Promises, Rules and Their Breakingbyadam applebiter©
Thou shalt not date anyone for six months.
Thou shalt not go out with Robbie.
Thou shalt remember the hotel's policy on fraternising with guests and keep it wholly.
Thou shalt stay away from guys who are 'involved'.
Thou shalt never, ever, ever fuck on first dates.
Thou shalt avoid college guys.
Thou shalt not tolerate infidelity.
Thou shalt stay well away from that ass hole, Finn.
Ok, thought Ellie, so those were the rules and she'd broken them all. All except one, and that one was about to go too. She was looking at her reflection and reflecting on how events had led her to this. She must be every kind of fool.
It had all started when Robbie moved into the hotel...
* * * * *
"Good morning! What can I get you?" Ellie asked. The customer was sat alone and ignoring the menu so she figured he knew what he wanted.
"Coffee first. Strong and black."
"Anything to eat?"
"Can you read the breakfast menu to me?" He asked. It was an odd enough request to snap Ellie out of autopilot and actually get her to pay attention. That was when she noticed the white stick.
"Oh, sorry. I didn't see... err... I didn't realize. One moment please."
"Sure." Far from being upset at her reaction, the blind customer seemed wryly amused.
Ellie dashed off to get his coffee.
"Annette, I've just really put my foot in it." She hissed to her co-worker as she collected a cup and saucer and a jug of coffee. Her head gestured in the direction of the lone customer.
"Oh, him." Annette glanced over the counter. "He was in here yesterday. Do you want me to serve him?" She could see Ellie was a bit flustered.
"No, its ok. It just caught me by surprise."
"Ok. Don't overfill his cup."
"Coffee, black and strong." Ellie placed the cup in front of him and poured three quarters of a cup of coffee then set the jug down and picked up the menu.
"Thank you." He fumbled for the sugar bowl, found it and picked out two sachets.
"Do you really want me to read the whole menu to you? It's pretty extensive. It'd be quicker to just tell me what you want. I bet we can do it for you." Ellie was just a little self conscious about her reading voice.
"Blueberry pancakes?" He asked, hopefully.
"No problem. It'll take a few minutes." Ellie set the menu back on the table.
"I have lots of time." He smiled up at her. It was really disconcerting having a blind guy turn to face her like that.
"Your pancakes, sir. Enjoy your breakfast."
"Thank you. Can I have some more coffee?"
"Sure." Ellie disappeared to deliver two other breakfast orders then picked up the coffee pots and did the rounds, topping up everybody's cups.
"Can I get you anything else?" Ellie cleared away his plate.
"No, thank you." He handed her a hotel key card. "Just add 20% and charge it to my room please."
"Thank you." Ellie was relieved that her bad reaction had apparently been overlooked (she winced at the thought of how she'd phrased that). At least, 20% said he wasn't pissed at her.
"Thank you... May I ask your name?" He was so polite.
"There's your key back, Robbie. Have a nice day."
* * * * *
That afternoon, the concierge brought the coffee shop a Braille menu because 'a guest' had asked for one to be made available. Ellie had to pay more attention. How come she hadn't noticed which room Robbie's key card was for? Room? Suite! And not just any suit: The Sodom and Gomorrah Suite, as the staff called it, was permanently leased to one Eric Kruppa, probably the most notorious Harvard Alumnus ever. No wonder the management had produced a Braille menu so quickly.
* * * * *
Eric Kruppa was a very good customer of the hotel but they were careful not to advertise his permanent guest status. Mr Kruppa was aware of their discomfort and didn't do anything to tarnish the hotel's reputation. It's not as if he was even there all that often: Mostly, his suite was empty, but even when Mt Kruppa was in residence, he was not unreasonable. His lifestyle and career choice not withstanding, most people who'd met him liked Eric. Ellie hadn't met him and didn't want to be judgemental. But she had met Mr Kruppa's two girlfriends -- and, arguably, the two main reasons he was so notorious -- Helen and B. They were occasional customers in the coffee shop and Jonathon, the concierge, had delighted in pointing out the two girls whose 'punanis are all over the walls of the Sodom and Gomorrah Suite'. Well, Ellie had had to admit to herself that they were certainly beautiful. From the chambermaids' gossip, she knew about the pictures Jonathon had mentioned. Some of the chambermaids had refused to do that suite because of the pictures. The management had quietly moved those maids to other floors and replaced them with staff that didn't object to Mr Kruppa's 'art'.
