Saturday Excerpt: The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar
Are you ready to start the weekend with a wonderful read? The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar is a moving story of love and friendship and is out now! Keep reading to learn more about this fantastic story.
About The Flight Girls:
A stunning story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots whose courage during World War II turned ordinary women into extraordinary heroes
1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train military pilots in Hawaii when the war in Europe began. And it’s why she insists she is not interested in any dream-derailing romantic involvements, even with the disarming Lieutenant James Hart, who fast becomes a friend as treasured as the women she flies with. Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.
To make everything she’s lost count for something, Audrey joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The bonds she forms with her fellow pilots reignite a spark of hope in the face war, and—when James goes missing in action—give Audrey the strength to cross the front lines and fight not only for her country, but for the love she holds so dear.
Shining a light on a little-known piece of history, The Flight Girls is a sweeping portrayal of women’s fearlessness, love, and the power of friendship to make us soar.
The surf swirled and frothed around my ankles as the sweet Hawaiian trade winds whispered through palm trees, carrying the scent of coconut oil across the sand to where I stood staring at the skyline.
I glanced over my shoulder to the three women sitting on a large blanket whisked from someone’s bed this morning as we hurried out the door, hoping to arrive at Sunset Beach early enough to find a parking spot. The impending winter waves were bringing more and more surfers out, crowding my favorite beach and making it impossible to have a moment of solitude. As we’d feared, the lot was near capacity with army jeeps, woodie station wagons and Ford Coupes teeming with boards in every color and other assorted beach gear.
“Yes?” I shouted back.
Ruby, Catherine and Jean lay in different levels of repose, their skin gleaming in the late morning sun.
“You planning on standing there all day?” Ruby asked, adjusting the top of the new fire-engine red two-piece bathing suit Catherine had accused her of purchasing a size too small, the top straining to cover her bosom.
“Well then, move this way a tick. I could use a little shade.”
“Her wisp of a shadow ain’t gonna help you much,” Jean said, pulling off a wide-brim straw hat and fanning her face while fluffing the thick blond curls matted to her scalp with her other hand.
Catherine, resplendent in a white halter-style suit with a ruffle at the hem, flipped from her front to her back and sat up. “I’ve an entire lake between my breasts,” she said, making two men strolling by take pause. She bestowed a coquettish grin on them and ran a manicured hand up and down one long leg. The kitten, always grooming, fussing, touching.
As I turned back to the water, I paused, my gaze hesitating on a man lying on his side thirty yards away. He looked up from his book and our eyes met.
I sucked in a breath and turned away. For reasons I couldn’t ascertain, the commanding officer of airmen recruits at Wheeler Army Airfield, and my boss’s superior, unsettled me. Not in a fearful way. No, it was something else. Something quieter. Compelling. A fluttering that had nestled low in my belly the first morning we’d met on the tarmac four months ago and wouldn’t settle. Try as I might, thoughts of him permeated my mind even when I wasn’t training new pilots with him right under my nose. That he was often where we were on our days off didn’t help.
The roar of the waves drowned out the sound of my heartbeat as they swelled, crashed and lapped onto the shore around me, calming my nerves and bringing me back to my reason for standing there.
Per the calendar tacked to the wall outside the break room of the training hangar, I’d seen that a couple planes were scheduled to be parked at Haleiwa airstrip fifteen minutes south of where we were and, knowing their route would take them up through the middle of the island before looping around and down, I wanted a front-row seat as they flew past.
“What time is it?” I called over my shoulder.
“Eleven thirty-six,” Jean said. “Maybe they ain’t coming after all.”
I peered north, listening for the sound of an incoming motor, but nothing could be heard over the chatter of beachgoers, the thud of a ball being hit in a game of volleyball nearby and Jimmy Dorsey’s “Green Eyes” playing on the radio of a car.
I sighed and raised a hand to shield my eyes from the sun, scanning the horizon to the north. Something bumped my leg and I glanced down at a vacant white-and-blue surfboard.
“Sorry about that, cutie,” a male voice said, pulling the board out of the water with ease and tucking it under his arm.
“It’s fine,” I murmured, waving my hand as though shooing a fly.
“What’s so interesting out there that’s got a sweet thing like you so fascinated?” he asked, moving in, his arm brushing mine. I straightened all of my five feet six inches, crossed my arms over my chest and took a step away before looking up at Mr. All-American. His blond hair still had the tracks from the comb he’d pushed through it, and his well-built chest puffed with self-importance. His audacity to both crowd and touch me without approval attested he was everything I couldn’t stand about the male species. Most of them anyway.
