The Magdalene Hotel

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Magdalene Hotel is a fictional short story centered around a 20 year old girl named Isabel.
The action takes place one night in a small hotel on the side of the highway called The Magdalene Hotel, where Isabel works at the front desk. On that night, she finds herself tempted, seduced, and forced out of her passive existence.

Submitted: June 05, 2014

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Submitted: June 05, 2014

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“So you’re not coming to college this week, again?”

“Yeah Carmen, again. I don’t feel like it. I don’t feel like anything.” She sighed. “I’m so bored, and at the same time, I can’t bring myself to do anything. Things are just…bleah.”

“I think you’re like, having a mid-life crisis or something…only at 20.”

“That’s the thing; I don’t even feel like I’m 20. I feel like I’m freakin’ 40!”

“Well Isabel, maybe you should quit that shitty job at that shitty hotel, and get laid.”

“Believe it or not, not everything is about sex, Carmen. And my job is not that bad. I mostly just sit around and listen to music.”

“Exactly! When you’re at home you don’t go out and when you’re at work you just sit around, all by yourself in that creepy-ass place. You need to get out there and meet some boys. You know, just have fun and live a little.”

“I’m not all by myself! We have guests…sometimes.”

“Right…” Carmen used that annoying ironic tone that Isabel hated so much. “Is anyone staying there tonight?”

“Yeah, a dude made an actual reservation earlier. The first reservation since I started working here! He paid cash and used an obviously fake name, said he’ll be back later tonight with someone. And a couple checked in about two hours ago. She had a wedding ring, he didn’t. He looked younger than her, too.”

 “You got yourself a cougar and her prey!” Carmen made an “Rrrrr” sound and giggled. “I said it before and I’ll say it again, that place should be called Booty Call Hoe-tel.”

They laughed. Carmen was right, though.

Isabel started working there about three months ago, and most of the guests that graced The Magdalene Hotel with their secretive presence used fake names and paid the measly price for a night in a double-bed room in cash. The credit card reader was broken, anyway.

All sorts of men and women stood before the front desk. The classic mummy with a brimming wallet and a pretty young girl who was mentally planning her shopping spree the next day. Prostitutes and whoever they caught that night. Teen lovers who don’t want their parents to find out about their wild, skanky sexcapades. One member of a till-death-do-us-part duo, the ring line still visible (if they had the decency to take it off), and their business partner, or friend in need of urgent help, or simply Mister or Misses Adultery. Isabel had seen it all and she was used to it. “Booty Call Hotel” seemed like the perfect name. “Discreet Sexual Vacancy 24/7! We take cash. We don’t ask questions. We won’t tell.” That should have been the sign in the window instead of the plain “Vacancy” in neon green. Isabel never liked green.

Still, those were the only people that stayed there, in The Magdalene Hotel. They came after dark, just for the night, which usually meant a few hours. There were some oddities, however. Like the smiling, fresh-faced family of three that got a room for two days. They even wanted to pay with a credit card. Imagine their reaction when at 2 a.m. the walls of their room started moaning.

They left the second day.

They weren’t smiling anymore.

Well, what did they expect from a hotel on the side of the highway? Weren’t the hookers in the truck stop next door obvious enough? If only they called it “Booty Call Hotel. No pets or families allowed.”

“Anyway, I have to go now. Gabriel just got here.” said Carmen.

“Ok, you have fun. And use a condom!”

“Yeah, yeah…bye bitch.” Carmen hung up.

The lobby of The Magdalene Hotel was dead quiet now. 11: 41 on the clock above the Staff Room.

Isabel made herself a second cup of coffee, black with milk and three teaspoons of sugar. A chocolate-glazed doughnut tempted her. It was just so alone in that pink box. It was like it was calling to her.

“Please, eat me Isabel. Sink your teeth into me! C’mon Isabel, you know you want to.”

Oh, but she promised herself she would stay away from sweets and all the junk food she so loved. She promised herself that she would go on a diet for that perfect bikini body that taunted her from practically every direction she looked in.

But that doughnut was lonely. It would go stale. Stiff and cold, like a body after the soul bailed out.  

It would be out of mercy. She already put milk and sugar in her coffee. She hated coffee without them. And besides, it wouldn’t be the first time she had broken a promise to herself.

Isabel took the doughnut. If all else failed, she could always do what Carmen did since the 8th grade…stick her fingers down her throat after every meal.

She sat on the uncomfortable, buttock-numbing chair behind the front desk and put her earphones in. “Blue Hotel” by Chris Isaak, she could listen to that song over and over again. It was like her theme song for the past three months. “Heartbreak Hotel” didn’t do it for her and she preferred Chris Isaak. Sorry Elvis.

Every time Isabel got bored, which was pretty much all the time, her imagination went wild. As she ate her delicious, guilt-glazed doughnut and sipped on her coffee, she imagined Chris Isaak singing and playing his guitar on the green armchair in the middle of the lobby. Two dancers with bright red lips emerged from the shadowy edges of the sofa. The sirens animated their gorgeous bodies to the haunting melody, their matching blue sequin leotards sparkling under the dusty crystal chandelier above them.

