A large neon sign outside of a hotel reads “Nirvana”. From the patio of one of the rooms, Billie presses her face against the glass door and looks in. The room has the standard set of two beds with a nightstand in between. Wrinkles do not disrupt the texture of the comforters. Lamps above the beds illuminate the modest green patterns that complement the walls. The mirror and dressers are dust free and the carpet is without any discoloration or debris.
Billie’s lip purses out and her nose scrunches up like she’s caught a whiff of discount perfume. Her hands tremor when she pulls out a cigarette case from her shirtwaist dress pocket. The light from the mid-afternoon sun catches the silver casing and a gold band on Billie’s finger. Bandages are loosely wrapped around her wrists.
“Richard, it hasn’t even been two weeks,” Billie says. She sticks an unlit cigarette between her rose tinted lips and adjusts her bandages. “In less than two weeks, they made this place look like I was never here.”
There is an older man sitting at the bistro style table on the patio. He faces away from glass pane. He pulls his cigarette away from his lips and blows smoke out through his nose. The wooden gate obstructs any activity beyond it and only grants him the view of its coat of antique green paint. “You would be surprised how quick the living forgets you, Ms. Johnson,” he says.
“That’s Mrs. Johnson to you,” Billie says correcting him. “I am still wearing his ring, you know.”
Billie lights up her cigarette.
Richard crosses his suit clad legs one over the other and leans back in his chair. He lifts his chin up and adjusts the white gauze material around his neck. He resumes smoking what’s left of his cigarette. “He forgot about you long before you offed yourself,” Richard says turning to Billie. “Isn’t that why you two came here? You found out he was doggin’ around so you planned a trip thinking you could woo him back to you? You two reserved a room with two beds for Christ’s sake.”
Billie turns to the man in the chair. “He said there was a mix up with the receptionist,” she says biting the nail of her thumb. “What about you and Josie? You both were in this same room, huh?”
Richard puts out his cigarette. “I came here alone with the sole purpose of doing what I did,” he says while standing. He adjusts his tie. “I did love her, but she loved the money. I came up here, wrote out my will, and called my lawyer so he’d find me.”
He starts making his way into the room. Billie puts her cigarette out and follows him.
Richard sits on the bed closest to the door, and Billie takes the one across from him. She bows her head and her left thumb traces the palm of the other hand. “It’s like I wasn’t even here,” she says. “Like it didn’t even happen. Charles is probably continuing living his life without me in it and I’m here trapped in this moment forever.”
The lamps shine their light on the heartbroken woman and the lonely man sitting across from each other. “The luxuries of the living are not ours anymore, Mrs. Johnson,” Richard says.
“Mrs. Johnson,” Billie says. Her fingers find her wedding band and with little resistance it slides off. “I may not be alive, but that doesn’t mean I can’t move on.”
Richard smiles and his posture is more upright now. Billie sets the ring on the nightstand next to the telephone and picks up the receiver. She navigates the rotary dial and waits for a voice to answer the phone.
“Front desk, how may I assist you?” a voice says.
“Room 114,” Billie says before returning the receiver to its cradle.
The two kindred spirits stand and face each other. Richard smiles and holds his arms out to her. Billie falls into the embrace and holds him close. “Why does it hurt if I’m dead?” she asks as she buries her face into his shoulder.
Richard leans his head onto hers and says, “I couldn’t tell you.”
The lock on the door to the room clicks and a housekeeper enters the room. She stands in the middle and looks around. She scratches the back of her head and her brow furrows. The housekeeper walks over to the nightstand and inspects the phone.
She picks up the gold band, turning it this way and that. She looks around the room while her hand slips the ring into the pocket of her apron. One last cursory glance and then she leaves the room and locks the door.
Richard and Billie are sitting back down on the beds alone in the room.