Monday, March 29, 2010

Snowed In continued....

He was standing at the elevator. I walked to him and pushed the down button, keeping my eyes averted down as I scolded myself for my behavior. In all reality, he had done my a favor. I'd be home earlier now. That meant seeing more of my kids. I swallowed my pride and gave Mr. Henry a small smile. "My car isn't anything fancy sir, but it is safe and runs well. I'll have you to the airport about the time you had planned on departing. I'll call the airport and have them let your pilot know you are running a bit behind, but that he should be ready for departure as your things are being loaded into my car."

He smiled at me with more friendliness than he had only a few minutes earlier. I suppose it is easier to do once your wish has been granted. "That won't be necessary. Alan knows my departures are variable. He's a good man. He'll be ready and waiting."

I returned his smile. "Very well then." We stepped between the elevator doors that had just slid open. He turned to face the door, his being square in the center and his presence reaching to the corners. I pressed the button marked 'L' and then moved to stand in the corner behind him. The first time I had done this, he had questioned why I didn't stand next to him. With a blush rising in my cheeks I had quickly explained the uneasiness I had in elevators. He had nodded his acknowledgement. He never asked or glanced back after that first day.

When we reached the lobby, I suggested he have a seat in the busy bar and have a drink while I readied the car. As he sat down, I ordered him a Martini and then went to get my car. The parking garage where I had parked was just across the street. I didn't have a room at The Park Place and wasn't an important dignitary or other person. This restricted my access to the heated parking under the hotel itself. I stopped by the guard station and received my pass for picking Mr. Henry up at the sheltered drive up. Then I headed for my car, praying there weren't spilled french fries or apple cores on the floor of my car.

The wind was blowing so hard it felt like I was being repeatedly slapped in the face. The snow was wet causing the sidewalk to feel icy. I was relieved that Alan understood we might be late for any number of reasons. Slowly, I made my way through the mid-winter storm and to my car. I pulled my keys out of my purse and started up my Sedan. I turned over and purred to life like a trusted pet. I glanced around the car. No old food, but some dirty socks and a basketball. While my car warmed, melting the thin ice from the windows, I picked up the items the kids had left in the car and put them in a corner of the trunk.

I started singing an old Ramones song and watched as the words "I wanna be sedated" seemed to freeze in the cold air, suspended in time for just a moment. My smile grew as a memory of my son, then four years old, told me to stop blowing exhaust at him on a similarly cold day. I remembered laughing at his question, feeling unsure if I should just enjoy the interpretation or take away the mystery with an explanation. That was back when everything was right with the world. I felt chilled and climbed into my car, still singing.

"Mr. Henry, the car is ready. Your things have been loaded. Shall we be on our way?" I said as he finished his last swallow of his Martini.

He licked his lips, threw a $20 on the table for a tip, and stood up pulling his briefcase out of the seat next to him. He stopped for just a moment, looking at me intensely. "Earlier, I made an assumption that you would take me to the airport. I'm sorry. I just want you to know that I really do appreciate it. Thank you." I wondered if this is how he won so many things in life. That statement delivered with so much intensity and what felt like genuineness made the last of my anger evaporate.

"It's really okay. I only live a few miles from the airport and this will actually get me home earlier." We walked out of the bar together. I showed him to my car and opened the passenger side door for him. It must have been an odd experience for him as he hesitated just slightly before carefully sliding in. All week he had been in a beautiful town car: the silver exterior buffed until it shined, leather seats, enough leg room he could practically lie down, all the controls at his fingertips, and a driver who's responsibility it was to cater to his every whim. My car certainly didn't fit that image. The thick layer of salt from the roads made the bottom portion of my black car look discolored and dirty. He might be able to fully extend his legs out if he pushed the front seat all the way back. And so on.

I climbed into the driver's seat. "I suppose it isn't what you are use to."

"Not exactly," he said with a slight hint of humor in his voice. A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips.

I pulled out of the parking garage slowly. The amount of traffic had slowed to a trickle. Slowly, I maneuvered down the four blocks from the hotel before turning left. The roads were slick and I found myself fearful of traveling much over 15 miles per hour. We rode in silence for the first 20 minutes, making it less than half way to the airport. The snow seemed to be falling thicker than before, making visibility difficult at best. "I think I have counted 13 accidents now. How far do you think we have gone?"

I laughed. "Maybe five miles. We have about another seven to go."

He seemed surprised. "It looks and feels different from the back."

I laughed again. "My guess is if you ever have this opportunity again, you'll find it a very different experience. The weather is rarely this uncooperative." The car slid, skidding into the lane next to us. I stopped talking and concentrated on gaining control of the vehicle. Mr. Henry also became very quiet. "At least we didn't become number 14," I said to break the awkward pause that had dashed between us during the skid.

"Take off is going to be a bitch," he said. Had I not been driving, I would have looked at him. I had never heard him swear in the few weeks I had worked with him. I wanted to see what emotion had inspired such a strong word. I forced myself to keep my eyes on the road.

We continued to ride in silence for another 20 minutes. The silence was broken by his ringing phone. "Yes," Mr. Henry said into his phone. A moment later, I saw his hand fly up to his face and pull down it, stretching some of his features. "I understand Alan. Call me as soon as something changes." He sat his phone down in his lap. he sat quietly for another minute before speaking. "Sylvia, that was Alan. They have restricted all arrivals and departures until after the storm lifts and they can clear the runways. He's spoken to the top people at the airport and no exceptions will be made. I'm afraid I need your help in finding a place to stay."

If I could have closed my eyes I would have. Instead, I drove past the sign pointing the left turn I should have been taking to the airport. "It's nearly dinner time," I said. "There is a Mexican restaurant about two blocks up. It's a very small family owned place. The food is really good, if you like Mexican. We could stop there and order an appetizer while I make you a reservation." My words sounded tight which made sense as my throat had begun to close in order to choke off my tears. I'd be missing dinner with my kids again. I didn't know if I would even be reading stories. I needed to call Alice.

"I love Mexican," Mr. Henry said.

I pulled my car into the La Hacienda's parking lot. The snow was deep and only a few lights were on. I knew the owners well and hoped they would let me use the restaurant as an oasis from the storm. "Why don't you wait in the warmth of the car while I make sure they are open," I said. Mr. Henry nodded at me and reached for his briefcase.

1 comment:

  1. I like this story. I feel for Sylvia. I keep seeing that old billionaire kook, Tripp Darling from the axed "dirty sexy money" show. Except this guy here, Mr. Henry, is much sweeter and more generous. Very well written and enticing. Looking forward to seeing what happens (hopefully you plan on playing with this again). Hope Sylvia gets to see her kids more often.