She stood naked near the window, silhouetted against the dim light that came through the lace curtains. He could see that she was still naked, a cigarette in her hand. She took a puff before putting it in an ashtray on the small table in front of her.
"I'm happy that you're writing again," she said. She noticed the filled legal pads and closed laptop on his desk before she walked into his bedroom. She knew that he was going through some writer's block lately. "Have anything ready for me to read?"
"I wrote down a dream I had, about a cabin," he answered. "I wrote it out by hand. I'll type it out and send it to you in an email."
"Thank you," she whispered.
Dawn had broken an hour ago and he knew she had to return home to her family: Her husband was clueless but suspicious. This was probably going to be the last time I saw her naked in a while. She yawned and stretched, her large breasts falling perfectly. She had DD-cup breasts, inherited from her mother's side of the family. It wasn't the first thing he noticed on her in college, but it was that made him want to bed her on their first date.
"What are you looking at?" she asked when she realized he was awake. Instinctively she covered her body, placing an arm over her breasts and a hand over her bushy vagina. When they were married, she always kept it neatly shaven. Her husband doesn't find that attractive, wants her to leave it alone.
"You," he whispered sleepily. He sat up and leered in her direction.
"You're such a pig," she snapped before walking back to bed. She leaned over and kissed my lips. "I have to get going," she said.
"I know." He rolled out of bed and closed the distance between them. He kissed her on the cheek before looking out the window.
"Does it look like snow's coming to you?" She nodded.
"The step-kids will like that," she huffed. He shook his head. When they were married, she never wanted children, always placed her career over everything else. After their divorce, she purposely married an older man with children of his own. She wanted to get back at him, show him how much he hurt her. It backfired, though. She grew to love those kids as if they were her own.
He laughed. "Oh, they'll ruin your day?"
She grunted. "Not really. I was planning to shop, get a jump on Christmas." She nuzzled her body against his. "And maybe later, I was hoping to see you some more."
He kissed her on the top of the head. "I would love that, if I hadn't had plans already. I'm headed back up to Lake Elder Inn; have to see someone about a cabin in the woods."
She sighed. "Guess it's my loss then." She grabbed his semi-hard cock and stroked it. It responded to her touch. "It looks like you're ready for another round."
"Of course, Paulina, it always did. It knows how much you love sex."
She smiled devilishly. "It knows how much of a whore I can be around you, Chance."
He put his hands on her shoulder and gently persuaded her down onto her knees. "Show me how much of a whore you still are."
"Why Etienne Pettijohn," she began in mock shock. "I didn't know you liked sluts."
He shook his head and pushed her harder. "Just shut up and take my cock."
The cabin sat deep within the Adirondack Park and looked out at a small lake. Constructed using native ash and pine timbered from the surrounding forest, the structure more resembled a small Rocky Mountain or Green Mountain lodge than a summer retreat. Two stories, three bedrooms, and a living area that would relax the most stressed 1920s General Electric executive, the cabin served to bring the original owner's family together each summer.
The property had a private beach with black and gray, small-grained sand, seen more along the upper part of the Hudson River than on spring-fed lakes. Back in the halcyon days of the 1920s and 1930s, the beach would see children and young adults sitting on the sand after plunging into the cool, almost cold, water. The adults would sit on the porch and watch from the comfort of Adirondack chairs.
In the morning, people would sit on the porch and look at the lake. If they were lucky and it was still early, with the sun barely over the eastern mountain and dew was still on the ground, they could witness the cool air on their faces, the waterfowl on the lake awaking, and the lack of activity and isolation allowing them to hear the soft lapping as the water reaches the sand. With closed eyes and when they inhaled deeply, the aroma of the damp bark could bring them back to a time of innocence and awakening.
The plan was to have one road in and out, keeping nosy busybodies and unwanted guests from ruining the peaceful nature. It began off a paved county road a few miles north of Lake Luzerne Township, constructed of dirt and gravel, the entranced camouflaged behind low tree limbs and shrubs.
The family used it every summer, leaving Schenectady after the children ended classes in June, not returning to the city until late August. It was necessary: Their lives drew them apart.
