TITLE: High Expectations
AUTHOR: Karen T
DISCLAIMERS: With the exception of Jenn, none of the other characters are mine.
SPOILERS: Nothing too big, I think. But to be on the safe side, let's say everything up through Season 2.
ARCHIVE: I'd be honored. Just let me know where so I can visit.
FEEDBACK: Always appreciated. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES: I came up with the idea for this story during the summer (2001) as I impatiently waited for Season 3 to begin. The next thing I know, the one story led to the inception of a bunch of other related stories. So here's story #1. I'd love to hear what you think.
Mid- to late-September 2001
Jenn slowly filed off the airplane, sandwiched between families with cranky kids who'd been confined in a small space for too long a period of time. As she passed through the gate and stepped into Reagan National Airport for the first time in her life, a wave of panic swept through her. Despite the lateness in hour (close to 11 PM Eastern Standard Time), the waiting area around the gate was full of people, many currently straining their necks from their left to their right and then back to their left again in an attempt to catch a glimpse of a familiar face.
But no one was searching for her face. She'd arrived at the airport alone, and would leave the airport alone.
Sighing, she yanked the strap to her duffel bag higher up on her shoulder and bypassed the groups of hugging people who had assembled in the walkway. She could spend the rest of the night lamenting how alone and lost she was feeling, but that wouldn't get her any closer to accomplishing the goal she had set for herself when she'd first decided to travel to Washington, D.C. She located the arrow on the overhead signs that pointed her in the direction of 'Transportation.'
"Stay calm, Jenn. Stay calm," she murmured quietly to herself. She had to keep her priorities straight. First, she'd get a taxi. Then she'd get some sleep. Everything else she would worry about tomorrow.
With relative ease, she made her way to the line of taxis that were idling outside of the airport. Since her luggage consisted of only a standard size backpack and duffel bag, she'd been able to bring them onboard the plane as carry-ons. This allowed her to avoid the mob scene at baggage claim.
An uniformed man who looked to be in his early-sixties raised his arm and signaled the first taxi in line to pull forward when he saw Jenn approach him. He plucked a small pad of paper out of his coat pocket and asked for what felt like the millionth time that day, "Where to?"
A second wave of panic coursed through Jenn. In her haste to leave California, she'd forgotten to research a cheap place she could stay for a few days. "I-I…I don't know," she stammered, dropping her duffel bag to the ground. "I'd like to stay someplace that's pretty cheap but that's also within walking distance to the White House."
The man groaned internally. It was always late at night, when he was his most tired, that the crackpots and idiots came out of the woodwork to pester him. What did this girl think he was? A tour guide? His arms fell to his sides and he rolled his eyes, trying his hardest not to say anything rude. But when he looked at the girl's face and saw the confusion and despair in her eyes, his anger subsided. At that exact moment, her countenance almost mirrored how his daughter had looked at the age of four when she'd handed him her beloved teddy bear in one hand and its left arm in the other hand, her expression begging him, "Please, Daddy? Fix?"
He scribbled an address down on a slip of paper, tore it off, and handed it to the taxi driver through the open front passenger window. "Don't worry, honey," he said reassuringly as he opened the back seat door for her. "I know the perfect place. I've written it down for the driver on that piece of paper." Even though he was pretty sure she wasn't in town for business, he couldn't help adding, "And don't forget to ask for the bottom part of the paper back; that's your receipt."
She gave him a huge smile of gratitude. "Thank you."
"Sure, no problem. You have a good time and take care of yourself, you hear?"
And with that, he closed the door and the taxi pulled away from the curb. As she felt the car pick up speed, Jenn relaxed her body into the back seat, closed her eyes, and began rubbing her temples with her middle fingers. God, she hoped she was doing the right thing.