Mr Kruppa had heard about it, somehow, and contacted the manager to insist that the chambermaids assigned to his suite should be paid double time and that it was to be added to his bill. That was typical 'Eric Kruppa': He was generous and liked using his money to make a point. The only staff trouble since then had been when one of the maids had been spotted with a camera. She'd been taking pictures of Eric's pictures, reportedly to show her boyfriend, more probably to sell online. She got fired and everyone got reminded that Mr Kruppa's privacy was a matter of hotel policy and a service he paid them generously for.
Ellie didn't like Jonathon at all. He was always trying to peek down her top. So, to get him in a little hot water, she asked the two alleged models if it was true they were the girls in those infamous pictures?
Yes. Had she seen the prints?
So how did she know who they were?
The concierge mentioned it.
And he's seen the prints?
In his dreams!
So Helen and B had decided to take Jonathon to see the infamous artwork. Ellie had kicked herself at the thought of him getting a 'reward' like that for being a gossip and a lecher.
That was until she saw Helen and B again. They told her in graphic detail, how embarrassed he'd been as they pointed to the oversized prints of their vaginas, etc. and told him who was who in each one. He blushed when they demanded he pick a favourite. So much for Jonathon's cool self-image. He'd blushed, stammered and couldn't make eye contact. Ellie felt good about that. It'd teach Jonathon a lesson.
And that was pretty much all Ellie knew, or wanted to know, about the comings and goings in the Sodom and Gomorrah Suite. That was, until Robbie moved in there.
She wondered what the oh-so-polite blind guy had to do with the goings-on up there.
* * * * *
Ellie served Robbie his breakfast all week. Blueberry pancakes soon became 'the usual?' and 'sir' became 'Robbie' at his insistence. He was sweet and, despite his address, Ellie found herself warming to him.
Then, one morning another girl turned up. She acted like a girlfriend. By the next morning Ellie had heard that the new girl was staying in Robbie's suite.
Ellie wondered at her own reaction to that news. He was just a customer, wasn't he? And she'd promised herself a sabbatical from dating anyone after Finn. So why was she disappointed by the arrival of this girl 'Kelsey'?
Then, after Ellie had talked herself out of something stupid, and promised herself she wasn't going to get involved with Robbie, no matter what, Kelsey dragged her into the conversation and she found herself agreeing to have her face touched by Robbie. It felt... oddly intimate. His fingertips were really soft and his touch was feather light. He'd thanked her for letting him 'see' her and he'd been flattering about how cute she was. He'd actually flirted with her in front of his girlfriend. What was all that about?
And she'd kissed him for his gallantry. What was all that about? Ok, so it was just a peck on his cheek but...
And that night she'd sat down and written that list of commandments.
* * * * *
Two things came as a surprise when Ellie found Robbie breakfasting alone. She was surprised that he was alone and she was even more surprised that it made her feel better.
"So? Where's your girlfriend gone?" Ellie was due a break so she sat opposite Robbie to chat.
"She isn't my girlfriend. Kelsey was here to see how I'm settling in. My sponsor sent her."
"You're too young to be an alcoholic."
"Funny girl. My sponsor to Harvard. I have a scholarship. She provides my suite here too."
"That's generous. You must be very bright." Ellie was impressed but, while it explained why Robbie had that suite, it meant that yet another of her commandments applied to him. He was a college guy.
"It is generous, but Mr Kruppa keeps the suite here anyway so it's not all just for me."
"So who's your sponsor? You said 'she'."
"One of Mr Kruppa's models. Bernadette Kennedy... B."
"I've met her! They come in here occasionally. She's beautiful."
"She used to be my babysitter. Now she's putting me through school... And I agree. She's beautiful."
"That explains a lot."
"Why you live in the Sodom and Gomorrah Suite."
"Is that what they call it?"
"That's what the staff call it."
"Lots of it. But I shouldn't be telling you."
"Why not? Because I might tell Mr Kruppa? He'd laugh. Eric likes being scandalous."
"No, because some of the gossip is about you and..."
"Which is why you thought she was my girlfriend?"
"Doh! Obviously. That and the way you kept touching each other. I know you have to, but she isn't blind." Too late, Ellie realized what she'd just said. Her hand flew to her mouth.
"Ok. Yes, the rumours are probably true but that doesn't make her my girlfriend. That's just sex."
