“My Mum is dead.”
Somewhat startled by this statement, Emma peeked over the reception desk into beautiful green eyes that belonged to a cute little girl with brown curly hair and a freckled button nose. She couldn’t help but smile. There was something in the girl’s eyes that held a hint of mischief and curiosity, as well as some sadness, and Emma was drawn to her instantly.
The stern voice of an elderly woman approaching the reception caused Emma to nearly jump out of her skin. The girl stiffened with eyes wide open.
“My apologies for that,” the woman said to Emma, though her expression didn’t actually reveal any signs of apologies. The woman’s face reflected a life of bitterness, the lines appearing deep and weathered.
Emma smiled. “No need to.”
An elderly man joined them, and after a brief nod of acknowledgment she asked, “May I help you?”
“Yes. We would like to check in. Gibbs. William and Teresa Gibbs,” the woman replied.
Emma typed the name on the keyboard, and while she waited for the details, she smiled at the girl, and asked, “Holidays?”
Nadine’s face spread into a small smile, but it was enough to show she had her two top teeth missing.
“And I see the tooth fairy has been to see you recently.”
“Excuse me–” Mrs. Gibbs glanced at Emma’s name badge. “–Emma. Can we proceed with the check-in please?”
“My apologies, ma’am.” Emma read the details on the screen, made a few notes and turned around to activate the automated door card in the back office. All the while, she felt Mrs. Gibbs’ glare on her and instinctively pulled on her navy uniform skirt feeling slightly uncomfortable.
Emma sighed inwardly. In her early twenties and she still lacked confidence in what other people thought of her. Tucking a lock of her curly, tawny hair behind her ear, she tried to keep a positive attitude because, after all, she loved working at the “All Stars” Hotel in Melbourne. It was something she always wanted to do – to greet people to this beautiful city, and make their stay as comfortable as possible. And she was often told how popular she was with staff and guests alike for her positive attitude, her generous heart and kind spirit.
“Ma’am, that’d be room five-o-two. If you go to the right over there, take the lift to the fifth floor and follow the hall to the near end, you will find room five-o-two on your right.”
Teresa Gibbs took the card from Emma and turned it in her hands.
“Ma’am, you slide that into the door instead of a key. I’m happy to ask someone to come with you and show–”
“I’ll be fine thank you.” And Mrs. Gibbs turned to go.
Emma leaned across the counter and smiled at Nadine. “Enjoy your holidays,” she said and winked. “And come see me sometime to tell me about the tooth fairy.”
“We’re not on a holiday,” the girl said in almost a whisper. “We’re here to meet my dad.” Then she hopped off after Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs, who Emma assumed were the little girl’s grandparents.
Emma wondered about that remark and then remembered what the girl had said about her mother. She watched as Mrs. Gibbs rushed her husband and Nadine into the lift, and the door slid shut.
A familiar voice startled her. “Emma! Come on, stop dreaming.”
Emma turned around and saw her colleague Jack standing next to her. She smiled.
“Jack! Where’ve you been?”
He lifted one side of his mouth. “Morning tea.”
“Are you for real? You’ve been gone for an hour.”
Grinning, he ruffled her hair. “Another bad hair day?”
She gently pushed him away and rolled her eyes. “You’re avoiding the subject!”
With raised eyebrows he asked, “Which subject?”
She poked her tongue out at him. Why should I care if he gets into trouble!
“Miss Gallagher!” The familiar authoritative voice came from behind them.
Emma startled and with heat creeping up her cheeks she slowly turned, only to see her boss standing behind her. “My apologies, Mr. Morgan,” she said with a tilt of her head. Deep inside she cursed Jack. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him attending to a guest. Typical of him to leave her to vices.
Leo Morgan’s square jaw tensed visibly. A man in his mid-forties, he was still handsome with his olive skin. Even though the hair showing the first signs of grey around his temples, it suited him well and emphasised his blue eyes. He took a deep breath and stepped slightly closer.
“Listen Emma,” he whispered. “I only hear good things about you. People like you and you have a good–” he paused seemingly trying to find the right word, “–let’s call it repute. But there’s a certain standard here, and I need you to uphold that. Are we understood?”
She nodded. “Yes, sir”
“Good. Now, go and do your job and whatever it is between you two, keep it outside the hotel.”
She stood straight. “But there is nothing–”
“Yes, sir. Understood.”
Emma turned around and checked-in the next few guests. It was only after she had finished her shift that she was able to talk to Jack.
“Thanks for getting me into trouble again.”
Jack placed his arm around her, and gave her a kiss on her forehead. “Sorry for that. But you seem to attract this guy.”
“Yes, and it’s exactly every time when I muck up, his focus seems to land on me.”
“You’ll be right. How about dinner at my place?”
Emma rolled her eyes. “Jerk!”
He grinned, and held his arms up in defence. “What?”
“You’ve got to be joking,” Flynn said into the phone. “What do you mean you need to see me?” Pacing up and down his office he finally settled by the window. He looked out, and his gaze wandered along the Yarra River watching people strolling along the Southbank Promenade. He liked the view – seeing the people walking at different paces as they took in the sights, or looking for restaurants, or as they were simply in a rush to get to their next destination. His eyes wandered further up and took in the sight of the Eureka Tower and a small shiver came up his spine as he remembered what he gave up for being there, for making his life in Melbourne and for getting this job.
The conversation he was having wasn’t going well, and he let out a long breath. “Yes, I’ll be there. And this better be worth it.”
He walked over to the door and swung it open with such force his assistant Joyce almost jumped out of her chair.
“Joyce, could you please reschedule the appointment tomorrow afternoon with Harry? I’ve got some private business I’ve got to attend to.”
“Not a problem, Flynn. You’ve got your hair cut tomorrow at–”
“Slipped my mind,” he mumbled and cursed a few words, but looking at Joyce’s face he knew she ignored his small outburst, but patiently waited for an answer.
He exhaled, and while heading back into the office he said, “I’ll go by tonight and see whether Richard can squeeze me in.” And he slammed the door shut.
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