Mouth to MouthbyMarciaRH©
Based on the short story:
Lost Days Make for Memories and Souvenirs
My name is Marci. I work as a project manager for a small manufacturing firm. I travel as part of my job, though thankfully that requirement is not a large part of my job. Mostly I travel alone, though sometimes I do it in the company of my boss Marty, or one of my coworkers. Like most females, I don't like to travel alone, and for obvious reasons. There is the loneliness factor, of course, and the fact that I'm a single woman, unescorted, and therefore "fair game" for just about anyone. And of course it's not like I can walk into a bar and not become the instant (if sometimes fleeting), center of attraction. Restaurants are almost as bad. Shopping even has its issues. I don't know why men always peg you as out of state and hit on you like an unexpected but tantalizing species of fish found in their pond. It is so aggravating. Therefore, I make a point of not shopping, not going to bars, staying away from TGI Fridays and Red Lobster, (Applebee's is OK), and picking up any alcohol I want to drink at a 7-11 to take back to my room. And I never, ever stay at a cheap motel. Not even if I have to pick up the difference in price myself. And I stay out of hotel bars.
My latest adventure took me to Charleston, West Virginia. Charleston is the capital city of West Virginia, population 51,400, and home to one of my most difficult customers; hence, the visit. I booked my own room at the Holiday Inn, Charleston House, downtown. It was snowing when I flew out, and snowing, much harder, when I flew in. The drive from the airport to the motel took over an hour and left me wondering, quite irritably, why I was there. It was mid-January and mid-January is twice as miserable in Charleston as it is at home. I didn't know that, but I would soon find out.
"Thank you," I said, struggling out of the cab. The driveway was 2" thick in slush, and the wind made getting to my feet as dangerous as stepping unto a tightrope. Already growing dark because of the hour, the sky looked no more than 20' above the canopy. I was reminded of Biblical predictions. The cold was bitter, damp and biting. I huddled in my coat as the cabbie pulled my luggage from the trunk. He'd been surly the entire trip in because of the drive, and my tip did nothing to cheer him up.
"Enjoy your visit," he grumped at me. I stuck my tongue out at him as soon as he turned away, and then laughed when another guest caught me at it. I smiled at her and she grinned widely, nodding. The wind tried to separate both of us from our hats.
Because of the slush and wind, I let a bellhop bring my bags inside. The desk clerk offered the expected apologies for the local weather, made a show of confirming my reservation, and smiled at me more than he should have. He was cute, and I let myself flirt with him in return.
I am 30 years old, with chestnut-colored hair that I keep down to my shoulder blades. I like it this length because I can alternately sweep it forward onto my chest to hide my lack of boobs. I'm a 34B...on a good day. I'm pretty enough, I guess; an ex-cheerleader who's managed to keep most of the attributes I had in high school. I've even grown a little bit up top. I've been told I have a nice ass and I do catch guys shooting looks at me after they walk by. My big complaint is that I still look like a high school girl, and constantly have to prove my age, even to clerks who've asked to see my ID before. They only shrug when I complain, or laugh. If I go out later to buy beer or a bottle of wine, I'll be carded. I never leave home without it.
"We have a nice bar," he said by way of invitation.
"You do?" I replied coyly.
He leaned forwarded, whispering conspiratorially. "The band sucks, but the bartender is a friend of mine and can be depended on to mix a good drink."
"I'm too young to drink," I teased. "I'm still in high school."
He eyed me critically. "Even if I hadn't seen your license, I wouldn't believe that. You look at least..."
"Fourteen?" I suggested, giggling.
He shook his head reprovingly. "At least 25."
I leaned forward and whispered: "My license is fake. I bought it at a yard sale last year."
"Maybe I should confiscate it then," he said. It was sitting on his keyboard, along with my company Visa card. He knew where I worked, and where I lived. He knew my telephone number too, and my true age. He knew a lot about me, I realized. I wondered if he knew I was becoming seriously attracted to him. Better put a stop to this, I thought. I held out my hand, and he looked disappointed.
"I'll think about you when I crack a beer later in my room."
He looked seriously disappointed now. Then he brightened. "You might want to reconsider that."
I knew what he meant. It meant that I would have to go back outside to the closest 7-11 or deli or whatever if I wanted beer or wine. The company frowned on raiding the mini-bar in the room, if there was one, so I'd have to pay that bill myself. I didn't enjoy paying the same for a 10 oz. beer as I'd pay for a 7-11 six-pack.