"You really aren't like other boys, are you, Robbie?" Ellie was so relieved that she hadn't caused offence that she reached out to pat Robbie's hand. He was making it easy for her to keep those commandments. What kind of guy owns up just like that? He definitely sounded like Eric Kruppa's kind of guy.
"Most guys would have tried to lie. You told me the truth even when you knew it made you look bad." And she was thinking how sweet that naiveté was. What on earth did this guy have to admit to, to stop her thinking about him that way?
"Does admitting to having sex make me look bad?"
"Admitting to the sort of shenanigans that go on up there makes you look bad, especially when you want to ask me out."
"W-What?" He splashed his coffee. Ellie reached for a napkin to clean up the spill.
"Messy boy. Last week I thought you were just shy. I thought 'Poor boy. He's blind so I guess he hasn't had a lot of dates.'...Sorry... That didn't sound right." Playing it back in her head, Ellie thought it sounded awful.
"But you weren't far wrong."
"Really? When I heard the gossip, I assumed I'd been dead wrong."
"But you're still here, talking to me."
"I hoped the rumours weren't true, because you seemed so nice. But you tell me it is true." And she wondered why was she still talking to him about it?
"I haven't heard the rumours. I can't tell you what's true and what isn't. But you were right about me wanting to ask you out. If being honest with you means the answer's no, I'll take that because I don't want to have to lie to you to get a 'yes'. I hope that earns me enough of your respect for us to still be friends."
"Yes, we can be friends... because you were honest and I haven't had a whole lot of honest guys in my life recently... and because the answer to that other question was always going to be 'no'. I'm taking a break from dating anyone: Too many jerks in my diet. Anyway, I could lose my job for dating customers. The hotel has a policy about fraternizing with guests." There, thought Ellie: All the reasons for 'no' in one sentence.
"Isn't this fraternizing?"
"Not really. The coffee shop's quiet and, officially, I'm on my break."
"Well if it does come back and bite you, let me know. I'll get my fairy godmother in Manhattan to explain things to the management. Something along the lines of 'Mr Pugh needed help and Ellie was kind enough to offer her own time to provide it. Give her a bonus.'"
"I don't think you'll need to do anything so drastic." She chuckled at the idea all the same. She believed it too, after the incident with the chambermaids.
"That isn't drastic. Drastic would be if you got fired and Mr Kruppa hired you back as my personal assistant at a slightly higher salary than the person who canned you."
"Now that does appeal."
"More money? Or the prospect of spending every day as my guide dog?"
"Well, think about it. When I start school, I'm going to need someone to help me. B was going to recruit a librarian because a lot of the time it'll be finding books and transcribing relevant passages and other boring, academic stuff. But it will be well paid."
"What are you going to study?"
"I hated history in high-school... Oops. Break time's over, I'd better get back to work." Why, Ellie wondered, did she lie to him about that? She had ten minutes yet and she'd loved history. "More coffee?"
"Please. And Thanks, Ellie."
"Hey, what are friends for?"
* * * * *
"That's a lot of cleavage for a blind date." Georgina opined. Georgie was Ellie's older sister by two years and never let Ellie forget it.
"It's not a blind date. He's blind, literally. Anyway, it's not a date. Robbie just needs someone to show him around town so we're going for a couple of drinks at The Steamboat." Ellie's internal editor was telling her how defensive she sounded.
"So if it's not a date, and this guy's blind, why are you dressed like that?"
Ellie glanced down the front of her reflection in the dressing table mirror. It was a lot of cleavage, at least by her standards. "Because I might run into Finn." She owned up.
"You're not trying to get back with Finn? Jeez, Sis!"
"No way! I just don't want him thinking I'm not over him."
"Which of course, you are?" Georgie made it a question.
"Sis, I am so over Finn. But there's nothing wrong with showing him a little of what he's missing out on."
"Well at least your date won't spend all night staring down there."
"That's a horrid thing to say." Ellie turned quickly to face her sister, really quite angry at Georgie's insensitivity.
"That was a cheap shot. I'm sorry." Georgina, realizing she'd overstepped the mark, looked suitably contrite.
"Robbie's really sweet. If he could look down there, I don't think I'd mind. But he can't." Ellie found herself owning up to more than she should.
"And it's not a date? Only, it sure as hell sounds like a date to me." Georgina pounced on the revelation.
"Look Sis, I promised myself six months of no dating. So it's not a date." Ellie knew immediately that she'd been too shrill, too defensive.
"As I recall, you promised yourself you wouldn't go near Finn either, but you're going to The Steamboat." Which, as they both knew, was practically run by Finn's big brother.
