“Have you ever read Rebecca?”
My eyes cracked open and l saw the light filtering in through the half-curtained windows opposite the bed. The air-conditioner at the base of the windowsill hummed, keeping our room at a temperate 65 degrees. It’d been running since we’d gotten here four days ago.
I rolled over in bed and looked at Lucien in the morning light. The sheets of the Marriot hotel bed wrapped haphazardly around my legs and under my stomach like a thousand thread count straight jacket.
“What?” I asked and rubbed my eyes. My mouth tasted like stale wine and my skin smelled like Camel cigarettes. Lucien’s jacket and my cocktail dress laid in a heap on the carpet.
“Did you ever read the book ‘Rebecca’ before? Maybe in high school or college?” Lucien asked again. He was upright, his back against the oak headboard.
“You know I dropped out of high school, Luce,” I mumbled, smacking my lips and trying to get the taste of rotten booze off my tongue.
“Oh. I forget sometimes,” he said.
I climbed out of bed and staggered to the small, fluorescent tile bathroom. I brushed my teeth, turned on my bluetooth speaker, and began running a bath in the tub. Sitting on the edge, I opened a hotel bottle of bubble bath and poured it in.
I walked out to retrieve my phone and found Lucien doing his morning stretches naked in front of the window.
We were fifteen stories up, and there was no risk of anyone seeing him exposed. But I still didn’t understand why he felt the need to do his aerobics every morning when he ate like shit and didn’t otherwise exercise.
I asked him about it after waking up after our first night sleeping together — just three days ago — and he said it was because he “needs to stay in shape.”
Stay in shape for what, I don’t know — he told me he didn’t have a job anymore. He quit an office gig before I found him piss drunk in the hotel bar that night.
Picking up my phone, I walked back to the bubbling bathwater and connected to the bluetooth speaker.
I tested the water with my toe. My pink nail polish was already cracked and chipping away.
Slipping down until I was submerged up to my chin, I closed my eyes and rested my head against the white rim. I used a folded up towel the maid had left as a pillow.
The song changed and a soft Charlie Pryde ballad bounced up and down in the room like a recording booth. My mother always loved Pryde.
I thought of my brother. I wondered how he was doing now that mom was dead and buried. I hadn’t talked to him since the funeral.
A knock at the door. “Can I come in?”
Lucien came inside and shut the door behind him.
He had put on a tattered white shirt and crimson red briefs.
Sitting down on the lid of the toilet, he began fiddling with the knob of his watch. It was big and bulky, steel with a blue face and a million other details he had listed off to me the night before at the club, but I was too drunk to care or remember.
“I just wanted to check in on you,” he said, fumbling with the watch.
“…while I was taking a bath?” I asked.
Lucien looked up at me as he put the watch around his wrist and patted his knees haphazardly. “I dunno. Seemed like a good time.”
I picked up the shampoo and began lathering. “Well, about as good as I have been for the past three days. No idea where I’m going from here. Don’t know what I’m gonna do for money.”
Lucien remained silent. He stood up and looked in the mirror. He turned his head left and right, rubbing his baseball glove size hands over his stubble. His white t-shirt had a brown stain just under the mirrored double “P” monogram on the breast, and one of his sleeves had a frayed hole the size of a dime.
“What about you?” I asked, rinsing out the shampoo.
“Same,” he said with a flat tone of voice. “I don’t know where I’m going from here. What I’m gonna do.”
“It feels like everyone I know has these lives they have carved out for themselves — these safety nets of husbands and careers and houses and degrees. Hobbies. Friends,” I said.
“I know. My younger sister is married, and her twin brother just got his MBA. Apparently he’s in talks with Wells Fargo about a position. I’m five years older than both of them,” Lucien replied.
I pulled the plug out of the drain and stood up. The streams of water droplets ran down my back and dripped on my shoulders.
“You didn’t tell me you had siblings,” I said as I grabbed a towel and dried myself off.
He turned to me, his eyes stale and his mouth a thin, lipless line. “Yes I did. I’ve told you about them all this weekend. You just weren’t listening to me.”
I watched him dip a razor in the running facet and begin to shave five o’ clock shadow without shaving cream or soap.
“I’m sorry,” I said. The facet running into the drain was the only sound.
I walked up behind him and wrapped my arms around his middle, dampening the back of his shirt. He continued shaving, and for a minute I felt like a cat crying to be let back in the house.
“I’m a fuck-up,” I said and felt my cheeks heat up. “I met you three days ago and I feel like you know everything about me. And I was so swept up in this weekend, and I just –”
Lucien put down his razor and pulled my hands off. He put his face down and rinsed it in the sink, dried it off.
He turned around and locked eyes with me, only one side of his face shaved. He wrapped me in his arms and pulled me in, putting his lips against mine.
Seconds passed in silence, and finally he pulled back. I looked up at him and blurted out, “If you wanted to get married, I would.”
Lucien patted me twice on the cheek and walked out of the bathroom. Less than thirty seconds later he returned, his hand jingling.
“Here,” he said, and tossed the jangling object at me. I caught it by just an inch, pressed between my wrist and my bare belly.
I looked it over in my hand — two keys. One was small and gold with a red cap at its handle, the other thick and black with ‘RR’ emblazoned on it. A tiny rubber Charlie Brown hung from the ring.
By the time I finished looking the cluster of metal over, Lucien was back in the main area of the hotel room, continuing his stretches.