Her Little White LieBy: Cj Howard
My supervisor was standing beside me at the Reception Desk. I didn't know for how long, for but her hands were on her hips and her glasses were sliding half way down her nose.
“Are you day dreaming again, Grace Danvers? What if I had been a guest?”
“I'm sorry, Miss Poole, it won't happen again.”
“I'll have to stop you keeping a book under the desk, it really is getting too much.”
“I know, Miss Poole and I'm really sorry. You wanted me?”
“Yes, I'm just finalizing the holiday schedule and confirming you'll be working Christmas Day as usual.”
“Yes, you remember Christmas Day, Grace. Every year, December 25th, without fail.”
“Er, no, Miss Poole, I'm doing the traditional Christmas Day this holiday so I'm not free.”
Now let me just freeze frame. You know and I know that was a lie. I don't know why I said it.
Whether it was to wipe that grin off Miss Poole's face or if I genuinely believed that this year I could have a normal Christmas, I don't know.
She looked at me like I was a freak, turned to walk away, and then came back.
“This leaves me in a very awkward situation, Grace,” she said. “Everyone has a family and everyone wants to be with them on the holidays. The schedule goes crazy and I'm left pulling my hair out trying to arrange cover. A hotel like this can't run itself.”
“I know, Miss Poole, but I've worked every Christmas since I’ve been here and this year I've got family commitments, I'm sorry.” The lies just poured out.
She went to walk away and then returned once more.
“Incidentally,” she screwed up her eyes real tight like she was trying to thread a needle. “Since when did you acquire a family?”
“It's my boyfriend's family.”
She raised an eyebrow, expecting me to justify what I was saying.
“My fiancé actually.”
That needle still wasn't threaded.
“His mother is a devout Catholic and she insists on midnight mass and everyone around the table for the Christmas.” I lifted my hands to show how helpless I was in the situation. Luckily, the wonderful Mr. Iglesias, who moved into one of the suites every holiday while visiting family, came to reception.
“Ahh! La Bonita, Grace. Buenos tardes.” His cheeks were round and his smile was so warm.
“Mr. Iglesias, you out for your afternoon stroll?” I asked, taking his room key from him.
I always had time for Mr. Iglesias and he always had time for me. He called me La Princesa Negrita, The Black Princess. It had a ring to it. We'd been friends six years. He wore a brown fedora and a thick, beige wool coat with a cherry-colored scarf tucked in at the neck. He carried a walking stick too, but he always seemed to walk fine to me.
“So, you have some special plans for Christmas Day?” he said, nodding towards Miss Poole, who was still hovering around. “I'm glad to hear it. And with a good worker such as you, always sacrificing her holidays, it would be a shame if the hotel would deny you one year,” here he held up a chubby forefinger, “to celebrate with your family.”
“Oh, we value our workers,” Miss Poole said. “Of course Grace will have the time off. I just need to go and make a few adjustments.” She patted her schedule. The needle must have been threaded because her eyes were back to normal size and, if I wasn't mistaken, she even smiled at me.
Mr. Iglesias winked and tipped his hat before heading for the revolving doors across the large marble foyer. The doormen loved Mr. Iglesias because he was a good tipper. In fact, all the staff loved him for that. But for me, he was the darling old gentleman whom I had the good fortune to spend some quiet moments and intelligent conversation with. I learned all about his farm in
Argentina. He told me about the gauchos, about the wars and, because of him, I was almost fluent in Spanish, which is what helped clinch the receptionist job for me.
It was six thirty in the evening and my shift was almost up. If I came off work in the early evening, then Mikey would come by the staff entrance of the hotel to meet me. My best friend, Mikey, was from my home town in Boston. He worked in construction and had a job not far from the hotel. He'd been at that site over a year and we had this arrangement to meet and take the subway together. Otherwise I'd see Mikey weekends or evenings or just whenever there was time. Sometimes we'd text each other or speak on the phone, just to see how the other one is doing. Mikey never said much but he had a good sense of humor and he always knew how to make me laugh.