Day 2 of StoryADay May
Write a story containing all of these words from a fourth grade spelling list.
I blame Joel. It wasn’t his idea, but this is still his fault. I was joking when I said we should go to Vegas for the weekend. He jumped on the idea. Laughed. Said we should get married while we’re there.
I didn’t laugh.
I didn’t look at him, either. I focused on the frayed edge of my thumbnail. “Do you want to?” I asked.
He dropped down on his knees in front of me, waited for me to meet his eyes. Then he nodded.
I pushed out a short laugh. It was a proposal run in reverse.
So we did it. For the first time in my life, I left the state of New Mexico. I was nervous. I was scared. Shit. I was terrified. But I was with Joel.
He drove us through the night.
I bounced my gaze back and forth. First I watched Joel. He watched only the road ahead, looked for rabbits bounding into his path. Then I turned my eyes to the desert around us.
The window rolled down, I let the cool night air wash in and over me. I leaned my head against the frame of the window and closed my eyes. I held out my hand, let it fly in the wind we created as we passed through the night. I drifted.
A hand touched my shoulder. My eyes flew open and my arms bolted up, pushed away.
“Leigh. We’re here.”
I nudged my mouth into a shape sort of like a smile. “Sorry.” Before he could tell me again that it was alright, I turned and looked out the window again.
“Holiday Shores?” I asked.
“It was the only place off the strip I saw with a vacancy sign.”
“Where is the shore?”
Joel pointed over his shoulder. “Several hundred miles that way, I think.”
I grabbed his shirt and pulled him close. Dropped a kiss that said far too little on his lips. “You are a dork.”
“Yeah. But you like it.”
I shoved him away and climbed out of the car.
The sun was barely over the horizon but the air was already full and heavy with heat. I pulled what little hair was still held in my hair tie free and rearranged the wind blown strands into a bun. Mmmm. Cinnamon bun. I was hungry.
“I’m starved,” I said. “This shuttle didn’t provide meal service.” I thunked the hood of Joel’s car.
“I’ll relay your complaint to the tour director,” Joel said. “Let’s see if the stunning shores contain a restaurant.”
He moved beside me and slipped his arm around my waist, pulled me tight to his side. “Ready?” he asked.
I twitched my head up. As close to a nod as I could give him. I locked my thumb tight into his belt loop and pushed at the base of his spine. He took the cue and started walking, pulling us toward the Holiday Shores.
We walked up the steps and stopped at the front door. Fifteen panes of dusty fingerprints obscured our view of what waited inside. I reached out for the faux brass handle and pulled. The door swung open, revealing peace and chaos. Audio silence. Visual cacophony.
I tuned out the bright clutter, the fake flower leis and brittle plastic toys. I kept my eyes locked on the front desk. I Joel staring at the side of my face. I didn’t give him anything to see. I pulled us to the front desk.
Benji stood behind the desk. At least, that’s what his nametag said his name was. He looked like a Benji. Scruffy. Sandy brown hair. Deep brown eyes. A bright smile. Too sincerely friendly to be working in what appeared to be a fifth-string Vegas hotel.
I couldn’t deal with the chit-chat. I let Joel talk to Benji. I scanned the countertop. A display of dollar-a-pack collector cards caught my eye. Garbage Pail Kids. I hadn’t seen those since I was tiny. I pulled a pack from the display and held them out to Benji. “Can I charge these to our room or do I need to pay you for them?”
Maybe I interrupted some deep-guy conversation. Both Benji and Joel stared at me for a moment before Benji spoke. “I’ll add them to your bill.” Benji looked to Joel. They exchanged ‘the look.’ The ‘is she crazy- no, at least I don’t think so’ look.
“Sorry. I haven’t seen these in a while. I thought they were hilarious when I was little.”
Benji just smiled and slid a key across the counter.
Joel reached for the key and slipped it in his pocket before I could read the room number. Fine by me. I had no intention of touching it.
“Breakfast?” Joel turned to face the doorway behind us. Bright purple letters screamed ALL YOU CAN EAT BUFFET.
I raised an eyebrow and wrinkled my nose.
“It’s food,” Joel said.
I wasn’t convinced.
“What’ve you got to lose?” he asked.
“What have you got to gain?” I shot back. “Dysentery?”
“It’ll be fine.” Joel slid his hand down my spine, nestled it into the hollow at the base where it belonged. “Look, no corpses,” he said when we stepped into the restaurant.
I looked around. “No live bodies either.” A dozen or so empty tables were scattered across the floor between us and the silver train of steam tables. Not a waitress or cook in sight.
“Hello?” Joel called in an effort to raise the staff from wherever they were hiding.
Benji popped up at Joel’s elbow. “Oh. It’s seat yourself. Grab what you want. I’ll add it to your room charge.”
He disappeared again.
“Weird,” I said.
“A little,” Joel agreed.
“A little? What would make it big weird to you?”
He thought for a minute. “If the mayor were here.”
“Yeah. Frank Sinatra. Old blue eyes.”
“He wasn’t the mayor, I don’t think.”
“That was his nickname.” Joel scrunched his brow and looked at me. “Right?”
I shook my head. “Uhm, no. I think it was Chairman of the Board.”
“Oh. But that would still be big weird. Frank Sinatra. Here. Now.”
I laughed and wrapped my arms around Joel’s neck. “I’m gonna marry you someday,” I whispered into his ear.
“I’m still hoping for today.” His breath fluttered against my ear. I still didn’t know if I was hoping for today or not. We were in Vegas. Quick weddings were half of why Vegas existed in the first place, right?
This is where I am. Held in Joel’s arms. About to eat from what might be the buffet to end all buffets via food poisoning. Trying to decide if today is my wedding day.
This is the moment when we are joined by Elvis. He walks through the door in his sparkly white suit, dark shades blocking my view of his eyes and half of his face. His dark hair is slicked back, an ebony reflection of the harsh fluorescents overhead.
Joel and I separate enough to stare. I am surprisingly unsurprised. It is Vegas, after all. But there is one detail that catches my attention. Elvis has a parachute strapped to his back.
I cut my eyes to Joel. He is already turning my way. “Where is his airplane?” Joel whispers.
“I heard that,” Elvis says. He moves straight toward us. “You two gettin’ hitched or what?”
Joel’s hand finds mine. His fingers interweave, gripping me, holding me here. With him.
“Mayyyybeee,” Joel stretches the word out, gives me a chance to cut him off.
“Yes,” I say. “We just needed an Elvis.”
I lift Joel’s hand in mine and kiss his knuckles. I will vanquish myself here, in Vegas, with Elvis. What will remain is Joel and I. Us.