Nevertheless, that was then. Hard times befell the retreat.
Once well-groomed lawns now were weed and wildflower fields. Ashes, pines, and maples intruded onto the cabin. The beach no longer could have swimmers: harsh winters and resulting melt runoff ruined it. Pine straw and decaying leaves were everywhere. Small woodland creatures found entrances into the structure and made it their winter home. The roof, once shingled with Vermont slate, now had holes large enough to give predatory birds entry into the second floor, perfect for nesting.
Without even casual use for the last 30 years, the wood began to show signs of water damage and rot. Holes appeared between the logs. The porch could no longer safely hold more than two: boards had rotted and fallen away.
He looked over the ruins and surrounding land. In his mind's eye, he could imagine a family working on the property to restore it back to its initial grandeur, cutting the fields and returning them to lawns, filling the beaches with sand from the Hudson River, replacing missing and broken shingles. It was what he did as a writer: Imagine events that could take place.
"Does anyone have plans for this land?" Etienne Pettijohn asked his guide.
"Not that I'm aware of," the woman dressed in the dark blue, goose down coat answered truthfully.
"I wonder how much the owners are asking for," he thought aloud.
She looked at him and shook her head. "I'm not sure it's for sale."
"I didn't think you'd have known."
"If you're finished, Mr. Pettijohn, can we get back to the hotel? I'm freezing."
He looked at the young woman and smiled. "Yes, let's get back there. Let's get you warmed up."
"Thank you," the short but curvaceous brown-haired woman said. She rushed to the hotel's courtesy van she used to drive him here, to the edge of the hotel's property. She quickly rushed to the vehicle, walking faster than he thought she could in her 4-inch heels. She opened the driver side door and turned on the engine. She had the heater on high before he stepped in.
"Can I ask you a question?" she asked as he sat.
Pettijohn closed the door. "Sure. What's on your mind?"
The young woman looked at the author and smiled. "Where do you come up with the ideas for your novels and short stories?"
He chuckled and smiled. "Sometimes I don't even know."
She laughed and put the vehicle in gear and headed back to the hotel.
"How was the trip to the cabin?" Ashley asked him as he walked into the lobby. Since the summer, Ashley Nicholson had changed jobs. She left the restaurant and put her education to use. She was now a day concierge; able to help the guests with everything they wanted and needed.
"It was interesting. The place, I've seen before like I said."
"The dream you had the one that brought you up here?"
He chuckled and smiled. "Is it freakier than having sex with a ghost?"
"No, I guess not." She strolled with him to the fireplace and rearranged some magazines on a coffee table that were askew as he sat. "Have you thought of her since your last visit?"
He looked into her eyes and sighed. "Yes, I have. It's affected some my work."
"How so, how's it affected it?"
Chance looked away from her, looked out the window as the snow began to fall in bigger flakes. "Whenever I start a new short story and need a female character, she's a redhead with big tits."
Both of them laughed.
"You can't shake her, can you?" Ashley asked. It was more of a statement: no one that's met the ghost can forget her.
Chance looked at her and shook his head. "I guess not."
Ashley looked to her desk and noticed it was still empty. It should be, since the hotel did not accept individual guests during the time between Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Eve, only open to small conventions or business seminars. Because of his earlier experience and subsequent short story based on it, Chance was an exception. The ownership was thrilled with his story, giving them and the staff well deserved credit for easing his fears and for allowing him to tell the story.
"What are you working on?" she asked.
"I have several projects going. You know about one, the one involving the cabin."
"How did you know about that piece of property?" She sat in an overstuffed chair across from him and leaned in. She was curious, as were several other staff members.
He didn't want to be overheard. He leaned and answered, "I dreamed about it. It didn't involve Rebecca, but it was something special."
She leaned back in the chair and smiled. "That must have been some dream, if it made you come back up here and ask to see it."
"You have no idea. I mean, I saw it, in the dream, before it was all broken down and falling apart. It looked fantastic."
"Did you want to buy the land or was that just a lie to get us to bring you there?"
"It's not a lie. If it were for sale, I'd buy it. I feel like if I do, something wonderful will happen to me."
