The suitcase wheel caught at the door. I tugged with my last ounce of strength and pulled it inside the dark, cold room. Tracing the edge of the door jamb with my fingers, I found the light switch and flipped it.
Harsh light illuminated the narrow, sparsely furnished space. Three months ago, I’d not have considered this a hotel room. A prison cell, yes. Definitely not a place I’d pay to stay.
How things had changed.
Gloom threatened to engulf me. I closed my eyes and conjured an image of a plunger lowering into my stomach, smothering the darkness until it was gone.
This is merely the start. Things will look up. I will make things look up.
I switched on the electric radiator, wisely placed next to the narrow bed. Clutching the heater’s metal frame, I sat on the bed, waiting for the device to warm my chilled hands.
I shifted on the hard mattress, causing the springs to creak loudly. No matter, I wouldn't give it any particular reason to get noisy. Even if Kevin was here—and why would he be, since he dumped me back in England—the bedsprings wouldn't be tested to their limit. Kevin's lovemaking was quick and quiet, just like the way he'd announced that our three-year long relationship was over.
Jerky movement on the floor caught my eye, and I tucked my feet up to my chest.
Please, God, no creepy-crawlies.
I cracked my eyes open and scanned the floor. False alarm. The radiator's ventilator was blowing on the long hairs of the cinnamon-colored rug. My eyes flicked from the wooden desk tucked in the corner to the framed painting of a demure girl, her hands neatly folded on her lap, frozen while waiting for someone to tell her what to do next.
The gloom raised its head again.
I sprang to my feet. This was only a hotel room. No way it reflected my life or my future on this island.
Time to start working on said future.
A quick shower to get rid of the trip’s cooties, and I was out of the dreary room, clad in my favorite blue woolen sweater and black corduroy slacks. Hugging myself to stave off the cold draft from the stairwell, I marched down the narrow corridor, noting the sliver of darkness under every other room’s door.
“Kavos Hotel isn’t suitable for winter guests,” Katerina, the owner slash cook slash chambermaid had told me when I arrived. Apparently, she thought I wasn’t going to show up; that maybe I’d prank-called her booking a room on a remote Greek island in the dead of winter. When I did show up, she took a close look at me, trying to detect signs of lunacy. I’m not sure she was entirely convinced I had all my marbles.
“Everything okay upstairs?” Katerina was rubbing down the reception desk with a wipe and didn’t look up when I entered the reception area.
“Yes, the room is fine, thank you.”
A tendril of black curly hair fell over her eye, and she blew it away. “I changed the sheets and towels this morning. You let me know when you want fresh ones.”
“Will do. Thanks.” Her manners were a bit brusque, but at least her English was good. When I’d pointed this out, she said she’d been practicing with tourists every summer since she was a child.
A wad of post-it notes fell on the floor, and I picked it up for her. She straightened and threw the wipe in the bin. Ignoring my outstretched hand, she took off with a brisk step.
Apparently, her welcoming spirit was also seasonal.
“You’ll want to eat now, right? We've got chicken soup and boiled chicken with vegetables. I guess the Americans would call it chicken casserole.” She paused to straighten a blue pillow on the lounge’s sofa. “How come you sound American when you come from England?”
“I was born in the States to an Italian father and an American mother, but my family moved to England when I was thirteen.”
She went through a door, and I followed her into the cozy dining room. The sight of the blazing fire perked my mood.
“We’ve had problems with the central heating today, and I had to help Yiannos out, trying to fix the boiler ourselves.” She stood with her back to the fireplace, wiggling her hands behind her. “I'm cold and exhausted.”
More than I let on. I was thinking of my freezing room. The only thing that radiator could heat was itself. I thanked my wits for bringing a super-slim electric underblanket along. I couldn’t stand being cold. Hopefully, I’d get a job soon, and I would only stay at the hotel for a night’s sleep.
Katerina was setting the table near the fireplace. “Just hope we don't get another storm like the one we had last week. The power was out for three days.”
I focused on what was positive around me—the glowing fire—and beelined to it. A charming rustic look brightened the otherwise somber space. The stone hearth was raised, housing the wood underneath, and a wooden wagon wheel decorated the chimney. I sat on the hearth and stretched my hands as far as I could with no risk of charring them. The smell of chicken made my stomach rumble. But I had more pressing matters to worry about than my hunger.
“Did you happen to hear if anyone’s hiring since we last spoke on the phone?”
Katerina briefly closed her eyes and tucked a stray tendril behind her ear. “No. I told you that there are no job openings this time of the year. The island can’t even feed its own. Most young people live in Volos during the winter and come back when the tourist season starts.”
“But children stay here, right? Surely someone needs an English teacher. I have a degree in English.”
From Oxford. But on a sparsely populated remote island that bit of information seemed as relevant as mentioning that my sweater was Burberry's.
A fist landed on her jutted hip. “We do have an English teacher here. She might be old, but the kids love her. You won't find anyone willing to trust their child in the hands of a newcomer.”
Gloom waved a hand. I slapped it away. If she wanted to ruin my appetite and skip the waitressing stint, she was doing a fine job. But until I was on my last penny—or cent since I was in the Eurozone—I would stay put, glowering waitresses notwithstanding.
“I'll figure something out,” I said, the glorious heat stopping me from wallowing in dark thoughts.
“You do that.” She pushed a two-panel swinging door with both hands and disappeared behind it.
Alone in the dining room, I bent forward, bringing my backside closer to the fire. My sweater was waist length, and the corduroy material didn't keep the cold out. My legs were already turning into popsicles.
I let the heat from the fire work its magic. Goosebumps broke out along my arms, and I let out a luxurious, long moan. I opened my eyes.
The moan morphed into a loud yelp.
A man had materialized out of thin air and was staring right at me.
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Available titles in the A World of Gothic series:
Ghost in the rain - A World of Gothic: Scotland by Marie Treanor
House at the Edge - A World of Gothic: Greece by MM Jaye
Devil's Promenade - A World of Gothic: USA by Alicia Dean