By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt:You check into your hotel and a stranger is already in your room. What happens?
Cynthia Kensington pulled her small Louis Vuitton suitcase behind her as she approached the check-in desk. After a long day of travel, delayed flights, and a testy discussion with a gate agent about getting bumped up to first class on the last leg, Cynthia wanted nothing more than to soak in a large tub and order room service. She reached with her left hand into the oversized Chanel bag hanging from her left shoulder and tried to fish out her wallet; her hand couldn’t get deep enough into the bag for her wallet and she huffed in frustration.
As she walked up to the desk, the clerk made a note on something and handed it to another clerk just coming behind the tall half wall.
“Cynthia Kensington, checking in,” Cynthia declared to both.
“Ms. Kensington, how are you this evening?” the clerk named Paul asked.
“Fine, thank you. I’d like my room, please.”
“Well, unfortunately I won’t be able to assist you, but I am leaving you in the capable hands of my colleague here,” Paul said, handing the woman next to him a sheet of paper. “Colleen will take good care of you.”
“I couldn’t get into the computer for this last check-in,” Paul said to Colleen in a less formal voice. “Just take care of this guest and then get this one into the system.”
Much to Cynthia’s dismay, Colleen nodded and then turned in her direction with a huge smile. Cynthia suppressed a sigh and proceeded to give Colleen her information. Fortunately Colleen seemed capable enough, and within minutes Colleen held a pair of key cards and found herself in the elevator on the way to the nineteenth floor.
Finally, she thought. I don’t care what people say about Prada’s clothes, a bathrobe trumps any outfit any day.
The elevator offered a quiet ding when it reached her floor, and Cynthia made her way to the main part of the floor. She took a moment to consider the signs instructing guests on the locations of suites and took off to her left. After several moments of turning first one way and then another down the winding hallway, she found the door to her suite and used her card to enter.
She walked in, the Louis Vuitton bumping across the door frame, and she stopped at the long table to her left. She dropped her bag on the table and exuded a long audible sigh.
“Can I help you?”
Cynthia jumped, and her heart fluttered. She craned her neck, trying to find the source of the voice. “Hello?”
She hated how tentative her voice sounded but knew she didn’t have any control over it.
A man came around the half wall blocking her vision holding a travel kit. “You’re obviously not housekeeping. Can I help you?”
Cynthia blinked once or twice. “Um…this is my room.”
He frowned. “I don’t think so. This room is mine.”
She bristled. “Yes, it is. I just checked in less than fifteen minutes ago. See? Room nineteen twenty-five.”
Holding out the billfold with her room keys in it, she crossed her arms in satisfaction as the man shook his head.
“I don’t believe this,” he said. He handed her the billfold and went to the phone. Snatching the handset, he punched the numbers for the front desk. Cynthia couldn’t help tapping her foot as he explained the situation to whoever answered the phone.
“You can’t be serious,” the man said. He glanced at Cynthia and rolled his eyes. “Completely full? How is that possible…no, I didn’t know there were that many conventions in town…but my company paid for this room. Is it possible to speak to a manager…an hour, huh? All right, well, yes, please ask him to call me as soon as he gets in…thank you.”
He hung up and put his hands on his hips. “The manager is coming on for his shift in about an hour, so I’ll talk to him and try to straighten this out.”
Cynthia heaved a huge sigh. “Are they really booked up?”
As he nodded, the man gestured to the bed and took the chair at the desk. “Apparently the clerk at the front desk screwed up with the way he put stuff into the computer and all the other rooms are either taken or spoken for. So, ta da—we’re now stuck for at least an hour. Possibly longer.”
She knew she should feel something, but after the day she’d had Cynthia couldn’t muster up the energy to feel much of anything other than exhaustion. She went to the bed and sank into its luxurious mattress, resisting with every ounce of herself the urge to lie down and succumb to the soft bedding.
“Long day?” the man asked with a wry smile.
Cynthia nodded. “I almost missed my last flight, and I’ve been up since before five this morning. I’m Cynthia Kensington, by the way.”
She held out a hand, and the man grabbed it. “Randall Price.”
As they shook Cynthia shivered; this man’s touch felt familiar, but in a distant sort of way. Like something connected them, but indirectly. He began to pull away, and after a moment Cynthia realized he had tugged his hand from hers.
“Well, I didn’t realize I’d have that effect on a beautiful woman who barged into my hotel room,” Randall joked. His green eyes twinkled, but when the dimple appeared in his left cheek Cynthia gasped.
“You’re Randall Price?” she asked.
Randall’s amusement deepened. “So far, yes.”
“You dated my best friend, Ariana, in high school.”
Randall’s amusement disappeared, and his brow furrowed. “Ariana? I haven’t thought of her in ages. How is she?”
Pain stabbed Cynthia’s heart, and she shook her head. Her best efforts at controlling herself failed; tears pricked her eyes.
“Ariana isn’t…she…last month…”
The blood drained from Randall’s face as he slumped in his chair. “What happened?”
“She said she…she’d only been loved by one boy in her entire life, and her husband was definitely not that boy. He…he treated her badly, and one day she finally…she couldn’t take it, and she…she just…”
Randall’s breathing got shallow, and he blinked several times as a sob forced its way out of Cynthia’s throat.