My eyes flicked to the lieutenant and saw he was on his feet, the book in his hand forgotten as he peered at the Adonis beside me.
I looked back up at the blond and he winked and grinned. The sun glinted off his teeth as he unabashedly took in everything from my wet hair to my modest navy one-piece. I blanched and took another step back.
“You bothering my friend, Eddie?”
Ruby stood behind us, hands on her hips, the sun lighting up her auburn hair like fire.
“Well, Miss Ruby Carmichael.” He turned his gleaming smile on my roommate. “How are you this fine afternoon? You still spending time with that man Travis?”
Ruby giggled and I sighed. She had the worst taste in men.
They were always oversize in ego and undersized in brain. “Oh, that was ages ago,” she said. “I can’t believe you even remember.”
“How can I forget when the sweetest gal I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting is seeing someone who isn’t me?” he asked, his eyes glued to her chest. “But no more, you say?”
“No more,” she said in a breathy voice.
“Well then, can I interest you in a walk on the beach?”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Had I been interested, I’d have been offended at how I’d been not only ignored, but completely forgotten. As it was, I was relieved.
I looked over at the lieutenant, who held my gaze for a moment before giving me a small smile and shaking his head. He tossed his book onto his towel, waded into the water and dove out of sight. He surfaced several feet away and began swimming, his strong, measured strokes pushing him out to sea.
“Was Eddie giving you a hard time?”
I jumped as Jean materialized beside me. She stared down the beach, narrowing her brown eyes behind the peach-framed sunglasses that sat perched on the end of her upturned nose.
“I think he was going to try, but then he got distracted,” I said.
“That Eddie is doll dizzy,” came another voice. I turned to see Jean’s friend Claire, a nurse we’d met our second day on the island, when Ruby thought she’d broken her wrist. Her eyes followed Ruby and Eddie, her pale lips pursed in disapproval, her frumpy pink sundress damp with perspiration.
“Ruby can handle him,” Jean said. “She goes through men like Catherine does false lashes. She dumped poor Travis yesterday after only seeing him for two weeks.”
“If that,” I said.
“Sounds like a match made in heaven then,” Claire said. “Well,” Jean said, nudging me with her elbow, “you may have lost out on Eddie, but you sure have our dear lieutenant’s attention. He looked ready to defend your honor.”
“Oh, he did not,” I said, shaking my head. “Mmm-hmm.” She grinned and Claire nodded. “Couldn’t take his eyes off you,” she said.
“I’m sure he was just concerned for the safety of one of his employees.”
“Right.” Jean smirked. “I’m sure that was it. Doesn’t explain all the other times we’ve caught him staring at you though.”
The two women tittered as I turned back to the horizon once more.
“He swam that way.” Jean pointed and I pulled her hand down.
“I am not looking for the lieutenant,” I said, my voice stern. “I’m looking for those damn planes that were supposed to fly in today.”
“You girls and your planes,” Claire said. “I don’t understand it. They’re so—”
“Shh!” I waved for her to stop talking.
The sound was faint, like static, but growing quickly into a hum.
My body tingled with anticipation. The air began to rumble with the vibration of the incoming engines and people on the beach stopped what they were doing, sitting up, the game of volleyball halting, surfers sitting on their boards, all eyes rising to the sky.
I grabbed Jean’s hand as two Curtiss P-40 Warhawks roared toward us, the noses of their fuselages painted like shark faces, their wicked white teeth flashing as they flew past.
“Woo!” Jean shouted, waving at them. “Gorgeous,” I whispered.
“Too loud!” Claire yelled, her hands over her ears as she cowered behind us. “Golly, you gals are nuts for flying those things. How can you stand the noise?”
I glanced at Jean who feigned confusion. “Noise?” she said. “What noise?”
“My ears are gonna be ringing for the rest of the day,” Claire said.
Jean put an arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Come on. Let’s go for a swim. Audrey? You coming?”
I searched the sky for a moment more, but the water beckoned, bumping up against my shins like a small, insistent child wanting to play. With a last look north for more planes, I eased in up to my waist and pushed off the soft ocean floor, taking long, lazy strokes parallel to the beach and keeping an eye out for incoming surfers.