Featured Stories

Perspective Changes Everything

Slk.🎈Apr 5

The dark-haired young man caught himself nodding off despite switching to coffee several hours before leaving the reception. Driving had not been in the plan until the airline grounded their flight due to a deadly safety issue. The man glanced over to the precious cargo in the passenger seat, best to stop for the night.

Anthony pulled the rented Suburban under the hotel portico. Light, gratuitously bright, spilled itself across the charcoal dashboard. He’d been driving in the dark for the past four hours; hence, his pupils slammed shut so fast he winced. While prey to temporary blindness, he elbowed his slumping bride as he put the SUV in park. There was a rustle of silk. Chelsea’s auburn hair fell in a lopsided jumble over the side of her head when she raised up. Anthony took advantage of her exposed neck and tenderly kissed the ivory expanse.

Chelsea belched.

“Hmmm, Champagne and…let me see, egg rolls ?— very nice, darling. How’s your head?” Anthony’s tone was more amused than concerned.

“I’m not sure I wanna answer that question. Presently, you’ve got the devil in your eye and I’ve had too much to drink,” she smiled. “Now, either you’ve found something very amusing you’d like to share with me, or you’ve already started our honeymoon up there in that handsome head of yours.” Chelsea figured her new husband would be too clever not to pick the latter.

“You’ve got me, babe. Let me go get us checked in so I can make your every wish my only command. I’ll be back in a flash.” Anthony winked at the woman he’d just promised to spend the rest of his life with, and felt completely satisfied. If lovemaking was still on the menu tonight after a hectic wedding day followed by a six hour drive, well then, that would be icing on the cake.

In a rumpled black smock, the night clerk didn’t so much as walk to the front desk as skulk her way there. Her jet black hair was several days overdue for a wash and a scrunchie, and it fell into her eyes in jagged sweeps.

Anthony knew he was staring, but it wouldn’t matter to the girl; she’d not once made eye contact. He realized the night shift must be a difficult time for hotels to find shiny, happy people to work the graveyard, but this girl was setting a new low in expectations. Anthony hoped she was capable of getting them into a nice room, and programming a key card.

“Do you have a reservation?” the girl asked from behind her hair. Her voice was as flat as her attitude.

He shuffled his feet. “Um, no, but we’ve just gotten married…today,” he offered, as though he needed to be excused for being ill prepared. He was beginning to feel awkward in the night clerk’s silence. She turned from him without a word, and began tapping on the keyboard. Anthony assumed she was looking for an available room.

“I have one room left, but it’s not up to hotel standards according to the manager’s note.” The clerk rapidly clicked the keys a few more times. “I’ll rent it to you, but it’ll have to be cash. I can’t have you showing up on the books. He’ll have my ass.”

Anthony didn’t ask what she meant by “not up to hotel standards” or why the parking lot was half empty if the hotel was full. But a room, at this point, was all he cared about. Surely it couldn’t be any worse than accommodations in Afghanistan, and he’d survived that. He wasn’t worried about Chelsea either, she was a natural beauty, but she was no prima donna, she’d served two tours with a hospital unit in Iraq, she’d be fine.

“I’ll take it. How much?”

“One fifty,” she said, her mouth a grim line she dared Anthony to cross.

“One hundred cash, that’s all I’ve got.” Anthony said, drawing his own line. He put the hundred dollar bill his uncle had slipped into his pocket that afternoon on the counter.

The money disappeared with the swipe of a pale hand and was replaced with a key card. The room number was scrawled inside the card folder.

Chelsea’s head rested against the corner of the driver’s seat and she roused quickly when Anthony opened the door and got in.

“What took you so long, babe?”

“I had to negotiate with the United Nation of Gothic Angst to get us a room, but we got the last one for miles around.” Tony cupped her chin. “C’mon babe, let’s get some rest, I’m beat.” He didn’t bother with the details of the “off the books” room he’d rented or the odd night clerk. They’d be back on their way in the morning; he would tell her about their first adventure as a married couple at breakfast.

Chelsea grumbled from a pool of white silk and commenced wrestling it into a manageable ball so she could get out of the truck with something resembling grace and poise. However, she wound up cursing herself for not changing before leaving the reception as she tumbled out of the passenger door in a pile of white silk and taffeta.

“Damn it, Tony. Why didn’t we change into our street clothes?” she said, straightening up and smoothing her wild hair.

