Accommodations, Pt. 1

NIGHT

            Andi checked in laughing.

            “Room at the inn?” she joked of the desolate lobby. Her voice, smoky and worn for someone in her late twenties, bounded off marble. Chandelier crystals tinkled overhead.

            “Might be able to squeeze you in.” The man at the desk smiled before raising a paper mask over his mouth. It puffed and contracted between words, like a lung. “You’ve got your pick,” he said, scratching at his scalp through tight, short curls. “If you want a view, we’ve got rooms with a view. If you want to be close to the pool, say the word. Heck,” he snorted, “if you want to sleep in the pool, I’m not gonna stop you.”

            “Just something quiet,” Andi said. She adjusted the duffel bag on her shoulder, twisting brown tendrils of her unruly hair in the strap. “Not facing traffic, if you can. A little private.”

            “That’s easy,” the clerk said. His soundless fingers bapped at a rubber keyboard. “There’s only one other guest in the hotel tonight. Only guest we’ve had all week.” He yawned, pulling his face covering taut. “He’s way up in the penthouse. I’ll put you…” He drew close to the screen, nose an inch from the monitor. “Hmm. In a central room on the third floor. Insulated, near the gym.”

            “Sounds good,” Andi said. She pinched the metal clip of her own mask at the bridge of her nose. “Only two of us, huh? In the whole hotel?”

            “It’s been a slow season,” the man said.

            “I can imagine.”

            “It’s been awfully lonesome,” he said.

            “I can imagine.”

            “At any rate,” he leaned back, “we welcome you to the Hotel Inverness.” He slid a key card across the marble counter. “If you need anything, I’m posted up here all night. Pretty much all day too. I’m Jordan.”

            “Thanks, Jordan.”

            “I’ll get your bags.”

            “Oh, that’s okay,” Andi said. “I don’t want to keep you from your work.”

            Jordan gestured at the empty lobby. “Please.”

            In the elevator, Jordan pressed 3 with a white-gloved finger. “So, is it business?” he asked.

            “Business?”

            “Are you here on business?”

            “Oh.” She looked down, her eyelids and nose making three freckled U’s. “No, family stuff.”

            “Must be important,” he said.

            “I thought so,” she said.

            Then the elevator ride was over, and they were on 3.

            Without a word between them they marched through a hallway full of emptiness. Somehow the absence of other guests was palpable, a kind of static in the air. Andi felt a dangerous freedom, a sense of ownership. My floor.

            Her room was indeed right next to the gym; Andi peered through a long sliver of glass at the untouched treadmills and ellipticals. Jordan used a card clipped to his belt loop to beep open her door.

            “I’ve got it from here,” she said, and shoved all her things into the foyer. Her suitcase tumbled onto its side, where she left it.

            “Enjoy your stay,” Jordan said.

            The door fell closed. Andi kicked off her brown leather shoes and hopped onto a California King made with military precision. It took up a majority of the room.

            She flicked the television on with the remote. The screen went from solid black to a luminescent black—a little wheel of dots in the center, fluctuating like synchronized swimmers. Andi frowned, pressed the channel buttons, the menu button. Nothing happened.

            She left it on. In case the cable rebounded.

            Playing with her phone, she opened her messages. No new texts in three days. No emails since her boss’s, yesterday.

            “How are you doing with everything, Andi?” she asked the ceiling fan. Then, as loud as she could muster: “Are you all right? We’re worried about you!”

            The privacy was utter. The solitude both empowering and somehow diminishing. It was thick and heavy, even in the room—especially in the room. Shadows felt darker. Quiet felt more oppressive. And the damn cable still wouldn’t kick on. She felt a small flutter, right behind her sternum.

            Her nose tingled. She ripped off her mask just as she sneezed. Sniffling, she noted the pungent locker room smell, the apparent price of sleeping next to the fitness center. In pursuit of a tissue, she threw open bedside dresser drawers one by one—each empty, until the bottom. Her fingers touched something wet. On her side, arm extended, she yelped.

            Rolling closer, she saw it—the rat, decomposing, half-solid. A bundle of fur and red slime, dead and coiled around the Gideon Bible. Its tail was clamped shut in the gold-lined pages. She let out a feral whimper, a childish whine, and leapt from the bed. She scrubbed her hands till they hurt, took a gummy, and picked up the phone.

            She dialed the front desk.

            No answer.

            After three attempts to reach Jordan, Andi stabbed her feet back into shoes and returned to the lobby. There he was, back to her, slouched. One hand was woven into his curly hair, the other pressing the phone into his cheek.

