Usual disclaimer: Characters are not mine, 'cept for the twins and the idea for them did come from reading another story, so credit to whoever that was. (Unable to remember right now)
N.B You may have noticed this story has no title. Thats because I can't think of one. Any suggestions are welcome.
Mandy Hope clung to the arms of her chair and closed her eyes as she felt her plane begin its controlled descent towards the runway.
Stupid Michael. If it weren't for his showing off with that silly plane, I'd be fine right now. Mandy had been in Africa for the past 3 months, on a work experience course that her veterinary school offered. Unfortunately, a near death flight with a very new pilot, who also happened to be in her school, seemed to have left her with a terror of flying. She'd hyperventilated her way quietly through the take off and was now clutching so tightly onto her seat that her muscles seemed to have forgotten how to move at all.
She must have looked hilarious to anyone sitting around her, as when the plane bumped on its first connection back to the earth, Mandy jumped another foot despite it. Only when she could feel the wheels beneath her fully connected with blessed earth, only then could she open her eyes.
Seen as, for the last couple of months, home had meant a small one-story house shared with five other people and a whole lot of animals in the heat of an African game reserve, seeing the lush greenery and hills of Yorkshire felt pretty good. Even if it was raining.
Mandy leapt to her feet, hitting her head on the locker above as she did. Fortunately this was ignored as everyone in the plane fought to get to their luggage at once. The chunky man she'd been next to for the last eight and a half hours pushed her cylindrical bag at her, just to get it out of the way while he reached for his own. Mandy cheerily thanked him anyway and slid past into the aisle of the plane. Deftly, she manoeuvred her way to the front of the plane, through the rest of the turmoil, where the cabin crew gave her awed looks.
"Smoothly done, miss," said the blonde man who'd tried flirting with her somewhere over Egypt. Mandy gave him her signature two fingers-flicking-off-the-forehead move with the accompanying wink and left him while he looked suitably stunned. She sent a happy smile to the more senior woman who was giving the man a barely-tolerated look then stepped through the door onto the air-corridor into the terminal.
Briskly, and humming under her breath, Mandy walked toward the main building, hearing the thunder of roller wheels behind her. With the ease of practise, she found the correct documentation in her bag's inside pocket and pulled it out, all without missing a step. She breezed through customs, pausing only to make the guard laugh with a joke or two and bypassed the escalator, preferring to take the steps down to the luggage carousels. Once at the correct one, she leaned on a nearby pillar and flicked the speed dial on her phone to call her dad. While it rung, the golden-haired girl watched with a half-smile as her harried and flushed fellow passengers stomped their way over to where she already stood.
"Hello?" Nine-year-old George Hope answered the phone, sounding excited.
Mandy turned away from the carousel, towards the pillar, her half-smile extending. Quickly, she put a finger into her spare ear. "Hi, Georgie."
She had to hold the phone away from her in defence of her hearing. The screams and yells of her younger siblings were deafening and surprising to anyone who didn't know them. But nothing made George and Sophie Hope make more noise than hearing from their big sister.
Just as Mandy expected, she heard her Mum, Emily, scolding them in the background and the noise decreased as the phone was whipped away from George by their Dad, Adam, who had undoubtedly been the one who had given the twins the phone in the first place. They both laughed together for a moment before controlling themselves enough to talk.
"You're going to get it in the neck for that." Mandy teased.
"I know, but it's just too good every time." Her dad replied, still chuckling. "Besides, she'll be too happy to see you to mind."
"Shame on you, using my return to shield you from Mum!"
"Honey, I'm defenceless all the rest of the time, I'll take whatever chance I can to be shielded!"
Mandy laughed and shook her head, surprised by how much she had missed her family. "I've missed you, Dad."
"We've missed you too Mandz, where are you up to?"
"Luggage carousel. Flight and customs were easy."
"Well, no but not worse than I had expected."
Adam huffed but didn't say a word about Michael, as he'd already put all his complaints about reckless flying into emails and knew his daughter didn't want to hear it again. "We're in the car park. We'll move in now you've landed."
Mandy laughed again. "What is this? Operation get-Mandy-home-quickly-before-she-can-run-away-again?"
"No," her father rejoined, "Operation don't-let-twins-spend-any-more-time-in-airport-than-is-desperatly-needed!"
"Ah, alright then. Tell them I'll see them soon, as I'm sure they'll be whining about not being able to talk to me. Give Mum my love and say I'll be there soon to give it to her myself. And to you too."
"Will do, love. See you soon!"
Mandy clicked the phone shut, hanging up on her Dad before they could get into another conversation that would cost her a bomb in credit. This was the agreed in her first year at uni, when it was discovered that Mandy and her Mum had spent over two hours on the phone. Still smiling, she turned back around and put one foot up against the pillar behind her. Leaning forward so her long blonde hair covered her eyes, Mandy settled down to wait for the carousel to start.