"It's pretty treacherous out there," he went on. "I think you should stick to the hotel bar or the restaurant. Play it safe."
Play right into your hands, you mean, I thought wryly. I wonder what time you get off? Doesn't the hotel look down their nose at fraternizing with the guests, though? That meant he'd have to take me somewhere other than the hotel bar or restaurant to wine and dine me. How convenient. No thanks.
"You know what? I think I'll go upstairs and call my boyfriend and ask him what he thinks I should do."
He grinned at me, half-chagrined, and half-amused. "Good idea. If you change your mind..."
I returned my license and credit card to my wallet, put my wallet in my purse, and slung my purse over my shoulder. "If I change my mind, I'll let you know, Chad." Grinning, I left the counter and followed the not-so-amused bellhop to the elevator and up to the 9th floor and down the corridor to my room. I was right on the end, as far from the elevator as possible. I wondered, casually, if that had been planned. I wondered again, what time Chad got off. Like I would. I laughed at myself, just thinking about it.
In the room, after tipping the bellhop, I went to the window and looked outside. The overcast looked no more than one foot above my head now and looked like a pregnant blanket. It was moments away from being dark. Lights came and went in the swirling snow; I could just make out the building across the street, another motel, and another down the road. Street lights illuminated millions of snowflakes. Chad was right; it was dangerous out tonight.
I closed the drapes and removed my coat and draped it over a chair back to dry. Then I called Nick.
"So, how's West Virginia?" he asked cheerily.
"Depressing," I answered in a grumble. "I wanna come home."
"Think you'll have a meeting in the morning?"
"I don't know how," I admitted, imagining the snow through the closed drapes. I undid the buttons on my shirt and let the front fall open. I scratched idly at the rim of my right cup where it lay against my skin. The bra was new, washed only once, and not yet broken in. I imagined Chad's fingertips sliding the shirt back over my shoulders, and sliding it down and off my arms. The idea gave me goose bumps.
"Marty should have called this off," Nick observed.
"No way to reach the customer," I pointed out. "Not on a Sunday."
"It's January. Marty should have thought of that."
"He didn't know," I said defensively. Nick was right though: Marty should have known this might happen.
I'd hoped he would change his mind this morning when I called, but he hadn't. He thought it better I be there, no matter what the case. Just in case. We didn't want to piss this customer off. Any more than he already was, anyway.
"You should just come home," Nick said.
"I can't. The airport's closed." That was a lie, which I suspected might just be true, or would be true shortly, with snow coming down in buckets. "We're still good for Wednesday night, though, right?"
"Of course. Unless you get snowed in."
I cringed at the thought. Snowed in for three days? In Charleston? Please!
"Problem is," he said doubtfully. "The forecast has deteriorated here too. They're saying we could get upward of a foot of snow tomorrow. And more on Tuesday." I grimaced. "Even if you can get out of there, you might not be able to get into here."
Oh, terrific, I thought.
"I could rent a car," I offered hopefully.
"You could do that. And drive across the mountains in the snow."
"Godammit," I groaned. "You're not helping matters any, Nick."
"Just trying to be realistic, sweetheart."
"I wanna come home!" I complained again. "Tuesday! Not some time next week!"
Nick laughed. "I want you to come home too. I miss that sweet little body of yours. I'm having Marcia-withdrawals."
"I'm having Nick-withdrawals, too," I admitted miserably. I remembered Friday night in bed, the way he-
Stop it, I thought. That's not helping matters any.
We talked a few minutes more, mostly about the chances of the Redskins making it to the Superbowl this year (fat chance!) and then hung up. I was so depressed. I lay down on my side and tucked my knees against my chest. I felt sorry for myself. I even cried a little. When it was done, I forced myself off the bed and unpacked my suitcase and garment bag, hung my two outfits in the small closet area, put my undergarments and jeans and shirts and pajamas into the dresser, and sat down with my laptop at the desk to check my email. That kept me busy until 7 o'clock.
* * * *
I wanted to take a shower but I put that off. The more I looked out the window, the more convinced I was that tomorrow would be a total washout. The snow was coming down faster and heavier than the snowplows could clean it away. Already, I could no longer see the curbs and the snow was halfway up the concrete base of the two visible street lamps. I could no longer spot the motel down the street, and the one across from me came and went in the intervening snow. I hadn't seen snow like this since the twin blizzards of 2010. It was awful. Marty never should have let me come here.
