Is was the same staid kind of thing. A large showy hotel, full of fast-moving business people, while the staff tried to maintain a more sumptuous aura for those few perhaps here on leisure. It has to be a challenge, though by design, most of the meeting rooms were set off in an adjoining wing, accessed from the hotel's mezzanine level. Still, difficult to keep the energy from one part of the complex from overwhelming the peacefulness of the other.
It had been a long day, with too much Powerpoint, and seminars lacking originality. Most everything that had been presented was material already published in the journals. Perhaps the rest of the week would get better, and day 1 was for those who had not kept up with their professional reading.
I realized these events are good for me, if nothing else but for forcing me to step out and do a bit of networking. One never knows what interesting people, collaborative ideas for studies, or funding grants one could catch hold of at these gatherings. So, rather than fuss over the declining culture portrayed on television with all its cheap voyeur programming, I decided to go on ahead and pop in down at the opening evening's mixer in the ballroom. If nothing else, I might learn where the noisy crowd was recommending dining, and then head the opposite direction.
I found nothing surprising about the usual small bunches of people gathered, here around the light buffet on one side of the ballroom, and there others clumped near the various exits. The live 7-piece band was a nice touch, and I smiled at seeing a handful of couples dancing- the people probably who had brought, dragged or been coerced into bringing their spouses along for a little vacation. Can’t beat a week here, with a 3-day holiday weekend coming up to boot! I drifted across to the buffet, selecting a sampling of the local delicacies to keep my stomach from growling.
There was one large group near the entry from the main lobby, seemingly all suits. Perhaps there was a monitor with the latest in sports news, or first highlights out of the Asian markets?
Curious, I sidled around the dancers, and handed my empty plate to a passing waiter as I heard laughter erupt from the group. Then, the mass of suits parted for a moment, and I caught a glimpse of the subject of their rapt attention. She didn't look like E.F. Hutton, but the gaggle of men leaning and jockeying around her would have made her seem a close relation.
I remembered. I had noticed her myself earlier, as we left the main ballroom after the opening address, working our way out to the first break-out sessions in different conference rooms within the complex. Great posture, handsome suit, legs in sheer nylons, pretty color hair and girl-next-door smile.
I think it was the posture and bearing that I remembered. Otherwise, I might never have recognized her. She certainly looked a lot more glamorous, perhaps skipping the latter meetings to have her hair done?
The overall effect was very stunning, and the impact... Well, that was obvious enough, almost as if a meeting had been announced, or a kissing booth opened.
I admit, perhaps it is a fetish, but a nice head of hair at a distance has always been the most likely physical attribute to entice my eye. Yes, beautiful hair begets a further inquiring look, to see if she has a pretty face. Yeah, ok, those interests piqued, then I join with the rest of my gender, giving her carriage the full scan.
Facing me though the crowd, now which seems to be about a dozen or so constantly jostling men of varying heights, I can see that indeed, she looks quite the queen in amongst the bees.
I can tell immediately though too, that she is feeling pressed, questions flying at her, and trying to dismiss the group after whatever story she has just finished sharing.
I motion to a passing waiter, and relieve him of two drinks, and then move closer, making my own beeline towards her. I hesitate at the outside of the semicircle of suits, and take in her ice green cocktail dress, thin straps over soft shoulder, a bit of a daring slit up the front of her left thigh, and her gracefully tapered calves and ankles, and upon closer observation, a definitely harried look.
Without a second thought, my shyness suddenly unfamiliar to me, I focused my eyes, read your name tag, offering up a couple of "excuse mes" as I pressed through the outer ring, I cut into the one-sided flow of question and interrupted. "Er, Sophie? Sorry to cut in, but we do need to finish coordinating for tomorrow, if I can pry you loose for a few minutes?"
Looking to your right, where my barging through has placed me, your eyes widened, then your head bobbed slightly, and your smile flashed again. Taking my line, and looking a bit refreshed, you stepped closer, accepting my proffered drink, and with a quick glance for my absent name tag, responded"Why, of course, I am so sorry I did not meet you earlier.” Swinging gracefully in a partial circle, you cheerily announced, “Well, gentleman, you were all so distracting; I have nearly forgotten an engagement. We can pick this up later, I am sure."
As the crowd of disappointed suitors parted, I led you out of the crowd, and over towards the bay windows and some plush seating groups there. Slipping your arm in mine, you whispered, "Thanks! Where is your getup?"
