Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Story-A-Day #104: Couple Retreats


I had popped out to my car for a moment to grab a USB key for my laptop and was just crossing the lobby back towards the elevators and my room on the eighth floor when I realized I was about to take a detour. I don’t know what made me notice them. At first glance, they were just an average middle-aged couple sitting on a pair of average lobby chairs. There was a generic watercolour of a sailboat on the wall behind his head, and a potted plant between them.

Normally, I would have smiled noncommittally at them, and continued on my way, but there was something off about the tableau. I paused near a rack of brochures and flipped through the different leaflets. I wasn’t actually investigating the area attractions though – there was only one that interested me at the moment.

I realized that the woman was actually much more attractive than she appeared at first glance. There was a quiet dignity to her stature, and I realized now, a look of fear in her eyes. I repositioned myself to get a better look.

The man was cool and calm. He sat in a slightly forward position and I realized that the woman’s posture was mirrored: she was shrinking back slightly in her chair. In most circumstances, I would have assumed that they were a normal couple experiencing a bit of a domestic, but there was a palpable sense of dread emanating from their corner of the lobby.

I looked around at the other people in the lobby, scanning their faces to see if they too had noticed the odd angry man and his beautiful, terrified companion. A family walked past, within four feet of the chairs, oblivious to any disturbances. A man followed close behind, pulling a wheeled suitcase in his wake.

The couple suddenly stood and the man placed a firm hand on the woman’s elbow, steering her towards the bank of gleaming brass elevator doors. I replaced a brochure for the yacht club and followed them across the carpeted floor of the lobby. The elevator door pinged open and I slid in next to the couple, nodding casually at the man’s leering shark face.

“Which floor?” I asked casually.

“Twelve,” he grumbled.

“Perfect,” I replied pressing the button for their floor.

The doors slid shut and the elevator slowly lurched upwards. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, or what I planned to do, but I turned towards the couple and focused on the woman with a casual intensity, “How is everything?” I asked.

The woman started to respond, but the man quickly superseded her. “We are fine,” he replied. “Just tired from a long journey.”

I noticed then that neither one of them were wearing rings. I also noticed a hint of shiny black metal in the man’s waistband as he turned back away from me.

The elevator doors pinged open on the twelfth floor and the couple quickly exited and turned down the hallway. I followed casually after them and watched as the man slid a pass down the reader in the room door.

A thousand options passed through my mind: call the lobby, yell for help, get the police, ignore my gut instincts, go back to my room, forget about the whole scenario.

None of them felt right though so I did the only thing I could think of. I reached out a hand and caught the closing door, then with a deep breath, pushed my way into the room and the awaiting darkness.

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