I had been asking for something new and exciting and here it was.
|That something was a young, blonde man, and he was very much able to see the hotel and my stunned face when he stumbled into the lobby. It took me a moment to register that someone had walked in, on purpose, and was greeting me. He appeared to be alive, yet completely unaware that he was in a building full of people who were not. It was raining fiercely outside, and the thunder provided an almost calming rumble outside like ocean waves.
“Excuse me, ma’am, I know it’s late and all but do you happen to have any vacancies? It’s coming down in buckets out there and…well, you got any rooms?” The mystery man, clearly with blood still pumping in veins, asked.
“Actually, you’re in luck. We do have a room available, though I would need to know how long you plan on staying first,” I said, trying to keep my tone even and smile as natural as possible.
“Oh sure, of course. I just plan on being here tonight. You know, storm seems pretty bad and I don’t wanna risk getting stuck or something.”
He seemed as casual and cool as he would if he were in the lobby of a chain hotel. He really seemed oblivious to the fact that he was some kind of psychic and that he could see things most people couldn’t.
“Sir, I don’t mean for this question to sound…odd, but I must ask. How did you know we were open tonight?” I pasted on my fake smile again.
He looked confused for a moment before responding, “The sign, ma’am. It was lit up and I could see a person at the desk through the window. Thought I would try my luck.”
“You can see the sign? And me? You could see me through the window?” I blurted out in the most unprofessional way possible. I think every inch of my face turned pink with embarrassment.
“Well I do have eyes,” he chuckled, “and the sign wasn’t exactly hidden. I mean, it’s not the biggest one around here but it’s not tiny either. Is everything ok, ma’am?”
“Of course,” I replied, “and it’s Tatiana. You can call me Tatiana. Ma’am is a bit old for me.”
That got him to laugh a bit and I felt myself relax. Even though my mind was going on overdrive trying to process everything, I certainly didn’t want to turn away a paying customer. Besides, I had been asking for something new and exciting and here it was, standing in a puddle of rain water in front of my desk.
“Tatiana it is then! You do look a little young to be ma’am to anyone, but my momma raised me to use my manners. Now, Tatiana, why don’t you tell me why it is you looked like you’d just seen a ghost when I walked in here?” He chuckled again, and I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the question.
“Well, we don’t usually see new faces here. I’m sorry if I seemed frightened or put off, I just wasn’t expecting to get any check-ins tonight. Especially not with that rain. Most people end up at the higher-end franchise hotels I guess.”
“Truthfully, I’ve been wanting to come in here for a while, but I just never had a reason.”
The look on his face was one of pure curiosity, and the fact that he had seen the hotel more than once made my head spin all over again. I didn’t know there were psychic people who were so unaware of their abilities.
“Well, lucky for you the heavens opened up and decided to make this night your perfect excuse for stopping in. Can I get your name? I’m afraid we’re a bit old-fashioned here and don’t use a computer system to keep track of our guests so check-in can take a bit longer depending on a few factors.”
“Leo Ivanov. And uh, really? No computers? You use one of those guest books and stuff then?”
Ivanov? That’s Russian. It’s been so long since I heard a familiar name, and now here he is, perfectly unaware that he’s in a hotel of dead people.
“I certainly do use a guest book, Mr. Ivanov. Is that a Russian name?” I tried to sound casual as I opened up the guest book and began to write out his information and the date.
“Oh please call me Leo. It is Russian but I can’t say I know much more than that. Never been to Russia, can’t speak the language, and I was raised in the South. Still, my dad always wanted me to take some interest in the culture. You Russian too? You’ve got the look.”
He laughed a bit before answering, “You know. The look. Tall, white as snow, dark hair. A face that says you’re having fun but could probably take on any man in a fight.”
It was my turn to laugh. If only I’d been so lucky as to take on anyone in a fight, I might not be here at this hotel.
“I don’t know about that last part, Leo, but yes. I’m Russian too. Born and raised.”
“That why you’ve got a Tchaikovsky record playing in here?”
“A man of taste. I’m surprised to hear you recognize his work considering I’m not playing the music from The Nutcracker or something,” I laughed a bit as he rolled his eyes, “but I will say I’m impressed. It’s been a long time since I found a fellow Tchaikovsky connoisseur. Now I’ll need your address, and telephone number please.”
He gave me his information, which for personal reasons I will obviously omit. We talked a bit more about the record I was playing and he commented on my matryoshka dolls. I always keep a set on the desk with me to remind me of home. Despite the odd circumstances, and almost unbelievable fact that this man seemed to think he was standing in a normal hotel lobby, I felt at ease. I handed him his key, a room on the 2nd floor next to one of our most quiet, reclusive guests. I told him about Sallie’s delicious breakfasts and the Southern boy in him got quite passionate at the prospect of some homemade biscuits in the morning so he bid me goodnight on the promise that we would talk more about music the next day and enjoy some good food.
After he was fully out of my line of vision and I heard his footsteps fade, I realized just how much I had missed my home. My real home. I missed Mama and Papa, and the bitingly cold winters of Russia. I missed having a family and being seen. I was always a bit shy, but when most of the world can quite literally look through you and not hear you when you scream as loudly as you can, the desire for attention creeps in until it carves out a hollow space in your heart that never really gets filled.
I decided to close up early that night. I turned off the sign, locked the front door, and went up to my room. I could faintly hear Cecil humming as I came up the stairs. Once I reached my room, I ran a bath to try and soothe my nerves. The thunder outside no longer sounded like ocean waves. It sounded ominous and threatening, and it reminded me of my last moments with my family. Each crack in the sky was a gunshot that pushed me farther away from home and closer to this hotel. The lightning illuminated every pale, unchanged inch of my body and I couldn’t do anything but cry. I cried for the girl I was. I cried for the girl I am now. I cried for everyone in this hotel who would look the same way in thirty years as they did today. I cried and I wished, for the first time in a long time, to truly know death. To truly know peace.