            “Yes, sir,” he mumbled. “Yes, that’s right.” He sunk further into his own lap. Lower, he said, “Well, we certainly wouldn’t want that.”

            Andi found she was still shaking. “Jordan?” she said.

            He jumped, teetering on his stool. One finger went to his lips, signaling quiet—then hovered in front of his face in the symbol of patience.

            “Well, you have my word I’m available morning, noon, and night, sir,” he said. Catching Andi’s eyes, he rolled his.

            She waved him off, headed for the stairs. At the door she heard Jordan say, very low:

            “Yes, like I said, on the third floor.”

            She stopped. Looked back.

            He raised his eyebrows at her: What?

            “Full-service fitness center, sauna included,” he said. “Yep.”

            Back in her room, Andi yanked out the desecrated drawer entirely and wedged the whole thing into the bathroom garbage can, rodent, bible, and all.

            She set the little bin wobbling in the shower, closed the door, and laid down in her yellow dress. The heat kicked on; the radiator clanged and rattled. Panic rose in her chest, the sudden thought that she’d never fall asleep with all that noise, with that dead thing rotting in the tub.

            But the gummy did its work, and she nodded off.

MORNING

            It was the knocking that woke her up. Not the blinding sunshine pouring in from curtains she’d failed to close. Not the TV that had decided to kick on at last, blaring an old episode of Frasier.

            Fully dressed, she clambered out of the big, high-rise bed with some difficulty finding the floor. The door was heavy; it pressed into her shoulder as she propped it open. In the hall, Jordan crossed his wrists at his waist. His eyes couldn’t quite find her, drooping and darting. He licked his lips.

            “Sorry,” he said, “to bother you. I just wanted to make sure everything’s all right?”

            “Great.” Andi yawned. The young man took a step back. Remembering herself, Andi tugged a paper mask from the dispenser screwed into the door and tied it over her mouth.

            Jordan swirled a pinky around, then in, his ear. “Did you sleep well?”

            “Like a baby,” she said.

            “You weren’t, uh—disturbed?”

            Suddenly her memory snapped into place, and her shoulder blades drew together, flaring up a prickle that snaked down her back. “Oh,” she said. “In—in the bathroom. I’ve got a, um. In the drawer, there was—”

            “This is awkward,” said Jordan, “but there’s been a complaint.”

            “Right,” Andi said. “The rat.”

            “Rat? No. What rat? No.” Jordan blinked. He sighed, dug a palm into an eye socket. “About… you. There was a grievance.”

            “About me?”

            “The noise,” he said. “Like a, uh, like—well, it was described as a banging. Like a constant slamming. Very hard to sleep through.”

            The door was resisting, yearning to close—pressing into her back and hip. “I thought there were only two of us in this hotel,” she said.

            “That’s right.”

            “So this guy in the penthouse,” she said, “forty floors or something above me—he says I was being loud and kept him up?”

            “Well—”

            “Because that would be insane.”

            “If you could just keep it down.” Jordan took another step back. “We want everyone to be comfortable here. Just keep it down.”

            “Keep what down?”

            He shrugged and turned.

            “Wait a minute,” Andi said. She leapt into the bathroom, held her breath, and grabbed the garbage pail in the tub. Eyes averted, she opened the door into the hall and set the drawer with the dead rat at the concierge’s feet.

            “What’s this?” he said.

            “A legitimate complaint.”

            The door fell closed so slowly she was just able to catch the sight of him leaning in, squinting, before the latch clicked.

            From the vanity she heard him, muffled, shout: “No!”

            She skipped a shower.

AFTERNOON

            The Hotel Inverness had once boasted a world-renowned café and brunch spot. Now it was a fully self-service breakfast bar. Gas station drip coffee and cold cereal with lukewarm milk. Andi helped herself to the former and threw open her laptop.

            Halfway through her stiff brew she got the Wi-Fi working.

            No new emails.

            She folded her arms on the table to hold her chin. Peering over her computer she saw, opposite her, a half-cup of tea and the last bite of a Danish, crumbled on a damp napkin.

            Looking around, she put her hand over the abandoned mug. Still warm.

            A spoon sat face-up on a Guinness coaster next to it. There was the tiniest pool of brown water in it. All around the coaster, someone had been swirling liquid droplets into intricate shapes and coiling patterns.

            Andi didn’t see anyone around. No jacket draped over the seat.

            Still, she gathered her things and took her coffee to go.

