Contemporary Drama Inspirational

I’ve barely written a page, so I decide to minimize my document and just peruse the internet for a while instead. It’s good to stimulate the mind to prevent writer’s block, you know. In fact? I’ll even make it a productive little break. I click my LinkedIn bookmark and do the normal LinkedIn things, like congratulating my third grade teacher on her new job as a fifth grade teacher and sharing Gianna’s post inviting the public to apply for her law firm’s entry-level receptionist positions. Between my job and freelancing whenever I can, I’m… making it… but I know that going far beyond just “making it” is right within my grasp. I am a level-headed, rational person, so when I say this, I’m not being naïve, I really mean it: this novel is going to be the one. This is going to be the success I’ve been working towards. I believe in thcis novel… Now, if only I could write it.

Still scrolling through LinkedIn, I see an announcement from one of my writer’s groups so click-baity that I almost just disregard it as an advertisement. 

Use promo code: WRITE to claim your discount for a 5-day vacation to our upstarting luxury hotel chain along coastal Brazil! 2 for 2: you and one friend pay a combined $200 USD for this bargain, on the condition that you write a raving review for us once your stay is over.**

“Hey, Gianna, come look at this promotion I found. Goodness, imagine if we could actually afford the plane tickets to GET to this bargain vacation.” I turn the computer around so she can see the advertisement stock image photo of a pink margarita underneath a matching pink umbrella, contrasting the cerulean sky over the ocean in the background. 

I see her calculation in her eyes as she examines the promotion. To logical, computational thinkers like Gianna, every problem is a worthy problem, and every problem has a solution: you just need to be willing to work for it a little bit. I think this is what makes those logical types such good friends. Though I could never make my brain work like hers, I admire it. Note to self: base a character off of best friend.

“Wait, Em, I think you could actually do this?” I stand up and walk to the other side of the table, so that I’m standing behind Gianna as she does the hard work of actually reading about the promotion for me. “It says here they have a special scholarship to cover your flight. All you have to do is submit a portfolio with some writing samples of promotional writing you’ve done, and based off of that they’ll choose one scholarship winner. I guess they want to make sure they get at least one really good review out of this, huh?” Just this once, I’m going to let myself dream. 


I thought I was still dreaming when my cell phone started ringing at 9 a.m. Don’t people know that 9 a.m. is insanely early for the unemployed and the semi-employed? Caller ID said “New York,” and I guess that makes sense. 9 a.m. Mountain Time is… let’s see… 11 a.m. Eastern Time? I’m not positive on that though, I don’t travel much, but this sounds right. Plus, 11 a.m. is a much more normal human time for a morning phone call.

“Hey, is Emily Miller available?”

“This is she.”

“Hey Emily! My name is Sasha Myers, I’m the hiring manager for Paraíso do Sol, the Brazilian-based upstarting hotel chain you applied to work for. Is this a good time?” I shot out of my bed. I can’t believe this is happening, and so quickly? Surely this has to be a scam or something.

“Hey, yeah, this is an excellent time! I’m just… cleaning,” I always sound like an idiot on professional calls. Is that what this is, though? Is this a professional call?

“Great. Well, Emily, our team was able to review your portfolio this morning, and we think you’re a perfect fit for the temporary assignment we’re looking to fill. I’m sending more details in your email, but basically next week we’ll fly you and a plus one out to Paraíso do Sol in Florianópolis, and when you’re there you’ll write a review for us which we’ll give final approval to. And, of course, our team will work on a final translation of your work for Portuguese and Spanish speakers. Does this work with you?” Next week? She said next week! Oh my goodness gracious. 

“Amazing, yes, of course! Wait, the announcement I saw mentioned a $200 fee, though. How can I get that to you? Do you use any electronic payment services or should I just pay when I get there?”

“Oh, don’t worry about that at all, Emily. The $200 promotional discount is to incentivize non-employed writers to write about the hotel. But you? You’re one of us now. For you, everything is paid for.”


“Eu tenho uma... reserva.” I practiced very basic Portuguese (pretty much just enough to be able to check into the hotel) on the plane ride over here. 