That was how Isabel kept herself entertained, and sane.

Suddenly, another girl appeared. But she was no dancer. Long chocolate brown hair, pink pouting lips and eyes hidden by dark Ray-Ban sunglasses, she was thin and as pale as a vampire. Her bitchy expression suggested that she was ready to bite.

Was she another figment of Isabel’s imagination? Somehow, she did not seem real. She was like a character from some movie. A villain. Not the main antagonist, but the one by his side. The one that, in spite of reduced screen time and a severe deprivation of lines, burns deep and vivid in your grey matter long after the credits roll.

Of course, she wasn’t the first black coat and sunglasses lady Isabel had seen. Many of them had stepped in through the glass double-door of The Magdalene Hotel. Even the cougar wore a cream-colored coat and big sunglasses. But this girl was different. There was just something about her that fascinated Isabel, and intimidated her at the same time.

Chris and the dancers vanished. The girl was still there. She was indeed real and not very pleased. 

Isabel realized she was staring. She quickly removed her earphones.

“Sorry! Welcome to The Magdalene Hotel! I – I’m Isabel.” She wiped her lips and smiled awkwardly. She even stood up.

“I believe you have a reservation under the name John Doe…” Her lips stopped in the shape of an O. It appeared she could not remember the rest of the name. She had nice lips, full and smooth. Her voice was not high-pitched and girly. It was smoky and it scratched her throat with raspiness.

“Uh, John Doeworth?” Isabel still remembered the unimaginative, obviously fake name of the tall man that made the reservation earlier.

“Mhm…” It sounded like the girl purred.

“Yes, yes we do. He mentioned he would be back with someone.”

“That someone is me.” Her arched eyebrow peeked out of the top of the sunglasses. “He’ll be joining me soon.”

“Okay, just, let me get the guest book.”

Isabel did not bother to ask her for an ID. She used to do it at the start, and she always got the same old excuses. ”I don’t have it on me.” or “Oh, darn, I forgot it.” Sure you did.

Her boss told her to not ask questions. Those were the only people that kept The Magdalene Hotel in business. They were already underpaid and understaffed, just the General Manager boss-lady and her deaf husband who cleaned the rooms, Lawrence the bellboy that sometimes got too high and/or drunk to come to work, and Isabel. Last thing they wanted was to lose the few customers they had. So, until someone found a rotting, dead hooker underneath their mattress, it was all good.

The girl crossed her arms again as Isabel took out the guest book to search for the room number.

“Let’s see. Ah, here we go. John Doeworth, room…20. That’s on the third floor.” Isabel got the key and smiled politely, “If you would follow me…”

Before Isabel could finish speaking, the girl, the icy bitch Jane Doeworth started walking. Isabel was the one following behind her.

Skinny and pretty Jane Doeworth was dressed in a knee-length black coat and black leather flat boots with no end in sight. She smelled good, like some fancy French perfume. Her long hair was beautiful and shiny. Isabel wanted to reach out and touch it. She was sure Jane Doeworth would bite her or something if she tried it.

They stepped inside the elevator. It was small, but Jane Doeworth managed to make Isabel feel as if they were miles apart. Her pallid face showed no emotion or expression. She was almost like a soulless mannequin. 

Neither of them said a word. Three floors felt like thirty.

After the awkward elevator ride, they made their way to the end of the hallway to room 20. Isabel unlocked the door and held it open for the icy, soulless, bitchy mannequin that was Jane Doeworth to enter.

The room, like all the other rooms, had white walls with little blue flower designs and red carpeting. The furniture was wooden brown, not antique, just plain old. There was a dresser in one corner and a full-length oval mirror next to it. The porcelain vase on the desk was empty. The T.V. had no cable. And like in all the other rooms, there was a cross hanging on the wall above the bed, which on the third floor, was a big double bed with simple white sheets. The rooms on the second floor had single or twin beds. Everything else was virtually the same.

“And here you have the bathroom…”

The bathrooms were the same as well, standard, sterile white. Except the third floor bathrooms had a bathtub and warm water. The ones on the second floor had a shower and the warm water wasn’t working. No point in wasting it since nobody ever stayed on the second floor.

Jane Doeworth did not care to look around. Of course she didn’t. She sauntered to the window and parted the velvet yellow drapes. The red light from “The Magdalene Hotel” neon sign on the front of the building blazed inside. Her back to Isabel, Jane Doeworth got out a pack of cigarettes and lit one.

“If you need anything…”

Veils of smoke around her silhouette contoured in red, Jane Doeworth did not turn. It was like Isabel had ceased to exist.

“I’ll be downstairs.” And with that said, Isabel cleared her throat and left the room.

Isabel knew nothing about Jane Doeworth, not even her real name, but she hated her. Yet, she also wanted to…she was not sure. Impress her? Gain her approval? Make her smile? As if the bitch could smile. Her face would probably crack or implode.

Yes, Isabel hated her. Nevertheless, if she were to call, Isabel would run like a little puppy to her master, waving her tail and ready to please.

What was it about her?