I started, puzzled, but you kindly saved me, quickly continuing, "You know, the tights, mask," and looking behind me, even checking me out, “and your cape?” I laugh, and then you turn into me, and pinch my cheek lightly, "Or is this handsome face all a facade?"
"Oh, right, sorry, wrong guy." I give you my name, adding that I find them a bit lacking in taste, though it made extracting you a bit easier.
You pronounce your agreement with the name tags being out-of-place, and peel it quickly off, dropping it into the open palm I extend.
"I am not the designated social patrolman for saving beleagured women at conventions, impossibly surrounded by men, perhaps bored to tears, away from home and, er, pressing their luck?" Laughing, I say, "No, no, neither the assignment, nor a habit....just an usual urge to boldness, I guess."
"Well, thanks,” and you take a refreshing drink from your glass, “I was going crazy and with being asked if I had ever been to here, or met someone there - didn't see my getting out of there without everyone trying to figure out something we were not going to find in common.”
Setting your glass down on a flat surface, your delicate hands lightly slapping the front of your thighs, you looked into my eyes and asked, “Do you dance? I am dying to wake this lethargic body up."
"Absolutely, and in case anyone else has figured me out, we need to absolutely look familiar with each other. There were some big guys in that crowd!” I worry that that was kind of an awkward play, perhaps coming across as too polished or eager…
A lilting smile crosses your face, you smooth your dress over your hips, and offering me your hand, "I think I can act slightly ‘familiar.’ Let's give it a whirl, Sir Galahad."
The first number, as we make our way onto the floor, is a fast one. I feel a little awkward, and am worried about looking stiff, and figure the only way to do that is to swing it a bit. So, I keep hold of your hand, reach for the other, and pull you to me, stepping aside for you to pass on by, and start to introduce myself a bit, if only so others see that we seem to have plenty to talk about.
In trying, too, not to be drinking your radiance in too deeply, I glance around as I tell you where I am from, and what brings me here, and notice that I am not the only one facing in your direction. Half the room is, only to be nearly the whole room as other whirling partners get their turn.
You move lightly, gracefully, and I can guess that you have danced – explaining your shapely and toned legs. You listen attentively, but not offering up a lot about your background. Sensibly, I recognize and respect that, and rather than talk too much about myself, I move to talking about this wonderful location, and others that such conventions and meetings have introduced into my experience.
As more people move out to join in the dance, the circle in which we move narrows. Nothing wrong with more contact, and it allows me to think a little less about keeping up with you, and to enjoy focusing on your eyes and endearing smile. In and out, back and forth, your smile sweetly reassuring, laughing, hopefully matching the ear-to-ear breadth of my own.
Suddenly, as you twirl under my raised arm, the music quickly ends, and just as suddenly, the live band saunters immediately into a slow Big Band era classic.
Some of the younger, MTV or video game crowd, might recognize it from a couple movie soundtracks.
I hold open my arms, poised in the air, and just as gracefully as a well-practiced Hollywood scene, you take my hand, and place your other hand on my shoulder. Wow, this is something, four minutes ago I was lamenting the evening, and look at me now!
The scent of your hair fills my senses, the softness of your palms now pressed against mine, and our thighs brush lightly as we dance together. You obviously know the song, and I am suddenly caught for a moment wondering at your age… So young and glamorously fit and stylish, but with grace and style baffles me. As quick at the mystery comes to me, I shrug it off as it is of no concern.
We dance, slow, close, warm, and share other little tidbits about our professional common ground, positions, and views on the conference. For anyone eavesdropping over the softer music, our earlier play at familiarity would seem verifiable.
As the song closes, you are quiet, and I am just a little unfocused, enjoying the way you move with me. As the music reaches its familiar ending chord, you slip free from me, and suggest we move to the cooler breeze of the outside balcony.
"Sure," I respond, "it looked to be a beautiful evening from upstairs." You take my arm and ask if I am in the hotel, following that your company was too late to get you a reservation here at the Grand, and that you are staying at a lesser accommodation across the way. Not to belabor your disappointing room, I just mention that the center here does spoil one with the amenities.
As we get outside, the light breeze is definitely at least 10 degrees fresher than inside, and you slide your bare arm more tightly under mine. Even as I feel you shiver lightly, you comment on how good it makes you feel, and the thought comes to me that you must be from a Northern part of the country anyway. As we reach the balustrade at the limit of the patio, you retract your arm, and as I turn to face you, you stretch, and apologize for any unlady-like posture, as you twist at the waist and arch a bit. I respond, but can’t help notice that you are showing lightly, and hope you don’t notice my eyes dropping there, that “Yes, conferences make me much more feeling the need to stretch. I realize the right thing to do is to slip my jacket off, asking if you are cool, and offering it to cover your bare arms and upper back.