“What’s your name?” The front-desk worker says as he smiles at me, and now I feel a little embarrassed about my possibly-butchered attempt at Portuguese. 

“Emily! I’m Emily Miller,” I respond, and he types something into his computer and hands me a key-card while going through the normal “welcome to the hotel, over there’s the pool and over there’s the kitchen” introductory speech. I know I should be paying closer attention, because later I’ll be wandering around completely confused as I try to find a vending machine, or with the size of this place, even a door to exit. But I can’t help but be completely, breathtakingly overwhelmed by the beauty here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many windows in my life! The bar along the wall was in front of windows spaning across the entire reach of the lobby. At the bar there was a young couple, not drinking, not even talking much, just laughing and looking out at the ocean and each other, presumably taking in the colors illuminating their faces. Note to self: write a story about a serendipitous meeting between two lonely hearts under a sunset. 

“Your roommate is already here, so don’t be alarmed about that. Alright, well you’re good to go, and if you need anything, I’m more than happy to be of assistance. My name is Jordão, by the way.” My enchantment with the hotel bar couple is broken by the word “roommate.”

“Oh, I told Ms. Myers on the phone, my friend couldn’t make the trip with me, I’ll be in a room alone.” For a second I assume that the confused expression on his face is the only response I’m going to get, and that I should just go ahead and go on to my room, which I’m fairly certain will not have Gianna in it.

“Uh… No, I’m sorry, Ms. Miller… you are staff, correct?” I nod. “Staff share rooms with other staff members. Your roommate is Patricia, she's very nice.”

Patricia is asleep when I walk into the room. Just as well, I am feeling pretty tired from the flight over here. Nap first, then we write.


I awake with a jolt when the lights suddenly turn on at what my internal clock feels must be 3 in the morning, despite the fact that the clock beside my bed reads “7:00 p.m.” I halfway expect to be in my own bed back at home, so I jump when Patricia turns toward me. She jumps, too, and quickly turns off the light. She says something to me in Portuguese, and though I don’t know enough Portuguese to have any idea what she’s saying, I can tell by her tone and mannerisms that she is being apologetic. I don’t think she expected me to be in here. Makes two of us, I guess. 

“It’s okay, you can leave the lights on! I’m getting up, too,” I say, but in the shadows I can only see her looking in my direction and half-nodding at me. I don’t think she speaks English, and I definitely don’t know how to say that in Portuguese, so, I hop out of the bed and turn on the lights myself. Patricia smiles at me, and if I had to guess, I would place her age at about sixty-five. In the light I’m able to actually look around the room for the first time. I’ve gotta say, if you put a picture of this room in front of me and had me guess which hotel it belonged to from a series of pictures of various hotel lobbies, there is no way that I would correctly match this hotel room to the elegant Paraíso do Sol lobby I had checked into just hours ago. It’s not a bad room, at all, but it’s definitely not luxury hotel material either. Our dresser drawers are shoved together at the head of the room, and shelves line the walls above our beds, which are full-sized separated from each other by a mere three feet or so. The bathroom is, presumably, behind the rickety wooden door near the room’s entrance. I’m not complaining, a free trip to Brazil is a free trip to Brazil, but I feel a momentary pang of sadness in my heart for Patricia, who has two plastic storage containers of her things on top of her dresser drawer. The faded photographs she has along the walls tells me that she lives here, at least somewhat more permanently than I do. I wonder exactly how permanent “somewhat more permanently” is. 

If anything, staying in a place with such a drastic contrast between the rooms and the rest of the hotel is going to be good for me. I mean, the hotel lobby writes a stellar review for itself. But the rooms? I’m going to have to get creative to think of how to sell these. I also can’t help but wonder how many other general ideas for my writing I’ll get while I’m here. Note to self: consider writing a story about an elderly live-in housekeeper at a resort hotel. 

I grab my computer bag and head to the lobby. Surely that will be a more inspiring place to work on my novel. Patricia steps out behind me, and when she closes the door, I notice the blue placard on the door that reads, “STAFF QUARTERS.” Looking up and down the hall, I see more of the same. We have a whole hallway full of just us staff members. I still feel strange about being considered staff, like maybe I’ve fallen into some weird corner of The Twilight Zone where my vacation-slash-writing assignment will lead to me being held prisoner under the fluorescent lights of the STAFF QUARTERS hallway forever.