 

Three men in black suits were waiting at the front desk. Isabel first noticed the bearded, old gentleman with a handful of grey hairs left on his head. To his right was a middle-aged man holding a paper bag. He had short and neat auburn hair and saggy hazel eyes. Family man was stamped on his wrinkled forehead. The third one looked younger than Isabel, 15 maybe 16. He too had short and neat auburn hair and hazel eyes, minus the receding hairline, saggy eyelids and crow’s feet. They appeared to be apples from the same tree – a grandfather, a father and his son, Isabel was pretty sure.

“Sorry to keep you waiting!” Isabel rushed behind the desk. “I was showing a guest to her room.”

“Do not worry, Miss. We just got here.” The old man said, smiling.

Isabel smiled, too. They seemed nice. Better than the usual guests that stood on the other side of the front desk.

“We would like a room with three beds, if that is possible.” He continued in a warm, fatherly tone.

“I’m so sorry. We only have twin or double-beds. But, uh, I could take a mattress and sheets from another room for you, if you’d like.” Isabel tried to be helpful.

“That would be lovely. Thomas can sleep on the mattress, right Thomas?”

The old man put his hand on the younger one’s shoulder. He responded with a single nod.

“Wonderful, then we will have a room with twin beds and a mattress.”

Room 7, Isabel suggested. It was in better shape than the rest of the rooms on the second floor.

The Patriarch looked at the middle-aged man. Stephen, he called him.

Stephen slipped a credit card out of his wallet. Isabel told him the card reader was broken. He seemed surprised when he heard how cheap the room was. Not that he complained. He did not speak at all, actually. Neither did Thomas. They were probably tired. It made sense. Why else would they want to stay in The Magdalene Hotel?  

Mathew Sherwood was the Patriarch’s name and he had a simple, tidy signature which he left on the yellowish page of the guest book.

Isabel took the keys for rooms 7 and 8, and guided the men to the second floor. The four of them could barely fit in the elevator. Isabel was on the side and the men squeezed themselves together in the corner so they wouldn’t touch her, too much. It was out of politeness, she knew that. She wanted to tell them it was okay, but that would sound kind of weird. “Hey, it’s ok to touch me!” – Yep, totally weird.

Thomas carried the mattress from room 8 to room 7 and Isabel brought the sheets. She got them settled in. Mathew, the Patriarch and voice of his son and grandson, thanked her kindly. Thomas was staring at the cross on wall between the two beds. Isabel told them they could ring her up if they needed anything else. Matthew thanked her again and smiled.

They were nice, and somewhat creepy. Eh, they were probably just tired. Isabel closed the door behind her.

 

 

Back downstairs, Isabel had another sip from her now-cold coffee. It was half past midnight. She wasn’t sleepy at all. In fact, she had trouble sleeping at night. She was not quite sure if it was insomnia or just her screwed up sleeping pattern.

The front desk phone rang. She picked up.

“Do you have green tea?” It was Jane Doeworth’s emotionless, raspy voice.

“O-oh, hi!” Isabel cringed at her involuntary, surprised and slightly-excited response. “No, sorry we don’t, just chamomile or mint.”

“Chamomile.”

“Alright, I’ll bri…”

Jane Doeworth hung up.

Isabel was convinced Jane Doeworth was in fact an evil demon that clawed herself out of hell, a succubus.

10 minutes later the faithful and hopeful puppy, Isabel, headed to the third floor with the hot cup of tea. Jane Doeworth did not say how much sugar she wanted, if she wanted any at all. Isabel put in three teaspoons. Maybe that’ll sweeten up the bitch.

On the way to the lair of the succubus, Isabel stopped for a moment at room 12 where the cougar and her prey were staying. The door was ajar. It had been closed before.

Should she?

Oh, but what if they caught her?

“Look inside, Isabel. C’mon, just a little sneak peek. You know you want to.”

Chewing on her nail, Isabel began to approach the door.

One step, her mind slowed down.

Two steps, her heart pounded on her eardrums. She was almost there…

Long French-manicured nails gripped the edge of the door and opened it all the way. The cougar appeared in the doorway holding a white sheet against her breasts. Poison green eyes, her sable hair resembled a turbulent ocean and her smiling lips were rubbed clean of the burgundy lipstick that had colored them a few hours ago.

“You wanna come inside?” She asked.

Behind her in the faintly-lit room, the sculpted blond man was waiting on the bed. The only thing he had on was a golden cross around his sweaty neck.

Paralyzed with embarrassment, Isabel’s head fell to the dusty brown carpet. No excuse came to her mind, not even a simple apology. Her lips were frozen shut. She was absolutely mortified. She wished that carpet was quicksand to swallow her up.

“Kids these days, you just spy on life…” She said as she closed the door.

Isabel snapped out of it and backed away.

What the hell was she doing?

She took a deep breath and went straight to room 20. She knocked on the door.

“Miss…” Isabel almost said Jane out loud. “I got your tea.”

There was no answer.

Isabel cracked the door and looked inside. Jane Doeworth was not there. She entered, cautiously. The black coat was on the bed and the thigh-high leather flat boots were on the floor.

“Miss, um, Doeworth?”