"Tell me about it. I have two ex-wives and pay alimony to both, but somehow I feel that I need to spend money I don't have on a broken down cabin that's not even for sale."
"That's strange." She glanced over to her workstation and saw two businesspersons approaching it. "Well, if you will excuse me, I have some work to do." She stood and took a few steps. "I have a lunch break at 2, could you meet me so we can talk some more?"
He smiled and nodded quickly. "It would be my pleasure." Chance smiled as he watched her walk away, watched her hips sway back and forth. In better times, he would date her; take her out for food and talk, but not now. Something needed to be taken care of first: his obsession with a ghost.
Change Pettijohn returned to his suite and looked out the window. The snow was falling heavier: that made him smile. In the past, in his youth, the snow falling would be a muse. He would sit, grab some paper and a pencil, and write a story idea or a poem. He would write about the first thing the snow brought to his imagination, whether it's a sword fight between two knights in a snow storm or a bunch of cars racing on a dirt track on Christmas. He loved those days of carefree writing.
He was an adult now. He was a professional writer, an author of several novels. He didn't have time for it.
"Why the fuck not?" he thought to himself. "It can't hurt." He quickly grabbed his backpack and pulled out a legal pad. He tossed it on the table. He grabbed an extra-fine-point pen and put it in his shirt pocket. He went to the mini-fridge and opened it.
"Ashley, you're wonderful," he mumbled as he saw the six-pack of Dr. Pepper chilling. He thought of when she could have had it placed there. "Must have been when I went to the cabin," he answered himself while grabbing one.
"Let's get to work," he mumbled. Chance open the can of soda, took a sip, and worked his way to the desk. He sat at the table, placed the can to his left, pulled the cap off the pen and wrote, "Snow" on the first line of the first page.
He exhaled and began to write.
"Wow," Chance said looking at what he wrote. Twelve pages of story ideas, character names, and notes all based on the one-word snow. In the past, he would write for hours, finally stopping when his mother would call him down for supper. He hadn't done this in years and as he looked over what he had done, he wondered why he stopped.
There were three story ideas, two of which were set in the winter while the third was a mystery, with a character surnamed Snow. There were 19 character names, backgrounds or profiles for 11 of them. He had written settings and a few object descriptions. He was pleased with himself, especially when he noticed something.
"None of the women have red hair."
He finished the third can of Dr Pepper and looked at the clock on the nightstand. It was 6:30 PM, time for him to head down to the restaurant and get dinner. He wondered aloud if the menu had changed since the last time he stayed. Chance answered his own question when he realized it had to, since it was after Thanksgiving and Christmas was approaching quickly.
"I wonder if they have a good sauce for the ham, if they have ham," he mumbled as he exited the suite. He shook his head: the writing did him good.
The walk down to the restaurant, a medium-sized, cocktail and beer-serving establishment, was quick. He joined the queue of guests and waited.
"What are you doing in that line?" a female voice behind asked. He turned and saw it was coming from Ashley. "You don't need to be in this one. This is for a business conference. You're over here." She took his shoulders and directed him all the way through to the host station.
Chance lost his breath as they approached. Standing by the stand was a redheaded woman, of medium height, and with curves that a hard-boiled detective writer would call "dangerous." Her skin was the color of milk; her eyes were almost turquois. When she smiled, she tilted her head forward, exposing more of her eyes.
"This is the writer I told you about," Ashley said.
"Wow, you're right," the redhead began. Her eyes widened and took a step back to get a better look at him. "He is handsome." She walked up and hugged Chance. She broke the embrace and introduced herself. "My name is Desiree. Can I call you Chance, or should I call you Mr. Pettijohn?"
"Chance is fine, Desiree."
She smiled and leaned her shoulder into his body. "Chance, we have a table saved for you." She motioned for a server over. "Karen here will take you to your table. I hope you enjoy your meal."
A young dark-haired woman approached with a smile. She received the table number and grabbed a menu from the host. The redhead touched his shoulder once more before he went off for his meal. He turned his head and saw she was staring. He smiled. She blushed.
"Right this way, sir," Karen said. They passed several tables filled with seminar attendees and businesspeople, all partaking in the buffet.
