Stormy Weather: Part I
A short story of surrealism & romance in multiple parts by K. R. King
Katharyn R. King
I stepped out into the street like something out of "Singin' in the Rain", my heels clattering as I hurried gleefully to the other side of the parking lot. I had just come off a plane, a red-eye from LAX to Seattle, and I was on my way home to pack now. I was like a little girl on Christmas Eve.
The rain had just begun to trickle from the engorged clouds above and I, being used to the warmth of Southern California, had not thought it necessary to buy and bring along an umbrella in case of inclement weather, and so I was suffering for it now. Living in Seattle was quite a different experience. I had grown up in Los Angeles and as a consequence, missed the sunshine more than most anything else about the place. It had been home. And now, Seattle was it.
As I approached my car, I pondered a moment or two. Do Californians even own umbrellas? And then promptly scolded myself. What a foolish thought, of course they do! It rains there, it's not like I've never seen it happen before. Still, I found myself brooding over my lack of preparedness; especially as I felt the soft squishing sensation of rainwater flooding my shoes and drenching my sensitive size seven feet.
The car at last! Leaning against the door of my '65 mustang (red, of course), I fumbled around for the keys. The rain was really falling hard now, frustrating my efforts to see through the downpour and unlock the car so that I could slip inside, into the warmth and comfort that only a classic California car could provide.
It was over. My vacation had begun, and I was off to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada the next morning. I planned to venture into Sin City's extraordinary nightlife for some real social excitement after resting up at the MGM Grand. After all, I needed some solitude-time away to think on my own. My close friends were beginning to notice that I had not been myself lately, and for some reason or another, I didn't even attempt to argue about it. Something was different about me. And so I hoped that if I spent some quality time alone without the stresses and responsibilities that came with being an attorney that I might come to better understand this change- identify it and confront it somehow. So I asked my boss at the firm for some time off to do just that, booked some hotel reservations (four nights at the MGM Grand, three at the Mirage, and the rest at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel), and purchased tickets to some of the most popular shows in Vegas.
I was most interested in seeing the Blue Man Group at the Venetian. Then there was a Drifters, Temptations and Coasters Review at the Mirage. Another show featured Lance Burton, a well-known and highly celebrated magician, so I've been told. It was going to be fun, even though I was expecting to be alone. What is so wrong with going to a show alone, I asked myself taking a left out of the airport parking lot and stopping at a red light just ahead. Through the speakers, the familiar sultry voice of Peggy Lee filled the car with "Stormy Weather". I turned up the volume and mouthed the words in sync with hers, reflecting on the words in my mind: don't know why there's no sun up in the sky, stormy weather since my man and I ain't together, keeps rainin' all the time…
I awoke the following morning to the sound of raindrops beating softly on my bedroom window. A gentle, melancholy sort of noise, I noticed. But I was determined to be in a good mood, so I practically bounded out of bed and made it up before making my way to the bathroom for a shower. I caught a glimpse of my alarm clock as I went. Nine o'clock. My flight was at noon. I had enough time for a long soothing shower, a cup of coffee, and a few minutes of Internet surfing. The one thing I like most about my apartment in Seattle is the view of the city I get from that window. The sun when it sets is particularly breath taking and really quite remarkable-a photographer's wet dream. We used to joke back home about the smog being so thick that no one in Los Angeles has ever actually even seen the sun, but they know it has to be there because they've seen in it movies. I always laugh at that one because it's got some truth to it.
I wrapped one towel around my torso, took another for my hair, bent forward so that my hair fell over my forehead, and wrapped the second around the mass of freshly shampooed mahogany jungle. I twisted it a few times and then stood up, tossing my head back and tucking the end of the towel into my hair to keep it from coming undone while I proceeded to moisturize my skin with some rose-scented body silk lotion from Bath and Body Works that I had bought in Los Angeles on sale. I refreshed my face with facial cleanser and astringent as routinely as always, then set about to take down my hair and put a brush through it while going over with a blow dryer.
The phone rang. I didn't bother answering. Why should I? As far as anyone was concerned, I was away on vacation and couldn't be reached. Emergencies? I wasn't worried about it. Both of my parents were dead and the only sibling I could claim would be my older sister who lives five hundred miles or more from me. We don't speak that often. But in any case, my reluctance to bring along my cell phone for any such incident may have been justifiable, but it was still a wise precaution nonetheless. I resolved to keep it on low or vibrate so as not to cause me any unnecessary distraction. This was about me now. No clients, no judges, no summations, no investigations, and no juries. No good guys, no bad guys, and no in-between guys. No guys of any kind-me, myself, and I.
