One Night at the Jefferson Ch. 1byColleen Thomas©
Lauren was driving home with a great deal more care than was normal for her. Today was Friday, and her vacation had just started. She was taking no chances on missing her evening flight to New Orleans. It would be, she hoped a vacation she would long remember. Traffic was unusually heavy and she soon realized she would be hard pressed to make her flight.
She reached her home without incident and hurried inside. Collecting her bags, she said a fond farewell to her pets, left instructions for their care with her roommate and raced off to the airport. Traffic was worse than it had been on the way in and she was running late by the time she reached the airport parking lot. Check in was jammed with people trying to make their flights and she found herself having to run to make it to her gate.
It was only after she was seated in her assigned seat with a drink in her hand and the plane in level flight that she relaxed enough to begin to think again. This was going to be so much fun, she had never been to New Orleans. She had read a lot about the fabled city, and was enchanted with its air of romance and mystery. Her hotel was right in the middle of the quarter and she had devoured all the literature sent by the Chamber of Commerce.
Even more exciting to her than the city was the prospect of meeting Roxanne. They had met in a chat room devoted to battlefaeries, an online game. Lauren had spent the better part of a year, coaxing, cajoling and patiently waiting to finally convince the shy woman to meet in person. She had only obtained a tentative promise, with a warning that she might chicken out. Still the prospect of finally meeting was a nice one. Her feelings for Roxanne were deep, but confusing. They were alike in many ways, but there was something else there that she could not put her finger on. An undercurrent of something she could ill define was there of that she was sure. Perhaps, she admitted she wasn't ready to deal with what that undercurrent might be. She dozed on the flight, waking with an indistinct memory of a pleasant dream
The plane touched down smoothly and began to taxi towards the terminal, Lauren felt herself beginning to become excited, she was finally here! The plane glided smoothly to a stop and she gathered her carry on bag from the overhead compartment. The line moved slowly down the aisle and she was ready to get off the plane. Without the air conditioner it was becoming stuffy. Or was she just getting nervous? She couldn't tell.
When she reached the end of the tunnel she looked around expectantly, no one in the crowd of waiting friends and relatives looked like the pictures she had seen of Roxanne. She felt a deep disappointment, but tried to tell herself that with all the new security measures Roxanne might not have been able to make it to her gate. Lauren made her way to baggage claim, again scanning the crowd, but she saw no one familiar in the milling faces. By the time she reached the main concourse she was sure that her friend had backed out. It hurt her feelings but she tried to smile and remember she was on vacation.
She followed the signs to the taxiway planning on taking a cab to her hotel. Walking through the doors her breath was taken away. The heat and sultry humidity assaulted her senses. It was like stepping fully clothed into a sauna. She put her bags down and wiped her brow, this was not what she was used to. She felt a strange excitement, something in the air. It was a suppressed feeling of waiting for something to happen.
She was reaching down to pick her bags up when a small voice behind her said "Lauren?"
Lauren turned quickly to face the person who had spoken. She was a small woman, dressed in jeans, a flannel work shirt and work boots. Her auburn hair was up, in a pony tail and she looked like she was dying in those heavy clothes in the heat. Lauren remembered suddenly that Roxanne had said she would have to leave straight from work to catch her plane. Lauren felt a bit silly now; she had been searching for someone dressed like a woman, as she knew Roxanne liked to do.
"Roxanne?" She asked.
The smaller woman smiled shyly and nodded. Lauren could see how much just this simple exchange was taking out of her. She felt bad that she had inadvertently forced her friend to approach her. She was also strangely flattered, she knew just how difficult it was for her.
Lauren wanted to hug her at that point, but something held her back. Instead she held out her hand and the smaller woman shook it. She found herself at a loss for words.
"How was your flight?" she asked finally. "It was O.K.," came the reply. Her voice was low, pleasantly modulated, but too deep for her size. Lauren remembered that she was very self-conscious about it and made a point not to notice.
The silence that followed was awkward and Lauren was glad to have a taxi pull in. A tall black man in gray livery got out and helped them put their bags into the trunk. The cool air conditioning inside the cab was a godsend after the stifling humidity outside. Roxanne seemed even more grateful for the coolness and sat in the corner pressed up against the door.
