Dani lay in bed staring at the bedside clock, watching the red digits roll over from one minute to the next. Sam’s snoring was at full volume, but as loud as he was, there was something oddly peaceful about the room. She loved this time to herself.
Sam’s body jerked. He snorted, cleared his throat, rolled over and threw an arm over her. In the same moment, Dani slipped out of bed as slowly as possible, not wanting to wake him. She picked her clothes up off the floor, stepped into the bathroom, quietly closed the door and locked it.
The shower’s hot water felt like a warm blanket, replacing the peaceful seclusion of the hotel room. She closed her eyes and reveled in its warmth.
“Hey in there,” Sam called out, rattling the locked handle. “Want some company?”
Dani didn’t respond. “Hey there!” Sam called out again.
“Just give me a minute, OK?” she finally said.
“Don’t you want company?”
“Just…give me a minute. I’ll be out in a minute.”
“I gotta take a leak. What’s with the locked door?”
Dani turned off the shower. “Just give me a sec.”
She quickly toweled off, dressed and opened the door. Sam’s eyes flashed a moment of confusion seeing her dressed, but quickly changed to a smile. He grabbed her butt with both hands and pulled her hips into his.
“What’s with the clothes? ” He said, nuzzling her neck. “Don’t you want to, before you go? There’s still time.”
Dani gently pushed him away. “I thought you said you had to pee.”
“Yeah, just a sec.” As Sam ducked into the bathroom, Dani walked over to where the rest of her things sat on a chair. She gave her hair a quick brush, pulled on her coat and slung her purse over her shoulder.
“You leaving?!” Sam asked as he came out of the bathroom.
“It’s getting late. I didn’t bring a change of clothes, so I have to stop at home first.”
“Hey, no big deal, OK? We just slept in this time. I really gotta go,” He followed her to the door. She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and opened the door to leave.
“Wait!” Sam thrust a protective arm up against the door, barring her from opening it further. “Look,” Sam paused a moment and then continued. “I know I haven’t, I mean, things have been kinda crazy and I …well, anyway, what I, it’s just that…I mean…you know, you know I love you, right?”
Dani closed the door and sighed. “Sam, we agreed this was going to be a casual thing. You said you didn’t want it to turn into a big romance, remember? We both agreed, just every now and then, whenever you could get away. So, I’m totally OK we haven’t gotten together in a while. Really. Totally fine. I’m just late for work.”
“Yeah, well, that’s changed. For me.”
Dani scowled. “Why?”
“Why?! What’ya mean, ‘Why?’ I’m in love with you! There’s gotta be a ‘why?!’”
“Sam, look. This is about me getting up and going this morning. I didn’t just lay there, waiting for you to wake up so we could fuck.”
“It is not! I swear it, baby. I swear it, cross my heart and all that shit. I love you. I, really, honest-to-God, am in love with you. I, I want to be with you.” Sam stepped toward Dani to kiss her, but she stepped back and crossed her arms.
“So,” she began, “Does this mean you’re gonna leave Alisha? Hm? I mean, you say you love me, so is that what this is about? You just gonna walk out on your wife and family so you can be with me? Tell me, Sam, is this your way of sayin’ you wanna get married? I mean, what are we talking about here, Sam, when you say you love me? You and I just gonna go live happily ever-after? Hm? And, you think Alisha’s gonna let you see your kids after you walk out on them? Everything’s just gonna be hunky-dory?”
Sam didn’t reply. He dropped his head and stared at the floor. Dani gave a sharp laugh. “Yeah, I didn’t think so. ” She opened the door and snarled, “I’ve gotta go.”
Over the next several days Sam repeatedly called and left voice messages, even sent a fax, but Dani did not return any of his calls. A couple of weeks later he showed up at her office.
“Look, I just want to talk.”
“No, Sam, you don’t,” Dani snapped. “You want sex, and, ya know, that was OK. That’s what I wanted too, for a while, but now I don’t. I’m sorry, I should have broke it off a while ago, I guess. It was wrong of me to let it carry on, and I am truly sorry for screwing that up. But, now, please, Sam, accept that it’s over. Just let me go. You’ll meet someone else.”
As Sam walked out of her office, he took a swipe at her desk, knocking a pen holder and her desk phone to the floor. He gave the door jamb a hard smack as he left. A co-worker popped her head in the door after he’d gone and asked if everything was alright.