The ringer went straight to my voicemail. It was my ex.
"Kay, it's Chris. I just wanted to send my bon voyage, you know, best wishes." Pause. It was obvious he was holding back, but nothing he could say would ever be enough to make things all right between us again. Maybe someday we might have that friendship back, but not today. He continued. "Listen, I know I fucked things up and that you have no reason to hear me out or trust me, but…but I just hope someday you can forgive me. I miss my friend. Well, I guess that's it. Take care."
The line went dead. I sighed, rolling my eyes. I hit the delete message button and returned to my carry-on and suitcase. Time to get the hell out of here, I thought to myself.
I set the Brinks, closed the front door behind me, and locked it securely. In the elevator, a neighbor and I chatted. I like this one. Her name is Claire. She's only a few years older than I am, but I feel like she's the crazy Aunt I never had. She made some friendly recommendations for great places to get some good eats. I thanked her as the elevator came to a halt on the lobby floor and we went our separate ways.
The airport was packed. I closed my eyes, played a little game to figure out which line to stand in. It really didn't matter since the place was literally swarming with people waiting, just like me, to catch a flight to where ever. As soon as the elderly lady in front of me slowly inched up to the counter, I realized that she had accidentally left one of her bags behind. I picked it up and hoisted it over my shoulder and then stepped forward to tell her about it. She thanked me in a kind voice. I appreciated that. People often get very irritable in situations like this where there are long waits and mistakes being made by panicky airline ticket agents. It was nice to be thanked for helping someone out. Back in LA, I might have gotten a grunt for a thank you, maybe.
A few moments later, the lady moved aside and it was my turn.
"Name please?" said the agent, smiling patiently up at me.
"Reynolds, Keely I.," I responded, smiling back at her.
"Thank you, Miss Reynolds. I have you for a First Class window seat. Would you like to change this information before I print your boarding pass?" her eyes beamed.
"No, thank you, that'll do just fine."
"Alright then, you're all set. Let me just print this for you. Will you be checking any luggage with us today?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact. Just one large suitcase—this one here."
"Okay, just set that on the belt. Here's a tag to make sure it can be easily identified at the baggage claim. And here is your claim ticket just in case." A moment passed as the bag was lifted onto the conveyor and went zipping up to the cargo bay of the 767. The agent smiled again. "And that's it! You're all set to go, enjoy your flight!"
"Thank you!" I grinned and made my way, boarding pass in hand, up the escalator to the terminals, passing through the security counter and metal detectors. G-4. I found my way to the appropriate terminal just as they were getting ready to allow passengers to board, so I hurried to the First Class line.
"Now boarding all disabled and First Class passengers."
That was me. I handed my pass to the boarding agent, who accepted it and politely wished me an enjoyable flight. I relaxed as I headed down the jet way and entered the aircraft. A flight attendant greeted me and showed me to my seat. She stowed my carry-on for me and then went about to help the disabled passengers. I collapsed, breathing in deeply.
Several minutes later, the bay doors were sealed and the attendants gave their schpeal about safety and emergency procedures while the plane pushed back from the gate. As soon as we took off, I reclined my seat and closed my eyes for the duration of the flight, drifting off to a light sleep.
An hour or more later, my eyes fluttered open. We had arrived.
The plane rolled slowly to the gate and minutes passed. Finally, we disembarked and I left the airport after grabbing my suitcase from the baggage claim. I hailed a taxi and soon found myself at the MGM Grand in no time.
Day five, at the Mirage.
I'd seen two shows by this point, but boredom was finally beginning to set in. I didn't know what to do with myself. I didn't come all this way to sit in a hotel room and watch TV all day long. So I made up my mind to venture down to the casino and see what I could see. I didn't plan on doing any gambling, but I was feeling a bit lucky. Passing the pool as I stalked through the halls of the hotel, I stopped to get a better look. There were a few spas and a lot of people occupying them. I turned away. No big crowds. Not in such an intimate place anyway.
I reached the casino floor and was instantly taken aback by all the flashing lights and new sounds that greeted me. I had never been inside a casino, so this was all a new experience. A familiar song was emanating from the speakers, curling my lips into a smile. I relaxed immediately at hearing the soothing voice of Peggy Lee singing my song. I never tire of it. Feeling more at home now, I headed for the nearest counter to purchase a card with which I planned to gamble for a few hours. I decided that a fair amount from my checking account would be a hundred dollars, to start with anyway.
