I entered the hotel, unsure of what to expect. It was much nicer than I would have believed based on Will's description. There was various Victorian furniture scattered about the place, occupied by numerous people. The hard wood, possibly maple floor, was shiny, as if it had been recently waxed. Off to the right I saw a bar with a few early bird drinkers. Around me I could see classic looking wallpaper covered with photographs of old castles, portraits of the royal family, and paintings of historic London sites. A large marble desk was situated to my right. A middle aged woman was standing there with her blond hair pulled tightly into a bun. She was typing furiously on a desktop computer. She scowled – probably because her hair was pulled back too tightly, I guessed.
"Do you have any open rooms?" I asked as I approached.
"Yes, I believe we have a few open rooms. Would you like to check one out?"
"Yes," I replied, though I was not sure how many nights I would be staying.
"Will you be paying with an account or up front?" the woman asked. I looked at her meekly, hesitant to answer. My mom wouldn't expect me to pay for this, would she? I shoved my hands in my pockets, trying to decide what to do. There was something in my pocket, and I dug it out. It was the slip of paper my mother had given me. I read it over once more and breathed a sigh of relief.
"I believe that I have an account. My name is Joan Yvonne," I said, hoping it was the right thing to say.
"I see," she said, a frown forming upon her already taut face. "You are the minor under the account of Teresa Yvonne?" replied the receptionist.
I nodded, afraid that her frown was a bad sign. All of the sudden, a lady who had been lounging in the lobby abruptly sat up. She approached and slipped behind the desk to whisper something in the receptionist's ear. The bun lady nodded in agreement. As the woman walked away, her heels clicked on the floor. I looked down at her shoes to see an expensive pair of Prada fashion pumps. Her shoes went perfectly with her expensive business suit. Her nails were manicured, and her hair looked as if she had paid to get it done too. Scowling, I turned back to the receptionist. "Gail" it said on her nametag.
"I'm sorry, all of our rooms are taken," Gail said. By now, I could not tell whether she was scowling at me because of spite or her hair. Both expressions looked eerily similar.
"What?" I questioned, "You just told me you had a few rooms open."
"Well, it looks as if we don't." I watched as the woman with too much money entered the elevator.
"Who is that woman?" I asked, my tone was accusing.
"That's the hotel owner, Elizabeth Stanton."
"What did she tell you," I peered at Gail. My irritation was quickly turning to anger.
"She just informed me that there were no more rooms. Now," Gail said sternly, "Could you please move so I can help the next customer?" I gave her a scowl, a real scowl, and turned on my heel. I waited until Gail was busy with her next customer and began to inch forward, listening to the conversation.
"Do you have any rooms open for the night?" a man asked Gail. The woman next to him produced a high-pitched giggle and kissed him lightly on the cheek. I was thoroughly disgusted – lovebirds. Gail, just as disgusted as I, began typing on her computer.
"Will you be paying with an account or up front?" she asked. That was all I needed to hear. I stormed up to the counter.
"Why won't you give me a room?" I demanded. "I am positive that there are open rooms!"
"I'm sorry; I can't give you a room," Gail said, vexed at the interruption.
I ran a hundred different reactions through my mind, but all I could come up with was this. "If you don't give me a room, I am going to stand up on this counter and scream at the top of my lungs!" I had no intention whatsoever of doing such a thing, but Gail looked convinced. Or perhaps it was just the crazed look in my eyes. Either way, she pulled me aside and lowered her voice.
"Miss Yvonne, there is no possible way for me to give you a room. Ms. Stanton ordered me not to."
"Why did she do that?" I questioned angrily. Gail paused momentarily, as if searching for the right words.
"Joan," she said exasperatedly, "Your mother doesn't have the best reputation around here. Ms. Stanton doesn't want to be associated with her anymore. She is trying to clean this place up. It would be best if you leave."
I was shocked, but quickly composed myself. "Don't worry," I replied crossly, "You won't have to be associated with her. My mother's dead and you surely shouldn't count on me coming back here." With that I left, uncertain where I would be going.
I had been walking for fifteen minutes, wandering the streets of London like a lunatic. Or at least I was sure that was what the shop owner down the street thought of me. After the third time I passed his store, lugging my suitcase behind me, he gave me an odd sort of look. I had, and still have, no idea about how long that I was going to be in London. As I was carrying, more like dragging, my suitcase across the street, it hit the curb and fell open. Yes, my jeans and my shirts and even my dainties came spilling out…right onto the street. I ran into it to gather up my clothes and hurried back to the sidewalk. Unfortunately, I left a bra in the center of the street. People around me, those innocent bystanders, laughed and pointed. They found it ridiculously funny when a car sped by, right over my bra. Instead of just smashing it, the bra became attached to the tire. It dragged along after it, causing quite a spectacle. Nobody stopped to help. I began to pick up my clothes and shove them back into the case, feeling more angry than embarrassed.
