I never saw this trip as anything more than a chance to catch up and reconnect with my younger sister. But what I didn't realize was a complete stranger would change my life in ways I had yet to realize.
I'm beyond tired. Utterly exhausted is how I would describe my current state of mind. I just want to get off the highway before I fall asleep behind the wheel. After an excruciatingly long drive all I want is a hot shower and a nice warm bed. I'm excited to be here in Virginia.
Its been six months and I really miss my sister. I think this trip will be good for both of us. She has no idea that I'm coming.
She was expecting me in a few weeks but I decided to come early and surprise her for her birthday. The weather is unusually mild for early March. Not that I'm complaining. I pulled into the parking lot of the Pineapple Inn. The lot looked extremely crowded. It took me ten minutes to get a spot.
Inside the hotel was bustling with activity. I took my place in line and waited patiently. I watched couples and families enter and exit the front of the building. I checked the time on my cell and yawned.
How much longer was this going to take?
Finally my turn had arrived. The older gray haired gentleman motioned for me to wait. He turned to face the walnut desk and answered the ringing phone.
"Hello, The Pineapple Inn How can I help you? No, there are no rooms available at this time. You could call us first thing tomorrow morning."
He ended the call and walked towards me. He smiled. I felt something was wrong.
"Welcome to the Pineapple Inn. How may I help you Miss?"
" I have a reservation here. Room 316."
"Name please?" He asked me.
Then he started to type on the keyboard that was on the counter beside him. His brown eyes met mine.
"I'm terribly sorry Miss Walker. There's been some sort of mix up."
"Oh, what happened?" I inquired.
"Room 316 is already occupied. Again I am sorry. I would be more than happy to help you find other accommodations nearby. Just name the place."
"No thanks. That's not going to work for me. I booked that room a month ago. I just drove seven hours. There must be something you can do." He smiled again but I was amused.
"I have another idea. If you'll just give me a few more minutes, I'm sure I can work this out."
He typed some more and I stepped away from the counter. I crossed my arms in front of my chest. He left the computer and returned to the desk. I watched him lift the receiver on the phone and dial someone here in the hotel.
On the third floor I approached room 316. I had just taken out my key card and was about to use it when the door was swung open. And there standing before me was the stranger who had interrupted my vacation. He had dark brown hair and hazel eyes. He stepped aside and let me pass. I took my luggage and hurried to the queen size bed closest to the window.
"I have all my things in that end table and I prefer the view. I hope you don't mind?"
"No not at all. I would much rather be near the bathroom."
I placed my bags on top of the other bed and tossed my purse on the chair in the corner. He switched on the TV and started flipping through the channels. I unzipped the larger of my two bags and began going through my belongings.
"I hope we can both agree not to have that on all night."
He smiled which I hoped was his way of agreeing with me. I gathered up my towel, pajamas and hair brush and made my way to the bathroom. He came my way.
"I have some of my things in the sink and I hung a jacket on the back of the door. Like me get them out of your way."
"Oh no, that wont be necessary I think I can mange. I just need a quick shower. I think it'll be alright."
He returned to his side of the room and I disappeared into the bathroom. The room was filthy. Several articles of clothing was discarded on the tile floor and there was a large green duffle bag on the Formica counter. The water in the sink was jet black from his soiled clothing. I gaged at the sight of this. I looked around for a place which I could set my things down. I shook my head.
When I emerged from the bathroom, I found him staring up at the ceiling above his bed.
"Is everything alright?" I asked him.
He looked down suddenly and faced me.
"Oh yes, I was just thinking. I do that sometimes. How was your shower?"
"Not as hot or as long as I had imagined but I will survive."
I went to my open suitcase and reached inside for my slippers. Then I folded up the clothes I had on earlier and placed them inside a compartment in my bag. I sat on the edge of the bed and placed both feet in my purple slippers. He lowered the volume on the TV.
"Are you hungry? I could order us some dinner?"
"No thank you. I just need some sleep. But don't let me stop you."
He lifted the phone and began to place an order with the kitchen.
I lined my luggage up next to the chair and then pulled down the comforter. I heard him say there was no rush before he ended the call. I got under the comforter and started to get comfortable.
"You were serious about going to sleep?"