The bathroom door was wide open. Calm waves of smoke were seeping out. Isabel heard the water running. She stepped closer until she saw an arm hanging on the side of the bathtub holding a half-smoked cigarette between thin fingers with sharp black nails. Isabel made two more steps and leaned to the side to see the back of Jane Doeworth’s head and pallid shoulders. Her hair was tied in a messy low bun and her crossed knees were sticking out of the water.

“I brought your tea…” said Isabel.

“Leave it on the nightstand.”

Once again, the evil-icy-soulless-bitch-mannequin-succubus did not look at Isabel. She took a puff from the cigarette and tapped the ashes on the glistening white floor. The blue smoke glided down her long neck, lingering around her collarbone as a lover’s hand would.

Isabel did exactly what she was told.

With her hand pressing on the cold door handle, Isabel glanced over her shoulder. The light from the bathroom turned bright red. Jane Doeworth’s shadow stretched like a cat in heat on the wall facing the bathroom. Then Jane Doeworth’s moaning shadow began to move, slow and seductive, hands sliding from waist to swaying hips.

It was not real. Isabel blinked, and the light was normal again, no tempting shadow. She got out.

Jane Doeworth – whatever her name was. Isabel hated her. She was skinny and pretty and alluring. She had beautiful long hair and she smelled amazing.

Isabel could not get that damn fat on her hips and tummy to go away no matter what. Her dirty-blonde hair did not grow past her shoulders and she often neglected to wash it. She found her facial features weird. She did not consider herself attractive at all, especially not in that stupid green sweater and pressed caramel-colored pants uniform.

Yes, she envied Jane Doeworth. Isabel admitted it to herself. But she didn’t just want to be like her. She also wanted her approval. She wanted her to…see her. Acknowledge her presence. She did not know why, she just did.

Oh, and that shameless cougar with her smile and green eyes that made Isabel feel naked. She, with her perfect French-manicured nails and sun-caressed skin and longs legs that were probably wrapped around the sculpted body of her prey as Isabel passed their door. What a slut. And what exactly did she mean by: “You just spy on life”?

Yes, Isabel envied her as well. A woman probably twice her age, but she looked better than her and she had a young, attractive boy toy too.

The few boys Isabel had been with were not really attractive. They flashed in her mind. They weren’t the kind of boys she would tell her friends the second day about. Four times out of six, she tried to forget it ever happened and she would never admit to have slept with them.

The elevator doors came apart. Isabel quickly shook off her thoughts. John Doeworth himself was standing in front of her. A very tall man of about 6’3”, he had a strong body and a rugged face with a square jaw that could be used for sharpening rocks and blue eyes like polished steel. His dark brown hair was no longer than the week-old stubble on his face and he was dressed casually, black jacket, navy cargo pants and boots.  

Isabel still considered Miss Doeworth more intimidating.

“Hey.” He showed a friendly smile.

“Hello again...” Isabel returned the smile and got out of the elevator.

John Doeworth stepped in and pressed the button without wasting time. Isabel could tell he was eager to get to his Jane Doeworth.  

 

 

In need of some fresh air, Isabel put on her hoodie and went outside. It was cold. Too cold. Last year it had been too warm. With her arms around her, she began to pace back and forth. The frigid wind whispered from the dark hills behind The Magdalene Hotel. Trucks and cars dashed by on the highway from time to time. Isabel sighed and rubbed her forehead. A headache pestered her. But that was not the problem.

The real problem was Isabel felt herself…slipping. Not something new; it started after she finished high school. No, actually, it started before that. She was not sure when exactly. In a way, she felt like that feeling was always there, a blurry grey spot inside growing bigger and bigger. It was suffocating her. She had no control. She did not know what to do. That feeling was in her brain, in her chest, it coiled around her numbing her whole being. She did not know what to do. She was slipping and no one could hear her. No one would help her.

Jane Doeworth, the cougar…Isabel wished she was like them. Everything was wrong in her life. No, she was not in poverty. No, she did not suffer abuse at the hands of her parents or anyone else. She was not sick or dying. All in all, she had a normal, boring, middle-class life – if she could even call it a life. She did not feel like she was living. She just…existed.

Stuck in a web of thoughts, Isabel wandered towards the highway. Her feet stopped at the edge, in the lamppost’s fluorescent light. She looked left and right. It was so quiet. All she could hear was the wind. The Magdalene Hotel was in the middle of nowhere between two distant towns, one of which Isabel lived in.

She felt alone, only she wasn’t. There was someone there, a figure in a hooded dark robe standing in the exact same spot as Isabel on the other side. It raised its head from the ground. A black, bird-like mask with a long, curved beak and sparkling red eyes covered its face. Isabel’s dry lips unglued. The hooded figure remained motionless as the blood rushed through her body, electrifying the small hairs on the back of her neck. She closed her eyes.

Clack

It did not work. She squeezed her eyelids shut once more.

Clack

That sound echoed in her ears, stinging her mind. She opened her eyes. The terrifying figure was now behind the white line at edge of the highway. Slowly, a long and lean leg ending in a sinfully red stiletto heel emerged from the dark robe.

