There were nights when red wine tasted like battery acid and the only thing that would sooth her tongue was bourbon on ice.
Anita had flown into Atlanta the day before. Checked into the giant beige hotel and slept in a too large, too soft bed after eating a mediocre Cobb salad from room service.
She woke up at eight in the morning, dressed numbly, and went across the street to the convention center.
At any given time there seemed to be at least a hundred conventions going on in downtown Atlanta. Food expos, technology conferences, annual meetings of Rotary clubs, and five kinds of Shriners conventions.
Her conference? Did it matter? Wasn’t it all the same?
Anita was good at her job. When she walked into the auditorium her work self took over. A set neutral smile. Shaking hands. Passing out cards. Taking notes.
No one would ever know her heart was broken. No one would ever know the complexities of sorrow. No one could have guessed that three days before she had to say goodbye to the person she had given her heart, her everything to.
After the conference she went to the hotel bar. Bourbon on ice. It didn’t matter what kind. Maker’s was fine.
The man who sat next to her was from her convention. She had met him remembered his name, Peter something. He smiled at her, but didn’t look like he was going to try and pick her up. He took off his jacket and meticulously rolled up the sleeves of his crisp white dress shirt.
A small tattoo caught her eye. It was a little thing, something most wouldn’t notice, but she supposed that was why he got it. A circle broken into three teardrop shapes, each with a dot within it. The triskele.
He caught her eye as she stared at it. She felt her reaction being gauged.
She looked up at met his eyes.
“I’m upstairs in 625,” she said, trying to sound casual.
“Oh?” he seemed unimpressed.
Could she ask this man, please? Could she trust him? How dangerous was it? Did she like the idea of danger?
The desperation in her chest swelled.
“I could give you a key,” she whispered. Her tongue was a traitor.
“Why would I need a key if you are so obviously willing to open the door?” He remarked, matching her tone.
There was silence between them. They both sipped their drinks.
“Anyhow I would prefer my own room. I have my things there,” he said drinking the rest of his beer in one long sip.
“I need someone to hurt me tonight,” she whispered.
He looked sympathetic. He looked cruel. He was very handsome.
“So you do,” he remarked.
They both knew he should have said no. Perhaps acknowledging that brought comfort.
He got off the bar stool, picked up his jacket and held out a hand to her.
There was a pause before she took it.
In her life she had never known such a tense elevator ride.
Either he was very good or played the part well. He stood, leaning back against the elevator wall, staring at her, arms crossed.
“Red means stop,” he said simply.
“Words,” he demanded.
She cleared her throat.
“Red means stop,” she repeated.
“Is there anything I should know?” He asked as the door slid open.
They walked out into the hall, his face still expectant.
“No, I mean, I’m going to cry. That doesn’t mean stop,” she choked out.
He smiled as he stopped at a door and took out his key.
“I would certainly hope not.”If you liked this story you can send me a tip via paypal.me/writingdirty