Her Little White LieBy: Cj Howard
“Hey, what are you guys up to now?” I asked them.
It was 6 am. I arrived, tired and freezing, at the hotel and made my way down to the locker room. The Chipmunks, as I call them, were already up to no good. Known as The Chipmunks because they were off-the-scale and mischievous whenever they were on a shift together. But as individuals, Ramon and Damion were pretty nice guys.
“Shh, Grace.” Ramon put a finger to his lips. “We're breaking into Rico's locker.”
I knew I shouldn't have stayed around to ask questions, but my shift wasn't due to start for another fifteen minutes.
“You know he can press charges, right?” I asked them. “And what are you two hoping to find anyway?” I took off my coat but it was too damned cold in that locker room for me to lose the hat and scarf just yet.
“We got to wondering,” Damion said, “how come that quiet dude, with that slicked back Ricky Martin hair, got him so many pairs of expensive shoes. They all shiny, they got them leather soles and shit. And damn, he on the same wage as us. Where he find the money?”
“Maybe he's got two jobs,” I said. “Maybe he doesn't spend all his cash on women and booze like you guys.”
“Correction, Grace,” Ramon cleared his throat. “That's fine women and expensive booze.”
“My point exactly.”
I was about to leave but Damion managed to pry open the locker. He started drawing in breath and not releasing it, his voice all high pitched and surprised like he just won an Oscar. I looked inside Rico's locker too. There were two pairs of five inch pumps; one patent red, one with crystal buckles. A pair of suspender belts, Chanel No. 5 and three pairs of black, silky stockings.
Weeks later Rico left the hotel after expressing his disgust over the break-in and the fact that management didn't fire the Chipmunks. Turns out Rico is now Ronda and he works at another hotel across town as a chambermaid. I also heard the tips were better.
But a chambermaid was how I first started out at Great West International Hotel. I was sixteen and it was only supposed to be temporary so I could save up and put myself through college. I left Boston hoping for a fresh start and thinking I'd have better opportunities in New York. But having to be out there on my own, fending for myself and trying to make ends meet, I never made it to college.
I worked hard and got promoted, stepping up a rank each time and, after six years, I was offered a job on reception. Front of house, baby. But I'm still down with my 'behind the scenes' buddies. When I was a chambermaid we used to make fun of the front-line crew and they looked down their noses at us.
But I loved to be at reception, I met all kinds of people every day and when it wasn’t too busy, I got to do the thing I loved the best. Reading.
I could totally lose myself in a book and forget where I am. It gets me into lots of trouble, especially when my mind starts wandering to all those far off places I read about.
It was in the run up to that particular Christmas, that something compelled me to read all the Holiday stories I could find: A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, Little Women. You name it, I read it. Only trouble with that was it got me feeling nostalgic.
How I could have felt nostalgic over Christmas, I have no idea. You see, I had not had a traditional Christmas Day. I had no idea how to celebrate the holidays because I never got the chance.
Mom died when I was real little and Dad worked all hours to feed me and my brother Tommy. My Dad was dead set against the whole family Christmas bit. He didn't even like it in a small way. I guess it had a lot to do with him not believing any more, you know, since Mom passed and everything. So he never bought us Christmas stockings or dressed up as Santa and he never came to the nativity pageant at our school.
I suppose that rubbed off on Tommy and me and if it didn't, we made a good job of pretending to be the only kids in our school to not like Christmas. When Dad died, our Uncle Zeek moved up north to stay until we became old enough to look after ourselves. He must have been the only atheist in the whole of Bible belt country, because when he moved into our house in Boston there was just no way we'd be putting up a tree or stringing popcorn around it, either.