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Disclaimers: Janice and Mel belong
to Universal Pictures. Not me.
This is just a little extra one
while I work on a few other
No subtext in this one.
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The Yankee and the Brat
Janice dragged the last of the heavy ancient vases out of the slick mud hole and wiped the earth-covered arm of her leather bomber jacket across her forehead. The action added another layer of dirt to the green-eyed woman’s cherubic face but she didn’t mind. ‘Archaeologists get dirty,’ was often her father’s saying whether he was talking about digging in the dirt or avoiding direct answers to questions about his so-called grave robbing. Taking a breath, Janice hauled the vase into the tent filled with newly discovered artifacts, then saluted her treasures and headed back out into the rainy Macedonian weather.
"Ma’am! Ma’am!" one of the archaeologist’s assistants called, running up to stop Janice before she got to her tent.
"Not now Andros," the strawberry-blond muttered.
"But Doctor C-"
"Make sure the security’s up okay Andros? I don’t wanna’ see any of those Nazis trying to get in here again." The compact young woman threw open the flap to her canvas tent and immediately drew her trusty .45. She peered behind a stack of wooden crates and cursed to herself. Whoever was rummaging around back there was awfully close to her gattling gun. ‘Take a chance Jan, what the Hell?’ she thought as she slowly stepped closer to the crates. "You’ve got two choices, you can either come out slowly, or you can have first-hand experience with lead poisoning courtesy of me."
There was a soft gasp followed by a crash as the person cracked their head on the bottom of the wooden work table. Finally, the six foot tall, impeccably dressed woman rose up from behind the table and squinted in Janice’s general direction.
The archaeologist dropped her gun back into its holster and rolled her eyes. ‘Son of a...great, just great!’
"Jan!" the tall woman cried, her southern accent pronounced. "Uhm, I dropped my glasses."
"Over there?" Janice asked. "Mel, what are you doing here? Macedonia’s a long way from South Carolina."
Mel stumbled out from behind the table and tucked an errant lock of raven hair behind her ear. "You sent a letter to me tellin’ me that you found some old maps that you were havin’ trouble decipherin’, so here I am!"
Janice shook her head and said, "Mel, it’s too dangerous for you to be over here. There’s a war going on."
"I know that Janice."
For the moment Janice was willing to drop the issue with the southerner. She spied Melinda’s black-rimmed, cat-eye glasses on the ground next to the table and handed them to the blind woman, watching as Mel’s crystal-blue eyes suddenly came into focus. "Better?"
"Oh my, yes!" Mel replied, blinking a bit. She laughed a little and said, "Why Janice, I can hardly see you under all of that dirt!"
"Archaeologists get dirty," Janice muttered through the cheroot she was lighting.
Mel waved the foul smoke away from her face, thinking, ‘It was bad enough when daddy smoked those Cubans, now Janice insists on smoking those nasty little things!’ The woman straightened up, suddenly becoming the epitome of a miffed Southern Belle. "Must you smoke that foul thing in here?"
Janice exhaled a perfect smoke ring. "It’s my tent."
"You are in the presence of a lady!" Mel pointed out. "Why - I could faint!"
"Save it Mel, I had a gun pointed at you a few minutes ago and you managed to keep from fainting. I’m going to go take a bath, don’t touch anything," Janice grumbled, stalking out of the tent with a clean pair of khakis and a white shirt.
"Well," Mel huffed to the empty tent. "Never in all my life have I met such a rude, stubborn, irritating person!" She turned on a stylish heel and delicately avoided mud puddles on her way to the tent which held the artifacts.
"Oh my goodness!" Mel exclaimed. The tent was filled with large vases, a worn out stele, and dozens of other mud-encrusted artifacts.
"Find anything interesting?" Janice asked Mel who was crouched near one of the vases.
"These vases were once painted. You can still see shadows of the paint. The pictures probably would have told us more than this writing. It’s just graffiti." Mel turned to the smaller woman and said, "Janice, I’d really like to stay and help you."
The archaeologist sighed and leaned against the work table. "Mel, it didn’t work out last time. You could barely stand the heat on a dig and then you just up and left to marry what’s-his-face."
"Edward,’ Mel said noting the slight sneer which appeared on Janice’s face.
"Yeah, whatever happened to that guy?" Janice’s curiosity got the better of her.
"I called off the engagement," Mel answered softly. "I realized that it just wasn’t meant to be, I didn’t love him and I didn’t belong there."