Clack

Then another naked leg stepped in front of it and the asphalt cried underneath the sharp high heel. Those red stilettos like blood aflame moved one at a time, one in front of the other, coming closer and closer to Isabel with an echoing stab. The stiletto-heeled nightmare made three steps forward, and Isabel made three steps back. She blinked for the first time since she had last closed her eyes and…it was gone, evaporated in the cold night air.

Isabel rushed inside without looking back. She knew it was not real, just another spawn of her imagination. But that bone-deep fear was very real and it did not disappear until she was behind the stained glass door of The Magdalene Hotel. She hadn’t scared herself that bad in years.

It was hard to keep her head clear when there was no one else around. She sat on the chair at the front desk, still visualizing the red-eyed bird mask and supermodel legs. Maybe she had watched too many horror movies, or maybe she was finally losing it.

She turned on the radio. She needed to hear something other than her thoughts.

“Oh Betsy, your dress is beautiful!” Said the woman on the radio. “Is it new?”

“Don’t be silly Anne, I’ve had it for years!” Said another woman and laughed as if someone forced her with a gun pressed to her forehead. “I just washed it with the new Flux Virgin Pure. It leaves your tired old whites looking fresh and new!”

“Will it remove the coffee stain on my favorite pair of white pants?”

“Of course! I spilled wine on my dress, and look…all gone!”

“Oh, wow!”

“Flux Virgin Pure, restores the purity of your whites!” Said a random man.

“I need to get me some of that. I have a few embarrassing stains I’d like to get rid of. But don’t we all? You’re listening to Peek-A-Boo Radio. I’m your favorite other girl, Dité, and like every night, I’m here with you After Dark.” 

Isabel loved “Dité After Dark”. Not because of the music, which was good or at least decent, but the calming sultry voice of Dité. Isabel could listen to her for hours. With that voice, she could read a phone book or the ingredients on the back of a product and Isabel, and many others, would still listen to her.

“I’m so lonely here in the studio. Good thing I have all you naughty boys and girls staying up late to keep me company. Hm, I’m in the mood to take a caller. Anyone feel like making a confession, maybe a secret fantasy involving me?”

The callers were usually middle-aged men. Some of them were weirdos, creepy perverts. Isabel remembered this one guy that said he wanted to wash Dité’s feet and then drink the water. Gross.

“Hi Dité.” A soft-voiced man said.

“Hey there, caller. What’s your name?” 

“It’s, uh…” He coughed, “Tim.”

“Okay, Tim. You want to tell me a secret?”

“No. I mean, yes…yes I do.”

“I’m listening Timmy.”

“I like rusty spoons.”

“I’m more of a silverware kind-of-gal.”

“I just love how they feel against my fingertips. I love the sound when I scratch the rust.”

“And I love the way this red button feels against my fingertip. Bye Timmy. Well, that’s one freak out of the way. But the night is long. In the meantime, let’s listen to “Rapture” by Blondie.”

Why would anyone like rusty spoons? Isabel wondered. Just when she thought she had heard it all…

The elevator doors opened. Isabel turned off the radio. The cougar’s blond boy toy, now dressed in the denim jacket and jeans he had worn earlier, made his way along the corridor. He seemed very proud of himself. It was in walk, in his eyes. Isabel had seen him naked and he had absolutely no problem with that. He looked at her as if he was saying: “Yeah, I know you liked it.”

Avoiding eye contact, Isabel kept her head down and pretended to be writing something in the guest book, waiting for him – and the embarrassment – to leave. She wanted to crawl underneath the desk when she felt him in front of her. He cleared his throat. She raised her head from the pages to his smug smile.

“She wants you to go up.” He said.

“S-sure, right away.”

Isabel sprung from the chair and rushed to the elevator. She didn’t rush because of the cougar. She just wanted to escape his eyes and smile. She could feel his gaze pinned to her back. The arrogant bastard. He wasn’t even that big.  

 

The door was ajar again. Isabel knocked.

“Come in…”

She walked inside.

The cougar was sitting on the edge of the bed with her bare back turned to Isabel. She was smoking while fixing her make-up in a compact mirror. The messy white sheets were spilled from the bed to the floor like a frozen waterfall. Split condom wrappers and pearls shimmered in the golden light of the lamp on the nightstand.

“You wanted to see me?” Isabel remained close to the door, her feet together and her hands embracing each other.

“Yeah.” She looked at Isabel in the compact mirror and smiled. “I need you to help me with something, dear.”

The compact mirror closed with a loud snap. The cougar laid it on the bed and reached to the floor for something – a black lace bra. She pulled the straps on her shoulders then turned her head to Isabel.

“I need you to do me.” She smiled without showing her teeth.

“I beg your pardon?” Isabel stared at her.

“My bra, I need you to do my bra.” She laughed. “I always have trouble doing it myself.”

“Um, o-ok…” Isabel agreed, reluctantly.

She left the safety of the wall behind her and walked to the other side of the bed like a lamb accepting its fate to the butcher. The cougar was wearing black lace panties and a matching garter belt and silk stockings. She had a great body, toned and slim, no imperfections visible.