"Where to ladies?" the driver asked in a voice heavily tainted by his southern accent.
"The Jefferson," Lauren replied.
"Nice place," he said as he pulled away. "First time in the City?"
"It is for me, she has been here several times before," Lauren said.
"It's a great place to visit, good thing you didn't come at Mardi Gras your first trip. It is a different place then," he said.
They continued chatting as he drove through the streets of the city. Lauren stole a glance at Roxanne, she was staring out the window, apparently lost in thought. Lauren was happy for the talkative driver, she was sure that it would have been a silent ride otherwise.
The Jefferson was situated on Rue De Bienville in the heart of the quarter. It was four stories high with a red brick and wrought iron fa‡ade that fit perfectly with the architecture around it. Inside it was decorated in lavish Victorian style. Lauren and Roxanne made their way to the desk where a formally attired man in his middle fifties greeted them.
"May I help you?" he asked with a smile.
"We would like to check in," Lauren said.
"Reservations?" he asked.
"Yes," Lauren said as she handed him her print out from the reservation company. He looked it over then looked up and smiled "Are you together?" he inquired.
She was forced to smile when she saw Roxanne blush and seem to be looking for a place to hide. Something about her at that moment touched Lauren, she seemed to be totally vulnerable. She wasn't sure if it was her maternal instinct, or something else, but she took the print out from Roxanne's hand and said, "Yes."
The concierge arched an eyebrow but said nothing as he took the two print outs and entered them into the computer on the desk. Lauren felt rather than saw Roxanne move slightly closer to her. The concierge programmed two key cards and handed them to Lauren.
"I have taken the liberty of moving your friend to a room adjoining yours, second floor end of the hallway, the bell hop will bring up your bags momentarily," he said with a smile.
They made their way across the beautiful lobby. Old paintings showing the riverfront in the days of steamships and antebellum homes decorated the walls. The wainscoat was expensive wood and all the trim was mahogany. The architect had done an outstanding job of transporting those in the lobby back to a more elegant and genteel time. The elevator in the corner was right out of a movie. An open wrought iron cage, with an elderly black man, dressed in the hotel's livery operating it.
"Floor ladies?" he asked in a deep baritone, again infused with an accent that Lauren was not sure of.
"Two please," Roxanne said quietly before Lauren could answer.
"Two it is then," he said as he worked the archaic controls and the iron grill slid closed. When he opened it they were on the second floor landing. Lauren stepped off the elevator and started down the hallway. She realized Roxanne wasn't with her and turned back. She saw her friend taking a dollar bill and dropping it in the elevator man's hand. He tipped his hat to her and smiled as she got off the elevator. Lauren was reminded again that she was dealing with a very thoughtful, if painfully shy person. Somehow she found it unbelievably cute.
When they reached Roxanne's room she slid the key into the lock and opened the door. Lauren continued down the hallway to her room. She had a corner room, the last one on the hall. She opened the door and walked in, closing it behind her before she flipped on the lights and stood there in amazement.
The room was simply stunning. The lights were all shaped to look like gaslights. A large, four-poster canopy bed dominated one wall. It was finished in a dark color, but had sea foam green linen and a comforter on it. The walls were neutral beige, but the whole thing was finished in a dark wood trim. On the wall opposite the door was a stone fireplace. Lauren remembered reading that the fireplaces were gas operated and could give heat in the winter or just light if it was warm. A large print over the fireplace showed two steamboats racing up the river. There was a small writing desk in the corner, near a pair of french doors, that apparently opened onto the balcony. There was another door she assumed was a closet, and one that had to be the bathroom. A smaller door was set into the wall that she shared with Roxanne's room.
On the wall nearest her a massive armoire was placed. It was a dark wood and obviously very heavy. Two wingback chairs were positioned in front of it. A beautiful settee, with delicate Queen Anne legs was placed in front of the fireplace with a coffee table that looked to be a real antique. One corner held a kitchenette situated behind a counter, with two barstools in front of it. She moved into the room and began to explore a bit.
