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by Kathleen

Alone now in an appallingly decrepit hotel room, Natalie felt Kevin’s spell fading. How else to explain it? She had given him her passport. “So we won’t lose each other,” he said.

And sixty dollars! Voodoo must have stolen her common sense. Kevin’s rationale was that he understood euros.

Natalie had married Kevin thirty hours ago, after meeting him four months ago.
Wedding over, Kevin hailed a taxi and announced he had bought tickets to Geneva, Switzerland. “For our honeymoon.”

Not until they were hunkered into their plane seats did they talk about their finances. Both their credit cards were maxxed out. After a long flight, they staggered into the airport with all of two hundred dollars.

When they paid for the room in the only hotel or hostel they could afford, the proprietor said something Natalie missed. “Are you implying my wife’s a prostitute?” Insulted, Kevin added their marriage certificate to their passports.

The fat, unkempt owner pushed their papers away. “Partez par six am!” Then he pointed upstairs.

The hallway’s linoleum was broken in gaps, offering jagged views downstairs. Heaped along the baseboards was loose rat poison.

The bath was stained brown with greenish streaks. The overhead light bulb didn’t work and the toilet had backed up. But Natalie wanted to rest; they would complain later.

“We’ve got to push through until bedtime,” Kevin told her. “Unless you want jet-lag.”

But Natalie was so exhausted, her body too slow to obey her throbbing brain’s commands: Raise your arm, lift your foot.

Kevin said, “I’m going out for a few beers. Wanna come?”

Natalie shook her head. The mattress was thinner than a Sunday newspaper; the thread-bare bedding gray. She pulled a towel from her luggage, covering her grimy half of the bed.

Now that seemed like hours ago. Dusk was settling and two men very nearby yelled threats, no translation necessary.

Rest was impossible. Natalie’s teeth chattered unless she clamped them. Out the window, in the dingy, gauzy air, she watched a woman in tight, bright orange jeans, matching sweatshirt and matching hair, sprawled in the alley. Using her mouth, the orange woman pulled a strap around her emaciated bicep and tapped to find a vein.

Natalie paced. And when the men next door smashed something, she flinched. What had she been thinking? She barely knew Kevin. A few beers! He had left hours ago. Tears welled in her sore and swollen eyes. No money, no passport, no French, no phone.

Groping in the dark, she folded the towel back inside her rolling suitcase. She pushed on the hollow core door when someone pulled it. Despite the darkness, she knew who was there—and tipsy. “You are…Kevin, right?”

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know. Can I have my passport?”


Mike French said...

That was strangely engaging - utterly believable -
and you get the sense of how fragile her life had become in those moments.


Anonymous said...

Nice evocation of the seamy side. Have you been there?

Stella said...

Another great sketch. How do you keep it up? My creativity would be zapped after a month.