Standing before the cougar, Isabel felt that all her flaws were magnified under a spotlight. She was naked with nothing but her insecurities, her enlarged pores, rosy blemishes and childbearing hips, her oddly-shaped nose and weak eyebrows and limp, lifeless hair. Everything she hated about herself for the dark audience around her to see.

“Well?” The cougar studied her with amusement.

Isabel sat on the bed next to her. The cougar twisted her back towards Isabel and she took the lacy straps between her cold and sticky fingertips.

“Make it nice and tight…” Said the cougar.

Pulling the straps away from her soft skin, Isabel coupled the hooks with the last pair of eyelets.

“Excuse me for asking, but wouldn’t have this been a better job for your boy…friend?”

“He’s only good at taking it off. He can barely tie his own shoelaces and my eyesight is better than his, without my contacts. Could you arrange the straps a bit? Thanks babe.” She had a drag from the cigarette. “You know, that boy is really dumb. So dumb he thinks he’s smart. Every time he opens his mouth I just wanna…push his head down.”

“Then why are you with him?” Isabel struggled to untwist the strap on her shoulder.

“He’s good in bed. That’s the only thing he’s good at.” She exhaled loudly and the cloud of smoke spread in the air. “Shame you didn’t want to see for yourself earlier.”

Isabel said nothing. Her hand stopped fighting with the strap.

“You have nice hands,” the cougar put her hand on top of Isabel’s, “really gentle…” and caressed it. “You should stop biting your nails, though.”

Isabel pulled her hand from underneath the impeccable, French-manicured paw of the cougar and her fingers curled into her palm.

The cougar turned to face Isabel. A whispery, suppressed laugh escaped her grinning mouth.

“It’s ok, they’re just nails. You could get fake ones like me. Mind you, they’re a little harder to chew on, and probably toxic.”

“Is that all ma’am?” Isabel’s face was hot red.

“No. Would you be a sweetheart and put on my shoes? I suddenly got this awful, sharp pain in my back and I can’t bend down to do it myself.” She rubbed her spine. She was clearly faking it.

Isabel could have just said no and left. She was by no means obligated to do those things. She was in charge of the front desk, not a servant. Yet, she found herself unable to refuse. Embarrassed and oh-so uncomfortable, but she could not say that simple and liberating “No”. 

The shiny black stilettos were near the door. Isabel picked them up and kneeled at the cougar’s feet.

“What’s your name?” The cougar lifted her foot from the floor.

“Isabel.” She slipped the stiletto on her foot.

“Isabel…pretty name. My name – my real name – is Marcella. Tell me, Isabel. Do you like working here?”

“Um, it’s ok.” Isabel looked at her, then back down as she slipped on the other stiletto. 

“Thanks, you’re a peach.” Marcella smiled. “Would you like a cigarette?”

“Thank you, but, I don’t smoke.”

“What a good girl you are.” Marcella teased her.

“Can I leave now?”

“Why don’t you stay just a little while longer? Have a cigarette.” Marcella extended the pack to her.

“I told you, I don’t smoke.” Isabel got up.

“You can always start. Or you could have just one, here with me, and never again. It’ll be our little secret.” Marcella smirked. “C’mon Isabel, you know you want to.”

Isabel wanted to say no. However, before she even knew it she had a cigarette between her lips and Marcella stood up to light it for her. She puffed without inhaling and still coughed.

“Don’t just hold it in your mouth. You have to take it in, like a breath. You need to feel it right here...” Marcella placed her hand on Isabel’s chest.

The smoke invaded Isabel’s lungs in a quick, sharp breath. It was horrible. She coughed and her chest roared against Marcella’s warm palm.

“It’s ok. See? You didn’t die.”

 “Well I sure feel like I’m dying!” Isabel coughed again.

“You’re fine.” Marcella walked to the desk and sat on it.

Isabel got dizzy. The saliva in her mouth thickened and became hard to swallow. It tasted awful, bitter.

“You know, Isabel. I love my husband. I really do. And I respect him too. But, to tell you the truth, the real honest truth, he bores me. He’s not adventurous anymore. He doesn’t thrill me anymore. He just doesn’t…see me, like he used to. All he sees is work and problems. And you know how he justifies it? He does it for me, he says. So I can have everything I want. So we can live comfortably. And I believed him for years. Of course I believed him when he put a nice fur coat on my back, but when he didn’t take it off, too. Well…

You know what he tells me? He tells me that I should act my age. Don’t you think that’s stupid? Am I supposed to just forget that I’m a woman? Am I supposed to forget that I’m alive? It’s bullshit. If I was a man, I could be sleeping with not one, but two or three girls more than half my age, and no one would care. Men do it all the time. Boys will be boys. And you know who they judge? The girls, not the old man that still has it…those young sluts sleeping with someone who could be their dad or granddad.

But, I’m not a man. I’m a 48 year old woman sleeping with a 23 year old. If I was a man, I would still have it, but since I’m a woman, I’m just a pathetic old slut, right? Tell me Isabel, what do you think?” Marcella fixed her eyes on Isabel.

