I posted the beginning to a Christmas themed story as part of a contest. After enjoying the gift-a-palooza this morning, it feels appropriate to continue it.
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Previously: Gillian was traveling to visit Grandma with her two sons, Steve (10) and Jack (6), when they got snowed in at their hotel . . . .
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Gillian stepped off the elevator into the most chaotic hotel lobby she had ever seen. Looking at the huge crowd of hotel guests gathered around the desk, she changed her mind about seeking any advice there.
Instead, she slipped into the breakfast area, filled a paper cup with coffee and stepped outside the back door into the patio area overlooking the swimming pool. She took a few more steps to peer inside. Snow rose nearly to the top of the five foot pool. Gillian squatted down and cleared a small spot on the edge of the pool, then sat down and dangled her feet into the opening.
She and the boys had stayed at this same hotel on their way to visit Grandma last summer. That had been right after Phillip had accepted the job in New York, effectively turning Gillian into a single mother. She and the boys wouldn't be joining him. At least not at first. Maybe not at all. Phillip talked to the boys about how busy he was going to be and how he didn't want to pull them away from their friends and schools until he knew for sure that he'd be keeping the job, and Gillian had backed him up, but Steven's doubtful face showed that he had heard more of those late night arguments then Gillian would have hoped.
Still, that summer trip had been lovely. They had arrived early enough that the boys got to swim for three hours. Gillian had caved and just ordered pizza to eat poolside rather than struggle the unwilling boys into dry clothes and a restaurant. She had watched the sun go down over the parking lot, feeling strong and capable, happy to be handling things on her own so well.
She didn't feel that way today. She had no idea how to make this work for her boys. Sighing, she pulled her phone out of her pocket and called her mother. Her mom answered on the first ring and started talking without even saying hello first. "Oh Thank God you're all right! We've been so worried! Where are you?"
A rush of warmth flooded Gillian as she reassured her mother that she and the boys were safely ensconced at a hotel. She had been so worried about the damage to their holiday plans that she had forgotten to be grateful for their warmth and safety. Her mother always helped her see through to the important part.
Gillian pulled out her wallet and counted the dollars inside at her mother's insistence. There was still about $200 of the travel money. Her mom promised to call the front desk when she could get through and give her credit card information to cover the additional nights of hotel stay. Gillian promised to call later in the day with the boys so she could talk to them, too.
Too soon the phone call was over and it was time to face the music. Gillian walked around to the front of the hotel and back into the lobby. It was much emptier now, only a few older guests sitting on the lobby sofas and talking quietly. Gillian approached the desk and stood waiting quietly for the woman behind the desk to notice her. It was taking a while for her to look up from her computer, and Gillian shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.
"Maxine!" One of the men on the sofas called out, causing the desk clerk to jump. "You've got a guest, honey."
"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry!" The woman's southern accent was thick and very out of place in the Midwest.
Gillian smiled, "It's okay. You must be exhausted after all that." She gestured at the lobby and Maxine nodded ruefully. The two women talked for a few minutes and Maxine made a phone call verifying that Gillian and her boys would be able to get breakfast at the diner on the other side of the parking lot. Maxine also said she'd let Gillian know when the credit card information came through to pay for the remainder of their stay. Gillian thanked the lady and turned to head back upstairs.
"Did I hear you say you're traveling with little ones?"
Gillian nodded. "Two boys. We were on our way to Grandma's house."
The man smiled. "We were on our way to see our grandkids." The man introduced himself and his wife. Henry and Louise Balfour, from Colorado, on the way to Tennessee. "We're thinking maybe we should have retired to Florida after all." Henry laughed as he spoke and Gillian couldn't help but laugh, too.
(to be continued)