbing you don’t deserve the courtesy of a formal dress code, he thought. Walking to the door he looked for a peep hole on the door but didn’t see one, so he opened the door halfway and left his foot behind as a stopper.
His heart started pounding against his rib cage as his eyes looked at Chrissy’s tall legs. He slowly raised his head until he met her angelic face. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to catch you like this,” apologised Chrissy, eyeing him from head to toes. “Can I come in?”
Steven paused for a second, noticing that she had a large carry-on bag in one hand and the handle of her big luggage in the other. He motioned forward to take the bag off her shoulder and moved aside and waved her in. As she entered, she paused, grabbed a chunk of her long blond hair, and pressed it against his nose.
“Smell that,” urged Chrissy, a clear note of frustration in her voice. “Not even fifteen minutes with her in the room and my hair smells like I have been sitting in an ashtray for hours. She lit two smokes in a row and was going to light up a third with the butt of the second when I dashed out pissed to death.”
“Damn, that chick is really a piece of work,” said Steven. “She will have a problem in the Facility if what you told me on the plane is correct. She will be annoyed at the non-smoking policy in the place.”
“It’s more than a policy. The system will not even let you light up at all,” Chrissy explained. “The report says it’s like the place is creating a bubble of oxygen-free zone around the matches and lighters to prevent you from igniting a flame.”
“Interesting,” said Steven. “You can leave your luggage here if you want. That will prevent them to be smoked.”
Upon hearing the statement, Chrissy’s face flushed and turned pinkish. “I was sort of hoping, I mean, if you don’t mind, I…”
“Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” asked Steven, flushing in his turn and closing his eye as he realized how it sounded. “I mean, eh, in the room, in the other bed.”
Chrissy still pinkish, but now laughing a little lightened the situation by adding, “I knew that this is what you meant, besides you are too nice to take advantage of a homeless Selkie are you?”
Still feeling a little uncomfortable and not sure what a Selkie was, he ventured to continue with, “I hope that this is not out of place, but if you want to take a shower later or if you need anything, feel free. I’ll just change into some new clothes and we can go and have dinner. I’m totally starved.”
“Maybe after the meal, but for now, change and let’s go eat. I won’t look,” Chrissy promised, grinning as she walked toward the window and looked outside.
Steven, not generally of a shy nature, opened his luggage and fetched a new pair of underwear and a shirt and changed facing the direction opposite the window. Chrissy, wondering what was taking so long, turned her head enough to look at him through the desk’s mirror. Nice ass.
As Steven finished dressing up and quickly brushed his teeth with water, not finding his toothpaste, he let Chrissy exit the room first. He grabbed his room card from the holder on the wall and followed her. He was deep in thought as the elevator opened. Not remembering who had pressed the call button, his mind was daydreaming of what he would see and his involvement in the project. But most of his thoughts in his moments of lucidity were turned toward Chrissy and how lucky he was to have met her. Also, he couldn’t stop thinking of how incredible he felt spending time with someone so nice and like-minded. The added bonus, of course, was her knowledge of the project and he would probe her some more on it in the days to come.
At dinner they didn’t discuss the project, mainly for fear of being overheard and because they were both curious to learn more about each other’s lives before their first private jet ride. Chrissy was rather brief at summarizing her life. Aside from jumping two years of school and studying for a weekend before being allowed to take entrance exams at her university, which had allowed her to complete a PhD in electronics and mechanical engineering many years faster than most, she had done some modeling. This one Steven had no problem believing. She had also felt the subject rather boring and ordinary as she was telling him about it and couldn’t wait to have the details of what Fangs had said about him on the plane.
Obviously, jumping years in school had meant older friends and boyfriends. A lot of bad ones recently prompted her decision to stop modeling and dating for about a year now. Being raised as an only child was probably the only point Steven felt they had in common as far as their childhood was concerned. As he started to tell her how he grew up, he felt ashamed at the fact that he didn’t have anything positive to say about his parents, besides maybe Tony’s intelligence. All the rest seemed to him too common and beneath her. If it had been a fairy tale maybe, but in the real world, kids from the other side of the tracks have nothing to offer princesses living in ivory towers.
But Chrissy didn’t see it that way. She felt that it took more courage to rise from the depth of poverty and bad parenting to become a caring, intelligent and level headed man than it is for those born in relative ease and with good parents.
As they returned to their room, Steven stopped at the front desk to request a second key and if it was possible to have breakfast in the room the next morning. At that, Chrissy smiled and shook her head. “We are so much on the same wavelength, you and I, that it is scary.”
As they entered the room, they were both pleased to see that closing the AC had brought the room closer to creature comfort temperatures. Exhausted by the trip, Chrissy removed her long dress and without paying attention to Steven, she went to the bathroom in her underwear, brushed her teeth and handed the toothpaste to Steven with a smile. At that moment, because men will be men, Steven looked down, paused and said, “You have a nice tattoo.” “Thanks, you are very observant,” she said as she looked down, placing a finger under her bra and lowering it down so low that Steven could now see the hint of a red nipple. The tattoo was now fully exposed and revealed two characters kissing. “I made the drawing myself, it’s made with electronic components. The legs are resistance, the bodies are relays and the heads are rounded batteries. No one has seen it. I just had it done a month ago.”
Feeling butterflies flying in his belly and glad he still had his jeans on to hide himself, he smiled incredulously and turn toward his bed and removed his pants. Making sure not to turn and expose his front side, he slid under the blanket and removed his shirt and underwear, safe from view.
“Good night Chrissy.”
“Good night and sweet dreams.”