After I had securely closed my suitcase (I checked it over twice), I ran down the street to the corner. Anything to get away from the people's stares. Leaning up against a brick wall, I stopped to catch my breath. I gently set down my suitcase and shoved my hands in my pocket, unsure of what to do. I could use the last of my money to catch a train home, but where then? The only person that cared about my wellbeing was my mother's lawyer, and he had told me to come to London. It was a clause in her will.
Everything in my possession goes to Joan Olivia Quincy, with the exception of my home. My home is to be sold and the money distributed between the real estate agent and Food for the Poor Co. Joan is only to receive what is left to her on the condition that she travels to London a week after my funeral. She must follow the directions I have given her accordingly.
She had planned this. My mother had planned it all, and I hated her for it. What was there for me in London? I had followed her plans "accordingly" and they did not work out.
Just as I was angrily mulling over my situation, I came across a piece of paper. It was the yellow slip that Will had given me with his number on it. I didn't want to call him; he was a total stranger. A handsome, sort of sexy stranger, but a stranger nonetheless. I played with the paper, contemplating whether I should call him. As I was flipping it over, something caught my eye. There was some kind of job application on the back. It had the name William on it, and the letters "BLA." Those were the first three letters of his last name. The date was some time in 1997. At the top, there was half of a large blue diamond, which was circled by red rubies. Then it struck me.
"He works at Redfield's Jewelers," I said out loud. Or at least he had applied there. No wonder he found it so funny when I told him my name was Redfield. He must have known the Redfields and was thoroughly amused when I claimed that I was related. I didn't know whether to find this funny or maddening.
I made up my mind. Looking around me, I saw a few people milling about. I stopped one of them, a Spanish man in his mid 20s.
"Excuse me," I said, "excuse me, sir. Do you know where Redfield's Jewelers is?"
"Ahh," he said looking about him, "no hablo ingles."
"Reedfiieelllddd'sss Jewelllerrrs," I repeated, this time slower. Frustrated, I took the slip of paper out and showed the man the Redfield logo.
"Oh, ¡Si! ¡Si!" he exclaimed. He turned me around and pointed to the street nearest us. Then he took his right hand in an attempt to tell me to turn.
"Thank you…I mean gracias," I said and hurriedly ran off. I wanted to get to the store before it became too dark. It was already nearing 6:30, and I knew that shops rarely stayed open past this time. But I was hopeful.
I approached the store. The lights were on. The door was locked though, so I peered through the window. I could make out three figures indside of the store. One of them was Will.
"Thank God," I said as I rapped loudly on the window. All three men turned around.
"We're closed," one of the men shouted. Will recognized me with wide eyes and hastened to unlock the door. I started inside, but he blocked me with his body and led me outside.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, almost frantically.
"Visiting my uncle, what else would I be doing?" I retorted sarcastically. Will gave me a suspicious look but didn't say anything.
"Oh you don't believe me? Why didn't you tell me you worked here?" I said accusingly.
"You never asked," Will replied matter-of-factly. "Look," he went on, running his fingers through his light brown hair, "You can't be here. You've got to go."
I stared at him through watery eyes. "Go where?" I asked, choking back tears. "I was sent to London for God knows why. I was told to go to a hotel, but they wouldn't let me have a room because my mother has a 'reputation.' So I was thrown onto the street with this twenty kilogram luggage case, which happened to spill open in the middle of the road. All of the onlookers found that comical! Then I found your number and saw the logo for the store. So I asked for directions. Out of thousands of people in the street, I choose the one man who is SPANISH! What do you expect me to do?" I said desperately. Now I'm not someone who cries often; I was raised without much emotion in my childhood. But I choked. How could my mother do this to me? I started to cry, even though I knew I looked pitiful. Will put his muscular arms around me. His embrace was comforting, not at all strange, thought I barely knew him.
Will soothed me softly, "It's alright, we'll figure something out. Wait here." He slipped back inside as I stood there trying to wipe away my smeared mascara. A few seconds later, he came back and got into his car.
"Hop in," he commanded. Once again I had a choice to make. He had me before, so I slid in. He looked at me expectantly and I buckled my seatbelt. And then he was off…to where I did not know.