You immediately continue, "My hotel has a small workout facility and I didn't really have time for a good workout this morning, - traveling on planes, trying not to notice the differences in the bed, and sitting here all day is not my cup of tea. So, thanks for the dance, it helped."
I have slipped off my coat, and offered it, asking if you are chilled. “My pleasure, I assure you. And if I may say, you are very beautiful….” That kind of slipped out, “And I am wondering if,” and I realize this could come out wrong – “ in getting ready, if you had time to eat dinner?”
You turn and allow me to slip my coat over your shoulders, the flawless expanse of your soft but toned back certainly catching my eye. “Thank you, kind sir. I can tell you come from a good family.”
I laugh, telling you I needed to cool off a bit myself, and you looked like a great coat rack, again, wishing I had chosen “hanger” instead. Your eyes flash iridescently for a brief second, catching my faltering realization, but let me go once more, gracefully. “But thank you, yes, my parents have been married a long time, and it is a love story that has been a blessing to observe.”
We chat a bit more, comparing sizes of families, birth order, health of parents, and I throw in, as seems appropriate, that you are obviously a good dancer, and take very good care of yourself. I find myself missing admiring your toned arms and shoulders, now covered by my jacket, but as we both lean over the stone balustrade, I can look out at the surf and the beach, and take in your slender, delicate hands, and the graceful but sometimes emphatic strength in them. And, having received training on trying to at least appear to be a good listener, I get to admire your profile and mouth as you talk, and the occasional connection with your eyes as you return the favor.
In sharing a humorous story about your father, your stand up and raise your arms to make a point, and in the v-neck of your dress, I note the firm swelling rise of your breasts, smooth and satiny, but am thankfully, quickly distracted and not caught looking with my reaction to catching the jacket sliding off towards the ground.
You apologize, but we both know it never touched the ground, so there could be no harm done. As I step to replace it, you tell me you are acclimated, but thank me again for lending it. I fold and drape it over my forearm. As we laugh over the ending of the story itself, I ask if you would then have considered yourself a tom-boy, growing up, or a favorite of your father’s by reason of your activity levels.
You punch me light on the shoulder, and question my rudeness in asking a lady in a dress such a question. But your smile is all I need to understand, and I suggest, based on your hair color, a couple of nicknames you might have been called by the boys you were besting in those days.
You admit that you were right in there with the boys for a time. Then, reaching upward, you ask me if I would be disappointed if you let your hair down.
“Oh, no, not at all,” I emphatically respond, “your hair is what first caught my attention, in that crowd, I mean, and I have been kind of curious...well, I did notice you earlier in the day, after lunch, and, yes, please, you have quite the great genes, er, with such lush hair.” Again, I worry I am piling it on too thick, which for me makes me feel like I sound like a practiced player.
You smile, and as you raise your hands to pull out that which holds your hair in place. I watch, but again in my peripheral vision I note how your dress tightens again across your bust, catching myself as my eyes drop, and I have to consciously try to breath evenly. My eyes are drawn back and I feel like I am almost back on firm ground as your hair falls, bounces, and then lies lightly mussed and strewn across your shoulders. "Whew," I exhale, as I admire how your hair now frames your face.
“Bit too different, or losing some of my upscale glamour?” you ask.
“No, no, not at all,” surprising even myself with how alive my brain seems and answers come to me while we talk, “two such beautiful, radiant women in the space of 15 minutes is just kind of a shock for my systems.”
“Systems, em? Are you Steve Austin’s successor? I’ll take that as a compliment then, and not press you on which systems, or if anything is close to failing. Especially now.” Your eyes have snapped up, and your heads nods lightly.
I look up and see a tall, very confident, chiseled younger guy striding towards us, with a very self-assured smile totally focused on you. He calls your name, and for lack of poise, I step back a half-step at this obvious intended competition. You turn to face him, taken back perhaps at his loud familiarity at calling you by name, as if hailing a cab, or announcing his intent for all to watch and wonder.
He greets you as he slows and stops, and says he has been looking for you, wondering if you had heard about the great restaurant in the lower level of the hotel complex.
With a few pairs of eyes watching, you gracefully stop him cold, asking, “Looking for me? Do I know you,” but softening it then, you step forward, lightly touch his elbow, looking at his nametag (and I find myself, noting his wide open collar, gold chain, unconsciously having reached to loosen my own tie, then stopping), “Oh, Adam, right, I do remember, back there.”
