This chapter is the chapter where the two main characters officially meet for the first time. If there weren't enough hints, Jeffery is the shadow man from chapter 1, (sorry about any spoilers) so the two have met, Cosima just doesn't know it for sure. What happened in the first chapter will get explained later. If, as the reader, you haven't got a since of this yet, then I failed as a writer. Hopefully I put enough hints in without overdoing it. I guess that will depend on the individual reader.
I still wonder if these first few chapters involving Cosima and Jeffery are boring. I feel like they are necessary, but maybe I can shorten them. It's why I added the Vadoma chapter and Millicent chapter at the beginning to let the reader know something bigger and more interesting is happening while we get through this introductory section.
If you are reading along I'd love to hear your thoughts so don'tbe shy with the comments. Chapter 6 will be coming soon.
A few days had passed since the wedding on Halloween, and life continued as usual for Cosima. She sat on a stool at her part-time job working as a front desk clerk at the Holiday Inn. She hated the job and the snobby government clientele that stayed there, but needed the extra money. Wedding photography didn’t pay well in West Virginia. She should move to California or Florida where photographers made up to ten thousand dollars a wedding, but moving would take her son away from his father’s family. She had to stay put, for now.
The hours lingered unmoving like an old man in a coffee shop. She already finished the morning routine and made a to-do list for home and her real job. She meant to bring a book, but left it on the kitchen table. She had pushed Logan out the door this morning so he wouldn’t miss the school bus again and forgot about the book.
She stared at the TV across the lobby. Hours and hours of FOX news pranced past her eyes; always FOX news repeating the same stories until she had them all memorized. She watched the pictures flash by trying to stay awake. The information had repeated twice since she came in at 7am. The sunrise, visible through the glass doors, caught her interest. The stars, barely visible through the light pollution, disappeared and the sky changed from black to red. Sometimes the clouds would frame the sun perfectly when it rose out of the mountains to wake the world. She loved to photograph sunrises, but rarely drug herself out of bed in time. Or she was working, or getting her son ready for school, always something getting in the way. Besides, if she did get up in time, it would rain or clouds would cover the sun. The most spectacular sunrises always happened while she worked jobs she hated or did chores she didn’t care about.
The sliding doors opened and a gust of cold air poured into the ugly retro decorated lobby. She shivered, waking up from her old man trance and turned the space heater hidden under the counter up a notch.
A man strolled through the automatic doors that stood about six feet tall. He smoothed back his wavy brown hair as he approached the desk and smiled despite how tired he looked. He wore old jeans and a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt that had gone through the wash too many times, definitely not one of the many government workers staying at the hotel.
Cosima smiled back as he leaned on the glass counter. A tattered, army green backpack slung on his shoulder slid down to rest on his forearm. His memorizing bluish gray eyes caught her off guard as he gazed directly at her. His eyes reminded her of the dream from the other night, the dream about the shadow man and the kiss that almost happened.
The glass doors opened again and an overpowering musky cologne scent hit her as another blast of cold air entered. The cologne intermixed with another smell, a smell she couldn’t place but knew. The man leaning on the glass appeared too young to rent a hotel room, maybe nineteen. Of course, who was she to judge, she was thirty-five and everyone thought she was still in high school. She had inherited her dad’s baby face. This guy might be older than her for all she knew. He was attractive, sexy, and something about him seemed familiar besides his eyes. He must have stayed here before.
He shifted and put more weight on the retro glass counter, the same way everyone else did, and the unstable glass dipped down in his direction. One day the counter would break, hopefully, not today.
“Hi, I’m Jeffery Walker, I’m staying in 310 and I’m going to be sleeping during the day so could you tell housekeeping that I don’t want my room cleaned today?” His voice flowed gently like a water fountain in a spa. He leaned in gazing at Cosima with his beautiful gray eyes. The intensity grabbed her and she couldn’t turn away or breathe. She could swim in his spa voice and marvel at his eyes forever.
Cosima tensed as her boss walked by and took a step back from Jeffery confused for a moment. She sucked in a deep breath remembering she was at work.
“Um, sure, no problem,” she said taking another step away, “I‘ll let housekeeping know.” Her words stumbled out as butterflies swirled in her stomach. She slinked away toward the phone to gain some more distance, to clear her head. Mustering up a forced professional smile, she picked up the phone and dialed the number for housekeeping. Thank goodness the phone was a couple feet away. She needed a moment to recover from whatever just happened, to breath.
“Thanks.” He walked away, but continued to smile piercing her with those intense gray eyes. He disappeared down the hall and out of sight. How strange. She shook herself to clear her head and continued calling housekeeping.
Another slow morning crept by for Cosima as she labored through another torturous day at the Holiday Inn. The winter months always dragged by at a snail’s pace. Government employees must not like working in the cold. At least today she remembered her book, but the phone rang every ten seconds making reading impossible. Why even try? The soft sound of the sliding glass doors alerted her of an approaching guest and she glanced up from her book.
