by Lucinda Lynx
Connie and Jacob go to Hotel Seawind. They happen to meet Susan, who knows Connie.
|Monday, January 8th, in 2001 |
US, somewhere in CA, city of Alquitran, Hotel Seawind
A draft of air blew against my face. The sliding doors opened, and Jacob and I found ourselves stuck at the end of a long line.
“Look at this crowd, Connie! This can't be true!” Jacob said.
"In my eyes, this looks real," I replied.
"And I thought all along that all we had to do was walk in and walk across the lobby to the counter. Now it looks like half of California has gathered at Hotel Seawind."
"You and Jacob have rooms reserved in Hotel Seawind." I still remembered the exact words our boss had told us after lunch the previous day. And now this! Would the hotel run out of rooms before we'd get to the desk? If that happened, we should find another hotel and pay for the rooms ourselves. I knew some hotels in Alquitran, but some of them were too far we could've walked there.
While waiting for our turn to check in, I admired the light gray granite walls that rose ten feet high. The mustard-colored ceiling created a pleasant contrast with them. The gigantic glass windows near the door revealed the winter view outside. I patted my forehead with a handkerchief as we walked to the desk. My thick winter coat made me sweat.
"I hope I don't stink," I told Jacob in a low voice.
"I smell nothing but your perfume," Jacob said. He was over forty, but less than fifty years old, over five feet tall man with fair skin, dark brown, short hair, and brown eyes. His lips were thinner than my own, but if Jacob had been a woman, putting lipstick on his lips wouldn't have been difficult.
The line moved forward. When there were only two passengers before us, I saw a glimpse of the woman behind the counter. I gasped in surprise. She had red, wavy, shoulder-length hair and a golden pin attached to her red blouse. She looked familiar. I thought my eyes played tricks on me. That couldn't be Susan.
“What’s wrong?” Jacob asked me.
“I swear I know that woman.”
When it was our turn to check into the hotel and no one blocked my view, I saw my eyes hadn’t played tricks on me.
“Hello, Susan,” I said and tried to smile, and sound delighted, even if her presence confused me a bit. I hadn’t expected to meet her. Not now. Not here.
Susan looked at me. “Hi, Connie! Welcome to Hotel Seawind,” she said. “What a pleasant surprise to see you here.”
I smiled. “Thank you. So, this is where you work.” My throat felt tight.
She nodded. “This is the place.”
Jacob lifted his eyebrows. “Do you know each other?"
“Oh, Susan is a family friend,” I told him and turned my attention back to her. “We should have a reservation here. It should say Catkin Ltd.”
Susan typed something on the computer. “Yes, here is a reservation for two.”
I sighed, relieved. At least they hadn't lost our reservation.
Susan pushed two identical forms across the desk. “Please, fill these out. I'm sorry I must bother you with the paperwork, but we can't compromise this formality with any guest, not even if one of us knows one or more of them.”
We filled the forms.
“Thank you,” Susan said as Jacob and I gave the forms back. “Here are your keys. Your rooms are on the fourth floor. I hope you enjoy your time here.”
“Thank you. We will,” I said.
Jacob and I dragged our suitcases across the lobby to the elevator and pressed the button.
“You’re wearing that Merged Hearts–perfume again. I've noticed it every day at work, but feared to say anything,” he said as we rode in the elevator.
“It reminds me of you,” I said. “Your aftershave has lavender, so I thought I’ll buy something similar.”
“Aren’t you worried your husband will notice?” Jacob asked.
“I don’t think he’ll notice or doubt anything concerning my perfume choices, but he may notice all three of us share the same surname.”
The bell chimed. The doors opened, and we stepped out with our luggage. I looked at the numbers etched on doors and compared them to the key card Susan had given me. “421. This seems to be my room,” I said. “They gave me a corner room.”
Jacob looked at the small envelope Susan had given him and compared it to the numbers. “425,” he muttered and walked along the corridor. His room was four doors right from mine. I was one step closer to my presentation.
§ § §
I closed the door of my room behind me and hung my coat on the coat rack. My mobile phone beeped when a text message arrived. I opened my phone and saw who the message was from. It was from Jacob.
“My stomach growls like a wolf that has caught nothing the whole morning. I want to eat something,” Jacob texted.
I hadn't even had time to wash my armpits, let alone unpack my suitcase.
I decided that Jacob would have to wait a little longer. First things first. I had to beautify myself and make myself look presentable.
Ten minutes later, I texted him back.
“Good idea. I’m hungry too. I ate in the morning at home, but after that I have eaten nothing. I tidy up a bit, and then we can go downstairs and eat some good dinner."
I met Jacob at the elevators.
"What kind of food is there?" Jacob asked after pressing the call button for the elevator.
"I don't know, but I've heard that this hotel has excellent fish dishes, since the sea is so close," I said.
The bell of the elevator chimed, and the doors opened. We stepped in and I pushed the L – button. The dining room of the hotel was on the right side, around the corner of the lobby. The water feature’s tinkling calmed me down. I was sure tomorrow would go fine. After that, I’d reward myself with a swim. Today a mere shower would do. Then I’d slip between the clean sheets and enjoy the deep sleep all night to the morning. The hardest part of the trip was yet ahead.
"I saw another woman behind the desk," Jacob told me after we had ordered the appetizer drinks. "It's not Susan anymore."
I sighed, relieved. "Good. As much friend as she is, her mere presence has made me sweat more or less since our arrival."
"Tomorrow goes fine. I promise. No one could've prepared for that presentation better than you. I'm in the audience, but Susan isn't."
Soon, Jacob and I sat at the corner table and read the menu.
"I think I take some fish course," I said.
"Fish is good," Jacob said. "I don't think I can refuse tasting the local fish dish, since you said earlier that they know how to make good fish dishes here."
"I'll have charred whitefish," I decided. "Charred whitefish and some white wine."
"I'll have the same," Jacob said.
The server came to us, and Jacob told her the order. She wrote it down, nodded her thanks for us and disappeared to take the order in the kitchen.
"So far, this business trip has gone well," I told him. "I was nervous about if we fit in, but now we can relax. We have a place where to sleep next night, and my presentation is one step closer."
"Yes," he replied. "But I wonder why seeing Susan made you so nervous. We both know this is a business trip, and yet you looked guilty, as if Susan had caught you red-handed doing something illegal."
"It's not that," I said. "I didn't tell you everything at the desk."
"What do you mean?"
"Susan is the relative of my husband."
The server brought the white wine. I nodded her my thanks.
"Your food will come soon," she said.
We smiled, and she disappeared back to the kitchen.
As soon as the server was out of ear range, I spoke again.
"I don't know exactly how close relative Susan is to my husband, but she is. Her maiden name is Eastmond, but she isn't my sister-in-law."
I was glad Jacob hadn't had time to taste his wine glass yet, because he would have spit it out for sure.
"So she's Eastmond too. Then all four of us share the same surname, one way or the other," he said.
"Yes, but in official records Susan is Hamlett now," I told him. "She and her husband live here in Alquitran."
After eating a delicious meal, we took the elevator to the fourth floor. As soon as the elevator doors glided close, Jacob pressed the button and hugged me. I hugged him back. So muscular and masculine! How would he look wearing mere swimming trunks? The bell of the elevator shook me back to reality.
"Until tomorrow," I told him.
"Until tomorrow. Good night and sweet dreams," he said.
§ § § END OF CHAPTER 1 § § §