            Outside it was nearly as empty as the coffee shop. A light drizzle kept any intrepid wanderers off the street. Andi drew her hood tight and wondered if, between that and the mask, she looked like some video game ninja.

            The hospital wasn’t far. It seemed inviting today, she thought. Warm and dry. The automatic doors yawned open for her, and into its gullet she strode, shaking off her hood and sleeves like a wet dog.

            “Andrea, sweetie.” The woman at the front desk rose—diminished in baggy aqua scrubs. “Right on schedule.” Half her pock-marked face was obscured by the glare of a plastic shield, curved around her features.

            “Judy. Any update?” Andi rested on a blue circle adhered to the floor, about eight feet from the reception counter.

            “I’d call you if anything major happened,” said Judy.

            “But is there any update?”

            Behind her see-through armor, Judy shook her head. “Same as yesterday. We’re keeping her as comfortable as we can, sweetie.” When she said it, she managed to become smaller.

            “Can I talk to Dr. Haspar?”

            “She’s up to her eyeballs in it, I’m afraid.” The receptionist sat back down. She grabbed a clipboard and flicked through the paper stack clamped into it, without purpose. “I’d love to march you right through those doors and put you in a room with your mother,” she said. “You know that, don’tcha? I’m sorry you came all this way for—” she gestured at all the nothing. “You know. Just for this.”

            Andi brushed a knuckle under one eye. “Rules are rules. No one’s allowed in. I’m not special.”

            “Twenty years in healthcare, I’ve never seen anything like this. Decent people dying alone. Mommies giving birth without the daddy. I just… Well, it makes no difference to say it. But if there was any other way—”

            “Yeah, no,” Andi said. “I got it.”

            “I’ll say a prayer for her.”

            Andi snorted, turned away. “She’d like that.”

            “Did you find a place to stay?”

            “Down the street. The Inverness.”

            “Oh, fancy.”

            “It’s seen better days.”

            “Yeah. Yeah, we all have.”

            Andi blinked three times and drew a long breath. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” she said. “Do you think I could talk to the doctor then?”

            “Oh, I don’t know, sweetie.”

            Andi nodded. “Will you tell my mom I stopped by?”

            Judy’s Bic pen came toward her mouth—an apparent force of habit from years of chewing on the cap, maybe. Either way it simply clacked against the plastic guard. “Oh, I’m not allowed in there either.”

            Again Andi nodded. “Thank you, Judy.”

            She shuffled one foot ninety degrees and stopped there, mid-step. Only just now did she notice the shoe prints to her left. Long, streaking strides tracked in black water from outside. Their path stopped right next to her.

            “Is someone else here?” she asked.

            “Mm?” Judy had already returned to one of a half-dozen piles of paperwork.

            “Never mind.”

            Then Judy told her what she’d told her the day before. “Take care of yourself. I mean it.”

            “Whatever that means,” said Andi.

EVENING

            Six cocktails in at the Inverness Lounge, Andi gave the bartender her room number.

            “I really can’t,” he said, his eyes narrowing in a slight half-smile behind blue cloth. He slid her shrimp platter forward and began mixing another drink.

            Andi looked around. There was no one else here to order a drink.

            The gin and tonic landed in front of her.

            “On the house, Room 317,” the bartender said.

            “You’re uninvited,” she said, sipping. “One more of these, I’ll be out like a light.”

            He laughed. “That’s okay,” he said. “Enjoy.”

            “I sleep so well in this hotel,” she said. The cocktails were hitting, at least to the point she was surprising herself with her own words. Thinking, Shut up, and talking anyway. “This whole year, I’ve been insomniac as shit. I dread bed. Dread it. I stay up later and later, until I can’t keep my head up. Then I lie down and all the world’s problems seem to bear down on me. I get crushed. Physically crushed. Actual weight, real pain. Pressure.” Gulp.

            “But here,” she said, “I’m out like a light no sooner than my head hits the pillow. And with my momma, gasping for breath on a ventilator a few blocks over.” Her fingernail found a damp cardboard coaster and began to pick at it like a scab. “How’s that for compassion?”

            The bartender’s eyebrows went up and he shrugged. Peeling open a packet of napkins, he said, “Maybe it’s all enough. Maybe you’re finally tired enough.” He wadded up the wrapper in a fist. “Maybe everything you worried about that was keeping you up at night finally came to pass, and your brain’s giving you a break? I dunno. I’m an idiot. Talk to a therapist or a preacher or something.”

            “I think I’m good on preachers,” Andi said.

