Chapter 1: Resort Weekend
"And I bless the day I met you,
And I thank God that He let you,
Lay beside me for a moment that lives on.
And the good news is, I'm better for the time we spent together,
And the bad news is, you're gone."
– "You're Gone," by Diamond Rio
Sydney St. Claire arrived at her weekend job at the resort almost ten minutes late and was met by chaos. But then again, what was new? She tiredly stepped around some little boys in swimming trunks who were tossing a beach ball back and forth, then ducked into the main office. "Hey, Tina," she greeted her supervisor. "Sorry I'm late. The roads are awful this morning."
Tina looked up from the computer screen with a sigh. "I can sympathize. I almost didn't make it in myself." She pulled a piece of paper from the desk and studied it, narrowing her eyes at the scribbles she saw there. "You're with Peggy and Morna today. Do you mind?"
Sydney groaned inwardly. Peggy and Morna were veterans of the Evencrest Resort, best friends and altogether...well, strange. They had gone through various obsessions since Sydney had begun working there, including obsessions over Disney movies, some punk band no one had ever heard of, and, more recently, a body lotion fixation.
"No, that's fine," Sydney said, smiling tightly, knowing she truly didn't have a choice. As she hurried down the hall to the supply room, she muttered under her breath, "Wonder what their fancy is this week..." She quickly gathered some cleaning supplies in a plastic carrying tray and studied the chart that indicated which rooms in the resort had been occupied during the week. Seeing Peggy and Morna's names on "12" and "13", Sydney backtracked down the hall and glanced into thirteen's doorway.
Sure enough, that's where the friends were working. Peggy had a pair of rubber gloves on and a toilet brush in her hand, while Morna was holding a broom and dustpan. "Good morning," Sydney said brightly, interrupting the girl's in-depth conversation. "What needs to be done?"
"Anything and everything," Morna said with a shrug. She blew a lock of brown hair out of her eyes and went back to sweeping the kitchen area. "You can dust, if you want."
"Sure," Sydney replied, pulling out a rag and some furniture polish. She watched as the girls went back to chatting, then idly sprayed an end table and wiped it clean.
"Well, you know," Peggy was saying, "I think what made Hitler so powerful in the first place was the Versailles Treaty. We were so stupid that we punished all of Germany for the First World War"
"Well, yeah. And considering the guy wasn't exactly blond and blue-eyed himself, I have to think that he was probably a bit on the insane side," Morna added. So their latest obsession was Hitler? Sydney shook her head. Whatever. It wasn't her concern, but –
"But we showed him. I mean, we lost a lot of lives on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, but they were very important to our final victory over Europe," Peggy said, pushing her glasses up on her face with one gloved hand. She disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, and Sydney heard the toilet flush. Then her red head popped back around the corner. "It's just too bad we couldn't have protected some of those liberated towns before the Nazis got a hold of 'em."
Morna was about to reply, but suddenly noticed Sydney's silence and inaction. She turned around, her dull eyes flashing. Sydney was still crouched next to the coffee table, trying to interpret the girl's conversation. "Do you have something to add, Sydney?" Morna asked snippily.
"No, I was just trying to figure out what you two were talking about. That's all." Sydney shrugged and ran her rag across the coffee table, which was already shiny and clean. "It seems strange to see two teenage girls discussing the causes and effects of World War II."
"What's wrong with that?" Peggy asked, emerging fully from the bathroom. She picked up a full roll of toilet paper and discarded her toilet brush. "Haven't you ever read Ambrose? Or watched the History Channel?"
"Well, yeah, a little." Sydney was annoyed that she would have to justify herself to two girls barely over seventeen. "But I'd rather read a good mystery any day or watch a drama. History just doesn't interest me that much."
Morna looked offended. "How can you not have an interest in history? I mean its stuff that happened in the past and some people are still around to tell about it. Don't you have any respect for -"
"Okay, Morna, let's not talk about respect here." Sydney stood and crossed over to the television stand. "It's not that I don't respect history and the people who made it. It's just that it holds no interest for me."
With that she closed the conversation by turning her back on the girls. She trudged up the stairs to the loft, where she dusted off more furniture and polished more woodwork. Sydney didn't mind this job, even though it was often dirty and tiring work. During the week, she worked at the hospital in the psychiatric ward where she was an intern, soon to be a psychiatrist. Hopefully, in three years she would be working in some plush office in Beverly Hills, giving psychotherapy to director's wives and big-time actors who were just too stressed out to go it alone.
That was her dream, at least, and she worked every day to make it come true. She had taken this weekend job to earn some extra cash, even though she usually didn't work very long on either Saturday or Sunday. But that was okay. She had a nice little nest egg and soon she would be able to use it.
Sydney was just preparing to leave when Morna tracked her down. The girl looked excited, but also a little pensive. Sydney wondered what was up. She soon found out. "Listen, Sydney, I was thinking about what you said earlier," Morna started, a nervous smile on her face, "and I thought maybe you'd like to borrow a book of mine. I happened to have it in the car. It's about paratroopers on D-Day, and it's actually very good."
Morna handed Sydney a thick book with a textured cover of a man in army fatigues, a parachute over his head, with a nervous but determined grimace on his face. "Morna, I don't know..."
"Just give it a try, okay? I know you don't normally read anything like this, but you might like it. In fact, I know you will."
Sydney ran her fingers over the cover and studied the soldier's young face. It was true - she never had read anything like this, never had a desire to. But this young man with the nervous face made her want to know his story. What was he doing there? Why was he scared? Did he have a family at home, a sweetheart who sent him perfumed letters?
"Well, okay. But you might not get it back for a while. I'm pretty busy at the hospital, and –"
"Oh, don't worry about that," Morna said, waving her hand in dismissal. "Borrow it for as long as you need."