"How much is the buffet?" he asked.
Karen slowed and whispered, "It's for the guests that are here for the conferences and seminars. I don't know if it's available to the other guests." She smiled and stopped at his table.
Chance shook his head and smiled. "I was seated here during my last visit."
"I think Ashley and Desiree had that in mind." She waited until he sat before handing him a menu. "We are offering a limited menu but we have a full bar, so any and every drink is available," she added. "Do you know what you'd like to drink or should I give you a few minutes?"
"No, I know what I'd like," he said. He ordered a Pepsi. Karen turned and left quickly, promising to be back with his drink,
Left alone, Chance opened the menu and saw that it was indeed small, just a few holiday entrees and meals. He was happy to see that they were offering ham and that it came with a choice of sauces, including a cherry and raisin one that sounded like the one he had in the South. He closed it, knowing what he wanted.
"Here you go," Karen said, sliding the Pepsi onto the table. "I asked and guess what? You can have the buffet if you want."
"Well that makes this difficult. I wanted the ham dinner with the cherry-raisin sauce."
The server interrupted, "We have ham on the carving station and all sauces on the menu are available."
He smiled broadly. "Then I guess I'll have the buffet."
She took the menu. "Help yourself whenever you're ready."
He nodded and watched as she returned to the host station. He noticed she spoke a few words to the redhead, words that caused both women to turn, look in his direction, and smile. He returned the smile before standing and heading to get some food.
He enjoyed the buffet, hitting the carving tables three times, twice for the ham and cherry-raisin sauce as well as the prime rib. He filled plates with various cooked and raw vegetables and fruits. He even had one with mashed potatoes and French fries. Chance felt overstuffed, but he didn't care. He wasn't on a diet and it was December, the only month where overeating wasn't only accepted, it was encouraged.
He was enjoying a third Pepsi, his eating over. He looked out the window into the late autumn darkness and hoped to see a mist, one that appeared before Rebecca walked on the beach. Even if it had, he wouldn't be able to see. He saw the reflection of two women as they approached, Desiree and Karen.
"Is there anything else you need?" the server asked.
"No, I'm fine. I could use the check, though."
"That's been taken care of," the redhead said. "The management has instructed me to not charge you for any and all meals you have here during your stay." Desiree smiled devilishly. "So all you have to pay for are tips."
"How can I pay tips when I don't see a check? You do know that 20% of free is nothing?"
The women giggled. Karen reached into her apron and removed a guest check. "The buffet and your drink came to $16.79."
He learned and removed his wallet for his back pocket. He pulled out a $10 bill. "I think this will cover the excellent service."
Karen's eyes twinkled when she accepted the tip. "Thank you, sir."
He looked at Desiree and asked, "Is Ashley still up front?"
"I need to ask her something." He bid the two a good evening and exited.
Ashley saw him approach her desk and smiled broadly. "Is there anything I can do for you, Mr. Pettijohn?"
"Mr. Pettijohn is it?"
She lowered her voice. "I have to be somewhat official sounding when I'm at the desk. So is there anything you need?"
"No, I just wanted to thank you for the soda in my room."
"It's all part of the service here. I have to anticipate what the guests want and need."
"I did need those this afternoon," he joked. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Do you have any plans for the evening?"
He thought for a moment before answering. "I didn't have anything special on the docket, just do a little writing."
"Have a novel idea?"
He nodded. "A few matter of fact. Surprisingly, there is no redheaded female character in any of them."
She burst out in laughter. "That's amazing. Good luck with the writing."
"Is there any way I can get some potato chips or snacks to my room? I tend to munch when I write."
"I can get some sent to your room." She wrote something on her notepad. "Would you like more Dr Pepper, too, or would you like some alcohol?"
"No, the soda's fine. I don't drink when I write."
"I'll add that to the list."
"Thank you." He smiled and walked back to his room.
He looked at the time in the lower right of the laptop screen and shook his head: 3:11 AM. He had been writing since he returned to his room after dinner. He stopped only a few times, once when the snacks arrived from the kitchen and again when 12-packs of Dr Pepper and Pepsi arrived. He also stopped to call down to Ashley to thank her for the food.