The Grand Hotel

                I smiled as I sang along with the radio, dancing and drumming on the steering wheel. My windows were open, and the wind off the bay whipped my hair around, stinging my face. It was dark here, and there weren’t any streetlights until the Grand Hotel. I was reminded of Jack, as I mused. He was so cute, and his scar was so sexy. We talked whenever I was there, watching my brother as he and his friends played in the hotel pool. I was almost there. Ah, and then the curve! I laughed aloud. I loved hitting turns, feeling the force of acceleration pulling on me. My legs jittered slightly from caffeine. I shouldn’t drink such strong coffee, I thought, giggling. I was driving home from Coffee Loft, where I had met some friends for a few hours and had coffee. Not going to sleep tonight.

                I turned off my high-beams as soon as I saw the glow from the hotel lights. Abruptly rounding a bend, I was dazzled by the rows of lighted rooms, and all the reflections glittering on the water surrounding the old buildings. I looked out over the water and took my foot off the gas, coasting. Mobile glinted from across the bay. Everything was peaceful, complete, and alive.

                Without warning, my vision went black, and I braked hard. The sudden darkness lasted only a split second, and the dancing lights twinkled once more. Odd. That must have been another blackout. Weird that it got Mobile, too. I’ll be sure to look for it in the paper tomorrow. Since my car had come to almost a complete stop, I pulled into the small marina parking lot and got out, inhaling sharply; it was so cold. I walked along the docked sailboats, and into the covered bridge. It was much warmer, shielding me from the biting gusts. I sat down and leaned my head against the wood, listening to the wind.

                When I opened my eyes, it was light, but as I left my shelter, I saw the sun was setting. Have I been here that long? I began to run toward my car; my parents would have no idea where I was! I was supposed to be back home almost twenty-four hours before!

                 I reached the spot where I had left my Impala, but it was gone. Oh, God, they’ve towed my car! I had a members’ sticker, though! I saw two men, wearing employees’ maroon polo shirts, sitting on a bench, apparently in conversation. I waved and called, trying to get their attention. They didn’t look. I ran towards them until I was a few yards away. I started to speak, but something stopped me before I could interrupt them.

                I inched closer, to hear them.“…forty-three years ago today. Drove straight through the curve, hit the hotel gatehouse. Died on impact, they said.” My heart sank. Wait, no. “Her car – it was a gold Impala; I still remember it, all smashed up – was flattened. There was no way she could have lived.” I swallowed hard. No. “The funny thing was,” he continued. I looked down at the keys in my hand, at my picture smiling up from the change-pouch. No. Don’t say it. Please don’t say it. “The funny thing was, they had the hardest time identifying her body. They never could find her keys, with her ID, you know.”

                “But did they ever find out who she was? Surely they must have used the license plate or something.”

                “Oh, yeah. That’s exactly what they did. Sweet girl, too. Bright. About to go to college. I used to talk to her sometimes, when work was slow. She hung out by the pool often. Nice girl. Two years younger than me.” He looked up from his arthritic hands. A long scar stood out from his wrinkled forehead. Jack? “What was her name? It was something like Brianna, Breanna. Something like that. I called her Bree.” No… I reached out, touched his shoulder. He shuddered, pulling his jacket closer around him. “It’s a cold night, hmm? Let’s go in.” The younger man helped him up, and the two left slowly. I watched them as their voices slowly faded into the night.

The End

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