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Jen Bergmark


                   First, she had shoe trouble. During the walk from the rental car to the lobby she stepped in a puddle and now her toes were wet.
                   She was waiting for him in the hotel room.
                  Her suede flats – she could put them on to be comfortable and dry, but she looked better wearing pumps. Gave a little lift to her ass. She’d unpacked, skirts and blouses draped on hangers, sweaters for cool evenings folded on a shelf, bras and panties arranged in a drawer along with the garter belt he’d suggested. She was ready. But she hadn’t planned for rain. It came down hard and straight, the poolside bougainvillea bobbing under its ceaseless patter. Palm fronds dropped among the lounge chairs. She pictured him hunched over a steering wheel, navigating unfamiliar radio stations, becoming distracted, hydroplaning.
                She phoned room service. After turning down the bedspread, she changed her mind and pulled it back up. She glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand. She glanced out the window. She paced the narrow space beside the bed. In the dim closet, her wrinkled clothes looked old and defeated. There was a boutique in the lobby; she’d noticed it earlier while checking in. A new dress would be nice. There might still be time. She imagined him arriving while she shopped. He’d surprise her at the cashier counter, covering her eyes with his rain-damp hands; they’d laugh, he’d compliment her clothing choices, and then he’d insist on paying.
              She tore the bathroom glycerin soaps from their wrappers and set one by the sink and another on the tub. She refolded the stiff bath towels and scrutinized her hair, a good five inches shorter than last time and beginning to frizz. The eye makeup she’d put on was wrong. Too much. Under fluorescent light, her lipstick – Coral Creme, according to the tube - appeared orange. She scraped her lips with a square of toilet paper. Then she heard a knock.
              A struggle with the chain-lock and dead bolt, her pulse quickening, she wrenched open the door and gasped sharply in disappointment to find room service. The bellboy, eyes down, wheeled in her order and left the room. A tablecloth-draped cart, a glistening wine bucket, two polished domes with tiny swan handles. She stared at her distorted reflection. The room filled with an oppressive garlic smell, which she tried to disperse by waving a local-attraction brochure. She’d hoped to have a lovely lunch waiting for him, but lifting a dome revealed thin, bloody liquid seeping from the roast beef and an oily glaze on the carrots. Saliva rushed her mouth and she thought she’d be sick. She rolled the cart into the hallway. Before returning, she snatched the wine bottle, but she couldn’t find a corkscrew.
              The room service extension rang and rang when she called to request a corkscrew. Remembering she’d forgotten to tip the bellboy, she pictured the staff gathered by the kitchen telephone, the bellboy pointing to her room number on the display. Yes, that’s her. Don’t answer. She attempted to push the wine cork into the bottle with her nail file and bent the file nearly in half. She removed cardboard sanitary caps from two glasses and set them on the dresser. At the muffled sound of a suitcase bumping out of the elevator, she stood in the entryway, blinking against the eyehole until she heard the clack of a neighboring hotel room door closing.
            The rain stopped.      
            Late afternoon light slanted into the courtyard. Hotel employees dragged the fallen palm fronds away. A man smoking a cigarette by the pool met her gaze as she looked out between the curtains. She backed away from the window, heart pounding. The dull food odor, she could still smell it. She sprayed perfume, smoothed her blouse, turned the bedspread down, set a magazine open, checked the time again. There was an annoying squishing in her shoes. Every step she took.
              There was still time to change into her suede flats. Save the pumps for a dressier evening, after she bought a new blouse from the boutique. Again she tried again with the nail file. She reapplied lipstick. He was five minutes late.
              She opened dresser drawers to be sure everything was in place.