"Because I don't see why I have to let that ass hole chase me out of my favourite bar. If Finn's there, he'll make the same mistake as you, thinking Robbie's my date, and he'll leave me be." Which, Ellie admitted to herself, was more a hope than a certainty.
"Yeah, right." Georgina was disdainful of her kid sister's wobbly logic.
"Look Sis, if Finn starts being... Finn, we'll just leave. But I want to try. I miss The Steamboat but I really don't want to go back there on my own. Ok?"
"Sure Sis. And I hope you're right... Hello?" Georgina's phone interrupted their conversation. "... Sis, I got to go. Have a good time." Georgina patted Ellie's shoulder as she passed her, heading out of the bedroom.
"Thanks." Ellie turned back to the task in hand, namely mascara.
* * * * *
"If this isn't a date, how come you dressed up?" Robbie asked. They were in The Steamboat.
"Pardon?" Ellie wondered why every conversation tonight sounded the same.
"Don't sound so surprised. I asked the concierge to rate you out of ten as soon as you came through the door. He gave you an eight, so you definitely made an effort."
"Ok. Yes, I made an effort."
"Which is wasted on me... except the perfume. I like the perfume a lot."
"My ex works here. I don't want him to have the satisfaction of seeing how much he hurt me." Ellie decided to tell Robbie the truth. After all, this wasn't a date so the rules of dating didn't apply. Hence, it was ok to talk about her ex.
"Hey..." Robbie reached out and held her hand gently. He had heard the stress in her voice. "He's history. Don't let him spoil one more minute of your life."
"I know." She didn't take her hand back. She decided that Robbie's concern for her was one of his many endearing qualities.
"Tell me what you're wearing. What makes it an eight?"
"Jonathan only gave me an eight because of my neckline. He's always trying to look down it and this one's a lot lower cut than my uniform." Again, Ellie told Robbie the truth. If Jonathon was his source of information, he probably knew the answer already anyway.
"So Jonathan's my competition, huh?"
"No way! He's a letch. That's one nice thing about being out with you. You don't keep looking at my tits."
"I wish I could."
"Sorry. I didn't mean..." She kept doing that! Mentioning his sight. She could feel her cheeks going warm.
"Hey, it's ok. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that, because I can't look, I don't want to. It's just... I see with my hands and grabbing every pair of breasts that comes within reach could get a guy like me into a whole heap of trouble."
"I'll bet." She relaxed. Robbie never seemed to get upset at her little slips. Mostly, he didn't even seem to notice.
"Well lookie here!" Finn!
Oh no, thought Ellie.
"If it isn't Elliephant. This your new boyfriend?" Finn was clearly several beers ahead of them. Ellie knew that over-loud tone too well. Her ex was looking to pick a fight with someone. Ass hole!
"I'm just her friend." Robbie said.
Ellie wondered if Finn would notice the white stick and back off. Surely, even Finn had some scruples. No. On second thoughts, he had none.
"Nobody's talking to you, blind-boy." Finn had noticed the stick. He'd also noticed Robbie's beer and helped himself to it.
"Finn, don't do this." Ellie's voice was pleading.
Then Robbie did the most stupid thing she'd ever seen. His white stick whirled past her face and hit the bottle in Finn's hand. There was glass and beer and blood everywhere. Finn howled in rage and pain. Ellie didn't react at all, stunned, until Finn's buddies dragged Robbie to his feet. Then she started yelling at them to leave him be.
For a few moments she was sure Robbie was going to get really hurt, then Nathan arrived, ballistically. Nathan was Finn's big brother and just about the only person in Boston that Finn didn't feel superior to. With a baseball bat in one hand and Robbie's collar in the other, Nathan herded Ellie towards the entrance and Finn's buddies just parted like the sea before Moses, to let them through.
"What just happened?" Robbie was bewildered. Ellie took his arm and marched them both down the sidewalk as quickly as she could. She doubted that Nathan would let the guys follow them, but there were other doors out of The Steamboat.
"You picked a fight with the high school wrestling squad." She didn't even try to hide her anger. In his day, Finn had been State champion but he liked to fight dirty and eventually got a ban. Robbie couldn't have picked a worse person to piss off.
"And I didn't get hurt. Why?"
"Nathan broke it up before Finn's buddies started breaking bones." They rounded a corner and Ellie slowed their pace a little. She didn't think they were being followed.