So much color! Neon lights flashing, some alternating with words to lure gamblers over to this slot machine or that blackjack table. I was fascinated by the visually appealing nature of it all. It really was quite exciting. I looked over some of the slots. Pennies, nickels, quarters and dollars. And the names! Flames of Olympus, Cleopatra, Leopard Spots. I laughed. There were signs offering steak dinners for cheap and free alcohol for players. I found it all quite amusing, ridiculous even.
I knew I wasn't Downtown, and yet everything seemed dated. Vintage, even. Vegas had always been known as a sort of crossroads, an oasis in the desert where past and future meet in serendipitous harmony. I was a Slots gal. And yet I found myself taking a seat in front of one of the blackjack dealers.
Her eyes were cerulean blue and her dark auburn hair was in a bun with pin curls. She reminded me of a famous British actress I'd seen in pictures many times.
"Bet, please?" she beamed at me, drawing off her lit cigarette.
"Oh, I don't know…"
"First time?" she asked.
I nodded. How can she tell, I thought.
"I saw you when you came in, you looked positively lost—Stranger In A Strange Land sort of thing."
"Well, you're right! I've never been inside of these places, let alone gambled before." I laughed. I sort of felt embarrassed.
"Don't worry, they don't bite-well, as long as you're smart about things, they don't. For instance, when you go to place a bet for the first time, don't get carried away too early on. I recommend you start with a small bet and then, as your confidence builds, so should you cash-out." she winked.
"I see. Well, thank you for the tip! So, how does Blackjack work?"
I felt almost like a child trying to ask all sorts of questions to a parent about something so simple. After she was done, I found myself nodding because I actually understood.
"Want to give it a go?" she said. "Minimum here is $5."
The cards were dealt. I held my breath. She turned over the top card. It was a Jack. As explained before, I "stayed" and ended up with twenty. On my first try, too! Not bad. Not bad at all. She hit again.
"Dealer busts with twenty-two, the gentle lady wins." The dealer said. "Congratulations! Deal again, Miss?"
I nodded again eagerly.
"What'll it be?"
"Very well." She responded politely and then dealt again. Blackjack this time! "Twenty-one, the gentle lady wins again." she seemed very happy for me. I suppose most people, including myself, find luck exciting.
I spent hours at that table, winning and losing-mostly winning. I was enjoying myself so thoroughly that every time I hit twenty-one, I'd literally stand up and do this little victory dance. The dealer was very entertained. Finally, I began to think about quitting while I was ahead, and I was ahead. I was ahead by three hundred and fifty-five dollars. I thanked the dealer and she beamed at me, and then returned to the cards to focus another customer. I walked away feeling light as a feather. Now I understood why people did this. Sure, you're bound to lose. But it's that feeling that luck is on your side. It's that feeling after you've won a game or hit the jackpot. It's this overwhelming sensation that people are drawn to, and I was beginning to feel just as anyone else who had experienced it before would feel: blissfully content.
In spite of this stroke of luck, I knew I had to be careful. I didn't want to be taken advantage of, after all. I figured it was best to quit while I was ahead.
Before I knew it, I was up nearly $1000 and when I glanced at my watch and noticed it was nearly six in the morning, I yawned and thanked the Dealer.
"I can't believe it!" She said, beaming at me. "Well done!"
"It's really been such a great night."
"Breakfast time already, no?" She winked at me.
"I should get some sleep first," I said, "and then I'll be back down again to grab a bite."
"Sounds good. See you soon." She tossed another wink my way.
I swiped my key card and passed out immediately upon hitting the pillow.
I noticed there was music playing faintly as I stirred from my slumber, but I couldn't quite identify it or where it was coming from. I sat up slowly, rubbing my neck as I noticed I'd been sleeping in a funny position.
"Do you remember the day we met?" A voice startled me from the bathroom. I didn't recognise it at first either, just like the music, until the body it belonged to stepped out.
It was the Dealer from the Blackjack table.
"I...I don't understand."
She came toward me, her silvered hair and lips still glistening from the shower. She kissed me deeply. The steam effervesced from her skin as we parted for a moment. "You were so...new to it all..."
I pulled back.
"This doesn't make any sense. I was just at the Blackjack table last night..." Panic began to set in. "I don't even know your name."
"Evie. It's Evie. Here." She slipped off of my lap, picked up a necklace with a locket on the chain, and handed it back to me. Alongside the necklace sat a pair of dog tags with my name on them.
"Keely Reynolds." I said slowly, and it felt right but hers didn't click. "But you...I just..I just remember coming back to my room last night."
"Yes. You did. The night we met. It 30 years ago."
TO BE CONTINUED....