In the lobby, Jordão is sitting at a table by himself, typing away on a laptop not unlike my own. I wave at him acknowledgingly, then start to walk past him, so as to avoid being intrusive. Jordão gestures me towards him, though, so I go and sit down across from him. 

“Emily! How are you liking it here so far? Do you like your room?” Jordão ends his question with a bit of a laugh.

“It’s… different from the lobby that’s for sure,” I shrug uncomfortably, unsure of whether to elaborate. “What are you doing down here? Shouldn’t you be home by now?”

“Oh, I am home! Staff quarters, remember?” Right. Staff quarters.

I just laugh back and open up my own laptop. 

“We’re not supposed to talk about it. I don’t think you got the whole orientation since you’re here on a temporary assignment, but we’re not supposed to discuss compensation,” Jordão says.

“Don’t feel obligated to give me personal information, it’s okay.”

Jordão shakes his head. “You need to know. You shouldn’t have to write a review without at least knowing about the bad things. Besides, I sometimes think talking about bad things is the only thing that makes them survivable, you know?” I nod, thinking about how much Jordão sounds like a protagonist in a story I’d write. Maybe one day he will be. “Staff doesn’t get paid anything. Well, not the normal staff, like you and me and Patricia.”

“Wait, what? How is that legal? Can’t you unionize or something?”

“Maybe, but who is going to risk that? I live here for free, I eat here for free, anything I need, they ‘take care of it for me,’ as they always say. It’s hard to complain about money, living conditions, or working hours when they’re giving us everything that we need to stay alive,” Jordão trails off momentarily, and I can’t tell if he’s giving me an opportunity to cut in or if he’s deciding how to continue his thought. “But that’s business, right? Business is about making money, that’s all. Make the Americans richer.”

“I thought Paraíso do Sol was a Brazilian-based hotel chain?” I ask.

“I guess that depends what you mean by ‘based.’ Paraíso do Sol hotels themselves are in Brazil, yeah, but those numbers that call us from New York? They’re the ones who own us,” Jordão saying “own us” sends a chill up my spine. I think back to answering that New York phone call, and hearing the peppy, American voice of Sasha Myers, hiring manager for Paraíso do Sol. But you? You’re one of us now. For you, everything is paid for. 

“So, all the money that must be going into this place… that’s not really benefiting the Brazilian economy much at all, then, is it?”

“Before Paraíso do Sol was here, there was a small, local hotel in this spot. Paraíso do Sol was able to get it at a bargain price during a rough economic patch.”

I can’t write a raving review about a place like this. Paraíso do Sol may look beautiful, but from within, it is anything but. An idea pops in my head that feels so brilliant that it must be divine. I need to call my lawyer best friend. “Hey, Jordão, I’ve gotta go. I’m sorry, I forgot, I told my friend I’d call her tonight once I settled in… I’ll catch up with you tomorrow.” I didn't catch up with Jordão tomorrow, or ever again.


“Gianna, this is bigger than what it’s doing to these workers in Paraíso do Sol. It’s not just in Florianópolis, all across the coast Paraíso do Sol is buying out these local hotels and replacing them with their luxury we-don’t-pay-our-workers hotels. How can I not write about this in my review?” I’m sitting cross-legged on the bed, mentally pleading with Gianna to tell me this is a problem we can fix.

“If you signed a contract then you signed a contract. You could go with a ‘oh well technically I abided by my contract and didn’t say anything bad about the hotel’ approach, but I don’t think you want to mess with a legal team like whatever Paraíso do Sol must have, if they’re as bad as you say.”

“Can’t you represent me in court, if it comes to that? Or don’t you have friends who can?”

“I’m a family lawyer, you know I can’t do that. I don’t think I know any lawyers who would want to jump into an international fiasco like this. I’m not saying you have to write the best possible review you can imagine, but legally I don’t see a way out of you writing at least a good review. Besides, couldn’t this hurt your reputation as a writer if you tried to manipulate the contract?”