            Her server tossed the paper ball. It bounced off the garbage can and went piff on the tile. He vanished around the bar and didn’t come back.

            With seven drinks and four shrimp in her belly, Andi staggered up three flights of stairs at sunset. In her room she checked her work email. Nothing unread, nothing new.

            The water from the tap was sour. She let the glass roll into the sink, opened a Dasani from the minifridge (seven dollars), and guzzled it down before cracking open another. Next she opened a packet of pistachios and a Toblerone. Swaying, munching, she fumbled with the remote.

            The cable, the satellite—whatever—wouldn’t switch on again. Just that swirling “hang on a second” loop. It swirled, and the room swirled in sync. Andi moaned and sat on the floor.

            One hand pressed against a cheek, she started pulling open bedside dresser drawers. The top three, empty. At the bottom drawer her hand hovered. She bit her lip, closed her eyes, and yanked on it.

            It clattered to the ground and she heard something tumble out. Squinting one eyelid open, just enough to see through a curtain of lashes, she peered down.

            A fresh, hotel-issue Bible lay on the floor.

            She kicked it under the bed and finished off her water. Her tongue smacked against her palate like sandpaper. Grunting, she got to her feet and shambled into the hall.

            The lights in the gym next door were off. There was no sound but the buzzing trinity of radiator, fluorescent lights, and ice maker. She walked down the long corridor toward the vending machines.

            Because it was funny to her, and because she could, she rapped on each door she passed. Knock, knock. Knock, knock. Anybody home?

            That made her laugh.

            It made her laugh at room 321 and 324. Knock, knock. At the janitor closet and the rentable executive room. Knock, knock. It made her laugh all the way to the vending area, where she stopped and crossed her arms to assess her options.

            And heard more.

            Knock. Knock.

            Drawing up, her shoulders framed her jaw.

            In a delicate half-turn of her head, one eye caught the tall, hunched figure way down the hall. Dressed in a navy robe with black bottoms, face blotted by distance and sterile gauze, the man swayed slightly, his back to the fitness center.

            Knock, knock.

            Banging on her door. On 317.

            She took a sidestep around the corner where the hall split into a T. Watching.

            Because of the cocktails, the man’s features—those not covered up—were smudged. At times there were two of him, circling each other. She could squint, cover one eye, really concentrate to get a good look at him. At Mr. Penthouse. Mr. Do-Not Disturb.

            But she found the act unthinkable. The very idea repulsive, indecent.

            The man knocked on her door again. Three times. Waited.

            He looked around.

            Andi drew back, behind the wall.

            Out of sight, she heard a low murmur. The man talking to himself? To her?

            She dared a glance and was sorry she did.

            He had his forehead pressed against Door 317. A palm spread on its surface. His chin bobbed as he hummed and mumbled in stabbing little spits of breath.

            Andi withdrew. Waited.

            Half a minute later, after a few more rounds of increasingly aggressive pounding, quiet prevailed once more. She looked back around the sharp wallpapered edge. The man was gone.

            Forgetting her soda, Andi concentrated hard taking timid, careful steps to her room. Putting extra care into her footfalls, extra care with her breaths.

            Just outside her door she realized the light was on in the fitness center.

            It danced, the gym light, blotted out in weird swaths by someone moving around inside. Andi pulled on her room’s door handle, but of course it didn’t budge. She hadn’t keyed in.

            The shadow from the gym grew larger.

            She felt around in her pockets. No key card. But she’d brought it. She’d brought it. Through the glass door behind her she heard more humming. Low and rumbling, barely musical. Light and shadows moved around her, swallowing her one moment then spitting her out the next.

            Her back pocket. The key was in her back pocket.

            She swiped it. It let out the loudest beep in history. She fell into her room. Fell right onto the bedside telephone. Fingers drumming on the table, she dialed the front desk. No one answered. It rang a dozen times before she put the receiver back on the hook.

            Leaving the room to find Jordan was not an option. Instead she pushed a sofa in front of her door and got into PJs. Closed her eyes. Swore she’d never fall asleep, not like this.

            But eventually, she did sleep. Fitfully and fidgeting, she slept.

            No one knocked on her door again.

MORNING

            The first text message Andi got in days was waiting on her when she awoke.

            It made her forget all about the night before. It erased her aversion to the hallway, to exposing herself. Reading it for the hundredth time, she pushed the sofa impeding her exit out of the way—not thinking. Fabric-covered nosed pressed to her phone, she drifted to the front desk. Lifted a thousand-pound forearm to ring the service bell.

