The sky cast its five o clock shadow of rain through the hotel blinds as Margaret floated to the surface of her doze. The man was sitting on the bed, half dressed, clinking keys from dressing table to pocket. Its OK love, he said, the room’s paid for all till morning, enjoy it, I can’t, and he was off, seventy quid on the side table.
It was a posh hotel. When they’d come in at lunchtime the woman at the desk had looked right through her. She could tell her type, she supposed, just from the thin weather- inappropriate white cross over dress she was wearing, quick enough to get in and out of, now damp and clinging, and the plastic rain hat bought hastily from Boots. She was polite enough to the man. She’d seen it all before.
The room had a kettle, tea, nice biscuits, a minibar but that was extra. Margaret flicked through the hotel information folder, menu, notes in case of a fire, facilities, a picture of the swimming pool in the basement. In the wardrobe Margaret found a navy blue one- sized ladies swimming costume in a sealed bag, a pair of terry towelling dressing gowns for Him and Her, and slippers.
She cleaned off all her make-up, put on the swimming costume, the dressing gown, the slippers, took a towel and walked down to reception. The receptionist ignored her. Where’s the pool? Margaret asked.
It’s not really for you. Said the receptionist.
Room’s paid for, said Margaret, and she began to cry.
Aren’t I like everyone else in my swimsuit and naked face?
The woman called the manager, but he nodded, had words with the receptionist, whispered, urgent, instructive.
There was no one else in the silent basement pool. Margaret floated on her back, like everyone else in her swimsuit and her naked face, like she’d been before.
She closed her eyes, sank beneath the surface and came up gasping. She was lying on the bed in the darkening hotel room. The man had gone. There was thirty quid on the bedside table.
A knock on the door and the manager entered. Time to clear out, he said, if you want to stay a bit longer maybe there’s something you can do for me.