I think this piece of fiction is a tasty little morsel.
I’ll Be Right Back
Maria burst through the door of the hotel room, her gaze instantly taking in the presence of the suitcases in the center of the room. “Yes!” she exclaimed, never so happy to be moving on, than from this bleak spot that her mom had dragged her to, the worst in a long string of bad spots. There was no other way it could be done. Maria’s mother, Estelle, worked as a consultant for a high-profile group of corporate business interests, performing a role which required that she be on-site for as long as three months in each major city to which she was assigned. The next destination was Seattle.
It was a good news/bad news proposition, in black and white, and etched in concrete, at least for the foreseeable future. The good news was that Estelle was very well-paid, which allowed her to travel comfortably and live extravagantly, if she were of a mind. The bad news was that, unless she wanted to send Maria away to a boarding school, there was no alternative to taking the girl with her, paying for not only a governess for Maria, but paying for that individual to travel and live where she and Maria did.
But when money is not an issue, and concern for the welfare of the girl is uppermost, then a course of action can be followed that at least allows mother and daughter to live together and spend what time they could together. Unfortunately, circumstances dictated that there was generally little notice for a change of venue, and Estelle frequently found herself being reassigned, without warning. Sometimes she was in one location for as little as a month; other times it stretched to three months or even longer.
For Maria, who was thirteen, it was as though she were permanently in purgatory. She never referred to it as hell, because hell was forever, and Maria knew that even if it seemed like forever, eighteen years old would come eventually, and she could then do as she pleased. Until then, she accepted the fact that there were no grandparents, or benevolent older siblings, who could help Estelle out, and provide an acceptable home for Maria, at least for the school year. No, that was not possible, and Estelle was just fine with that. She did not want Maria growing up without her guidance and love.
So placing Maria in school was not only impractical, it was inhumane. No one wants to be the new kid 24/7. Therefore, Maria had a governess, Rita, a woman in her twenties, who was pursuing a career in writing, but needed a steady income as well. It worked out nicely for all involved, because Rita’s hours were consistent, and consisted solely of providing curriculum for Maria. Rita followed a set of academic standards, provided by an independent educational service, designed to cover a broad spectrum of recognized grade level skills. When Maria got to the point where she sought higher education, Estelle wanted her fully prepared to take her position without any noticeable gaps in her formal education.
So what was missing in this domestic picture? How about a life for Maria? What about sports? Friends? Or even the opportunity to have a crush on a boy or six? As you may imagine, the situation worked out well for everyone involved, on paper. But get away from what worked on paper, and start looking into what constituted reality, a twelve-year-old girl could introduce a lot of reality-drama, in an environment pretty much devoid of drama.
Estelle herself was simply not seeing men. She had experienced hard times when she and Maria’s father had gone their separate ways, her resolve to stay out of the dating arena, still strong after more than five years. Maybe, at some point in time, when her life had regained some consistency in it, she would have the luxury of dating again, but until then, she had too much on her plate, to include a helping of men.
Therefore, when Maria complained that a hotel was no place to live, because there were no other kids, Estelle commiserated with her, but could only suggest that it was a temporary situation, and then it would be different.
“When, Mom, when will it be different? When I am grown up? What about my childhood? Everyone else gets to be a kid and have friends, but I get to have a governess.” Estelle admitted she made a persuasive argument.
“I’m sorry, Maria, as much now, as the other thousand times you have mentioned this fact. What would you like me to do? Besides quit my job, and go to work as a waitress, again.” Estelle waited.
“Well, we’ve been here for two months now, and it’s boring as heck. If only there were something here for kids to do! If only there were kids here to do the something here for kids to do!”
With that rather incoherent bit of logic hanging in the air, Maria stormed out the front door, bypassed the elevator, and raced the five flights of stairs to the lobby, which is where she stopped to gather her thoughts, sitting on one of the deep sofas, looking through a pamphlet she’d picked up out of a whole selection of “things to do” in the greater Seattle area. So immersed in her thoughts was she that she did not notice the appearance of a boy, probably around fourteen or so, who stood uncertainly to one side, as if trying to decide whether or not to proceed. He wore a forest green hoodie, and seemed out of place in the lobby.
Without warning a hotel employee who was sweeping nearby, allowed his broom to fall, hitting the floor with a resounding thwack, and causing Maria to look up suddenly, meeting a pair of the brownest eyes she had ever seen. Why is it that she thought only girls had brown eyes?
Instinctively, she said, “Hey, there. Is that you making all that racket?” Maria was impressed with what she saw.
For an instant nothing happened, and then quickly the boy was pulling off his hood, and extracting the speaker buds from his ears, grinning widely and saying, “Sorry. Listening to the Killers. What did you say?” He was not especially tall, but did seem to carry himself with an athlete’s composure, and the hint of a mustache on his upper lip, gave him the slightly older look than she might have first thought.
“Nothing. I mean, it’s not important. Who are you?” She laughed then at her own abrupt question.
He laughed with her. “I’m Ivan.” His smile was right up front, with its authenticity and sparkle. There was a hint of an accent, as though he were raised in a household where others spoke accented English. His hair was jet black, with his complexion as smooth as glass, and hinting of a Mediterranean origin. “What are you doing here?”
Now Maria laughed, since it seemed as though it were open field day on abrupt questions. “I’m recovering. From a fight, I mean. With my mom.” Why was she even saying this? “What about you? You’re here. Where are your folks?”
“They’re up in our room, resting. They don’t travel like they used to. We’ve been on the road since the day before yesterday, if flying in a 757 can be considered on the road.” He indicated the soda he was drinking. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“Sure! A Coke would be great!” Wow, did that take Maria by surprise. She’d never been offered a “drink” before. This was definitely more like it.
He disappeared around the corner, and returned shortly with a similar beverage to the one he was carrying. He also had a bag of pretzels, which he held out to her. “Would you like a pretzel?”
Lunch too, she thought merrily to herself. “Perfect. I love pretzels with soda. Thank you. Why are you in Seattle? Are you going to be here for more than just a day?”
“Definitely! Probably for a month, while my father takes care of some family business. What’s to do here? Anything?”
“Besides the Needle? I don’t really know.” She giggled like a sixth grader. “Maybe we can find out together.” Had she really said that?
ivan beamed back at her. “I think this could be the start of a very good thing. When do we begin?”
Maria beamed back at him. “Ten minutes? I’ll be right back.” She scampered toward the elevators, but stopped short and turned back to him, for one last wave. He hadn’t moved a muscle, and waved back at her. He pointed to the floor at his feet, as if to say, “I’ll be right here.”
Never had the elevator taken so long to ascend the five floors. When finally she broke free and raced down toward the room, her heart was on Cloud Nine. Maria burst through the door of the hotel room, her gaze instantly taking in the presence of the suitcases in the center of the room. “No” she wailed, never so distraught to be moving on, than from this joyful spot that her mom had brought her to.
Wheeling around, Estelle threw her hands up in the air. “NO? I thought you would be pleased. I made some phone calls and rearranged my life, and now you say “NO?”
“Oh Mama, please, please, no.” And Estelle sighed and thought to herself, What did I do now? Jesus Christe. “Come here baby, and tell me about it.”
Maria looked down at her soda, and watched as a tear mingled with the ice, and felt that ice in her very soul. “What’s to tell?” she asked, and the tears came tumbling down.