            After a minute, and a second ding, Jordan appeared. Mask askew, sloppy stubble dotted his cheeks. The flesh around his eyes was swollen.

            “Oh, good morning,” he said. “So sorry. I— I get so bored, I start meandering. And I— Sorry!” He knuckled a temple. “Y-You’re checking out, aren’t you, then?” Taking up the mouse, he started clicking erratic patterns on both buttons.

            “Actually,” Andi said, compressing her voice, fighting its threatening quaver. “I’m going to have to extend my stay.” She drew a sharp breath. “See, my— my family thing. Why I’m in town. It’s, um, well. Things have gotten worse. Things… I’m going to have to stick around a while longer.” She tried to smile. Remembered it didn’t matter. No one would see.

            Jordan dropped the mouse. It clattered to the floor. He froze, eyes diminishing to red slits. “You’re not leaving?”

            “No,” Andi said. “That is, if you can find room for me.” A joke. Some levity.

            Like a flea-bitten animal he clawed at his scalp. Using one finger to peck at the keyboard, he looked down and pressed his chin into his chest. “Of-of course,” he said. “How many more nights will you be staying?”

            “There’s really no way to say at this point,” Andi said. She squeezed on the phone in her pocket. “It’s my mom.”

            “Oh.” Jordan nodded as if in epileptic throes. Stilling himself with some force of purpose, he met her eye. “Look,” he said. “I wish I didn’t have to say this. But, okay. My manager’s not here. No one’s here. It’s, I guess, it’s gotta be me, right? Gotta be.”

            “What?” Andi said.

            “If you want to continue to stay at this hotel,” said Jordan, his voice suddenly firm and sure, “you’ve got to keep the noise down. You’ve got to stop— stop whatever you’re doing all night. We have a strict policy, between the hours of 10:00 and—”

            “What are you talking about?” Andi took a step forward. Like a repellent magnet, Jordan backed away. “Did he say something again?” she asked. “Lodge another complaint?” Her thumb jabbed up, presumably toward the penthouse.

            Jordan’s shoulder gave a jerk. “I’m not at liberty to say—”

            “Well, I’ve got a complaint,” Andi said. “Why don’t you tell that creepy fuck to stay away from my room?”

            “Do you want to tell him yourself?” Jordan said. His eyes drifted over to the right. Andi whipped around, inhaling. Someone was stepping in through the revolving door.

            She leaned forward on the front desk, her elbows bent on the surface. She cupped her hands around her face.

            “Oh, God,” she whispered.

            Behind her, the sound of dress shoes clacking on marble. Getting closer, closer. Closer.

            Then—falling away, and the sound of the elevator call button.

            “Wait a minute,” Andi breathed into the countertop.

            “Wait just a minute.”

            Some fire in her belly ignited, stoked by frustration and helplessness and embarrassment. It jolted her upright, kicked her legs in a half-jog toward the elevator, balled up her fists and pulled her mouth open wide.

            “Wait a goddamn minute!” she said. But the elevator doors were closing, drawn to each other, shrinking the strip of sight she had into the compartment. “You!” she said.

            In that final instant before the car closed, the top of a fedora rose so the rim came flush with Andi’s view. The eyes underneath the hat stared back. Narrowed.

            Those eyes blinked. At the corner of one, a hair-thin trail of blood trickled.

            The door closed. He was gone.

            Andi’s hand went to her mouth.

            “Ma’am?” Jordan was bent over the computer, prodding the keyboard with that one finger. “Do you agree to the hotel’s terms and policies or not?”

            “What?”

            “Do you agree—”

            “Who is he?” she said. “What’s his problem with me?”

            Jordan shrugged. “If you’re quiet, I can’t imagine he’d have a problem with you at all.”

            “What?”

            “Is it true you gave Brad your room number last night?”

            “Brad?”

            “The bartender.”

            “What?”

            Jordan righted his slipping face mask. “Please don’t do that. He’s staff. At the Inverness, we pride ourselves on a certain sense of decorum—”

            “Are you serious right now?” Andi stepped forward, the internal flame still roaring. The fight still well in her. “You know, I don’t have to stay here. There are plenty of other…” She slowed, mouth half-open.

            “Other what?” Jordan said. “If you want to find another place open in town, be my guest. Or I guess, then you wouldn’t be.” He sniffed. “My guest, I mean.”