“I, uh…” Isabel did not know what to say.

“C’mon Isabel, you have a voice, right? Use it.  Tell me what you think.”

“I don’t know, I…”

“Sure you do. You have a head, don’t you? Use it.”

“I think that…” Isabel sighed. “I think that life sucks, and I’m just so tired. I’m tired of everything. I’m tired of even thinking about it, and I just wish that…I wish…” Isabel’s lips shivered. She looked at the cigarette. “I don’t want this anymore.”

“Then put it out. No one’s stopping you.”

Isabel let the cigarette fall to the floor. She stepped on it.

“See? It’s that easy.” Marcella smiled at her. “I’m tired too, Isabel. We all get tired sometimes.” She sighed as well and suddenly sadness blurred her eyes.

“I don’t think that you’re a slut. I think you’re beautiful.”

“Do you want to dance with me?”

Marcella stubbed her cigarette on the desk and walked in the middle of the room to Isabel. She grasped her hand, holding it up in the air and rested her arm on her shoulder. Isabel looked in Marcella’s eyes and it was such a clear image of what was behind the lace and make-up and years. She could see loneliness and pain. That pain you brush off and ignore. You tell yourself you’re fine, it’s okay. You’ll make it. And maybe you forget about it for a while. But it’s still there. It still hurts.

Isabel put her arm around Marcella’s waist. They moved in a circle, slow dancing close to each other.

“I…”

“Shhh…” Marcella kissed her lips. “Don’t stop, Isabel. Hold me tight. We just need to keep dancing.” She lowered her head on Isabel’s shoulder.

“But there’s no music.”

“Play a song in your mind.”

“I can’t.”

For the first time in what seemed like ages, Isabel’s mind was empty and quiet.

“That’s okay. Sometimes silence is good, too.”

Yes, it was.

 

 

The key for room 20 was on the front desk. John and Jane Doeworth had left The Magdalene Hotel. They had left, and Isabel never got to see them together. She did not get to see the evil-icy-soulless-bitch-mannequin-succubus Jane Doeworth one last time and she had the feeling she would never see her again, or anyone quite like her. She was relieved, yet also saddened. It was weird. That whole night was weird.

The phone rang.

“Hello, sorry to bother you miss. This is Mathew from room 7. Would you be kind enough to come up? Please.”

“Of course, it’s no bother. I’ll be there in a sec.”

“Thank you.”

Marcella was on her way out as well. She smiled at Isabel and hugged her, told her to not waste herself in that damn hotel, told her to stay a good girl. Before Isabel could say a word, Marcella pressed her soft burgundy lips against hers. She gave her the room 12 key and put on her sunglasses.

Isabel watched her as she walked out the door.

Sure, that night was weird. But it wasn’t that bad.

On the second floor with a wall light now flashing on and off, Thomas was waiting outside the door, his back against the wall and his eyes drowned in the tattered carpet. He did not seem to notice Isabel.

“Thomas…”

He sprung to life, as if awoken from a dream or plucked out of a fantasy world inside his mind. He looked bewildered, almost scared for some reason.

“Are you ok?”

Lips sealed and eyes on the carpet, he opened the door for her.

What was wrong with him?

Mathew gestured for Isabel to come inside, his thick grey beard separated in a grin. The jacket of his suit and Stephan’s were folded on one of the beds along with the ties. Stephan was on the other bed, drinking something out of a paper cup.

The door closed behind Isabel the moment she stepped inside. Thomas leaned against it and returned to his dream or fantasy world.

“Is everything ok?” Isabel asked.

“Oh, yes. Everything is quite fine.” said Mathew. He took a seat on the chair by the desk. “We just thought that maybe you would like to join us. It must get awfully lonely in this place.”

“Thanks, but, I’m good.”

“Nonsense. A beautiful young girl such as yourself should not be left alone.”

There was a wine bottle and two more paper cups on the desk, one half full and the other empty and unstained.

“Come…”  Mathew gestured again, “Have a drink with us.”

“I really should be getting back to the front desk. So, um, if that’s all…”

“Please, humor an old man.” Mathew smiled his Santa Clause smile. “You do not have to drink if you do not want to. But you really should. Wine is good for you. For some, it is an elixir of life. How could it not be, when it symbolizes the holy blood of our lord Jesus Christ?”

The apples of his sunken cheeks were shiny and blushing. Maybe he had a bit too much of the lord’s holy blood.

“I’m really sorry but I have to get back to the front desk. I’ll get in trouble if I don’t.”

Isabel had a bad feeling in her gut. Unease intoxicated the air she breathed. She wanted to leave and she was running out of excuses.

“You are hurting my feelings, miss. But, I understand.” Mathew looked at Thomas.

Isabel heard the key twisting in the lock. She turned her head to see Thomas putting the key in his pocket. Panic shot through her veins and the horror yanked her eyelids apart. For a second, she thought she was imagining it. Then she heard Mathew’s voice…

“I understand all you young girls act like you don’t want it. You are all so very innocent and good.” His voice wasn’t warm and fatherly anymore. “You are nothing but sluts, dirty sluts. All you women, including my late wife, may god rest her soul. You all act like you don’t want it, but you do, don’t you?”

