Orchids in the Snow
By Charlie Hudson
It's 1982 at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. Andrea Randall, wife of Colonel Larry Randall, a B-52 pilot, has spent twenty-three years dutifully serving as helpmate and mother, moving from base to base, coping with Larry's combat tour in Vietnam, contributing her time to the activities of the Officers' Wives Club, and raising their two children.
Andrea is alone because Larry has taken a one-year, unaccompanied tour to Turkey. The Randall's son, Brian, is now a B-52 Bomber pilot like his father and their daughter, Tricia, is a sophomore in college. Andrea has an established circle of friends, community activities to keep her busy, and is near Tricia. She resents Larry's decision to go to Turkey, but accepts it as necessary for his career and presumes the year will pass uneventfully. Then she meets Sam.
Sam -- Samantha Dearden -- is a Department of the Air Force civilian employee who arrives from Washington, D.C., where she worked in the Pentagon. She is ten years younger than Andrea, divorced, a single mother, openly snubs conventional behavior with her nonchalant promiscuity, and is altogether an unlikely companion. Yet Sam's cavalier attitude is combined with perceptive warmth, and she recognizes a need in Andrea to perhaps move beyond the narrow part she has played in life.
Sam introduces Andrea to a "Cheers-like" group of younger Air Force officers who routinely meet at the Officers' Club for drinks, dinner and conversation. Big Mac, Hank, Ginny, and Paula are single and part of a changing Air Force; the new generation, untried in combat, more open in their views of sex, love, and marriage. Andrea is simultaneously interested and puzzled by their attitudes and is aware that for the first time in her adult life she is not consumed by traditional family obligations. The group doesn't treat her as "the Colonel's wife", and during the months that pass, Andrea opens up and enters a time of personal growth.
There are moments, however, when Andrea withdraws, uncomfortable with Sam's disregard for public opinion and advice like, "you get drunk, you get laid, and you get over it," when Paula's romantic hopes are unfulfilled. Andrea is torn between her affection for Sam and the opinions of those who disapprove of her lifestyle.
Yet, even as Andrea begins to expand her concept of moral acceptability, she discovers her husband, Larry, disapproves of her new friends, and there are indications he may be having an affair with a female Captain in Turkey. Her marriage and the security she has known is threatened, a possibility she had previously considered remote. Could it be her life has been built on a false foundation that is crumbling? The more she sees around her, the less certain she is about her own life, about the clash between surface appearances and the truth beneath social niceties.
Andrea's doubts about Larry are fueled by a series of disturbing coincidences and her struggle with her unforeseen trauma is further complicated when Sam becomes involved in an explosive situation that could have serious personal consequences. The subsequent emotional turmoil surrounding these events forces Andrea to re-examine the views she had always accepted as unshakable truths. It is this examination that causes Andrea to better understand how she truly feels about herself and those close to her.
Copyright © 2001-2018, Charlie Hudson. All rights reserved.