My Night on the 15th Floor, continued (January 2019, Round 2, Day 7
“Thank you. I hope your next passenger is awesome.” Dani pulled her bag out of the car behind her and slammed the door. She’d given him an address about a block away from the hotel she was actually headed to, just in case, so she waited until he’d driven away to turn in the opposite direction. She put her earbuds in with one hand and dragged the roller bag with the other. Dani knew how to blend in.
The hotel she was headed for was ornate, opulent, and grander than she was used to. She took note of the little extras that sent off the loud-yet-subtle signs that this space was for With people. With people were those with means, with things, with privilege – she and her sister had coined that phrase back when they were in high school living lives seriously lacking With. Dani’s lips curled with satisfaction as she nodded to the doorman and crossed the threshold.
The room was almost too full of With to be handled. There was a grand piano off to the side being played expertly by a pointy man in a tuxedo. There were bowtied waiters walking around in soft-soled shoes offering tiny food items to overdressed men and women lounging in overstuffed chairs. There was the expected team of workers behind the counter who all seemed to be related their look was so similar, and additional uniformed men standing at attention just to the side of the desk waiting to assist guests with luggage. One of these men broke ranks and rushed over to Dani, clearly mortified that she’d gotten as far into the building managing her belongings on her own.
“Miss, I can take that for you.”
Dani lifted her chin as she let go of the bag. “Thank you. Your name?”
“Maxwell, Miss.” He almost bowed. “At your service.”
“Thank you, Maxwell.” Dani touched his arm before turning away to approach the counter. She had practiced these steps often, though this was the poshest place she’d needed to use them
Scanning the staff, Dani chose to avoid the women. The only man behind the counter wasn’t much older than Dani, and that served her purpose just fine. “Good afternoon, Miss, and welcome.” His voice was deeper than she’d expected.
“Good afternoon and thank you. I need to get checked in and shown to my room so I can get out of these clothes.” She paused, letting the impact of her words ripple over both the man behind the counter and Maxwell behind her before reaching into her purse. “You’ll find all my information here.”
The man shook his head a bit and reached for her ID and credit card. Dani had kept her hand on the cards and, as the man’s hand brushed hers, smiled at the flush that crept up past his collar.
“Oh.” He’d looked down at her identification. “Oh. Yes, Miss-” He flushed further. “Yes. You’ll be staying on the fifteenth floor, of course.”
Dani smiled and maintained eye contact with him as she reached up and released her hair from its knot at the top of her head. Once freed, her dark curls fell around her shoulders, the ends just brushing the edge of her v-neck top. The already flustered man fought to keep his eyes on either his screen or his papers and almost succeeded.
“If you need anything during your stay, please don’t hesitate to ask. You’ll find all the amenities within easy reach of your room.” He fumbled her key card into a little envelope and slid it across the counter, careful this time to keep his hands clear of hers. “Maxwell will escort-” his flush intensified “-you up to your room now if you’d like.”
Dani picked up the key card and handed it over to Maxwell. “I’d like that very much. Thank you.” She let the man off the hook and turned to follow Maxwell to the elevators. On their way, Dani felt the eyes of the women in the room on her and turned to give them a quick “I see you seeing me” eyebrow-raise of acknowledgment, smiling to herself at their discomfort.
Maxwell was all business as he led her to the room, opened the door, and stood aside for her to enter. Dani watched him over her nose until he’d backed himself out of the room with another bow. “Until we meet again, Maxwell,” Dani whispered the words as she flipped the latch on the door.
Dani kicked off her shoes as she headed for the television. Background noise was always best, especially at first. She carefully unpacked her bag, stowing the various outfits and accessories in the drawers provided and adding her personal touches to the room. She’d get to enjoy the space on her own for thirty minutes, and she was going to make the most of it.
The knock at the door was everything she’d expected. Timid, cautious, hesitant. Dani adjusted the towel she had wrapped around her after her bath and shook out her hair before opening the door.
Dani gave a little curtsey. “I am, indeed, Crystal. And so are you.” She stepped back, leaving room for the woman to enter. “I hope you’re planning on crossing the threshold.”
The woman swallowed visibly as she entered the room. Dani wondered if the woman had set out to find someone as different from her as possible both in look and personality. Crystal was tall and gangly with white blond hair that fell stick straight from the roots to just below her ears. She was dressed in a tweed suit, well tailored, and a pair of pumps so closely matched it looked like they may have come as a set. She had heavy jewelry – all gold – on her ears, neck, wrists, and fingers. The handbag she carried was of smooth leather with what Dani could only believe were real diamonds worked into the embelishments on the front and sides. This woman had enough With to fit in quite nicely with the women in the lobby downstairs. She’d probably chosen this hotel because it, with all its pomp and circumstance, made her feel comfortable. Crystal could do what she wanted with her money and, if she wanted Dani because of their differences so be it. It wouldn’t have been the oddest thing Dani had seen, and she wasn’t in the judgment business. Dani thought about what her sister would say if she were here, seeing Dani in a position of power over all this With.
“Have a seat wherever you’re comfortable. I just need to get dressed.”
The woman stood, frozen, working to decide between sitting on the bed or on the chair. Dani watched her from behind as she let the towel drop to her feet. “Crystal, neither option should hurt.”
Crystal jumped and headed towards the bed but froze when she saw that Dani was naked. “I- I thought-”
“I’d love to hear your thoughts after I get dressed.” Dani smiled and pointed towards the dresser. “You were standing in front of my clothes.”
Crystal crumpled down onto the bed and looked out the window as Dani dressed.
“Do you want to tell me why we’re here, Crystal?”
“Want? No, not really.”
“You don’t have to. We can let things unfold on their own.” Dani checked her outfit in the mirror. “I think it’s safe for you to turn around now, Crystal.”
Dani took pleasure in the surprise on Crystal’s face. Packing based on email interchanges was one of the challenges Dani enjoyed about her work. The conservative sweater set and knee length pencil skirt in soft grays, the delicate silver jewelry, and the calf-hugging suede boots were clearly met with equal parts approval and shock. “I clean up well enough, I hope?”
“Let’s leave the room for a bit, shall we? How about a drink in the lounge?” Dani looked at the clock as she reached for her purse. “We have time.”
Crystal let a laugh escape. “Yes, we have time.”
The two women settled into a booth in the back corner of the lounge. While Crystal furtively examined her, Dani occupied herself, taking in the room and its people and let Crystal continue whatever thoughts she was wrestling with on her own. The words would come when the woman was ready and would be more honest because of Dani’s patience. The waiter, a short man dark as night with heavy eyelids, brought their drinks over without paying any attention to the women or their silence in the well-practiced way of hotel workers.
After a few sips, Crystal spoke. “It’s been three years.”
Dani leaned back into the cushion of the booth, listening.
“It’s been three years and I’m afraid it will turn into forever. That’s why I’m here. Why I…found you.”
“Fear is a common motivator to be sure.” Dani leaned forward and reached towards Crystal stopping just short of touching her. “What do you want me to do?”
Crystal spoke to her glass instead of Dani. “I want you to do what I can’t.”
Dani let those words hang in the air between them.