“Oh welcome, welcome!” A soft-spoken lady shouts from across the lobby “It is just freezing out there, isn’t it? My name is Charlotte, I am the owner of the inn. Is there anything I can do for you?” 

“Sorry to come in so late but we haven’t been able to find a room anywhere. Is there any chance that there is room available here? I guess everyone's in town for Christmas.” A young woman with her family says. 

“It is no problem at all, honey. That’s why I’m here. Would a double queen work? I have a few of those.”

“That would be great!”

“You can follow me and I will lead you to your room.” Charlotte makes a hand motion to illustrate them following her. 

Charlotte begins to walk across the busy lobby, decorated with garland, ribbons, and wreaths. Across the room is a large Christmas with bright and flashy lights. Most of the guests in the lobby are sitting around the fire and watching Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas Marathon. “This is the lobby,” Charlotte says while pointing to the large stone wall holding a large flame in the very center, “We have games for the children and Christmas movies playing all this week.” 

The old lady slowly leads them to the fourth floor of the inn. She finally says, “Here you go! Room 421. Have a nice stay and if you need anything, don't hesitate to ask.”

“Thank you,” one of the women’s children says while the mom reaches down and hands the short women a ten-dollar bill.

Charlotte turns around and strolls back to the elevator while sliding the money into her maroon cardigan. She hears the door shut behind her and a click of the lock. She begins to look at the floor of the hallway, the oak planking creates patterns in the flooring. Surprising the floor hardly squeaks. She then admires the walls, which are also decorated for the Christmas season and then the ceiling. The love she holds for the inn is above all else. The inn used to be her father’s and her father’s father before that.

She reaches the elevator and pushes the down button. A soft beep is blurted out by the elevator and the door swiftly opens. Children pile out from the elevator, giggling and playing. Charlotte grins and waves as they pass. 

Charlotte gets back to the lobby desk and begins to admire all of her loyal guests walking around and talking with others. She looks down at her old, teal clock sitting beside a photo of her and late husband from four years ago. The time is10:25, time for her night shift worker to be in. His name is Timmy. He has worked at the inn for three years, almost four and is the only real employee Charlotte has. 

She grabs her room key from in the top drawer and grabs her leather purse and Nokia flip-phone. She begins towards her room just down the hall from the office. She slips the key into the lock and twists, feeling the bolt jiggle around inside the frame before opening. She walks in slowly and takes off her cardigan. She pulls off the bed covers and climbs into the empty bed, located in the middle of the small room. There is no television, no photos, or even Christmas decorations, it's just an empty room with a bed. 

She lies down, facing the window and lays a hand where her husband used to sleep. This was a time when the room did have photos and a feeling of happiness. Now it is a feeling of emptiness. Her thoughts soon begin to shift into that of the inn. The inn has always been her life, even since she was a child. The inn is where she met her husband. She begins to wonder what will happen to the inn after she passes. What will happen to the end when she is unable to work it? She has no children to give it to like the owners before did. She soon drifts off into unconsciousness with that thought on her mind.

Charlotte wakes up the sound of her alarm like normal at 5:00 am. She pulls herself out of bed, stretching her tightened muscles from her rest. She walks across the room to her one lone, dark gray suitcase. The suitcase is overflown with neatly folded clothes. She grabs the first outfit she sees and takes it to the bathroom with her where she takes a shower and gets ready. 

Fifteen minutes later, Charlotte walks out of her room, fully ready with her purse and her flip phone, just the same as she has done for years and years before. She hobbles down the hallway, staying to the right so people can pass her. She takes a right at the pool and then a left at the lobby. She lays her purse and phone down at the desk and waits. Usually, Charlotte sits back and reads a book or occasionally, a sudoku puzzle, but today was different. Instead, she stood and thought about the question. Who? When? She knew that she could not go another year of this. The only reason she still walks people to their rooms is for the company. She sits, wonders.

Around noon, Charlotte picks up her phone and calls Timmy, “Hey Timmy, this is Charlotte, your boss, I was wondering if you could come in today early, 1 o’clock maybe?” she pauses, “Thank you so much, Timmy.” 

  An hour passes and Timmy arrives at the inn. “Are you alright Charlotte?”

“I am very well, just tired, that’s all. Thank you for your concern, Timmy.” She walks to her room and grabs a sweater and grabs her car keys. Charlotte has not driven in ten years but she decides that she wants to go visit someone. She drives east on the main road and stops at the grocery store on the corner of 5th Ave, this one specifically because it has a drive-through. She asks for two glass bottles of Sprite. 

Charlotte pulls back onto the main road and down to the local cemetery. She stumbles over to a very small gravestone, covered in snow with the sprites in hand. She wipes off the snow to reveal a plaque with the words: In loving memory of Jeff Pullam. She places the unopened Sprite on the gravestone and begins to mumble, “Oh Jeff… I have had some deep thoughts lately about what the future of the inn holds. I do not know what to do. I know that in my old age, I can not count on me being able to run the inn much longer and probably not another whole year. I don’t know what coming here was going to do but I hoped it would spark an idea.” Charlotte sits and wonders for what seems like forever. She eventually stands up and begins to walk off. “I love you, Jeff, It will not be too much longer dear. I miss you.”

Charlotte drives back to her precious inn and sits in her parking spot. She looks at the sign in front of the spot. It says Owner Parking Only. The sound of the doors startles her and she quickly turns her head in the direction. She can see Timmy welcoming the guests in a goofy manner, throwing his hands up and giving the families kids high fives. He takes the man’s coat and hangs it up on the rack beside and leads them to the desk. In a quick action, Charlotte opens her car door and runs to the lobby, “Timmy, Timmy!,” she yells, “I need to ask you something.”

Timmy stops in his tracks and says, “What's wrong??”

“Nothing, I’ve just been thinking a lot lately and I want you to take over the inn. I’m old and getting tired. It’s time to pass it on.”

He stares, confused, “Well… of course I will! This is an amazing opportunity. Thank you, Thank you.”

“No, thank you.”

December 28, 2019 01:04

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