2. At the HotelMature

"I can feel l'amour," he said, grinning as he climbed out of the car and walked around to the boot.

Tina and I got out and walked to stand beside him. I ignored the couple as Tina, eyes flashing, told him "I can feel le désir." Instead, I gazed around at my relatively uninteresting surroundings, (just lots of buildings like this one and the odd tree and lamp around them) now barely visible under a quickly darkening midnight blue sky.

Daryl smiled and, pausing in retrieving the suitcases, pulled Tina into his arms and began unashamedly kissing her.

She made unnecessary sounds of delight, which I pretended not to notice (though inside I was disgusted) as I grabbed my suitcase myself.

"Are you coming?" I asked crossly as I walked over to the pavement.

Daryl let go of Tina and sighed in mock exasperation (making her grin widely), pausing to push a few stray locks of hair behind her ears before turning to me.

"Yeah, we're coming."

He pulled out both Tina's suitcase and his, locked the car and started carrying both cases to where I was standing, which - though a gentlemanly gesture - was painful to watch as he needlessly put extra strain on his back and shoulders. I watched with strong displeasure, disliking Tina as she followed Daryl, not attempting to take her luggage from him at all.

"I'll pull yours as well as mine," I offered when he reached where I was waiting, but he shook his head at me, smiling through his suffering.

"I can manage."

I sighed and we entered the foyer, at the opposite end of which was the hotel reception.

We arrived at the desk and, in excellent French, Daryl told the receptionist we had a reservation for two rooms under the name of Harpington.

The young lady, a brunette with sparkling blue eyes, looked impressed by Daryl's language skills and handed us out keys, saying "Bon séjour" (Have a nice stay).

Fortunately, there was a lift in the hotel and we rode up inside it to the correct storey of the building, Daryl relieved of the heavy suitcases by the carpeted floor.

We reached our level and pulled the suitcases out into the corridor - a long affair with creamy walls, lit overhead by dull yellow bulbs. Though it was awkward, Daryl found it easier to pull both of the suitcases and he was panting less than he had been downstairs when he reached room 403.

"This is the double," he told us, causing me to inwardly cringe slightly, "and 404 is the single." He handed me my key and glanced at his watch. "Meet us out here at nine and we'll go find someplace to eat."

I nodded, trying to smile, but was filled with a sort of apprehension as Tina followed Daryl into their room, shutting the door behind them. I wasn't stupid: I knew what two people did together when they were in a relationship; but somehow the thought of Daryl spending the night with Tina made me worried and concerned - what if she used this night to hurt him in the future?

I walked into my own room and closed the door behind me, standing my suitcase near the wardrobe. I found myself biting my lip.

‘Oh, stop being so ridiculous,' I chided myself. ‘Daryl can take care of himself. And he'll always have me around.' But the thought provided no comfort and it was only my harshness with myself that made the anxiety go away.

*

At nine o'clock, I stood outside room 403, dressed in a long blue cotton skirt, a white T-shirt, and a light, cream evening jacket, in one of the pockets of which lay the key to my room and my mobile phone. I couldn't hear anything from inside and felt an awful fool just standing there like a lemon. I prayed silently that progress in my brother and Tina's preparations for the evening weren't being halted by any flirtatious moves on her part, especially since I was actually quite hungry.

Luck shone down on me like the midday sun and Tina and Daryl calmly walked out of the apartment, my brother's arm around his girlfriend's waist.

"Is your room okay, Carina?" my brother asked as he checked his door was locked.

"Yeah, it's great, thanks," I replied, trying not to stare at how much leg Tina was showing under her short denim skirt. She was smirking at my outfit, clearly finding my lack of desire to reveal a lot of bare skin amusing.

Daryl smiled. "Let's go then. Tina wanted Indian food - is that alright?"

He was only asking to be polite: really, there was no chance he'd go against Tina's wishes - even if they weren't totally to his taste. It was like playing a video game that wanted you to go in a certain direction: you could choose the other route however many times you liked but you wouldn't make any progress until you took the right path. If I tried to suggest another type of cuisine, like I was half-tempted to presently, Daryl would attempt to be diplomatic but point out all the advantages of Tina's choice and the disadvantages of mine (remaining gentle and kind, naturally), adding in the fact that Tina should choose because we were family and she was a friend, so she was like a guest and we like the hosts. If I persisted, he would show disappointment at my "immaturity" which always made me feel guilty and give in.

"Yes, that's fine," I said, not too unhappy on this occasion because I enjoyed Indian food and felt hungry enough to devour a whole pheasant (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Daryl smiled warmly, the look on his face reminiscent of the expression of pride in me which he wore when I gave into Tina's wishes after having originally argued: an expression unintentionally but annoyingly patronising. Sometimes I got the impression that Daryl still saw me as a 10 year old, though how he managed that when I had the body of a young woman I would never know.

Cheerfully Daryl led us back to the elevator we had taken up here and after depositing out keys with the receptionist, we walked out into the warm summer night's air.

The End

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