The armoire held a huge television and stereo system along with a VCR. The bathroom was finished in fake marble tiles and featured a large bathtub, rather than a shower. White linen with the hotel's monogram was stored in a small closet. The kitchenette had a small fridge, a microwave and a wet bar. She noticed that the bar was empty and decided she would have to remedy that first thing. The fridge was likewise empty. She found the thermostat and turned it way down, it wasn't her electricity after all.
She was playing with the fireplace controls when she heard a discreet knock at her door. She opened it to find a porter holding her bags. He brought them in and placed them on the floor. He was leaving when Lauren tried to give him a tip.
"Oh, no ma'm, the lady next door took care of it. Thank you much though," he said as he departed.
After he had left Lauren remembered the adjoining door. She walked over and undid the bolt on her side and tried the knob. It wouldn't budge. She knocked on it and heard movement on the other side. The bolt came undone and Roxanne opened the door a crack and peered through. She had removed her work clothes and was wrapped up in a red satin robe, her hair spilling down her back in a tangled mess.
"Welcome to the Ritz," she said softly.
"Decadent, isn't it?" Lauren laughed.
"Almost like the Poconos," Roxanne said and smiled. It was the first real smile she had seen, and it made Lauren feel better. Roxanne seemed to be opening up a bit. She opened the door all the way and walked into the bathroom where Lauren could hear water running.
Lauren walked in and looked around. Roxanne's room was smaller than her own, but similarly decorated. Both of Roxanne's bags were open and sitting on the bed and she saw that the smaller one seemed to be nothing but lingerie. She remembered her friend's admitted addiction and found herself smiling. Lauren rarely wore sexy under things for reasons of her own. She found herself wandering over to the bed and taking a closer look. A corset was sitting on the bed; it was ivory satin, trimmed in black lace, with black garters.
Like it?" Roxanne's voice came from behind her. Lauren whirled around, a little embarrassed. She felt the color rise to her cheeks for some reason.
"Maybe on you, but not this girl," she said with a laugh, hoping to cover her embarrassment.
"I think you would look smashing in one," Roxanne said quietly.
Lauren eyed her critically, raising an eyebrow. Her friends face was serious, with no hint that she was joking. The green eyes were intent and unreadable, and Lauren found herself coloring again. A strange feeling was upon her, one she wasn't quiet comfortable with. "
So what do you want to do tonight? Or are you too tired to go out?" She asked to change the subject.
"Its up to you, I just need to get a bath, I feel so sticky," Roxanne said smiling.
Lauren couldn't help but take a moment to admire her friend. She was shorter than Lauren, about five six. Her skin was pale, with a dusting of freckles, and few blemishes that she could see. Her eyes were a deep green and her auburn hair was worn long. The robe she was wearing only came to mid thigh and Lauren could see most of her legs, they were well toned from her job. She wasn't beautiful in the classic sense, but was what most men called cute. Her demeanor added to her looks, making her seem wistful and lonely. Somehow unapproachable.
"Well, if you're not too tired, I would like to see Bourbon Street," Lauren said.
"Great!" Roxanne said enthusiastically. "Just let me get a quick bath in."
"I think I will too, see you in half an hour?"
"It's only eight thirty, how bout an hour? That tub looks too inviting to rush," Roxanne said with a dreamy smile.
"An hour it is then," Lauren said with a chuckle. Roxanne looked so cute with that expression on her face.
Lauren retreated to her own room and ran a quick bath. She didn't take too long. She was out and dressed with time to spare. Looking through the open door she could see that Roxanne was still in the bathroom, as the door was still closed.
Lauren leafed through the information packed that she found on the writing desk. It contained a coupon book for things to do in the city and information on the hotel services. Tucked into a side folder was a movie list available to rent. This explained the VCR she thought. She leafed through the movies, seeing many current hits and quite a few older movies. The last page was filled with adult titles. Lauren laughed at some of the films names.
She glanced up at the clock and saw it was almost nine. She got up and walked quietly over to Roxanne's room. As she entered, the door to the bathroom opened and her friend emerged. Her skin was rosy from the hot water and had taken on a soft pink hue. Her robe was thrown over her shoulders, but not tied in front. She quickly pulled her robe shut, but not before Lauren got a glimpse of her breasts, her flat tummy and her fiery red pubic triangle.
"Impatient! I am hurrying," Roxanne giggled as she skipped past the doorway towards the bed.
