Variation on a Theme (30 Stories — 27)

As always when she was on a job, she missed her cats.  She hated leaving them for more than a day or two.  Yes, Karel would tend them, would even play with them.  Still, it wasn’t the same as the attention she gave them herself.

She sat at the tiny hotel room desk staring out the window.  The view was sad — a run-down plant shop, a liquor store, two vacant lots and a soap-windowed storefront that had been some kind of fast-food spot.  If the money weren’t so good, she’d complain about the accommodations.  Surely she deserved something a little higher up the chain.

Again she thought of her cats.  She’d only been gone ten hours.  Karel wouldn’t even check in before the next morning at the earliest.  And there was no need, of course, just her obsessive worry.

Maybe if she worried about people as much as animals, Karel would be more than just her nice neighbor who looked in on her cats when she was away.  Why not?  He was attractive, in a too-pale, scholarly way.  He’d hinted at his availability but never made a real overture.  She imagined he was waiting for her to signal even mild interest.  She felt none.

At precisely 6:30, she heard the familiar “shush” of paper sliding against carpet and turned to see the envelope waiting for her by the door.  She smiled and retrieved it, and took it to the bed.  Sitting cross-legged on the scratchy, aggressively-floral comforter, she fanned out the contents: photos, descriptions, maps.

Every job was different and completely the same at once.  Whether she was in Gdansk or Harrisburg, the basic facts were identical.  She appreciated the ease of that, appreciated it as much as she appreciated the pinpoint punctuality of the envelopes, of her pay, of every detail of every job.  There were variables in every assignment, of course.  No plan could eliminate those, and that level of ease would have bored her.  She enjoyed the slight challenges, the improvisations and detours.

She read through the file and sat a long time looking at the primary photo.  He had a good face, the kind of mouth she could see herself spending some time getting familiar with.  Improvisations and detours.  She had a forty-eight-hour window.  She’d need to change hotels — give herself the upgrade she desired — but the schedule was generous, gave her more than enough time to orchestrate their accidental meeting, his seduction of her.  Housekeeping wouldn’t find him until her return flight had landed and she was leaving a thank you note and a bottle of wine for Karel.


Originally intended to be part of 30 Stories 30 Days / Tumblr.

4 thoughts on “Variation on a Theme (30 Stories — 27)

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