An unpublished story pitched as part of a promotion for an exclusive inn. Thankfully, the story required a two-night visit to the inn for research purposes. I’m very interested in copywriting that never got published, usually because it was too much of a risk for the client or perhaps departed from the commercial sensibility of the day.
It was very quiet early this Tuesday morning. Almost too quiet to be a weekday, workday morning. She stretched in her bed and felt a small pang when she realized that she really was alone. And lonely. They had been arguing again. He called it fighting, she claimed it was healthy (whatever it was), but nonetheless, they’d parted angrily. What had it been about… oh, something really important, like why they always went to places she wanted to go (that wasn’t true at all, she’d protested). He couldn’t plan ahead more than five minutes in his personal life so she invariably had to make the reservations (don’t accuse me of being disorganized, he’d said—well you are, she’d answered). And so on.
She was wearing her flannel pyjamas in an effort to comfort herself, even though it wasn’t cool enough yet for such attire. She rolled to the edge of the bed to sit up and felt something strange and cool touch the back of her neck. It was a small box, about the size of a cigarette pack, wrapped (though not very expertly) in metallic green paper. Glued to the wrapping was a tiny, pinkish seashell. She studied it for a few moments before opening it to discover a key which she recognized as belonging to a locker at her exercise club. It said number twenty-seven on it. There was no note.
After a quick cup of coffee and a cold bagel with walnut-raisin cream cheese, she walked to the club as she did four mornings of each week before work. When she arrived there, she fished out the key and went straight to locker twenty-seven. In it was a dark blue bag. She read her own address on the tag. The contents of this bag were more than a little intriguing. A rain slicker broken in by years of wear on board some ocean-sprayed deck. A sleek black bathing suit. Red rubber flip-flops (in her exact size). A very stunning, very small, very white lace dress. And a string of pearls that might have inspired someone to write a song about them or their wearer. At the bottom, underneath the green and pink striped beach towel, was an envelope containing a one-way ferry ticket to Nantucket island. It was dated the upcoming Friday, sailing at 4:00 p.m., only three days away.
. . . . . . . . . .
She stood on the upper deck, slicker wrapped tightly about her, watching the day’s last seabirds as they hung imploringly over passengers eating hot dogs, popcorn, potato chips. Every now and then, somebody would give in and throw out a morsel or two. Soon, the ferry rounded the point, passing the lighthouse and silent evening beaches.
On the shore, a polite young man seemed to know who she was and escorted her into a waiting van. They chatted about the weather—as if either one of them knew—and he deftly wound his way through tiny streets and misty roads to somewhere that seemed to be a good distance from most island civilization. She was led, with a smile, to a room held hostage by an exquisite ocean view—although the ocean now appeared as a dark blue knife, slicing neatly between the rosean sky and cotton-misted earth. She thought of her father’s words—red sky at night, sailor’s delight, red sky at morning, sailor take warning.
In her room, she slipped out of her traveling clothes, and thinking of a hot soak, opened the bathroom door. Warm steam escaped as she did so, and she saw that the mirror was already fogged—“dinner at 8” written (as if permanently) in wet, finger-sized lettering.
She felt perfect in white lace and pearls, smelling of fresh lavender. She walked the porch slowly, feeling the breeze, noticing the twinkling lights of town across the bay. She was seated ever so graciously at a candlelit table. Sipping a glass of wine that tasted like a summer day, she looked up. He was traversing the room, painfully handsome. All eyes turned to them, as though they were the most interesting of sights, visually edible. He bent and kissed her, very, very, lightly. They watched each other silently across the table (their legs were touching beneath it), sharing a smile, sharing the knowledge. People began to pay attention to their food once again, but they were all smiling, too.