About ten minutes later, she became aware of several guys flicking glances toward her every so often. Quietly she sighed, musing as she often had on how to turn off whatever it was that seemed to attract men to her like vultures to carrion. It seemed ever since her sixteenth birthday, something about her made her irresistible. It got incredibly annoying as it seemed that this entourage scared off most of the people that Mandy would actually like to talk to. People with brains and opinions, who weren't going to agree with her just to get in her pants, but would argue and try to persuade her with actual facts and interpretations. Mandy was polite and naturally playful but that seemed to equate to easy in the minds of some men. She held out for the guys that surprised her.
However, chances are that anyone who had the confidence to approach a total stranger on a plane or in an airport, they were most likely to be over-confident and flirtatious anyway. Another time maybe, she'd play along. But right then, two nine-year-olds were waiting for her and she just wanted to be back with them, and their shared parents, on the way home to Animal Ark.
Thank the heavens that the claxon for the carousel sounded then, pulling the eyes off all the men back to it and pulling Mandy up from her pillar toward it. Her bag bumped off her hip as she took the three wide steps it took to get to the line and she determinedly fixed her eyes on the window the luggage would come through.
To her relief, her panda-printed roller trunk came through just after the bubble-wrapped buggies. The man next to her opened his mouth, about to offer to help her haul it down, when she swiftly did it herself. She sent him a grateful smile anyway and tried to keep the mischief out of her eyes as he stood for a minute, mouth open, before he remembered how to close it and turned back to his own bags.
She'd forgotten that men liked to do things like that for women. Small displays of strength. No one did that kind of thing on the reserve. If the water needed pumping, you pumped it. If an anesthetised lion needed moving, you moved him. If you were told to perform surgery on an animal in the open, you did it. And you did it with the men around helping you, not letting them do it for you. Mandy laughed. Funny how equality worked best under pressure.
All these deep thoughts disappeared as the twenty-six-year old walked through the arrivals gate, bag held to her side, panda case trundling behind and saw her excited family waiting for her.
Mandy raced round the barriers, intercepting her siblings' flying hugs. Raven-haired Sophie and flame-haired George wrapped their arms around their sister's neck, on to each shoulder, and Mandy hugged one arm tightly around both of them. They only let go when she stood, as she was going to fall over, knelt on her feet as she was. Standing left her open to her parents' arms though, both of them attacking her at once. The blonde-haired woman relaxed with the familiar sensations of her father's beard on her check and her mother's smooth swishing ponytail on her forehead. It was like she was no older than the twins again.
Emily Hope leant back to look at her grown-up daughter. Every time Mandy came home, she was more beautiful, more successful and more adult. Her deep blue eyes were shining with the same zest for life and animals that they always had and also with love for her family. Her long, straight, blonde hair was lighter than usual, thanks to the African sun and Mandy was also sporting an excellent golden tan, the kind that only came from working outside all day. Her girl was healthy, happy and strong and Emily finally had her back again. She shared a glance with her husband, knowing he felt the same way and hugged Mandy again.
"Hey, Mum, leave some for the rest of us." George teased, his smile wider than his face could fit. Emily laughed and ruffled his long, wavy, dark red hair, the exact same hair that fell around her own face.
"If you say so, little man. Heaven forbid you don't get what you want!"
George frowned at the nickname but Emily nudged him toward Mandy before he could protest. Soph took advantage of how Mandy had to bend to hug George to jump onto her back. All of them laughed as the force of this caused the three of them to fall over. Emily and Adam rolled their eyes together over their heads but they were smiling as they watched.
Eventually Mandy fended off the twins long enough to stand up, only to have them start up on one of their endless twin talks. They'd got into the habit of ending on another's sentences three years ago and had been impossible to stop since then. Sophie had taken Mandy's hand as she chattered endlessly and was leading them to the car. George walked with his arm around her waist, hers around his shoulders and filled in whenever Sophie had to stop to take a breath. Glancing back, she saw her Dad had rescued her luggage and both him and Mum were walking behind them, holding hands with laughter in their eyes at their younger children's behaviour. The young woman smiled and concentrated on putting the halves of sentences she was getting from both twins together into a proper conversation.
Yes, I know what you are all thinking. No, in fact, I am not dead. I just haven't updated in a long... wow, very long... time.
Ah, yay, another fandom to work with. I really should work on some of my other stuff (ahem Fw/oF ahem) before going into another book, but aw well, inspiration struck and demanded this was written.
There are other chapters in my head but, as always with me, they will need lots of encouragement to come out into the big nasty world after hiding in my romantised and dreamy head for so long. Tell me if you like, give con crit, or just plot ideas. This one is pretty open, plot wise, right now.
As ever, straight from word, not proof read, so pointing out spelling and grammar mistakes would be wonderful.
For anyone out there who is waiting upon Floating without Fear updates, I can only beg your patience. I assure you, I am NOT going to abandon that story, it is my baby, but as with all children, its going through a rough spot right now. The words just don't want to come.
Best way to get me to update it, is review, obviously. Otherwise, any other really good 'The Host' stories people know, please give me the titles. I am desperate for inspiration!