Resigned, I re-buttoned my shirt and tucked the shirttails into my jeans. I had left it open since talking to Nick. I don't know why. Wishful thinking I guess. Though what I was wishing for was not entirely clear.
There was also the problem of Chad. I regretted flirting with him now, wished I had kept my troublemaking mouth shut. I always get myself in jams. I can't always extricate myself, either, and have ended up in bed with more than one guy because I had compromised myself. I hoped Chad would not be the latest case. I liked Nick an awful lot and didn't want to cheat on him. Problem is, I'm impetuous and impulsive, devilish and self-destructive, a bad combination in anyone, especially a girl. I've been known to cut off my nose to spite my face, even when my face was totally innocent.
I eyed the mini-bar speculatively. I went over and opened the door.
"I hate drinking alone," I muttered to myself. Especially five-dollar beers. They'd be almost as much in the bar, but at least I wouldn't be alone. I closed the door again and sighed "Let's get this over with." Grabbing my purse and the keycard to the door-I checked it first, before locking myself out-I headed downstairs to my confrontation with Chad.
Tell him no, I told myself. Like you would to bad drugs. I smiled, thinking about the joint in my purse. The joint I had brought with me on the plane from BWI. What a ninny, going through security with a fucking joint in my purse. I laughed aloud, imagining my face if the fat woman inspector had spotted the outline on the security monitor. Worse, I had picked just that moment to remember the joint was there and I almost melted down where I stood. They should have hauled me off to a secure room and stripped me for a cavity search. They should have turned me over to Homeland Security as a drug-smuggling terrorist. They should have dissected my shoes, bra and panties in search of explosives. What an idiot, taking a joint through security.
Still laughing, I poked the Down button for the elevator and waited with my right wrist clasped in my left hand as the lift came up from the lobby.
* * *
Chad was not at the desk. I felt both relief, and an unexpected letdown. I had been fantasizing how the encounter would go, imagining all my excuses and his countering reasons. I had seen myself giving in finally, waiting for him to get off work in the bar, and then accompanying him out to a nightclub or to his place for a night of illicit and incredible sex. And what I would say to myself in the morning. Now I didn't have to. Maybe.
Fitful, I crossed slowly to the desk and asked the pretty young Asian woman if Chad was still on duty. She looked at me knowingly.
"He got off at seven," she said in perfect, unaccented English. "Would you like to leave a message?"
I felt my face growing hot. "No, that's okay. Does he work tomorrow?"
She checked a list beneath the counter. "Um, no. Not until Tuesday, I'm afraid. He comes in at seven o'clock, for the night shift. Sure you don't want to leave a message for him?"
If I could, I would have chopped a hole in the floor and dropped right through.
The hotel had three bars. The big one had a band scheduled but no band was in evidence when I peaked in through the doors. The bar was humming regardless, with people lined up at the bar, and two-thirds of the tables full of couples and groups of friends. I was surprised that many people made it out on such a night. Then I remembered a seminar was scheduled in the morning. I'd almost not gotten a room because of the seminar. Only a last minute cancellation had squeezed me in. From the state of the bar, it appeared the seminar would proceed in the morning anyway, uninterrupted by the snow. No way I was going in there. Even half hidden behind the door, I was attracting a number of curious looks.
The sports bar was also packed. I took one look inside and shied away, making my way across the lobby and down the hallway where signs pointed me toward the piano bar. A Holiday Inn with a piano bar. Go figure.
With diminishing hope, I peeked inside and was relieved to find the room mostly empty. At least by the standards of the previous two bars, anyway. Only four people sat at the bar: a middle-aged couple, a man about my father's age three stools down, and to the right of him, a solidly built young man in his mid to late twenties. He was oblivious to everything but his cell phone. I entered, bee-lining for the stool midway between the married couple and the older man.
"A Heineken, please?" I told the bartender, a pretty brunette. She nodded and pulled a bottle from the cooler while the men either side of me glanced left and right, respectively. Neither glance was any more than mildly curious. I ignored the pressure of eyes staring at my back. A dozen or so other patrons populated the bar, couples mostly, but a few unattached males. It was their eyes I felt.
Propping my purse on my right thigh, I extracted my driver's license. To my surprise, the bartender hadn't requested it yet.
