Linda Maye Adams

Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 4


4

The house had left Nikki smelling of dust.  Every time she moved, she had a lingering taste of it in the back of her throat.  All she needed was allergies now.  Best to head back to her hotel to change.

The hotel was a newer addition to the town, and named after it: Five Corners Hotel.  It was a serviceable hotel, only one step above the motels popular in the 1950s.  Given Five Corners was out in the middle of nowhere with not much to claim even for the tourists, Nikki guessed that most of the lodgers were stopping over for the night on the way to somewhere else.

Inside the lobby, the air conditioning hit her first, then the fakey chemical smell of vanilla that was supposed to be relaxing.

And then she saw someone she hadn’t expected, someone who shouldn’t be here, someone who had broken a big promise.

Her boyfriend Brian was in seated in one of the personality-less sofas in the lobby.  His head was down, reading his iPhone, so he hadn’t seen her yet.  Normally seeing him made her heart flutter.  She liked his tousled blond hair and the way it flopped on his forehead.  He looked like a California surfer.  He was dressed in jeans and a fitted charcoal gray t-shirt.  His body was lean and wiry, with a trim waist, and awesomely long legs.

Today the flutter wasn’t there.  The sight of him annoyed her.

She debated pretending like she hadn’t seen him—a thought that horrified her.  That was so unlike her.

With a sigh of resignation, she walked over to him.

“You are not supposed to be here,” she said.

He looked up, giving her that dimpled smile that she had always found so charming.  Now, it scratched at her annoyance.

“I had some leave and I knew you needed help, Nikki.  Especially with such a big decision.”

“I told you that I wanted to do this by myself,” she said.

He hadn’t wanted to hear it then, and she could see it in his eyes—he was tuning her out again.  When he spoke again, it was like he hadn’t even heard her.  She ground her nails into her palms, fighting back her anger.  It wanted her to say things she knew she would regret later.

A heavyset woman towing a big suitcase rattled past.  It was enough to distract Nikki.  She shifted over so the woman could pass, giving time for the anger to cool.

But Brian jumped in ahead of her.  “You’re not thinking rationally about this.  I’m here to help you make the decision about the house.”

Now Nikki wished she had sneaked out and not let Brian see her.  Pity she didn’t have a remote control that would put the world in reverse for a few minutes.  The anger that had receded a few minutes ago shot up again. She found herself holding back because that was the way she had always been taught.

“It is my decision,” she said.

“But it affects both of us,” he said.  “Surely you can see that.”

He sounded oh so reasonable.  For a second, a little voice wondered if Nikki was the one being unreasonable.  She’d never felt like this around him before and didn’t understand why she was second guessing herself.

Warm air from outside rushed in, momentarily clearing out the fakey vanilla smell.  Nikki glanced at the door automatically.  Randy walked in, carrying Molly.  He seemed not to notice her and instead went to the front desk to chat with the clerk.

Bryan stood, taking her hands into his.  His hands were calloused, but gentle.

“C’mon, Nikki,” he said with a gentle smile.  “You don’t know anything about real estate.  I do.”

His claim of dealing with real estate was buying a condo ten years ago.  Somehow that made him an expert. Like hell.

Nikki jerked her hands free.  The hardest thing she did was stalk out the door.

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