A few minutes later the bellhop arrived and made his customary knock at the door. Kate smiled and got up from her bed with a look at the supposedly sleeping form of her roommate and friend. Ashley was doing something unusual for sure, but she would have to uncover that mystery later. She had other things to do for now, like eat a long and enjoyable meal with the bellhop. As she walked with him and engaged in sweet nothings with him, her mind pondered on what she should consider the bellhop. Did they have a relationship? Clearly there was some kind of courtship here, and she would likely not have met someone like him in her normal life. They probably were the sort of people who went to different places and would never have met. Yet they had, and she wondered if there would be a conversation about their status ahead. She figured that the bellhop was a cautious sort of person, and that whatever he did he would take it somewhat slow, but she wondered if broaching the subject would make a conversation awkward or not. She did not know it, but the answer was yes, of course. When things were going well, as they were going well right now between her and the bellhop, the relationship was not the subject of the conversation. The relationship was going well, there was nothing that needed to be discussed, at least at the moment. The problem was that people who were insecure and needed reassurance tended to make an implicit matter that was going well into an explicit matter that made everything awkward. Fortunately for her, and for him, she did not feel it necessary to press the matter.
She was surprised at how little she actually knew about the private life and history of her sorta-boyfriend. She had spent the night in his arms and kissed him, so she supposed that there was at least mutual recognition of attraction, but he was the sort of person who managed to keep his interior life private without being secretive about it. Without appearing to be a person who was closed or untrustworthy, he was definitely a person of restraint. She wondered why that was the case, why someone who had such obvious gifts and was so obviously a decent person who genuinely cared about others was so reserved. She supposed he had a story, but he might not even remember it. She tried to pay attention to the walking and talking that she was doing so that she wouldn’t say anything too ridiculous. She liked the classiness of the restaurant. To be sure, there was a lot about this hotel that was sketchy, but at least they had a good restaurant. She thought of a question. “This may seem a bit random,” she said, knowing that it was, “but do you know why the hotel looks like it has windows on the outside but it doesn’t on the inside?” “I’ve often wondered that myself. I can offer a guess as to the reasons, but I don’t know for sure. My guess is that whoever owns this hotel doesn’t want people to know, for the most part, what time it is outside. There appears to be a deliberate effort to keep people inside, and to discourage their investigation of the outside world.” “Why do you think that is?” “I’m not sure. There have been so few people staying here that I have no idea what the intent was. I mean, no one before you has been a guest for as long as I can remember.” “I suppose you have asked about it?” “Yes, it’s definitely something that I have been curious about but no one has ever given me an answer about it.” “This place has a lot of questions and not a lot of answers.” “Yes, you’re right about that, but I think this place has enough answers, it’s just that there aren’t very many answers that you want to get.” “What do you mean?” “What I mean is that this hotel can send a message but that not everyone wants to get the message. I don’t think it would be right for me to tell you all of the things I have found out from being here myself, and I am sure that there are things that you could realize that I would be oblivious to because you are sensitive to them and I am not.”
They had arrived at their favorite table near the kitchen. “What would you like today?” “What would you recommend?” “Well, I am cooking up some chicken parmesan for myself again, as I am a creature of habit, but may I ask what mood you are in?” “I would like a nice steak. Are there any good steak cuts?” “Well, we have a seasoned ribeye that I would recommend with tasty herbs. I would eat more of it if it didn’t inflame my gout.” “You have gout?” “I’ve had it ever since I was your age, at least, and when I eat the wrong foods or the night gets too cold or I overexert myself in walking or running too much, it tends to bother me.” “Do you have any medicine here for it?” “No, I don’t.” “Then how do you get rid of it when you have an attack?” “Well, most of the time I just have to flush it out with a lot of water.” “That sounds unpleasant.” “It could be a lot worse, that’s for sure.” There was a slight pause and he whipped up their salads in his customarily elaborate fashion. “You know, about these salads–” He waited a bit and then replied, “Yes?” “Do you grow any of the ingredients yourself?” “I do have a bit of a vegetable garden, yes, but I only get to tend it rarely. Right now I have harvested what I want for now, but if I get to it more than once or twice a week this time of year it would be pretty fortunate for me. I’m not a particularly skilled gardener or anything like that.” “You do like your veggies, though.” “Yes, that I do,” he said with a smile. “You appear to enjoy them too.” “Yes, that I do.” They amused themselves in this fashion and at their salads as the rest of their food was cooking, which he attended to with admirable skill. After a few minutes of cooking, he had made her a steak that was at medium level and she remembered that in their conversation she had forgotten to say how she wanted it. “That’s fine. I like my steaks medium.” “That’s good to know. I’ll try to remember that for the future.” “Do you remember well?” “I remember my life here very well, which is a shame as it usually isn’t very interesting. I don’t remember much about before I was here, though.” “Neither do I. Why is that?” “I’m not sure; perhaps it is better that way. We bring our character with us here, but we don’t bring memories of the past, for the most part, that would only serve to make us dissatisfied with what we are doing now.” “Honestly, I don’t do much.” “Are you bored with yourself?” “Just a bit. I watched three hours of Judge Judy today.” “That’s a show I’ve enjoyed.” “Do you ever watch tv by yourself?” “I have before, but honestly I don’t have much reason to, because it’s not usually something that greatly interests me.”
