The person knocked again. It was very, very tempting to crouch down behind my desk like a toddler until they went away…but they weren’t going to go away. More to the point, neither was the tale of catering or housekeeping or peace making woe they were surely bringing me.
I pushed a few longish strands of black hair behind my ears, smoothed my shirt, straightened my tie and stood up.
“Jamie,” Priya said as soon as the door began to open, “The water pressure’s gone in the bridal sweet, they’re demanding another room.”
“Did you offer to try to get the plumb-“
“Of course,” she shook her head, “But they want a shower and they want it now.” My event coordinator’s wrinkle-repelling black skirt suit was still crisp, though her manner was getting distinctly ruffled.
I considered for a moment. This wedding party had been nothing but trouble from the outset. The table cloths had been the wrong shape, the manicurist hadn’t had the brand of nail varnish the Bride had planned her outfit around and the groom had drunk too much champagne at breakfast. I still wasn’t clear on how that last one was our fault but we’d had to take responsibility for it anyway. All in all, I was very tempted to tell them to piss off and use the shower in the gym. But after the gargantuan efforts the team and I had gone to to avert world war III, that seemed a bit wasteful.
“Alright,” I sighed, “Put them in the woodland.”
“Thank you.” She was already steam-rollering off. Of course, she’d known that she’d have to do that. She just needed someone else to take the rap if even this gesture fell flat. Which it well might do.
Very gingerly, I opened the door a little further and surveyed the lobby. It was mercifully empty. Well, except for Tom sitting at reception directly in front of me. I could hear the loud thump of music from the ballroom, overlaid with chatter from the bar. Things seemed sufficiently lively for me to reintegrate myself seamlessly enough. Hopefully only Tom and Priya would know I bunked off for twenty minute’s quiet.
“Everything alright?” I asked Tom, pausing beside him to lean against the aged hunk of oak that passed for a reception desk around here. It probably had a pedigree longer than the Best in Show at this year’s Crufts.
“Computers lagging,” he shrugged, “and I’ve had to reprogrammed 224’s key again-.”
“And here I thought we’d taught him not to put it near his phone,” I grumbled.
I was about to straighten up when the carved doors swung inward on their noiseless hydraulics. The person who came in made straight for the desk. I stood to attention, embarrassed that a guest had caught me lounging. The dim lights from the sconces on the walls winked off the end of a pen in his breast pocket, making me blink.
When my vision cleared, it was all I could do not to stare. The guy was only a few years older than me, though where I was skinny, he was built like an athlete. We saw a lot of nice suits rocking up at this desk too but not many quite as nice as the one he had casually draped open.
“Good evening, Sir,” Tom said promptly, “How can I be of help?”
“I’d like to book a room for the night,” the guy said, not quite managing to make it sound as though he wanted to add ‘obviously’.
I smiled politely and went to withdraw. I was half way back to my office door and safety when Aden came hurrying into the room. Sighting me, he totally ignored Tom and the new guest and raced over. I frowned, sure I could feel the guys assessing gaze. With my luck, he’d be the militant trip adviser sought and I’d have to do a lot of explaining to my bosses while still maintaining the fantasy that such paltry websites couldn’t possibly have any baring on our sparkling reputation.
“The electrics have gone in the West Wing,” Aden informed me in that matter of fact way people always did when they were off loading a problem onto you. He glanced around and then lowered his voice, “And the guests in 25 are getting antsy.”
I was getting rather antsy myself. It wasn’t the first night where everything seemed to be panting at the chance to go wrong and it wouldn’t be the last. But that didn’t make it feel any better right then while I was stuck in the middle of it.
“Get Daley’s on the phone and tell them it’s an emergency job,” I told him in my ultra-clipped, I’m not losing my cool tone, “And while you’re at it, you may as well phone around to our usual contractors and get someone in first thing to fix the shower in the bridal.”
“Right, of course,” Aden nodded, glancing towards the phone, “what about….”
“Offer the guests all a coffee, spirit or liqueur with my compliments and assure them that the Aspen Lounge is at their disposal until we have this problem sorted out.”
“Yes….” Aden looked as though he’d liked to have said more but apparently my expression scared him off. I couldn’t think why.
I glanced back to the desk to find the guy pocketing a key-card. Our eyes met and I noted that his were a curious, pale grey. He lowered his eyelids in what might have been contempt or could have been dry amusement before turning away. I watched his exquisitely tailored back as it moved towards the foot of the curving staircase. What was he…business man? Self-made or silver spoon? I stopped, well aware that I was starting to sound like a film from the 1920s. My ideas on class and personal wealth were a bit weird.
A movement beside me snapped my attention back to reality.
“Use the phone in my office,” I told Aden, knowing that I needed an excuse not to go back in there and hide.
“Right you are, boss,” he said, sounding a lot more cheerful now he wasn’t the one dealing, “Shall I go offer your compliments first?”
“No,” I sighed, “I’ll do my own complimenting, thank you.”
Aden dived into my office before I could change my mind and I turned to Tom.
“Do people even offer their compliments anymore?” he asked.
“Not another word,” I said, fighting the urge to cross my arms over my chest.
I thought I’d put up a sample of what I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo this year (current word count around 94 thousand). It’s my first real stab at realistic and the roughest of first drafts but it’s been fun to write.