Lauren laughed herself and went back to her room. In a few minutes Roxanne joined her. She was wearing a simple black dress with black stockings and low heels. The dress was familiar and Lauren recognized it as the one from her pictures,
"Ready?" She asked.
"Ready," Roxanne smiled. She seemed to be getting more comfortable, and less prone to the long silences Lauren had come to expect from her.
"Where to?" Roxanne asked as they made their way down the hall towards the elevators.
"I have two free drink Coupons to Pat O'Brien's, how bout we start there?"
"Great, I haven't been to Pat O's in quite a while," Roxanne replied
"We aren't going to get lost are we?"
"I doubt it, I have been here many times."
"I am so excited!" Lauren exclaimed.
"Its a wonderful place, it has it's own aura. Sensual, mystical, mysterious, I love it here," Roxanne said earnestly.
"I know, you will have to give me a tour," Lauren smiled.
They left the lobby and entered the quiet Rue De Bienville. This street was mostly antique and estate shops and was usually deserted by dark. The boisterous noise of Bourbon Street could be heard as Roxanne led her down a darkened side street. The night was sultry, but not as humid as it had been. Lauren saw a few puddles and realized it must have showered while they were getting settled in.
Emerging onto Bourbon she was assaulted by the myriad of sights, smells and sounds. People were everywhere, pressed into lines in front of bars and shops, small groups made their way up the packed street. The noise of a hundred conversations mixed with music from the clubs to create a cacophony, which was somehow pleasant. The smells of stale beer mixed with exotic Cajun food and the press of people in close quarters mixed to create a distinct smell.
Roxanne gently touched her arm and smiled at her, then started off down the packed street. Lauren followed her, dodging in and out of groups of people. A lot of the people were college kids, she saw shirts proclaiming several different schools and universities. Everyone seemed to be drunk and all were having a good time. They passed shops of all types, mostly souvenir places, which sold shirts and mugs and the like. Many of the clubs had long lines that they were forced to detour around or through. Pat O'Brien's was no exception and they had to wait almost 45 minutes to get in.
Once inside they found a table and ordered drinks. Roxanne had a long Island Iced Tea, in a hurricane glass. Lauren had a crown and seven. Roxanne downed her drink very quickly and ordered another. Lauren remembered that she was very uncomfortable in crowds and decided she was probably trying to relax.
Lauren was a bit concerned the last thing she wanted was to put her friend into an awkward position. The drinks seemed to help and soon Roxanne was laughing and chatting away. They spent a couple of hours there, drinking and talking. By the time they decided to leave both of them were pleasantly buzzed. The streets seemed to be just as crowded as when they came in.
"I thought it would be a little less packed," Lauren said.
"Not here, the party won't slow down till well into the morning," Roxanne laughed.
They turned into the side street and were suddenly alone. Lauren could tell Roxanne was happy to be away from the press of bodies. As they passed a stairway leading down to the basement apartments Lauren saw a young man and woman making out. Their bodies were intertwined and she could hear the quiet noises of their passion. She realized this was the perfect place for a couple. The very air was heavy with sensual tension. She suddenly wished she were with someone it had been so long.
Roxanne noticed the sudden change in her mood.
"Are you all right?" she asked quietly.
"Yes, fine,' Lauren said quickly, with a forced smile. She fought hard to keep back the tears that suddenly threatened to overwhelm her.
"Are you sure?"
Lauren looked down at the smaller woman, in the half- light she seemed even smaller. Her eyes seemed huge though, with a luminous quality that was disquieting. In those eyes Lauren saw concern, more than she would have imagined. It touched her deeply and impulsively she enfolded Roxanne in her arms. Roxanne hugged her back, holding on tightly.
"I'm fine," Lauren said again as she broke the embrace.
"We had better get going before someone gets the wrong idea," Roxanne said with a mischievous grin.
Lauren laughed deeply and the sudden emptiness inside her was gone as quickly as it had come.
"Let em!" she said loudly and then laughed even harder as her friend blushed and giggled.
"My Hero," Roxanne said.
Lauren was about to make another comment when they rounded the corner, but she decided not to, there were several people in front of the hotel and she didn't want to embarrass Roxanne.