“It will be,” Dani sighed. “Some day.”
Dani sat with her close friend Cheryl at a table in the back of their favorite place to meet for a glass of wine.
“Two more wines, ladies?” the waiter asked. The women nodded.
“What’s next?” Cheryl asked. Dani shook her head and shrugged.
“When’s the last time you saw or spoke to Sam?”
“Oh, God. I don’t know. A couple months? Who knows. That’s over. Actually, it shouldn’t have started, so I’m glad it’s over.”
“Agreed. You’re smarter than that,” Cheryl smiled at her friend. “Any solid prospects?”
“You talking men or jobs?” Dani asked.
“Both, I guess,” Cheryl laughed. “I mean, you always seem to land on your feet, no matter which way the wind blows.”
Dani appreciated her friend’s confidence in her. Dani didn’t hate being an office manager, nor did she love it. But, none of that mattered now that she’d been let go. She thought Sam might have had something to do with being fired, but had no way of proving it. Her days were wide open now, with nothing to do, and no one to do it with. And there was only so much job hunting and networking she could stand. She was bored out of her mind.
“Yeah, well,” she began, “I have my resume out there, of course, and I’ve been calling people, letting them know I’m looking, and all that. Unfortunately, office managers are a dime a dozen, and the job market is still pretty tight, so…” Dani trailed off.
“So, what’s the plan? You could do just about anything. You’re smart, experienced, and capable as shit, and you’ve got no one tying you down. What do you want to do? I mean, really want to do? Be an office manager the rest of your life?”
“There are far worse gigs, Cher. It’s not a bad living. Not really. There just aren’t many job openings at the moment, is all.”
“Dani, you aren’t hearing me. I’m telling you, you can do anything, anywhere you wanted. Why stay here? Why not check out the world? If I was in your shoes, I’d be gone in a flash.”
“Seattle’s great! What are you talking about?” Dani was surprised to hear her friend talk like this.
“Maybe, but it’s not the only place that’s got something to offer. If I were you, I’d be excited at the prospect of being able to pick up stakes and go someplace else.”
Dani thought a moment about it. “I have family, well, distant family, somewhere in Idaho. Actually, I don’t know them that well at all.”
“Where in Idaho?”
“Small place in the Sawtooth region. A little town called Rocksberg.”
“What would you do there?”
“My dad said we are part owners of a big piece of land out there. Been in his family for generations. Maybe I should go out there and see if they need help running the place, or something.”
“Or, something,” Cheryl said, chucking her friend in the arm. “I was thinking you should travel the world, end up in Paris or London, or fall in love and marry some crazy Brazilian millionaire and live the rest of your days in Rio, but Idaho’s OK I guess. Whatever. What’s that thing on Nike ads? Just do it? Go for it! Make a fresh start.”
Larry flipped the envelope back and forth in his hand a couple of times before opening it. The return address was a D. Davenport in Seattle. Of all the things to happen now, having a Davenport suddenly show up could make matters worse.
“To Whom It May Concern:”
Larry glanced back up to the top to see it was addressed to “The Trustees of The Samuels-Davenport-Garrett Land Trust.” His name was among the “CC’s” at the bottom. He continued reading.
“My name is Daniella Davenport. I will be on a business trip to Boise next month and would like to schedule a meeting with the trustees to discuss the future of the SDG Trust and to see if my family might be of any assistance with current concerns.
“In planning my trip, I took time to check all of my father’s files regarding the trust (Tyler Davenport of Bellevue WA). I also spent some time at the library looking for any information or news, and by coincidence found reference to an article in the Rocksberg County Gazette about a recent find of skeletal remains on the land. The Gazette faxed a copy of the article to me. According to the Gazette, there is speculation the remains are that of the land’s original owner, Victor Samuels, who went missing in 1872. While I’m sure the paper is simply fanning the flames of the century-old intrigue about Victor Samuels, I’d would like to get the trustees take on the matter.
“My contact information is below. I look forward to hearing from the trustees, and having the opportunity to meet.”
The letter was signed “Dani” Davenport, with a cell phone and fax number.
I didn’t start this story as part of the Victor & Hugo saga. I had in mind a short fiction about a woman starting over. But as these things sometimes go, Dani and her story morphed into a good fit with V&H.