Shifting his weight off his heels, thrusting one hand into his slack’s pocket, he stammers, “Uh, we met, back there,” his head jerking lightly behind him, “and I thought…”
“I am sorry,” you interject, “I think we, the bunch of us, were talking about Wall Street traders' industry projections. Was that it?” Stepping next to me, sliding your arm into mine, “Chase and I were enjoying a bit more distracting conversation, so perhaps another time, another convention?”
I am impressed. Tough, but feminine and graceful, with just a bit of an edge for the on-lookers. Flattered. Mad that I reached to loosen my tie. Standing with my chin up. And realizing it, before you turn to smile at me, I lower it a smidgen.
“Where were we?” you ask, all edginess gone from your voice, your bosom seemingly pressed a little against my bicep, as we turn to leave the scene.
“You are very good with people,” I say from the side of my mouth, “what do you really do all day?”
We laugh, and I go ahead and broach the subject myself, asking if you had had some dinner, had tried any of the hors d’ ourves or were interested in finding something.
You respond sharply, “You are kidding, right? I got no further into the room than where you found me, pounced upon as if that group was waiting for me. Do I have ‘market futures’ stamped on my forehead?”
Turning to look at you as we reach one of the arched entries back onto the mezzanine, I give your eyes a bit of a search, diverting momentarily to your forehead, “No, but I can’t fault any one of them for what they do see.”
You smile, “And so, sir, what do YOU do all day? Never work around any women?”
Offering my arm as the automatic door whisks open at our approach, I respond, “Not like you…which is probably a good thing.”
As we move back into the fringe of the ballroom, more dancing, food, and people to the right, and the lush foyer of the hotel main to our left, I am momentarily at a loss, not having had any plan, nor been in this most delicious of situations before.
My mind whirls at the speed of neutrinos in the Swiss collider, “I am in a place where few know me on sight, and I certainly have nothing to be ashamed about by being seen with you, for sure, even if people do notice.” I quickly resolve to take you somewhere for dinner, by taxi, quickly mulling over thoughts of a cozy and dimly lit Italian place, more open and sterile Chinese or Thai dining, exotic but noisy Indian with its crowds, or a famous steak house with white linen tablecloths.
Deep in my thoughts, the first brief lull in our conversation is saved, perhaps only two seconds having passed in reality, as you pick it up again, “I really enjoyed our dance, but to be honest, perhaps we will have to find somewhere else to further our acquaintance..." and you voice trails off. Gracefully telling me you'd rather not rejoin the masses, I know to turn left.
But you have also demurely left thing still wide open for me. I feel giddy, as if I were again in high school. Spontaneity is called for, but I don't want to blow it.
Resolved, leading you to the left, away from the ballroom, I suggest that the concierge is likely to recommend a nice place for dinner and more dancing. You affirm my thinking, warmly coaxing, “Wonderful, I would love to get some more out of this body tonite."
The lobby is expansive, and just as I feel direction in my leading, I feel your hesitance. “Tell me, you said this place is quite lavish with its accommodations, right?”
Mystified, thinking you are leaning towards one of the on-site restaurants, I respond, “Most positively. They have just about everything available.”
You stop in front of a free-standing placard, and I see that it is a menu from the hotel’s main restaurant.
As our eyes flit over the wide selection, your arm still in mine, you ask, “Can we call this evening a date?”
“Oh please, yes, whatever you would like.”
“Can I order, for both of us then?”
“Absolutely, of course, what are we going to have?”
You slide your hand from my arm down, taking my hand in yours, and step towards the entrance, and then past it, to the house phone. I pull my head back, wondering what is up. You pick up the phone, and leaning down close, with your head turned away from me, whisper into the phone. I try to look in the know, and my gaze wanders into the restaurant, seemingly busy behind the entryway screens. The hostess is at her podium, taking a reservation, I guess. She smiles, nodding, busily writing. Then I feel your hand tugging at mine.
You turn to me, “What’s the room number again, darling?”
“Why, mine, oh, yes, 2469, sorry.”
You look surprised, mouthing "24th floor?" and you repeat it back into the phone, and hang up.
Turning to me, stepping up to whisper to me I lean down, now cheek-to-cheek, “I thought for fun we would see how good their room service is?”
Squeezing your hand, I turn to steer you to the elevators.
My mind races with possibilities....
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