Saturday, 22 February 2014

The hotel

We were staying in a huge hotel. It seemed to go on forever, and I was always getting lost trying to find my way back to my room. I'm sure the stairs moved when I wasn't looking! The walls were oak-panelled and there were innumerable flights of stairs. It was quite dark as well, with only candle-light to guide you around the maze of corridors.

We were staying there for free. My friend Cassie had won the holiday in a competition. We'd never have been able to afford the hotel ourselves - it was exceptionally posh. Every night there was a delicious 3-course meal and then a live band.

One night I got lost again trying to find my room.

"Are you ok?" Asked a member of staff who spotted me looking confused in a gloomy passageway.

"Yes, well, I'm lost again. I keep forgetting how to find my room."

"It is a gigantic building, isn't it?" She asked. "But I can help you. You see that door over there?"

"That one?" I said, pointing to a lacquered crimson door.

"Yes. That's the dark room. Go in there and you will find a way back."

"Ok... thanks." I said, but she'd already gone.

I opened the door slowly and peeked inside. She was right - it was dark. I went in, closed the door behind me, and found myself looking at a huge mirror that filled one wall. I say it was a mirror, but it didn't actually reflect anything. Instead in contained a scene of people dancing. It looked like a fancy-dress party - everyone was dressed in old-fashioned clothes and having a great time. It reminded me of The Great Gatsby for some reason. I wondered if it was really happening, or just an image. I kept staring at it, and after a while a couple of people spotted me and smiled. I couldn't hear anything but they seemed friendly enough. I touched the mirror and it was smooth glass. I waved goodbye after a while and they waved back and joined the dancing again.

Intrigued, I left the room. It seemed as though the corridors and stairs had changed while I was in there, and I instantly knew where I was and the way back to my room. I was sharing with my friend Kitty- we each had a luxurious king-size bed and shared a large en-suite bathroom that boasted a roll-top bath. We really were pampered.

All of us were together at dinner that night - Cassie, Kitty, Liz and myself - and we chatted about what each of us had got up to that day. Cassie and Liz had gone skiing, Kitty had spent the day at the spa, and I had mostly wandered around and sat in front of a fire in one of the lounges and read my book.

"Isn't this food delicious?" Marvelled Liz.

She was eating lobster. I wouldn't touch seafood, so had the roast lamb instead.

"Yes," I replied, "I don't think I've ever had such tasty food before."

"They have a Michelin-starred French chef." Announced Cassie, drinking a sip of red wine.

"Wow," replied Liz, "no wonder it's so good!"

"We'll find our normal food so boring when we get back home." Sighed Kitty.

"I wonder what the theme is for tomorrow's ball?" Wondered Cassie.

Every Saturday there was a themed ball. We only got told the theme on the evening before, which didn't give us much time to prepare, but there was a stock of good-quality costumes that the hotel lent out to clients, so we didn't need to buy anything.

After desert (I had chocolate mousse and Bailey's coffee), the Entertainment manager took to the stage.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he announced, "I can confirm that the theme of tomorrow night's ball is...The roaring twenties! As usual, costumes can be borrowed from the hotel, but damages must be paid for. Accessories can be purchased in the central shop."

As soon as he made the announcement, the room filled with voices. Everyone started planning what they would wear , and the ladies, what make-up they'd wear. You could feel the excitement. The Saturday ball was the highlight of the week - everyone made an effort.

"I know what I'm going to wear- if I can find it!" Said Cassie. "A silver and black dress, silver heels, and a short black wig."

"That sounds good," replied Liz. "I think I'll go for a red dress."

The rest of the evening was spent discussing the  ball.

I know that I'd had far too much wine , but I struggled to find my way back to my room that night. I must've been wandering around the corridors for nearly half an hour when I remembered the dark room. Of course! That would set me straight. Strangely enough, I found it around the next corner. There was the large crimson door, standing out amongst all the typical brown ones in the passage. I opened the heavy door and stepped into the room. There was the mirror- still full of life-size people. But as I looked closer, I noticed that they weren't dancing any more. People were looking shocked and milling around. Something had obviously happened.

I gently touched the shoulder of a woman who was standing nearest to me. I say I touched her shoulder, but of course all I felt was the smooth glass beneath my hand. She noticed anyway, and turned around to look at me. She was crying and her mascara had run.

I asked "What happened?" but she couldn't hear me. She shook her head and turned away. I tried to work out what had happened, and then I saw a couple of policemen arrive. They walked up to someone and were obviously asking them questions. I decided to go to bed - I couldn't stay awake any longer.

I found my room and collapsed into bed fully-clothed. Kitty was already in bed asleep.

I woke up late the following morning, and went for a swim before breakfast. I went to the lobby after that to look for a costume for the ball. I hoped that all the good outfits hadn't already been taken. I wanted to find a bright turquoise or green flapper-style dress with matching shoes and headband. After that I'd research 1920s make-up so that I really looked the part. After a prolonged search through dresses that weren't quite right (or looked perfect but were the wrong size), I found a stunning outfit in emerald green. It had tassels along the skirt and was quite short, but it fitted perfectly. I was chuffed. I also managed to find some shoes of a similar colour- not an exact match but no-one would notice in the gloom of the dancehall. I picked up a matching headband and beaded necklace from the hotel shop. I returned to my room with my treasures to find not only Kitty but also Cassie and Liz trying on their new outfits and listening to music.

"We wondered where you'd got to!" Exclaimed Cassie.

"I was just picking up my outfit." I explained.

"You always leave everything to the last minute," laughed Liz, "I was third in the queue this morning. Do you like my dress?"

Liz had found a beautiful ruby dress and some ridiculously high heels.

"Gorgeous." I smiled.

Kitty was doing Cassie's make-up and I asked if she could do mine too. I could never get the eyeliner right.

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready.

I didn't eat much at dinner - I felt excited and a bit nervous. I'm not sure why- it was only a dance- but everyone was a little agitated - hoping that they looked the part and looking forward to the band and dancing.

"Here come the band." Said Liz.

They were all well groomed in smart suits, except the female lead singer who wore a low-cut red dress.

"On no," whispered Liz, "the singer's dress looks just like mine. Except she looks stunning and I look average."

"Rubbish," replied Cassie, "you look just as good as her. And your hair's better anyway."

Cassie was right- Liz did have beautiful wavy hair.

"Anybody want to dance?" Asked Cassie.

"Yes!" We all replied and jumped up.

It must've been around 2am that the music stopped. It was sudden - right in the middle of a love song. Kitty and I were being silly and dancing a slow dance together - and not very well either. Cassie was at the bar being chatted up be some bloke, and I'm not sure where Liz was. I noticed that it went quiet and then a second later there was a scream. Everyone went silent for a moment and then there was lots of shouting and people running around - chaos.

Kitty and I quickly left the ballroom, still not sure what was going on. We asked around but no-one seemed to know. I was just going to find a member of staff, when someone shouted

"She'd dead!"

"Who's dead?" Another voice asked.

"The singer - murdered!"

It felt like time froze. I looked around the room and there was Kitty, staring me in horror. It was quiet and still. Nobody moved. I tried to say something and couldn't.

I happened to glance in a nearby wall-length mirror. I saw not a reflection of the room, but a woman's face, staring at me.

I wiped my eyes - I hadn't realised that I was crying.

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