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She made her way out into the sun, fumbling for her sunglasses, carefully putting them on before she met the full light outside the doors of LAX.
What had she done? She’d left the country and was now officially on the run from her old life.
She ignored all the thoughts in her head save one: Get to the hotel, order a drink, close the door.
“Excuse me, can you drive me to the Roosevelt Hotel?” she asked what appeared to be a driver, though she wasn’t sure if he was for someone else or you could just ask anyone standing in this area that appeared to have a uniform on–how on earth does this work? She cursed under breath, mostly at herself, for having lived such a ridiculous life. I’m like well-tended veal she thought and smiled. Well, she was out in the light now and dragging her suitcase with her.
“Absolutely ma’am, please let me help you with your bags”. The man had a nice demeanour, warm and formal at the same time.
“Are you with a company or?” she stammered out, unsure of the right approach, and trying to act as though she did this all the time.
“Yes indeed ma’am we’ve been serving LAX now for 27 years!” he proudly asserted and with that she stepped up gingerly into the back seat of the black SUV.
“I’ve never been in one of these. My driver, Ted, he likes to drive an old-fashioned limousine, says he would run over people if he ever drove one of these big trucks!” Prue laughed out loud then felt a pang of sudden longing for Ted, their quiet conversation, though mostly mono-sylabbic, that had said so much about everything. She must call him when she got to the hotel.
“Oh, well I will do my best to make this as smooth a ride for you as possible then”. He smiled in the rearview mirror at her and she quickly replaced her pensive face with a happy one. It was no use trying to explain how she missed her best friend who happened to be her driver as it would seem so Driving Miss Daisy and a bit crazy.
So this was LA. She looked out and smiled up at the palm trees, squinted into the sun, and wondered if she’d ever imagined she would be here, in this place, alone, traveling with no man at her side.
No, no she wouldn’t have. She’d stopped imagining anything for her life a long, long time ago.
“Do you mind if I roll down the window a little?” she asked hesitantly.
“Of course you can, please enjoy the fresh air! It’s unseasonably warm this year, you know normally at this time it’s down into the 70′s and I think we’re at 92 today!”
She put her window down a quarter of the way, just enough to look out at the sky and feel the sun on her face.
“Do you know if the Hotel Roosevelt is a good hotel? I liked reading the history of it, and if it was good enough for Marilyn it is good enough for me I suppose!” she offered optimistically, as she looked out the window at the low, flat buildings with neon signs, looking half-asleep in the hot afternoon sun.
“Oh the Roosevelt, she’s a grande old dame you know? A part of old Hollywood and I think she’s a treasure. They’ve done her up right, she’s looking good and all the young people go there now. Thompson Hotels I think owns her now, good job they did too, it’s got the those young Hollywood folks going there for the pool scene.”
“Wonderful” she answered with true sincerity; she didn’t want to be around anyone her age. She wanted life, laughter, sun, and to think of nothing at all, just eat, drink, swim and do it all over again every day. For how long? came a question in her mind then, how long can you do this for Prue?
She didn’t know. She supposed she would keep going until it ended. ‘It’ being her life she guessed, yes, that was it wasn’t it? She’d left her old life and this was her new life and she wasn’t going back…perhaps even, she couldn’t go back. Her husband would never forgive her for leaving, of this she was sure. Afterall, she’d been the most reliable wife a man could have, hadn’t she?
She smiiled then and thought of the drink she would order by the pool. Perhaps just a simple margarita on the rocks, no, I know, I’ll have some sort of drink named after a star, some high-calorie, fruity concoction named after Marilyn or Bogart or Fitzgerald. When in Rome as they say; she would be in Hollywood and stars were everywhere, so why not join the Hollywood story in every way she could?
If she stayed out long enough, she thought to herself, maybe the sun would bleach away her memory. Little black dots appeared in her vision and she wondered if her eyeballs were in fact sunburned. Sweat trickled down her back and her sunglasses slid slowly, over and over, down her nose. Was Los Angeles always this hot in October?
