Saturday 27 June 2015

'Hotel du Jour' by Catherine Strong

Yes. This is the one: Hotel de Jour. I recognise the avenue of pines leading up the front drive, and windows to fill the horizon. It’s strange to be back, in jeans this time, and without you. I still have the contract, though it’s faded now and deep creases criss-cross the paper. I could feel it in my pocket, if I cared to slip my hand in.

At reception, I ask the girl if I can view Room 33. She gazes at me sourly, an unwelcome intrusion into her otherwise perfectly lazy day, and for a moment I think she won’t oblige me, that I will have to fly home, having failed, after coming all this way, after waiting so long. Would you remember the room, too, after all this time? We chose it because I was 33. And because it was next to theirs. 

I follow the girl mutely up the stairs and it’s hard to catch my breath now that I’m here, at last. And I’m picturing myself in those four-inch mules - the ones you bought me for £300 in the Harrods sale, with sequined butterflies sewn onto the toes. I thought you were mad to spend so much, but I still have them. I have them with me now. I ask the girl if I can book the room for an hour - and the look she gives me - at my carefully coiffed hair and made-up face. Oh you’d have loved that - booking a room for an hour. Yes, you’d have loved that; how brave I have become, since you’ve been gone. I press a few notes into her hand, and the girl nods in tacit agreement, eyeing me suspiciously before she slams the door behind her.

I slip out of my jeans and put on my Karen Millen dress, the golden fabric stained crimson with ten roses spattered front and back. The shoes are tight, but they still fit. Everything still fits. I take the contract from my jeans pocket and smooth it out onto the large double bed. I forgot to ask what time dinner is served. It’s probably the same as it was all those years ago - at eight o’clock - but I won’t be here by then. 

I lie on the bed and remember - how our friends were kept waiting in the next room, how we emerged an hour late for dinner, not a strand of my sun-yellow hair out of place after that full afternoon, blinds shut, windows ajar; the thrill of knowing they were listening through these thin walls, treated to a taste of the knoll and ravage of desire, of what it means to be slave to the taut cord-pull of love.

The same hotel; the same four-inch mules with sequined butterflies on the tips; ten roses on my golden vintage dress. It’s the same room ... and dinner’s still at eight. But by then, you and I ... you and I, my love, we will be gone.

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