From the Inside Flap
Especially after a conference for physical trainers.
Who picked this part of Pennsylvania? she wondered, dropping her bag onto her bed and collapsing beside it. Her feet ached, and her lower back was sore. Too bad they don't have a masseuse here.
For several minutes, she remained prone on the bed, then, with a groan of discomfort and general malaise, Nuala rolled over onto her back and sat up. Bending down, she untied her sneakers, kicked them off, and wondered if she even had the energy to make it from the bed to the over-sized hotel bathtub.
Yes, she thought, getting to her feet and wincing at the pain. You can always make it into a bath.
Nuala stripped off her clothes as she went into the bathroom, and made a distinct point of not looking at herself in the mirror. Seeing her reflection reminded her that she was a good twenty pounds overweight and that she needed to change her eating habits.
Never good for a trainer to look like she can't take care of herself. Nuala started the water for the tub, used the thermostat to raise the temperature in the bathroom to a comfortable 78 degrees, and climbed into the bath. She shivered for a moment as she adjusted the water's temperature, and then she felt the pain in her feet begin to subside as warm water spilled over them. Nuala curled and uncurled her toes, and then settled back and listened to the tub fill.
One more day of 'how to get the best performance out of your client', she thought. Then I can drive home and be back to work. And hopefully, there won't be any more bull from Kenneth's lawyer waiting for me.
Nuala frowned at the thought of her soon-to-be ex-husband, but she didn't bother to chase the thought away. She knew that she would expend more energy trying not to think of him, and then end up thinking about the situation anyway.
For 25 years, they had been married, and then, on their silver anniversary, he had presented her with divorce papers and the information that he was leaving her for his 19-year-old secretary.
He's a walking cliché, Nuala thought bitterly. She blamed herself, of course, and she fought hard to remember that his failings as a person weren't a reflection on her. He would tell everyone who listened that she was a nag, but the reason behind the divorce was more than his lust for a teenager.
For the past six years, Nuala had earned more money than Kenneth, and significantly more with each year. He had a corner office, with his own secretary, but that was because he rented a corner office, and he worked as a mediocre insurance salesman. The BMW he drove had been bought with Nuala's money, not his.
Ugh, Nuala thought, that's enough. I can think about him later. Right now, I just need to relax.
No sooner had the thought finished than the lights flickered and went out. The heat died as well.
The water continued to rush out of the faucet, and Nuala closed her eyes. You've got to be kidding me. I just want a bath. They better not be evacuating the building.
When almost a minute had passed without the light or heat coming back on, Nuala sat up in the tub. She shivered at the chill in the room and slid back down until the water was almost at her chin.
I wonder what's going on? she thought. She didn't hear anything from the hallway, and neither her cell phone nor the hotel room's phone rang. There was no fire alarm, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary other than the sudden failure of the light and heater.
Nuala leaned forward, turned off the faucet, and quickly sank back into the water. Steam rose up from the water's surface, and she realized the room was far colder than when she had first entered it.
Maybe I should see what's going on, she thought, and when she turned to look for the towels, Nuala froze.
A small figure stood in the bathroom doorway.
The outline was that of a child, but for some reason, Nuala couldn't explain, there was no real definition to it.
The steam, she thought. Then a rational part of her demanded, why is there a kid in my room?
"Hey there," Nuala said. "How did you get in?"
The child stepped into the bathroom, and the temperature plummeted. As it drew nearer, Nuala could make out the face of a young boy whose fine, high-cheekbones highlighted the depth of his hazel eyes. His hair was long, almost to the collar of his plain white shirt, and he tilted his head slightly to the right as he looked at her.
"Who are you?" the strange child asked. His voice was hollow, sounding as if it came from a great distance rather than a few feet away.
"My name's Nuala," she answered, wondering if there was something wrong with the boy. "Are you okay? Are you lost?"
"I don't know," he said.
"Listen, just look away for a moment, and I'll get a towel on," she said. "Then we can find your mom or dad, whoever you're here with, okay?"
The boy smiled. A soft, beautiful smile that caused Nuala's heart to ache.
"You look like my mother," he said. "She tried to save me."
As Nuala watched, the boy vanished, as if wiped from the face of the world.