            Then, clearly catching himself, he softened his brow. Lowered his voice: “Look, I’m trying to help you out here. I can tell you’re going through a… Yeah.” He rubbed his forearm. “You are welcome to retain your room, but I need you to say you agree to the hotel’s terms and—”

            “All right!” Andi banged her fist on the counter. “All right. I don’t have time for this. I agree to the hotel policies. I agree. But I want another room. On another floor.”

            Jordan’s eyes crossed, as if trying to process a new concept. “Another…?” He looked at the computer, something pleading and frantic in his eyes. “Where would you want to…? I mean—”

            “Anywhere. I’m not going back to 317. Just get it done. Please” She gripped the edge of the counter. “I have to get to the— I have to go see… Just get it done!”

            She kicked over a little gold garbage bin. It clattered tremendously, the echoes resounding for some time.

            Reaching for the exit handle, she shouted without looking back.

            “And if you see him again? You tell him if he shows up at my door tonight, he’s gonna hear what loud sounds like!”

NOON

            Unforecasted rain fell hard in thick panes. The wind slapped and taunted her all along the five-block walk. Another sign the world was against her.

            The hospital entrance’s automatic doors stuck together, whirring and vibrating at her presence. There was a plywood, hand painted sign—letters bleeding in all the wet: OUT OF ORDER. She grabbed the plank and wedged it between the doors, pushing and prying. Wood splintered, tore little holes in her raincoat, but finally there was enough space for her to slip through and into reception.

            Judy was there, her nose buried in one of a half-dozen flower deliveries at the front desk. At the splashing, huffing sound of Andi’s entry she looked up.

            “Oh, sweetie,” she said.

            “Let me up.” Andi went right past Judy, to the lobby elevator, and jabbed at the call button. “I’m gonna see her. Gonna see my mommy.”

            “Sweetie!” Rounding the desk with a phone tucked into her shoulder, Judy put her hand on Andi’s shoulder. Andi flailed out of her grasp.

            “Don’t!” she said. “Don’t.”

            “You should sit down,” Judy said.

            “She’s dying!” Andi flung around with such force her slick, heavy hood fell. Wet strands of hair invaded her eyes. The mask on her face, soaked, stuck to her air passages, waterboarding her between clipped breaths. “I got a message. There could only be hours left of her life and I need to be there for it. She won’t even know I came. That I tried.”

            “Oh, no, no, no,” Judy said, reaching out, keeping her fingertips a good inch away from actual contact. “No, sweetie. She knows. The nurses made sure—”

            “You’re going to let me up to see her,” Andi said. “You’re going to let me say goodbye. For God’s sake!” She pounded on the lifeless elevator. “Be a human. Have the decency!”

            “We are not, at this time, allowing visitors into the facilities in accordance with the governor’s—”

            Andi hissed. “The governor can rot in hell.”

            Leaning over the welcome desk, Judy began rummaging through snack-filled drawers. “I have a card here,” she said. “With some emails. We have world-class grief counselors who are available for virtual sessions twenty-four hours a—”

            “No!” Andi said. “No.”

            To her left, a distant static crackle. A security guard watched, pressing naked lips to a walkie-talkie.

            “I need to see her,” Andi said. With a hooked finger she peeled away her mask. The lips below were encircled by acne, chapped into oblivion. “I’ll never see her again.”

            “Ma’am,” Judy said. Suddenly her demeanor was business-like, reproachful, broad-shouldered. “Please put your mask back on.”

            “Okay!” Andi lunged, flopping over the reception desk to grab at the box of disposable masks at Judy’s station. She flung them out like Kleenex—one, two, five of them—and strapped them all behind her ears. “Okay! I’m covered. I’m safe. I’m clean. Now, are you gonna let me up? Five minutes. That’s all. Give me five minutes!”

            “Ma’am,” Judy said, a hand over one ear. “You have got to keep the noise down.”

            Andi pressed her hip into the stall. Streaks of gray water framed her sodden sneakers. Worn rubber soles squealed as she slid down, and down.

            “What did you say?”

            “I said please keep it down.”

            Andi laced her fingers across her forehead and closed her eyes just as her bottom met the wet floor. In a full-body heave, she curled into herself. She laughed. Chest rocking, shoulders bouncing, she burst into a fit of laughter that might go on for the rest of time.

            A hand compressed her bicep—the security guard, making his move.

            Being pulled toward the exit, away from her mother and any dignity she had left, only made Andi laugh more. Big laughs, from deep in her chest. The kind that sound like an engine turning over.

            The kind that do damage.

AHLA CEO Says Hotels Need More Than What's in $2 Trillion CARES Act – Skift
Accomodations

Continued in Part Two.

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