The words crashed in the knot Isabel had inside her throat. She could not believe what was happening, what she was hearing. His voice was full of hate, so were his glass-like eyes. The nice and polite Santa Clause Mathew Sherwood looked like a horrible, disfigured monster.

“What’s with that slut lipstick on your mouth? You thought we wouldn’t know you were a slut? You needed to make it clear, huh?” The disfigured monster taunted her.

What lipstick?

Marcella. Her lipstick probably rubbed off on Isabel’s lips. But she was no slut. Neither was Isabel, or Jane Doeworth. Her mother was not a slut. Not even Carmen. This man was insane and full of hate. He radiated it like an angry furnace.

“Why don’t you come closer? I know you want to.”

“N-no, I just wanna leave, ple…”

Isabel got pushed to the floor, at the monster’s feet. She did not remember Stephen walking behind her. None of it seemed real. It felt like a nightmare that she was supposed to wake out of. Only she didn’t.

“There, there…it’s ok. We are not going to hurt you.” The lying monster caressed her head with his shriveled, spotted hand.

Isabel was trapped in her head but it was as if she was having an out-of-body experience, watching herself on her knees before the dead eyes of the emaciated monster Santa Clause. Stephen standing behind her, his fists clenched. And Thomas. Thomas was petrified at the door, head down and gripping handfuls of his black trousers. He raised his head. His eyes were swollen, flooding with tears.

“Stop it grandpa!” He shouted at the top of his lungs. “Please! Just stop it!”

Isabel’s mind reunited with her body.

“You shut up faggot!” The monster pointed his crooked, bony finger at him.

“Just leave her alone!” Thomas begged him.

“Don’t make me come over there and shut you up myself! Stephen!”

Stephen took his son by the hair and began to hit him without mercy.

“No, please! Please dad stop!” Thomas cried as his father’s fists struck him. 

That monster had tainted his own son, turned him into a monster like him.

No. In that moment it became clear to Isabel. There were no monsters or gods or devils, just people…people doing bad things to other people.

“Damn sissy! His mother ruined him. I told you Stephen. I told you shouldn’t have married that good-for-nothing bitch!”  

Isabel did not know what to do. What could she do?

What would Marcella do? What would Jane Doeworth do?

No. She was not Marcella or Jane Doeworth. There was no one there to help her. She could not close her eyes anymore.

The wine bottle…

“We should have him go first. Maybe that’ll fix the little fa…”

He did not get to finish the sentence, as Isabel grabbed the bottle of wine and smashed it against the edge of the desk, spilling the elixir of life, the holy blood all over the carpet and his white shirt. She pressed the sharp fangs of the broken bottle against Mathew’s crotch.

Stephen’s fists stopped. He said no word and tried to make a step.

“You move and I’ll give grandpa a gash!” Isabel shouted.

“Now, miss…c-calm down…”

“Shut up!” Isabel screamed at the scared old man. Her breaths were short and quick and her hand was shaking. “Open the door Thomas!”

Bleeding from the mouth and nose, Thomas picked himself up from between his father’s feet and dug the key out of his pocket. He unlocked the door and opened it wide.

“Get up asshole!” Isabel tugged on Mathew’s shirt. He got up, trembling. “If you try anything I swear I’ll cut your balls off and throw them in your son’s face!” She moved behind him, her arm around the flabby skin curtains of his neck and the bottle still pressed against his crotch.

“No, no, please!”

“Get out of the way!” Isabel shouted at Stephan. “Go in the bathroom! I said go! Now!”

“Do it!” Mathew cried when he felt the bottle pushing closer.

The well-trained hound, Stephen, obeyed.

Isabel walked backwards, keeping her eyes on the bathroom over Mathew’s shoulder. Halfway there, she noticed he was leaving a dark wet trail after them. All the holiness he drank was leaking out of him.

“Go out Thomas.”

Having reached the doorway, Isabel pushed Mathew inside and he fell on his stomach. She took the key from Thomas and locked the door.

“You let them out after a while, if you feel like it.” She handed Thomas the key.

“Where are you going?” He looked at her, wide-eyed, his face smeared with blood. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m gonna get out of here. And if you’re smart, you’ll leave them in there and do the same.”

Isabel turned on her heel and headed to the elevator.

Thomas remained there, staring at the key in his palm. He heard Mathew crying from inside, crying like he used to cry ever night when Stephan beat his mother and him and Mathew watched.

He threw the key in the trash bin.

 

 

4:48 a.m. The cab company still wasn’t answering. Bastards were probably asleep. Screw them. Screw The Magdalene Hotel. Screw her boss. Screw all the waiting. Isabel walked for miles on the side of the highway and she was prepared to walk the whole way. Her feet did not hurt. She was not cold or tired.

Darkness behind her.

Darkness in front of her.

She was a long way from home. She was angry and scared…and alive.

Isabel finally felt alive.

She wasn’t drifting anymore. She was on her own two feet, walking home with a broken wine bottle in her hand.

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Alex Marloe. All rights reserved.

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