A CUP OF COMFORT
This story was written to a prompt provided by the phrase:
A snowstorm outside, battering the cozy ski lodge.
Smiling, Rosa took another sip of her own hot chocolate deftly lapping a miniature marshmallow into her mouth. Her eyes briefly wandered from the handsome man sitting across from her, to a man across the room. He was an elderly, handsome gentleman sitting alone, staring out the window at a pine tree. Something about him seemed oddly familiar. Her curiosity was piqued. The man wasn't dressed for skiing and the cane leaning next to his table told Rosa he probably wasn't entertaining thoughts of hitting the slopes any time soon.
After a few minutes Rosa, recognized the man. She had seen his picture in the newspaper earlier that week. The man she was watching had recently been released from prison, after an Innocence Project retrial succeed in having him declared innocent of killing his wife on that very ski slope. Rosa recalled that the man's wife had skied into a tree, like the massive pine outside the window.
“I asked, what do you think?” Rosa’s husband Bruno’s sharp tone told her he had been talking and she had not been listening. “Whatever you say, dear,” she replied, smiling.
Bruno threw his napkin down on the table. “The snow has stopped so I’m going out now for a walk in the fresh snow. I’ll see you after I come in.”
She watched as a big-breasted blonde woman met Bruno at the door and locked arms with him as he stepped into the moonlight. Rosa sighed. She wanted to free herself from faithless Bruno but she had stupidly allowed him to get the upper hand in their finances. If she divorced him, she would lose everything she had brought to the marriage and everything they had built together. She looked at Bruno’s coffee. He really hadn’t touched it. It had grown cold, like his love for her.
She looked over at the old man. How many years had they said? Twenty years, yes he had been in prison for twenty years. “At least he’s free now. I’ve been in a prison of sorts for that long as well,” Rosa thought. We are here to celebrate our twentieth anniversary, but why would I want to celebrate being a prisoner, chained to a man who does not love me and whom I no longer love.” Yes, Rosa knew the length of her sentence – as long as her husband lived. She looked over at the old man and saw him smiling at her.
He had a knowing look in his eyes. A kind smile. She picked up her half full cup of tea and carried it over to his table. “May I join you? Mr. Browning isn’t it?”
She told him she had seen the article on his release and congratulated him. They chatted and quickly established a rapport. He smiled again.
“You’re probably wondering why I’m here. I needed to see this place again to be truly free of my memories. The coroner thought I’d given her pills to make her woozy and cause the accident. Her lover did it, I’m sure. Because she wouldn’t marry him. She didn’t love me but she loved my money more than she loved him.”
“My husband loves my money. He’s managed to legally put it all under his control. I can’t leave him. He regularly threatens to leave me if I put our social standing and possible political future in jeopardy by even talking about his affairs.”
The old man’s eyes narrowed. He motioned to the waitress for a glass of water and pulled out a bottle of vicodin. “Pain. Just before my release, I fell and broke my leg in three places.” He swallowed a pill and excused himself to rest. Rosa wandered over to the desk and chatted with the clerk a bit. Bruno and the blonde came back in. Bruno went to the bar and the blonde headed for the elevator. Rosa darted around the corner and watched the blonde take the elevator to the second floor. Rosa headed up the stairs as fast as she could and got to the second floor just in time to see the blonde go into room 2012.Then Rosa walked up the stairs the rest of the way to her own room and waited for Bruno to come up and get her for dinner. He didn’t even bother to do that. Instead, he called her from the desk phone.
“I’m in the dining room waiting for you,” he told her impatiently. “Didn’t you remember we had a seven o’clock reservation?”
Rosa didn’t answer. She simply took the elevator down and met Bruno, where over a meal of steak and mashed potatoes, he proceeded to berate her for how out of shape she was and how she needed to pay more attention to what he told her.
At dinner, Bruno informed Rosa he would be going out just at dawn to ski. “Be sure and get up to set out my juice. If you go out later, stay on the ‘bunny slope’ if you can even manage that. I’m heading for Dragonslayer,” he said, naming the resort’s, steepest and most dangerous slope.
The next morning Rosa got up to receive the room service tray with Bruno’s breakfast while he shaved. She set out his vitamins and fixed his coffee for him.
After he left, she padded down the hall, slipped the master key from the house cleaner’s cart, took the stairs down to blonde bombshell’s room and scattered a few vicodin tables in the woman’s nightstand drawer. Rosa then returned the key, got dressed and went downstairs for breakfast.
She spotted Mr. Browning and sat with him. She ordered tea and pulled a bottle out of her purse. “You left your vicodin on the table yesterday. Hope you were not in too much pain last night.”
“No dear, not at all.” He swallowed one tablet and tucked the bottle into his pocket.
“Where is your husband?”
“On an early ski. He left about two hours ago.”
They heard someone shout, “Accident on Dragonslayer! Male skier fell on one of the jumps.”
Rosa stood up.
A young ski patrol officer ran into the room and looked at Rosa’s stricken face. “Are you Bruno Colbert’s wife?”
Rosa staggered back. “Oh!”
Mr. Browning jumped up. “Yes, that’s her husband. He alright?”
The young man shook his head. “Broken neck.”
“Can you talk to her later? I think she’s going into shock.”
The ski patrol officer watched Mr. Brown help Rosa into the elevator.
“Thank you,” Rosa said as Mr. Brown helped her unlock her room. He spotted a room service tray on the floor by her door.
After Rosa was safely in her room, Mr. Browning, as he left, bent down to check the coffee cup in the room service tray. Washed out. A used tea bag sat on the saucer as if coffee had been rinsed out and then the cup used for tea.
Mr. Browning smiled and walked to the elevator. A cup of comfort after all – at least for her.
Joan Leotta is the author of the Legacy of Honor Series: Giulia Goes to War, Letters From Korea, and A Bowl of Rice, and Secrets of the Heart from Desert Breeze Publishing, a collection of short stories from Cane Hollow Press, and the non-fiction works, Massachusetts: Scholastic Press, and A Complete Guide to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia Berkshire. She is also a poet, journalist, and story performer. She is available to talk on writing, perform her “women of history” shows and entertain with multicultural folklore. She has written other stories for OMDB! and several author interviews and book reviews. She also blogs on performing and writing, offering in addition, the occasional food article and book review. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.Blog: www.joanleotta.wordpress.com
Copyright © 2015 Joan Leotta. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!
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