She rolled over, burying her face in the soft white towel and adjusted the bottom of her bathing suit. The corner of the magazine she was reading pressed into her cheek and her mouth still tasted of the salty guacamole chips she’d eaten at the bar, aptly called the Tropicana. She felt the sun burning its way down her back, marking her white skin with tiny, yet to be seen scars and she sat up, hating the idea of dark moles spotting her future skin. She may be in her 40′s but she’d kept relatively sun spot free and she intended to stay that way. Fumbling for her glasses, she got her bearings and peered around her.
There were many more bodies now in white loungers around the pool. How long had she been asleep? She scratched at her roots which always got itchy when she needed her hair dyed and she absently made a note to talk to the concierge about getting someone in to do her hair. Later. For now she was okay with just the basics: two towels, a lounger booked for the week, cocktails from the Tropicana bar.
Suddenly a hairy arm was below her offering her some kind of tall, effeminate cocktail that anywhere else would look cliché and desperate.
“You look thirsty” came a voice from beside her and she looked up into equally dark glasses as hers, a wide mouth with smooth lips and self-conscious beard trimmed to the requisite 3 day I-want-to-be Brad-Pitt scruffy length.
She felt immediately angry. She wanted, needed, to be alone. This is the exact thing that never happens to you when you are in a long marriage she realized, where she’d been cloistered like a nun, in her quiet nunnery-home. She’d not been hit on in a decade. Certainly never by her own husband.
She smiled politely and offered what she hoped had a ring of finality about it, “If I am thirsty, I will quench it myself. Thank you.” She lay back down on the lounger and just to solidify her desire to be alone, she turned over and buried her face in the damp pool towel.
“You’ll get burned with all that white skin” the man offered, still hoping she might be open to conversation.
She ignored him and he stood for a few more brief moments then set the drink down gently beside her lounger on the pool deck. She opened her eye an imperceptible amount only to see him squatting down, his white shorts–what did they say, Liverpool or some such nonsense on them?–stretched tightly across his groin. Oh dear heavens. Well, I suppose it’s to be expected she chastised herself. You are at a pool in a hipster hotel in the middle of LA Prue.
Wait. That was not her voice. It was her husband’s.
“Wait” she said to his departing back. “I’m sorry, I’m…I’m just married.”
“So?” he replied, smiling broadly, his teeth so white and gleaming they looked like a package of Chiclets.
“Thank you” she offered somewhat sheepishly, picking the drink up gingerly and drinking from the straw, her neck craned at a torturous angle.
“You know, it’s easier to sip that sitting up. Just saying.” He came and sat down at the edge of her lounger and she did sit up then, bolt upright, pulling her feet back and tucking them under her.
She looked at him, the dots clearing from her eyes, and she noticed he was young, without a wrinkle or gray hair anywhere on his well-formed shoulders that weren’t shaped in a gym but rather by the water. Perhaps he was a surfer.
“I don’t really want company, I’m sorry to be rude, but I’m…” she stammered, unable to think of a reason why.
“That’s cool, I understand, totally. It’s nice to slip off somewhere in the sunshine, you know, into our imaginations. There’s nothing like the Hollywood sunshine to let you escape.”
She coughed and laughed out loud. “Hollywood sunshine? Versus say San Francisco sunshine?”
“You’ll know what I mean once you stay here for a while longer. You’re around right, like, staying here at the Roosevelt?” he asked her, leaning in just enough to make her uncomfortable.
“I don’t know. I have no idea and I wouldn’t certainly be sharing my itinerary with a perfect stranger so if you don’t mind…” She felt herself getting annoyed again. Please just leave me alone is what she wanted to say. She didn’t know how to navigate herself in this world. She could feel him looking at her like she was an unbalanced, overly paranoid person. Oh, fine, she thought to herself, then that’s what I am. But I don’t need some strange man telling me anything I don’t need to hear. I have a well-known man telling me things I don’t want to hear all the time.
He stood up and put his hands out in a gesture of compliance. “Hey, it’s chill, I’m not a stalker okay? You just seem…really interesting. You struck me. That’s all. Have a great afternoon. Don’t get burnt.” He stood and walked away, his shoulder blades sliding up and down his back in perfect symmetry and his swimmer’s legs softly padding along the edge of the pool towards the Tropicana.
Prue stared at him for a long minute then turned into her towel once again. She smiled to herself. He can’t be over 30. What would Edward think? With that happy thought, she slipped back into a doze, the taste of vodka, lemon and something else she couldn’t name on her tongue.
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