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. Jacob and I found ourselves stuck at the end of a long line.
“Look at this crowd, Connie!” Jacob said. “There must be an event going on somewhere in this city.”
“Maybe it’s some local basketball match or something,” I said. “They’re very popular here."
One long line of people stood waiting for their turn to enter the hotel. Another long line was waiting to get out of the hotel.
“I thought all we should do was walk to the counter. Now it looks like half of California has gathered here. Can basketball really interest people this much?”
“I’ve heard some fans follow their favorite team to faraway places just to see them play,” I said.
I still remembered our boss had told us after lunch the previous day, that we had a room reservation here. And now this! Would the hotel run out of rooms before we got to the counter?
The light gray granite walls of the lobby rose ten feet high. I tilted my head back to see the mustard-colored ceiling, which created a pleasant contrast with them. The lobby’s gigantic glass windows revealed the winter view outside. I patted my forehead with a handkerchief.
Jacob was two years younger than me, almost six feet tall man with fair skin, dark brown, short hair, and brown eyes. His lips were thinner than my own. The color of his hair reminded me of the bark of a stone pine.
The line moved forward. When there were only two people before us, I saw a glimpse of the woman behind the counter. She had red, wavy, shoulder-length hair and a golden pin attached to her red blouse. That couldn't be Susan. I blinked.
“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.”
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 turned and found ourselves in the end of another line. This line moved toward the elevator.
“Oh boy,” Jacob said. “First we stuck in the end of a line, when we tried to get in and to the desk. Now we’re stuck in this line which leads to the elevators. Let’s hope it isn’t this crowded tomorrow.”
“Let’s hope so,” I said. “But I’ll warn you, there may be quite a crowd, when a hotel full of hungry people gathers to the breakfast.”
“You’re wearing that Merged Hearts–perfume again,” he said.
“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 anything concerning my perfume choices.”
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. Now I needed a little beautification moment.
I hung my coat on the hanger, put my suitcase on the bed, and opened it. Now it was time to change clothes.
I took off the clothes I had been traveling in, dug out a plastic bag from my suitcase and packed the clothes in there. Then I packed the plastic bag back into the suitcase so I wouldn't forget it anywhere.
After taking a quick shower, I dug out my mint colored cotton blouse and white long pants from my suitcase.
I brushed my hair and tied it up in a bun. This should do for now.
I grabbed my cell phone and saw that there was a message from Jacob.
"I'm hungry. Why don't we go down and eat something?"
I smiled. I was hungry too.
"Good idea," I wrote back. "This hotel has excellent fish dishes. Let's meet at the elevators."
I slipped my cell phone into my shoulder bag, checked that my wallet and the key card I slipped there were still there, and headed for the elevators.
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 water feature’s tinkling in the corner calmed me down. The dining room was next to the elevators around the corner on the right and bathed in the sun. We could thank the architect for that. He had placed two rows of small windows in the middle of the dining room on either side of the ridge. On top of that, there seemed to be another hotel above the dining room, or at least another wing of the hotel, a kind of courtyard wing. I didn't know how to get to the rooms in the courtyard. Maybe their residents used their own elevator, which was somewhere else in the hotel.
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 stepped into the dining room and chosen our table. "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’ll have fish," 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 tasty fish dishes here."
"I'll have charred whitefish," I decided. "Charred whitefish with some white wine."
"I'll have the same," Jacob said.
The server came. Jacob gave 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 my thanks.
"Your food will come soon," she said.
We smiled, and she disappeared back into 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 § § §