“What does interest you, besides gardening and reading?” “Well, I am generally involved in reading. I like to sing, but there’s hardly anyone to hear me,” he said to himself, a bit flustered. “This isn’t a very exciting place; other than work there often isn’t anything to do at all, and since I can’t go online or play games with anyone there isn’t actually very much to do.” “I can see how that would be difficult.” “What about you? What do you like to do?” “I like dancing, I enjoy spending time with others, but honestly, I can’t remember most of what I liked to do with my time and I haven’t found very much to do.” “I don’t suppose you’d like to work here, would you?” “I’m not sure about that,” she answered honestly. “But you’d like to do something productive?” “Yes, I would.” “I’ll see if I can do anything. Most of the time I don’t get answers to my suggestions but it would be a lot less lonely here with someone else here, that’s for sure,” his face seemed to brighten in thought as he spoke, and she smiled, glad that if he was a reserved person that at least he was the sort of person whose emotions were disguised. He seemed rather open at least in that he communicated openly with nonverbal communication. As promised, dinner was tasty, and the two of them smiled at each other and ate pretty heartily. He was certainly good at cooking, especially for someone who didn’t have anyone else to cook for, which is usually not something that encourages one to have creativity in what one did. She supposed that he cooked well in large part because he liked food, not because he had been trying to impress anyone. “Did you remember that I wanted you to show me your room?” “Yes, I remember,” he said shyly, “I don’t think there is anything interesting but you’re welcome to see if you want to.” “I thought we could go there after dinner?” “That would be good, I suppose. We’re basically done now, aren’t we?” “Yes, I think we are,” she said with a nod. He made sure that the empty glasses and plates were rinsed and put in the washing machine and then he took her to a room that was not very far away from the lobby, and he opened the door and turned on the light and they went inside.
She looked around the room and saw that it was small and filled with books. There was a small desk with a beautiful box on it, a twin-sized bed with fabric on in that was the same as her own bed, and other than that there were a lot of books. There wasn’t even a television in here, though one wonders where there would have been any room with all of the books around. “You really do like to read.” “Yes, I suppose you could say I do.” “Are these books yours?” “I think they belong to the hotel, actually, seeing as I don’t have anywhere else to put these books. I suppose if they weren’t here they would be in some closet somewhere.” “That seems like it would be a waste.” “I’m sure I would think of it as a waste,” he agreed, “but not everyone is as fond of books as I am.” “That’s certainly true.” She was sitting on the desk chair as he sat on his bed, and neither of them was entirely sure about what they should say next. She knew he wasn’t comfortable with someone else in his private space. It’s possible that no one had ever been here before. She wondered what the space said about him. It was a small room but definitely comfortable. This was not the sort of room that someone would sleep in for a week, but rather the sort of room that had been lived in for a long time. It was rather plain, perhaps even a bit austere, but the books in it were well-read and this was a place that felt comfortable to her, aside from the awkwardness of the situation. “I really like it here.” “You do? I’ve always thought it was a bit small.” “It is small, but it looks rather homey, like you obviously have made it your own space.” “I’m glad you think so,” he said politely, and he looked like he was about to continue on except that there was suddenly the sound of a loud siren outside. The bellhop seemed puzzled but had the presence of mind to get up and head towards the lobby. She followed, and saw him look at some of the closed circuit screens with a frown on his face. “I have something to investigate,” he said slowly as he took out a flashlight from beneath the lobby. “Do you want me to come with you?” “If you wish,” he said as he walked out of the lobby door and down the lane. In the gathering darkness, his flashlight caught a form on the pavement near the front gate. “You may want to help me with this,” he said evenly. She looked with horror at the body on the pavement. Was that Ashley?