"Well you sure as hell don’t belong in a war zone Mel. Go back to your mansion, it’s warm and safe there. You’ll be guaranteed a meal every night and a bed to sleep in, "Janice said in her usual gruff tone. She did not dare look into Melinda’s eyes though. ‘So what if I want her to stay? It isn’t safe and she shouldn’t have to deal with me anyway.’
"Janice, I don’t much care for mansions or soft beds, I care about this work and I care about you."
‘She had to say that,’ Janice thought. ‘She had to make it harder.’ The young woman was just about to tell Mel that she could stay if she really wanted to when the taller woman stepped back and lost her balance. Janice dove for Mel and caught her before she fell but the vase behind them crashed to the ground. "Dammit Mel!"
"It was an accident!" Mel cried in defense.
Janice’s face was red and her hands were clenched so tightly that her knuckles were white. "It was stupid! I told you that if you were going to be at a dig site you’d have to wear practical clothes! This is no place for a spoiled brat!"
Mel towered over Janice, her blue eyes turning icy, and said, "You’re the one who’s acting like a brat!"
"Really? I’m not the one who showed up in a Rolls! You’re spoiled rotten Mel!" She watched the first tears roll down Mel’s cheeks and instantly regretted her outburst. "Mel, I-"
"Don’t you talk to me Janice!" Mel snapped as she ran from the tent.
‘Damn!" Janice growled, tearing her old brown fedora off of her head and stomping on it. "My hat! My friend." Janice slumped to the floor and held her head in her hands. ‘I may have just lost my best friend! Why do I always do that? The one person I swore I’d never hurt.’
Mel found an empty tent on the other side of the camp and curled up on the rickety cot. She knew that Janice probably didn’t mean what she had said, but it still hurt. ‘Maybe she really doesn’t want me around. Maybe I am in the way.’
"Mel," Janice called for the third time, trying to wake the sleeping woman. "Mel, get up, you can’t stay here."
"What, you’re sending me home already?"
"This is where the work crew stays Mel," Janice explained. "It’s not the safest place to be."
"I’ll check into a hotel."
"The nearest decent hotel is in Skopje and it’s too close to the Yugoslavian border. The Germans are too close."
"Then where would you have me stay Janice?" Mel asked primly.
"My tent. C’mon." Janice started to leave, then noticed that Mel was not following. "You can’t stay here! Now come with me!"
Melinda pushed past Janice and went to the tent, muttering under her breath. When Janice arrived, the tall Southerner was curled up on her cot with her eyes closed.
"Like I’ve never slept on the ground," Janice muttered, snatching a spare pillow and a blanket and taking them to the other side of the tent.
Mel glanced over at Janice’s huddled form during the night and sighed. ‘This is so senseless! We’re both acting like children! I know her temper gets the better of her, but she has to learn to control it - and she needs to learn how to apologize.’
Janice stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep, so she just let her thoughts run wild. ‘Way to go Janice! You’re supposed to be apologizing not making it worse. Ah, but it’s so hard not to get mad when she pulls that Scarlet O’Hara crap.’ Janice tossed and turned for a minute. ‘But I guess I deserve that - and a stupid vase is not worth losing my best friend over.’ Janice rolled over again and whispered, "Mel, are you awake?"
"Mmm?" Mel answered, softly. "What?"
"Can we talk?"
Mel turned to face Janice. "Okay, I can’t sleep anyway."
"Me either," Janice admitted. "I’m sorry for being such a jackass Mel. I overreacted. I hope - I hope we’re still friends. You’re the best friend I have Mel." Janice glanced around the tent and said, "You’re all I’ve got."
Mel sat up and smiled her dazzling smile. "Janice, c’mere." She waited for Janice to drag her pillow and blanket over to the cot, then gently hugged her friend. "I’m sorry too Janice, we were both actin’ like children - and Janice?"
"If you really thought that I’d give up on you because of this, you’re crazy. I can forgive you," Mel said with a sparkle in her eye. "After all, what else could I expect from a Yankee?"
Janice shrugged. "No more than I could expect from a brat."
Mel smiled. "I like that."
"What if I called you Scarlet O’Hara?" Mel raised a delicate eyebrow, and Janice said, "Or I could just call you Mel!"
Mel reclined under an umbrella and fanned herself while she watched Janice’s crew dig in the sweltering mid-afternoon sun. She could hear Janice who was in the ditch just below her chair, cursing in three different languages and yelling at the men to get them to work. "You’re here to work, not relax! I want everyone who is within two feet of a shovel to get digging! If you’re gonna’ be on this team you’re gonna work!"
Mel jumped a little when a shovel flew up from the pit and landed next to her with a clatter. She closed her fan, straightened her khakis and her glasses, picked up the shovel, and joined the team.
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