I smiled and pulled my thin pashmina scarf around my shoulders as the wind bit at my skin where it was exposed. Soon it would be cold enough that my daily walk would require a coat. I much preferred New York in the winter. Summer meant heat, which I hated, and tourists, which I hated even more. I much preferred the clean snows that kept most of the crowds tucked safely away into their appropriate buildings.
As I arrived at the front of the Baron Frobisher, I reached down and pulled my miniature white lap dog, Prince, into my arms. Revolving doors and small dogs, I knew, did not mix. In fact, I had seen Aunt Harry tangle herself up quite a few times as she came and went through the door. She was just one of those people. Poor Toby was as well, although I hadn't seen him fighting with the revolving door for two or three years.
I had no issues with the door. I was decidedly not "one of those people." I could hear my mother's voice with a clarity that brought on emotions I wished not to acknowledge. "Valentina, people like us do not walk. We glide. Now go back to your room. You may return when you can enter like a good girl."
At seven, I hadn't known what "people like us" meant. I'd only wished my mother had allowed me to play with the other children rather than rushing me along whenever they passed by. Once I had seen Marcus and his sister spilling out of the elevator in a flourish of giggles and pinches. How I had long to understand what it was they were laughing at.
My father had long since sent my mother packing, for reasons I could not have cared less to comprehend. In truth, she had been a mother only in name. It was a mere formality of birth that had earned her the title, and nothing more. About that time my father's trips to the Caribbean had grown longer and longer, until finally he returned only for holidays or crises, of which there had been few since Henry Jameson began his employment.
As I "glided" into the lobby (proper breeding is hard to shake, even if one abhors the woman who taught it), the elevator doors opened on Ziti Williams. I bristled. I was naturally inclined to hate the man. To begin with, he was named after a pasta dish, which I found nearly as ridiculous as the way he was currently strutting into the lobby. But most unforgivable, I had seen him come uncorked over a harmless prank Marcus had once pulled on him over dinner. Yes, Marcus sometimes failed to know where to draw the line, but I found his accent charming and when I ran into him in the kitchen I often found that my usually distinct line of thought became jumbled. Hence, my dislike of Ziti Williams deepened after the ordeal.
I pulled myself away from thoughts of Marcus' mischief as a gentleman stepped out of a different elevator, sharply dressed in an expensive suit. He didn't seem to notice me as I passed, but instead had all of his attention on the over-primped noodle of a man who had just joined the soiree before him. I was intrigued by the way the sight of Ziti Williams seemed to harden his eyes.
I didn't know much about this newcomer, but that was something I decided would have to change. Growing up in the Baron Frobisher, I had learned that in my little world where the hotel business met lavish wealth, information was infinitely more valuable than money.
I had made it my business to know everyone else's.
It was surprising what you could learn by keeping your ear to the ground and occasionally asking the right questions of the right people. I knew my father had been sleeping with his bimbo of a receptionist, Joelle, on his rare trips to the hotel. For some time I had been aware that Marcus was supporting himself and Katrina, who I had noticed swiping other guest's belongings here and there. I had even come to understand that Gino's inability to meet the eyes of police officers had less to do with his own past and more to do with the mother he went to go visit on his days off.
And although I would never tell him (for fear he would choke on the perfectly cooked Eggs Benedict he ate every morning before his shift began), I knew about Mr. Jameson and Rome.
Not that I had been particularly surprised. Even saints had pasts, and Mr. Henry Jameson fell a few inches short of sainthood.