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The Gamble

By:Kristen Ashley

ikely event of damage. And also I waited for this Slim person to tell this amazing looking man that there obviously was some mistake and perhaps he should vacate the premises so I could unload my car, put away the perishables, have a shower, talk to Niles and, most importantly, go to sleep.

“Yeah, you fucked up,” the amazing looking man said into the phone then he concluded the conversation with, “I’ll sort it out.” Then he beeped a button and tossed the phone with a clatter on the counter and said to me, “Slim fucked up.”

“Um, yes, I’m beginning to see that.”

“There’s a hotel down the mountain ‘bout fifteen miles away.”

I think my mouth dropped open but my mind had blanked so I wasn’t sure.

Then I said, “What?”

“Hotel in town, clean, decent views, good restaurant, down the mountain where you came. You get to the main road, turn left, it’s about ten miles.”

Then he handed me my papers, walked to the front door, opened it and stood holding it, his eyes on me.

I stood where I was then I looked out the floor to A-point windows at the swirling snow then I looked at the amazing but, I was tardily realizing, unfriendly man.

“I have a booking.” I told him.

“What?”

“A booking,” I repeated then explained in American, “a reservation.”

“Yeah, Slim fucked up.”

I shook my head, the shakes were short and confused. “But I pre-paid two weeks.”

“Like I said, Slim fucked up.”

“With deposit,” I went on.

“You’ll get a refund.”

I blinked at him then asked, “A refund?”

“Yeah,” he said to me, “a refund, as in, you’ll get your money back.”

“But –” I began but stopped speaking when he sighed loudly.

“Listen, Miss –”

“Ms.,” I corrected again.

“Whatever,” he said curtly. “There was a mistake. I’m here.”

It hadn’t happened in awhile but I was thinking I was getting angry. Then again, I’d just travelled for seventeen plus hours; was in a different country; in a different time zone; it was late, dark, snow was falling, the roads were treacherous; I had hundreds of dollars worth of groceries in my car, some of which would go bad if not refrigerated and hotels didn’t have refrigerators, at least not big refrigerators; I was tired and I had a head cold coming on, so I could be forgiven for getting angry.

“Well, so am I,” I returned.

“Yeah, you are, but it’s my house.”

“What?”

“I own it.”

I shook my head and it was those short, confused shakes again.

“But, it’s a rental.”

“It is when I’m not here. It isn’t when I’m home.”

What was happening finally dawned on me fully.

“So, what you’re saying is, my confirmed booking is really an unconfirmed booking and you’re cancelling at what is the absolute definition of the very last minute?”

“That’s what I’m sayin’.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m speakin’ English, we do share a common language. I’m understandin’ you.”

I was confused again. “What?”

“You’re English.”

“I’m American.”

His brows snapped together and it made him look a little scary mainly because his face grew dark at the same time. “You don’t sound American to me.”

“Well, I am.”

“Whatever,” he muttered then swept an arm toward the open door. “You’ll get a refund first thing Monday morning.”

“You can’t do that.”

“I just did.”

“This is… I don’t… you can’t –”

“Listen, Ms. Sheridan, it’s late. The longer you stand there talkin’, the longer it’ll take you to get to the hotel.”

I looked out at the snow again then back at him.

“It’s snowing,” I informed him of the obvious.

“This is why I’m tellin’ you, you best get on the road.”

I stared at him for a second that turned into about ten of them.

Then I whispered, “I can’t believe this.”

Then I didn’t have to wonder if I was getting angry. This was because I knew I was livid and I was too tired to think about what I said next.

I shoved the papers in my purse, snatched up my grocery bags, walked directly to him, stopped and tilted my head back to glare at him.

“So, who’s going to refund the money for the gas for the car?” I asked.

“Miss Sheridan –”

“Ms.,” I hissed, leaning toward him and then I continued. “And who’s going to refund my plane ticket all the way from England where I live but my passport is blue?” I didn’t let him respond before I went on. “And who’s going to pay me back for my holiday in a beautiful A-Frame in the Colorado mountains which I’ve spent seventeen plus hours travelling to reach, travelling, I might add, to a destination I paid for in full but didn’t get to enjoy at all?” He opened his mouth but I kept right on talking. “I didn’t fly over an ocean and most of a continent to stay in a clean hotel with nice views. I did it to stay here.”

“Listen –”

“No, you listen to me. I’m tired, my sinuses hurt and it’s snowing. I haven’t driven in snow in years, not like that.” I pointed into the darkness extending my grocery-bag laden arm. “And you’re sending me on my way, well past nine o’clock at night, after reneging on a contract.”

As I was talking, his face changed from looking annoyed to something I couldn’t decipher then, suddenly, he grinned and it irritated me to see he had perfect, white, even teeth.

“Your sinuses hurt?” he asked.

“Yes,” I snapped. “My sinuses hurt, a lot,” I told him then shook my head again, this time they were short, angry shakes. “Forget it, what do you care? I’m too tired for this.”

And I was. Way too tired. I’d figure out what I was going to do tomorrow.

Then I stomped somewhat dramatically (and I was of the opinion I could be forgiven for that too) into the night, thinking this was my answer. This was the universe telling me I should play it safe. Marry Niles. Embrace security even if it was mostly boring and deep down if I admitted it to myself, it made me feel lonelier than I’ve ever felt in my life.

Paralyzingly lonely.

Who cared?

If this was an adventure, it stunk.

I’d rather be sitting in front of a TV with Niles (kind of).

I opened the bo

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