“AAHHH!” she shrieked as her heart jumped. A man, Mr. Walker from yesterday, stood on the other side of the front desk. How? Her hand reflexively moved to her chest and covered her heart. “You scared me!” How did he get across the lobby so fast? “I’m so sorry, I heard the doors open but..!” she said catching her breath. “How did you walk over so fast?” She relaxed and her heart slowed as her cheeks flushed.
“The book your reading must be really good. I’ve been standing here a minute or two and you haven’t noticed.” His soothing voice had a playful tone. “What is it? I might want to buy a copy, or maybe I’ll borrow yours.” She stared at him for a moment, surprised by his boldness. He looked different. His skin was paler and his eyes more sunken and less colorful, like he hadn’t slept well last night.
“Ahhh, the Vampire Lestat, by Anne Rice,” she said, gathering her thoughts. “It’s pretty good. This is my third time reading it.” Her cheeks flushed even more and heat spread through her skin. She didn’t like talking about herself to guests.
His mouth curled up in a smirk.
“So you must like vampires! Especially since you’ve read it more than once.” His tone sounded flirtatious.
She hoped Mr. Walker wasn’t like the weird old men that stayed at the hotel, the kind that always cracked the, “I want you to pay for my charges,” joke and then tried to invite her to their room. “Yeah, I like horror, books, movies. Anything supernatural interests me,” she said. His smile grew. He paused for a moment, and then leaned in close before he spoke again.
“Would you like to meet a real vampire?” he asked. His steel gray eyes glinted despite his lack of sleep. The same tattered army green backpack slid from his shoulder just like yesterday breaking my attention to his eyes.
“I guess,” she said unsure of what to say. What a strange question to ask. “As long as he, or she, didn’t kill me, someone’s got to take care of my son.” He definitely was flirting so she threw that comment out to see how he’d react. The mention of her son deterred most young men.
He didn’t flinch. “You have a son, interesting. How old is he?”
“He’s thirteen, his name’s Logan. He’s in the seventh grade this year.” Giving so much information about herself normally made her skin crawl, but the details poured out of her like water before she could stop. She purposely remained cold toward the guests so they wouldn’t hang around bothering her, but Mr. Walker peaked her interest. He’s too young, not a good idea to get too friendly with him; time to change the subject. “So, what brings you to the desk this morning, Mr. Walker?” She made her voice sound professional. Disappointment spread across Mr. Walker’s face.
“Please, don’t call me Mr. Walker, call me Jeffery,” he said. A light, cottony sensation slushed around in her stomach. No question now, he was flirting with her even though she was at least ten years older. For a moment she lost all words, luckily he continued to talk. ”I’m here because I’ll be sleeping during the day, again, and don’t need housekeeping to clean my room. Actually, I’ll be sleeping during the day my whole trip. I work night-shift. If they could clean my room in the mornings before 8am that would be great.”
Back to business. Good. She fell into her comfort zone, but disappointment lingered. He gave up easily. “Sure, no problem, I’ll let housekeeping know so they won’t knock on your door while you’re sleeping.” The desire to ask him how long he’d be staying arose, to get the conversation going again, but she said nothing. She only worked two days a week. He’d check out before she returned and she’d never see him again. “How long will you be staying?” she blurted out before she could stop. Her body tensed and her cheeks caught on fire. Why did she ask? What was she doing? Why didn’t she wait and look in the computer after he left? “So I can let housekeeping know,” she added on last-minute.
“I’m not sure yet, I’m here for work, at least a week or two, if not more. It depends on how things pan out around here. I might end up staying longer.” He stared at her as he said the last sentence, not breaking his gaze. Almost like how long he stayed depended on her. She gulped down air not realizing she had stopped breathing.
“Well, great, I’ll let housekeeping know, just call the desk if you need to stay longer.” She shifted her body around awkwardly. Was she so desperate a little flirtation from a teenager made her giddy? She liked his melodic voice, worn out clothes, and changing gray eyes. She liked him, even though he was younger.
“Great, I guess I’ll let you get back to work, or your book, and I’ll go get some sleep before I turn into a zombie. I’ll see you around Mss-.”
“Cosima,” she said smiling.
“Cosima!” he sang and then laughed. The skin of her neck began to burn along with her cheeks, something she wished wouldn’t happen.
“Yeah, yeah.”she said. They both laughed together, and then his eyes drew away toward the window and his laughter stopped. Another sunrise would break across the sky any minute.
“I’ll see you later, Cosima.” He paused for a moment, his smile returning, gray eyes gleaming. She squirmed under his gaze as her checks exploded to a brighter shade of red if that was possible. His eyes, so much like the dream, sparkly bluish gray, holding her captive. That’s why he seemed familiar, like déjà vu. She had dreamed about him. Her whole life she had dreams that came true, but nothing like this. Her premonitions consisted of unimportant events like grocery shopping or discussions about dinner. At random she would find herself in the middle of a situation she had already experienced. Her mother said the glimpses weren’t real, that she had experienced events faster with one eye than the other, but her mind never took an event that really happened and mixed it with the future before. He peered at her now, the same way he did in the dream, and she became even more enamored.
“I’ll see you around,” she said. Cosima watched as he walked down the hallway imagining the kiss that should have happened. She hoped would happen. She inhaled deeply. Thank goodness the managers weren’t around to see her red face.