"Put it away," she said.
I blinked in further surprise. "Really? I look 21 to you?"
She laughed, tipping the bottle and half filling my frosted glass. "You look 21 to me," she confirmed. "You look old enough to be my younger sister. Or my girlfriend, maybe," she said, winking slyly. The man beside me reacted with a slight start and a grin. I blushed. Of course, she was teasing me.
"What time do you get off work?" I teased back.
"You couldn't afford me, honey."
"I'd have to pay?" I gasped, blinking and effectively wide-eyed. The man beside me snickered and the couple to my left began to show interest in the conversation, which killed the conversation. The pretty brunette and I both laughed.
The truth was, I had enjoyed the veiled invitation. I like girls too, but she walked away to fill a drink order from the only waitress. I took the opportunity to top off my beer.
"I wouldn't have carded you, either," the man to my right said quietly.
"I mean, you don't look 30, but you're obviously over 21. Besides, there's a nasty storm brewing outside, you're in the bar with no coat on, you didn't walk in off the street, so you're obviously registered here. That makes you of legal age. Right?"
"I couldn't rent a room at 18?" I queried.
"Are you 18?"
"Well, no," I admitted. "I'm not 18."
"Exactly my point," he said. Confirming this, he clinked the rim of his glass against mine. I didn't exactly get the point, but I wasn't arguing it, either.
"I'm Marci," I said.
"I'm Richard. Glad to meet you, Marci. How old are you, really?"
"Don't ask, don't tell," I said coyly, sipping my beer.
"I didn't ask if you were gay. You're not, are you?"
"Don't ask, don't tell," I repeated, grinning now. He grinned in return.
"Is every conversation with you like this?"
"Define 'this'," I countered, grinning even wider. He sighed, making me laugh. I held out my hand. "Marci. Over 21. Maybe not gay. Maybe not as smart as I think I am."
"Richard," he repeated, taking my hand. His palm was rough, his grip powerful behind the restrained handshake. "Can I buy you a drink?"
"I have one," I pointed out.
"Hurry up and drink it then, so I can buy you another."
I obediently gulped the drink down, wiping the foam off my upper lip with the back of my hand. "Are you hitting on me?" I demanded.
"I'm old enough to be your father," he rejoined.
I only stared at him, straight-faced. Somehow.
"I'm not old enough to be your grandfather, damn it, so stop looking at me like that, kiddo."
I burst into laughter, which degenerated into stupid, childish giggling. He patiently sipped beer from his glass, eying me over the rim, like my father would.
"You could be my father," I said. "You look like him."
"I have a fatherly look?"
"I wouldn't say fatherly, no," I said.
This was getting out of hand. I needed to put a stop to it. I was flirting with someone my father's age. That's when a hand descended on my left shoulder and made me start.
"Would you like to dance?"
I turned my head around, surprised. It was the young man with the cell phone. Somehow he had slipped off his stool and moved behind me without my noticing. "Uh..." I managed to get out.
His smile was nice, but with a hint of patronization and manipulation I didn't like. I also didn't like the way his hand took possession of my shoulder, the way he eased me around on my stool to face him, away from my new friend. I felt, rather than saw Richard stiffen on his stool.
"I would," I admitted, "if I wasn't talking to my friend here."
"Did your friend ask you to dance?"
"Well, no," I confessed.
"Think he'd have any objections if we did?"
I had met his kind before, this too-good looking young man: possessive, demanding, arrogant, cock-sure of himself. He was the kind I too often found myself in bed with on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. Richard, of course, was too old and too new a friend to rescue me from this creep. I'd have to do it myself-if I could. And then, inanely, disgustingly, I chickened out.
"You'd have to ask him that question, I think."
The young man grinned condescendingly. If Richard objected, that grin told me, which I simultaneously did and did not want, the young man would ask him outside to discuss the situation further. Richard, forced to defend his manhood, would blusteringly agree, only to get his butt kicked in the falling snow. Or so I thought.
Richard said softly: "I have no objection to anyone dancing. I do have objections to anyone laying hands on a woman uninvited and unannounced. Assuming that woman wouldn't deign to say no to you." Richard slid off the chair and suddenly he was no longer a kindly old man, but a definable, threatening presence, like a shadow appearing suddenly on the wall of an alley. It not only took the young man by surprise, but myself. The young man stiffened slightly.