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There’s a calm that only comes at a certain time of night. It’s after the check-in rush, and before the lounge and bar area get really busy. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s not exactly peaceful--nothing around here is ever peaceful. But it’s as close as this place ever comes. It’s during this time one evening that I see her for the first time. I’m heading back to the lobby after delivering some towels, and she’s suddenly just...there. Well, that’s not exactly true. I didn’t trip over her or run into her like you see in movies, but I might as well have. As soon as I see her, I can’t take my eyes off of her.
She’s walking along the edge of the pool. The first thing I notice about her is how devastatingly beautiful she is. She’s flawless. Her hair is dark and tucked up into some sort of elaborate bun, but I can tell it’s long. Her feet are bare, her sandals dangle from her little finger, and she’s staring out across the calm water of the empty pool.
The second thing I notice about her is the aura of absolute and unmistakable sadness that seems to surround her. Even from a distance, it’s almost palpable.
I move a little closer, pulling a towel out of my back pocket and pretending to wipe down one of the glass-topped tables that sit scattered across the poolside deck, but I’m watching her the entire time.
She reaches the steps near the shallow end, and lifting her long dress in one hand, she points her toes and drags one foot across the water, disturbing its still surface and sending little ripples across to the other side.
For a moment, I think she’ll step down, maybe wade in the shallow end for a bit like some guests like to do. Maybe she feels my gaze, because a moment later her eyes find mine, and I’m caught red handed, staring at her. My face feels hot, and I think she’ll probably give me an annoyed look before stalking off in disgust, but she doesn’t. The smallest of smiles plays at the corners of her mouth, and she lifts her empty hand, slowly, hesitantly, and gives me a little half wave. I grin back at her and wonder if I should approach her. But before either of us have time to think about it any more, there’s a shout from across the courtyard.
It’s a man’s voice, and a word I don’t understand, but her head snaps up immediately, and she takes a step back from the water’s edge. It’s another moment before I see him, but when he emerges from between two potted palms, he’s barreling toward her. He stops just short of her, and he’s huge. She’s suddenly tiny in comparison to his hulking form.
His words are foreign, but I don’t need a translator to understand they’re harsh, unkind, loud. She drops her eyes back down to the water and doesn’t raise them again.
He reaches down and takes her by the arm, I move to stop him, but freeze at the last minute. What would I say? Would I even be understood? It’s not my place to rescue this beautiful stranger. But I want to. I want to step in more than I’ve ever wanted anything else in my life. I’m stuck in an internal tug-of-war, and then they’re gone. He’s pulling her behind him, and I lose sight of them as they disappear into the elevator.
I head back to the front desk, but I can’t stop thinking about her. I wish I knew what room she was in so I could look up how long they’re staying or find out more about her--anything. But I don’t. I have no information. I find excuses to loiter around the pool area as much as possible, hoping she’ll wander back down and wade in the pool again. I’m ready to give up, and my shift’s almost over. The elevator dings softly, and suddenly she’s there standing in front of me. Her hair’s down now, and I was right. It’s long and wavy.
I open my mouth to speak, not completely sure what to say. But before I can get out even a syllable, she’s there. Her lips find mine, and I gasp a little in surprise. But I don’t fight it, not even a little. My hands find their way into her hair, and I’m kissing her back, her lips soft beneath mine.
The kiss seems to last forever, and only a second all at the same time. When it’s over, I’m left breathless and slightly dizzy. She steps back and looks at me. Her dark eyes are mischievous, and for a moment, the sadness she seems shrouded in is all but gone. She licks her lips as if she’s still trying to taste me. I groan and want to reach for her and pull her close to me again.
But then she’s gone. I swear to you, before I can get my feet under me, or even blink, she’s gone. It’s as if she was never even there, and I’m left wondering if I imagined the entire thing. I’m still not entirely sure as I head home.
Morning comes early, and the sun is blinding as it bounces off the huge plate glass windows that cover the front of the hotel. But despite the early hour, I’m up cheerful. I’m a man with a plan. I’m determined to find out more about her today. What’s her story? Why is she so sad, and who is the caveman who practically threw her over his shoulder last night? Why did she kiss me? I’m determined to find out as much as I can.
I’m almost to the front desk before I notice anything odd. But then I see them. Guys in uniforms milling around looking official and busy.
They’re quiet, discreet, but there’s interviews to be conducted, and statements to be made. A body. Found early this morning by one of the landscapers. A jumper? An accident? It’s too early to tell.
I shudder and shake my head as I take out my morning paperwork. Sad.
It’s not very much later when I hear them coming. The utilitarian wheels squeak loudly on the expensive marble. The plain stretcher seems so out of place amongst the opulence of the richly appointed lobby. Next to me, my boss curses quietly and mutters about having asked them to use the back exit. She hurries out from behind the desk to intervene. A short, quiet, but intense argument follows.
I try to busy myself with my paperwork. I don’t want to get in the way. One of the uniformed men tries to push past my boss. It happens quickly. I look up just as the white sheet that covers the body slips, and suddenly my head swims.
It’s her. I just catch the smallest glimpses of her face, but the movement of the gurney causes some of her long hair to spill over the side, and I’m sure it’s her.
I clench the counter, trying desperately to keep myself upright, and I know I’m going to be sick.
I flee to the bathroom, which isn’t hard to do since everyone else is still engaged in their heated debate. I lock myself in a stall and put my head between my knees.
I think back to the night before, to the man she’d argued with, to the stolen kiss we’d shared. What happened? How long after I left her did this happen? Was there something I could have done? I have no answers. I had a plan, but I’m too late. She’s gone from my life before she was ever really in it.
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RL Ames spends her time chasing after her almost four year old son and sneaks in time for writing whenever she can. She can be found at rlames.weebly.com