The Fighter and the Baroness
Helena enters the room like she expects someone to jump out from dark corner. Neck stretched, she takes in a high quality yet typical hotel room with a king-sized bed and two nightstands. The TV is big and flat, resting on top of a dresser, and then there’s a mirror over a small office desk with a phone and some restaurant flyers on it.
“It’s nice,” she says. “I like that it doesn’t smell like smoke.”
“That would be terrible. Is that what you’re used to? Smoking rooms?”
“We have a cigar room,” she replies, confused, until she breaks in an apologetic laugh. “Oh, as in smoking versus nonsmoking hotel room. I get it.”
“Don’t I know it,” she says. “So which side of the bed is mine?”
I consider, rubbing the light scruff that’s grown on my chin since yesterday. “Well, since you just touched the left corner, it now has cooties. You’ll have to sleep on the cooty-side.”
This girl, she’s been so immediate in her responses. I guess I expected a laugh or some expressed annoyance at my silly comment. Instead, she sinks down against the pillows on her side of the bed and breathes, “Okay,” with the smallest smile raising the corners of her lips.
She uses the arc of one foot to slide her shoe off before she skips off the other. I watch as she wiggles her toes graciously, green nail polish gleaming in the dim shine from the bedside lamp.
Helena is tired. I guess it’s been a long day, the flight being just a small part of her exhaustion. I’m drawn to her eyes, not for the first time. The color of them is almost watery. No, they are watery.
“Who gave you that color?” I blurt out.
“Your eyes. It’s like they’re made of water.”
I’m not the impulsive kind, and yet I’ve already committed strange acts around this girl. Where I come from, women expect smart, premeditated interactions, never initiated by questions like the one I just shot at Helena. This they’d ignore. They’d change the subject into something not insane, or they’d titter and squirm, not knowing how to respond.
She lets her eyes float from her feet to my eyes before they still. “My father. I’ve got his eyes.” She laughs softly, hands around the remote for the TV. “Grandma used to say our eyes were the color of the swan pond because we were both born in rooms with windows overlooking it.”
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