Three small knocks on the hotel room door sounded her presence. The smooth surface emitted a hollow sound; it stood arrogantly between Jasmine and the man she thought was inside. Tentatively, she stood and waited a little longer. Raising a hand to her curled hair, she delicately felt for imperfections. She bounced and pronged it with her fingers, and looked around nervously to check, again, that she was alone. The red, worn carpet trailed off into shadow, and the wallpaper, at first glance blooming with colour, peeled quietly at the edges.
She tried once more. Her nails scratched the wood veneer and she jolted at the sound. Biting her lip, she wavered a little: her loose fist swayed in the air, unsure whether to land on the wood or settle back into the normal shape of itself.
Tom had told her to be there at 9.00pm, sharp. He was always very direct with her.Her eyes flickered down the hallway, left and right. He said he wouldn’t do this to her, not again. She opened her clutch, grabbed her phone and checked her messages: nothing new. The same instruction glared at her: “I’ll be in R45. Waiting for you. Get here soon.”
She felt her eyes become hot and wet. Blinking, heavily, they betrayed her confidence and a glistening tear escaped quickly down her cheek “He’s not coming, you know.”Jasmine jolted and looked around: a woman, not particularly out of the ordinary, stood in front her.
“Sorry? Do I know you?”
Mrs Monday’s sea green eyes set amidst a strikingly red bob. “No, you don’t know me, love. I saw you. I’m on my way down, but you look – you look… I knew you weren’t yourself.”
Jasmine touched her cheek: felt it burning on her skin of her fingers. She scanned her eyes over the woman, “I’m not sure what this looks like, but I’m OK. My friend’s not… he’s not in.”
“Hmmm. No, he’s not. He probably never will be,” she said, cocking her head to one side and examining Jasmine’s face. “Is it Tom you’re waiting for?”
Jasmine’s head shot up; prongs of curls darted in front of her eyes, and she reached to push them back. There was no way… did she know her from somewhere? From work? Jasmine quickly ran through her week: she couldn’t recall her face from the doctor’s surgery she was in charge of. She definitely didn’t know her in any other way.
“You don’t know me, love.” The woman said, quietly. “Just like he doesn’t know you.”
Wisps of soft hair sat dutifully around the lady’s cheeks. She had an older face, lined with years of burden and secrets. A playful smile crept across her face.
“I’m going on my way now, lovely. As you should. There’s nothing for you in there.”
Jasmine gripped her bag a bit harder, felt herself become unsteady.
How foolish, she thought. She felt utterly stupid to be here, again, waiting for him. In that moment, a fierce anger bubbled inside her belly. Her brow narrowed and her teeth pulled against the inside of her lip.
She would leave now, she told herself. Tilting her chin upwards, and inhaling sharply through her nose, she strode away, towards the shadows at the end of the hallway. Walking with pace and purpose, she dragged her nails along the wallpaper, red and yellow blooms disintegrating easily under her light scratch.
She did not look back from the shadows, but turned, defiantly, into the dark.