John McGrath looked up from the busy street and read the sign: Cavendish Hotel. Pulling open the front door, he stepped in to find a small foyer of potted plants, mirrors and vinyl covered furniture. Wearily, he set his bag down at the reception desk and rang the bell. He had to find a place to sleep.
The desk clerk lumbered from the back room and looked at him crossly, as if he had bee
n disturbed from a late afternoon nap. After signing the register, John took the key to his room and found the tiny elevator around a pillar and down a dark hallway.
To his great surprise, the elevator was beautifully crafted with dark mahogany wood and gleaming brass. The doors clanged shut and he pressed the button for the fifth floor. The cage rose swiftly through the dark shaft and stopped. The doors opened and John stepped out.
“Good evening, sir.” A small man appeared in the shadowy hallway dressed in an old-fashioned bell cap’s uniform of the deepest blue, with buttons and braid of the shiniest gold. John nodded and sought to pass him.
“Let me take that, sir?” The bell boy took John’s case and hurried down the red carpeted hallway.” Looking over his shoulder, the bellman grinned. “Room 502, a very nice one, to be sure, sir.”
Again John simply nodded. All he could of was to sink onto the bed and, with any luck, go straight to sleep. Once in the room, he looked about. Not a room he expected to find in a run-down hotel. The bed was wide and comfortable looking, with a huge headboard. Little framed prints covered the walls and to one side was a very large armchair, sofa and table. He tipped the bellman, who touched his cap, clicked his heels and disappeared.
John switched on the light in the bathroom and immediately saw his grey, haggard face in the mirror above the sink. Taking a towel, he ran the water as hot as he could, then washed his face. No wonder he looked so sick. He could never sleep properly. A whole year had passed since his wife and son had been killed in a car accident. He dreaded tonight, New Year’s eve, and the anniversary of their deaths, as if he were a convict on death row awaiting execution. He patted his face dry and turned to go back into the bedroom.
He opened the door. His mouth gaped open. Before him was set a beautiful table laden with white linen, gleaming silver and crystal glasses. The bellman entered the room with steaming silver dishes filled with the most delicious smelling food. John shook his head in disbelief. The bellman smiled and after setting the dishes out on the table, pulled the chair out for John.
John could not believe his eyes, but slowly he sank into the chair. The small man lifted one cover after another from the serving dishes and began to spoon out potatoes, corn and peas and then he carved two slices of succulent roast beef and set them on the plate before John. To his surprise, the food was real. He was not dreaming.
Scooping up some vegetables, he tasted them carefully. It was hot and delicious. After months of no appetite, John was suddenly ravenously hungry. He grasped his knife and cut the meat. For the next ten minutes, he ate without pause, feeling warmth and energy flood through his body. The bellman nodded approvingly and poured John a glass of wine. Only when he had finished all the food on his plate, did he pause to take a sip. He felt life coursing through his veins.
John glanced about the room and was surprised to see a maid near the window. Smiling, she approached the table and set out the dessert.
“You have eaten with such a good appetite, sir,” she said. “But why do you look so sad?”
John tossed down his napkin and pushed back his chair. He looked at his watch. “Because, at this time exactly, one year ago, my wife and son, whom I loved with all my heart, were killed in a car accident.” John stifled a sob. “And since then, I have been unable to sleep or eat. I miss them so much.
The bellman and the maid exchanged worried glances.
“But John,” the maid said softly, “do you think that just because it is daylight, the stars are no longer in the heavens?”
“Of course, not. That would be foolish.”
“Just because you are surrounded by fog, do you think the world has disappeared?”
John sighed heavily. “Really! Don’t bother me with silly questions. They are gone forever and I am alone.”
The maid shook her head sadly. The bellman spoke. “We will leave you now, sir as you seem very tired. But please remember, your wife and son are always with you.”
Glad to be left alone, John nodded and then sank wearily on the bed. The bellman and the maid closed the door softly behind them.
For a whole year, he had been afraid to lie down in bed, expecting to be tortured by longing for his family. But tonight, he settled comfortably on top of the covers. Within a moment, he was breathing deeply and fast asleep.
He slept a deep and dreamless sleep without moving once in the night.
In the morning, he awoke for the first time in a year, completely rested. He sat up expecting to see the dinner table and the dishes from last night. The room was entirely clean. Not a trace of the meal remained. How strange, he thought. He had not heard the man and woman come back for the dishes.
Puzzled, he packed his few things in his bag and stepped into the hallway. He half expected to see the maid or bellman, but then realized that they would not be on the morning shift.
Downstairs at the front desk, John examined the bill. Being an honest man, he said to the clerk, “But there is no charge for the delicious dinner the bellman and the maid served me last night.”
The clerk looked at John in astonishment. “What are you talking about, sir. We haven’t had room service in this hotel for at least fifty years. Most of the rooms are closed off. In fact, except for the night clerk, I’m the only one working here.”
“But the man and the woman…they served me a roast beef dinner.”
The clerk began to chuckle. “And did they send up the dancing girls, too?”
“What?” John backed away from the desk. “All right. Here’s the money for the room.”
Quickly John picked up his bag and headed for the door. Outside, he stopped on the steps. On the sidewalk, stood the bellman, resplendent in his uniform. Seeing John, the man tipped his cap and said, “Good morning, John. I trust you slept well. Your family has not forgotten you.”
Smiling, John said goodbye and hurried down the street with life in his stride.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing.
Coming soon! This trilogy has a fourth novel The Wondrous Apothecary which will be published 2019. Find out more… http://maryemartintrilogies.com/the-wondrous-apothecary/
All of the novels in The Osgoode Trilogy and The Trilogy of Remembrance may be found anywhere online, including Amazon