The next day I dedicate to trying out all of the amenities of the hotel. The pool, the bars, the spa, the coffee shop, the gardens, the various hotel restaurants, and even the weight room, though that’s not really my thing. Honestly, it was a lovely day. So, I spend the next day the same way. If I was going to write this review, I need to do as much research as I possibly can. At least that’s what I pretend I’m telling myself. It’s so easy to forget about the problems with the place and just pretend that Paraíso do Sol is the utopia it presents itself to be. Which is why when I sit down on the fourth night to write my review, it writes itself shamefully easily. The finished piece of writing in front of me isn’t the half-hearted “it’s okay, I guess,” piece that Gianna and I had agreed on. Unfortunately, this might be my best work yet, and for that, I hate it. I save the review as a pdf. I write Sasha Myers’s name in the address box. I click send.

I can’t sleep that night. Tomorrow is my last day here, and I haven’t worked on my novel or helped the exploited Paraíso do Sol workers that I thought I cared so much about a few days ago. Patricia walks in around 8 a.m. and gets into her bed. I see how tired she is and I feel even more guilty. I’m sorry, Patricia. It has to be this way this time. A contract is a contract, right? There was nothing I could do! I’m lying to myself, and I know it. I knew what this place was, and I fell in love with it anyway. I think about how maybe we never know who we really are until we are given the chance to confront injustice despite the fact that it would inconvenience us to do so. As if confirming that idea, my next thought was, I wonder if I could make a story out of that idea. I don’t like who I am. Note to self: Next time, write something that actually matters.

March 06, 2021 02:12

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Luke Arnold
12:26 Mar 16, 2021

Bethany, this is a beautiful piece. Often I find it so challenging to be drawn in by most written works, but you make it engaging. Your style of presentation is unique. I love the self-thoughts throughout and the back and forth motion of energy. As a neurodivergent individual, this was beautiful and capturing. Bravo.


Bethany Lemons
18:37 Mar 16, 2021

Luke, thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I appreciate your comment!! :)


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12:59 Mar 14, 2021

I really enjoyed that, Bethany!


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C. Arch
19:50 Mar 11, 2021

Hi Bethany! Thank you so much for your story! I really enjoyed the voice (click-baity - ha!). The asides were fun and gave it a great atmosphere, too. Great characterization - Emily seemed like someone I could be friends with. I especially loved the direction you took the story at the end - that Emily didn't take the heroic route. It made the ending SO relatable and anti-cliché! On a small note, I was a little unclear on Emily's role with the company and how it related to the vacation scholarship ad. I would have loved a little clarity on th...


Bethany Lemons
01:16 Mar 12, 2021

Hey C! Thank you so much for your feedback!! I'm glad you liked the ending, I was especially interested in getting feedback on that because it felt so uncomfortable to leave the problem... un-fixed? But that's more realistic, so I'm glad I went with that ending, and it was a little new for me so I liked that, too. Yes! That's totally a good point on the clarity with the job title, I think that also feeds into the point you and Robert made about overall focus, so I'm excited to concentrate more on developing that in the future. Thank you SO m...


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Robert Vucsko
02:53 Mar 11, 2021

This is my officially, my second critique of someone-else's work, so, for what it's worth.., I wound-up enjoying the story, though my reading was fitful and choppy. The premise seems clear to me; an aspiring, serious-writer, doing content-provider-type, travel-writing, to break into the biz. We've ALL read plenty of blog-posts and content-provider type stuff. Clean, 'factual', well-organized and supportive of a product, service, or a vacation spot. Would a serious-writer start here? I am truly asking. The story itself carries a lot of ...


Bethany Lemons
18:16 Mar 11, 2021

Robert, this is all great feedback, thank you! For this story I free-wrote and then trimmed down to word count (which cut off about 2000 words) but your feedback makes me think that a better technique would be to keep the word count as a frame in mind from the beginning and build around that versus trying to "tear down" excess to get to it. I love the idea about only writing lines that advance the plot, too! Now that I think of it, the authors that I love the most write just like that. Personally, even in my longer version of the story, I l...


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Akshara P
01:08 Apr 17, 2021

I really enjoyed reading!! Well done! 😊


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