Anthony was at the rear of the Suburban gathering their overnight bags. “You wanted to sneak off, skip the fanfare and the half pound of rice in your bra. You figured if we changed our clothes that would clue everyone in we’d be leaving soon, remember?”

“Oh, right, I won’t make that mistake again,” she said with confidence.

“Again?” Anthony raised his eyebrows as he walked toward her with their bags. “Are you already planning your next wedding?” he asked, smiling with his eyes.

“I thought you knew, I’m only after your money,” Chelsea played along.

“At least I know you’ll be around until I make my first million, could take awhile though. Say, fifty, sixty years?

“Sounds good to me,” she replied and slipped her arm around her husband’s waist.

“Wait for me inside the lobby while I park the car. I shouldn’t be long. For a fully booked hotel there’s a lot of parking out there.” Anthony kissed her on the cheek and sent her inside.

The hotel lobby was deserted. The shush of the automatic doors startled, then spun her around, but no one was there. She moved further from the doors since it occurred to her the skirt of her dress had probably gotten in the way of the sensors. The next time the doors slid open her new husband came through in two long strides. He glanced over to the vacant front desk. The office door was closed, but he could see a blue seam of light at the bottom of the door. He supposed the internet provided the best entertainment a bored night clerk might find at this hour. Long live the wide world web, he thought to himself.

Anthony glanced at the room number, 313, and guided Chelsea to the elevators. He pushed the third floor button, and turned to Chelsea when the elevator bumped to a stop. “We’re in 313,” he said, as they both paused to get their bearings .

“This way,” Chelsea nodded after checking the numbered placards on the wall.

“Lead the way my love,” Anthony followed the billowing white dress as it swished rhythmically down the hall.

“Here at last,” he said, arriving next to his wife.

After locking the door behind them, he switched on the lights and stared in shock.

The room was pristine and decadent. There was soft lighting over the king size headboard which was made of solid walnut not some disposable pressboard monstrosity. The bed, outfitted in silk sheets was turned down and inviting. There was a faint odor of sandalwood in the air and music played unobtrusively through hidden speakers. Whoever had decorated it had thought of every convenience, and you didn’t have far to go if your phone needed a charge, because it seemed every outlet in the room had a universal phone charger plugged into it.

The room looked like it belonged in an upscale Hotels-R-Us magazine spread. Anthony was puzzled by the way the clerk had represented it as if it would be shabby or only partly renovated, but he was much too tired to let it bother him for long. Besides, Chelsea was busy shedding her white chrysalis and he didn’t want to miss the transformation of his proper bride into a sultry temptress.

Inside the small office behind the hotel’s front desk, Peep, a nickname the girl had earned, not because of her size, turned on the second computer screen to test the live feed connection. It was solid and ready to be paired. On the main screen things were already warming up. She had to hurry now. At last, the pasty waif checked the special modem used to access the ISP hiding out inside a dark corner of the web. Everything was green for ‘go’. She typed in her access code and hit enter.

The first screen immediately divided itself into four smaller screens each taking a different angle on the action. The micro cameras hidden inside the phone chargers had been a worthwhile upgrade.

Anthony and Chelsea’s nude bodies moved across the bed from four erotic tableaus, all different. The feed was clear and well lit with delicious detail.

Peep quickly typed a second access code and hit send. The screen to her right immediately came to life as the couple began moving together in a slow, sensuous rhythm.

Peep watched as elite members of the Voyeur Network logged on in a swarm.This was going to be a record breaking night, she could feel it.

The shirtless middle-aged man padded quietly downstairs to the study. He made himself a bourbon neat then settled behind his desk and turned his computer on. The screen cast a blue sheen over his stubbly face. He licked his lips and typed in the address he’d gotten in the last email from the Voyeur Network, then the access code he’d paid handsomely for. He felt he deserved this little indulgence after his daughter’s hectic wedding day. He loved Chelsea, would deny her nothing, but the day had taken it out of him and he needed to relax.

The screen flickered to life and immediately he was privy to the lusty magic of young love. The woman was a petite, well-built beauty with long auburn hair and the man was as solid and handsome as a prized stallion. The shirtless man leaned closer to the screen.

The woman turned abruptly and looked squarely into one of the disguised cameras.

As if he’d taken a jab from a cattle prod, the middle-aged man flailed backwards from the desk in horror spilling his bourbon everywhere, but he dared not raise his eyes to inspect the damage lest he glimpse the screen again.

“My god, Chelsea?” he whispered in shame and disbelief.