"Yes I am. I drove for seven hours. All the way from New York.
I really need to close my eyes."
"I totally get that. I can be very quiet when I have to be. You wont even know I'm here Rachel."
"And how do you know my name?"
"Dave the manager told me. I hope that's ok?"
"Yeah its fine. And you are?"
"Andrew. You can call me Andy. Most people do."
"Don't take this the wrong way but I'm not here to make friends. I only agreed to this because I just couldn't image driving anywhere else tonight. You do your thing and I will be gone tomorrow."
"I hope you'll consider staying. I promise not to be in your way."
"Well I guess I will have to think about that. See you in the morning."
I switched off the lamp on my end table and turned on my side to face the wall. Andy cleared his throat. Then he raised the volume on the TV. I could hear car tires squealing and gun shots. He turned the channel. Two people were shouting. I faced him.
"Sorry. I could lower it again."
"I would rather you turned it off. Do you have anything to read?"
"No, I don't like reading. Would you mind talking just till my food arrives?"
I rolled my eyes. He turned off the TV and I sat up in the bed.
"So what shall we talk about?" I asked him.
" Um, how was your drive here?"
"It was fine. Long but I already knew it would be. Did you drive here Andy?"
He shook his head. I waited for him to reply.
"I took the train and then a bus. I had to sell my car a few months back. I just needed the money more. Do you have a big family?"
"No, its just a few of us. My sister lives here now. I came for a visit. Saturday is her birthday."
"That's very nice. But why didn't you stay with her?"
"She doesn't know I'm here. I wanted to surprise her. Are you from Virginia?"
"No, well I did live here for some time but I wasn't born here or anything. The people here are so friendly. Your probably not going to want to go home."
"I know that I will Andy. I have a good job and friends in New York. What about you, your family is it big or small?"
"Its just me. I have no siblings and my parents are gone almost twenty years already. I was hoping I might find work here."
"I see. I'm real sorry about your folks. I lost my mom and it hurts me every single day. I miss her smile, her laugh and mostly the sound of her voice."
"It sounds like you two were very close."
"Yes we were. She was the absolute best. I just want to make new memories with my sister. Life is such a fragile thing."
I had gotten tears in my eyes and Andy brought me the tissue box from the table. I pulled out a few and blew my nose. I noticed Andy looked upset as well.
"I know what its like to deal with loss and I hate to see you upset."
"Don't worry about me. I'm stronger than most. What kind of shows do you like?"
"Oh a little bit of everything. But I don't watch sports. and I know most men do. Do you watch anything good?'
"Not really. I hate the news. I cant stand talk shows. But I like the shows where they fix up houses. Sometimes I even watch cooking shows. I can learn new dishes that I would've never thought to make."
There was a loud knock on the door. Andy stood up from the bed.
"Speaking of food. I better let them in. If you want anything I ordered plenty."
I tried to get comfortable again. Andy opened the door and allowed the server to push the cart to the center of the room. I watched them both lift the lids off the plates of food. Everything smelled delicious. I didn't realize how hungry I actually was.
We shared most of the food. Andy had ordered burgers, fries, sandwiches, coffee and even cheesecake. We continued to talk until almost midnight. I had learned Andy was out of work for a year. He had interest in lots of things but was just having trouble getting hired. I told him I knew how hard it was out there.
The next day I woke to find Andy was gone. I called Dave on the phone.
"Hi, this is Rachel Walker I'm in room 316. I was wondering if you might have seen Andy this morning. No, ok. No that's all."
I got dressed and waited for him to return. When he didn't I wondered if I had said something that offended him. I called my sister to see if she busy. I told her I was in Virginia and she started to cry.
"I thought you'd be happy I was here. I was hoping we could hang out go shopping and have lunch like we use to."
"Rachel I am happy. I had no idea you'd drive all the way here for me. Your the best."
"Oh stop it. Your my sister. Lets have lunch I have to tell you about what happened to me last night."
I ended the call. I had packed all my bags and thought again about Andy. I knew we had just met the night before but I enjoyed his company. He was messy sure but he made me laugh. He was incredibly lonely but so was I. If I could just tell him how much he changed me. I hoped he would tell me that I had changed him too.