When she was little, Courtney's eyes would light up as soon as she saw the hotel in the skyline. Now, as she sat in the backseat of her fathers car, she wished she could melt away into the air. It had been a long war on whether to show her face or to stay at home for another season. In the end it had been her father who made the decision for her, instructing Courtney that she had to make an appearance, whether she liked it or not. And she did not like it.
She thought she would be able to put on a brave face and forget the last time she had been there, but as soon as the tall towers and structured archways came into view, the memories burned through her memory like a never ending movie. The worst movie she had ever seen. It was like tripping on stage at your graduation; all your family had it on camera.
Courtney could barely feel the squeeze of her hand from Bridgette, who was sitting beside her, giving a reassuring smile. She felt numb all over and knew her best friend could read the situation. An they hadn't even made it to the entrance.
The car door was opened against Courtney's wordless protests and her fathers hand waved in front of her face to help her out. She took it out of formality, stepping out and looking up at the grand hotel that would be her home for the next three months. It hadn't changed at all since two summers before, the last time Courtney had shown her face there and left it drowning in her dust when she'd left. It was built to be a castle, 5000 square feet of Jaisalmer Flower Limestone, with the twin towers on each side reaching the clouds. But it was tropical. Courtney had many memories of lying on loungers, the sun setting before her on the sea, making believe she was in Hawaii when she never had to leave her own home state.
Her quarters were in the East tower. She had requested it when her parents had bought the place when she was young, waking up early each morning to watch the sun start the day of every guest. It was a fair journey up the winding staircase, but Courtney wouldn't change it for the world. Even now, at eighteen years old, she still watched the sun rise with amazement from her bedroom at home, but it never compared to when she stayed at The Towers.
Thinking of her bedroom was all that kept her from sprinting back to the car and heading home in a hurry. That and Bridgette's arm looped through hers, her best friend holding her tightly to her side, almost as if she could read the escape plan forming in Courtney's mind.
"You can do this," the blonde whispered so only the two girls could hear. For a moment, Courtney believed she could do it, but then her eyes moved to the doorway and the green haired boy standing there receiving her bags to take up to her room, and she fell to pieces.
Mr. Taylor came between the two young women, wrapping an arm around each of their shoulders, not noticing his daughters grimace. Bridgette smiled brightly up at him, trying to keep his attention by immersing in conversation about their stay. Courtney silently thanked her, breaking away from her father and towards the hotel entrance that was finally clear of any pain to cause her.
She caught a glimpse of him from the corner of her eye, on the far side of the lobby in conversation with a tall, tanned young man dressed in hotel uniform who Courtney hadn't met before- and wasn't interested in meeting- but chose to ignore his presence, heading for the familiar path to her bedroom where she could lock herself away until the end of the summer. Courtney didn't need any distractions this year, in the form of green-haired delinquents or otherwise.
Duncan didn't want to be outside, but the look on his fathers face was enough to send a serial killer running for the hills. While most freshly-graduated high schoolers would be excited for a summer work experience, Duncan felt like throwing himself off one of the towers at the thought of spending all summer stuck at The Towers, like he was every damn day of the year.
He usually didn't mind his family's position within the hotel, they did everything but own it. And, for once, Duncan thought he was going to have a summer with no worries or cares when he had time off from the various jobs his parents gave him around the hotel; but then he heard the rumor going around.
The Taylor's stayed at the hotel for three months every summer, it was a tradition Duncan was used to. Every year they would bring their daughter with them as an extended vacation in between school years. She was Duncan's age, having graduated High school that same year. Duncan knew her personally and knew he was the main reason why she no longer wanted to show her face at the hotel. He spent his time trying to convince himself he didn't feel that bad about it most days, but every so often the burned memory of her face the day she left him clouded in the dust would creep across his mind and he wouldn't hold it together for long.
Duncan had spent last summer terrified of her visit. But then her parents had shown up without her, made some excuse that she had made the decision to become a CIT at a summer camp across state, which they were so proud of. He knew the truth.
It had been two years since he'd last seen her, but as soon as she stepped out from her fathers car Duncan's heart fell through his knees, clattering on the floor as if they'd just said goodbye all over again.
Head down, shoulders hunched, he collected their bags and raced back inside. His father could scare him all he wanted, but no one broke his heart the way Courtney Taylor did.
"Brah, what was that?" He heard Geoff calling out behind him as Duncan leaned over the front desk, head in his hands.
Duncan wasn't in the mood for an explanation, simply shaking his head and moving to the other side of the desk, ready to checkout for a break. Geoff had been a good friend to him since he'd joined the teenage worker crew last summer. They had gone to rival high schools in the district, and Duncan had been expecting to hate him when they met, but found that neither of them gave a shit anyway. That did not, however, mean he was at the status where Duncan could tell him the Courtney Taylor story.
That night Courtney wore her favorite satin dress, the midnight blue one that fell just above her knees in a straight line and hugged at her hips in a way that made her feel sexy. Courtney didn't consider herself a fashion icon or a beauty guru, but when she was wearing her feel-good dress she really did forget her worries. Or, at least she forgot them until they tipped water over her favorite dress.
They'd been sat at the dinner table for over an hour, having just finished the main course for the evening. Courtney was seated in between Bridgette and her mother at the rounded table while her father sat directly opposite, business men on either side.
She'd been silent all night, Bridgette doing the talking for them both. Courtney was glad she shared this life with her best friend, knowing that Bridgette was genuinely the kindest person with the biggest heart who could feign interested in a blocked sewage system without any effort at all.
It had been going as well as Courtney could have asked for, no incidents so to speak. The waiter had been pleasant, the tall blonde that she had seen him with earlier, though the ease he created while serving distracted her from remembering that. Courtney watched how he made her best friend blush as he commented to her about the food, much to Courtney's disgust. But then, before dessert was served, he interrupted and she was forced to face him.
"Geoff has just checkout for his evening break. My name is Duncan and I'll be continuing serving you this evening." The politeness was forced. Even if you couldn't tell by the forced words, Courtney knew simply from knowing him.
It was the first time all day she got a chance to look at him. Not much had changed. He still wore piercings and his hair was the same neon green she had grown used to recognizing him that way by now. But his cheeks were hollow, his eyes were sullen and lined with dark circles like he hadn't been eating, hadn't been sleeping. Part of her wanted to reach out to him, the rest of her wanted to punch him.
Duncan offered the table a pitcher of water, individually going around and pouring glasses. Courtney engaged in conversation with Bridgette, faking a gossip story about a girl they knew from school, just so she couldn't have to face him when he poured her drink. If he had only caught the glass. Instead she felt his knees knock against the table and before she could turn around to see what had happened, the remaining water from the jug was washed over her hair, drowning her eyes and soaking her dress and exposed skin.
"You idiot!" Courtney hollered, pushing back her chair and wiping her dripping hair from her face. She glared at him, locking her eyes tightly against his. She could see the fear radiating from his shocked stare, trying to stutter out words that sounded like he wanted to help, but Courtney didn't stick around long enough to find out. She was out the dining hall door before anyone could comprehend the situation.
She tried not to cry. She didn't want to be found crying. If someone found her, that was. She doubted her parents cared, they never stopped to ask her how thing were going. Bridgette cared, but Bridgette wouldn't know where to find her because Courtney's mind was on flight mode and there was only one place she went when that happened.
No matter how late it got, the air was always humid. Duncan had his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, the top buttons undone and work vest thrown over his shoulder. He'd usually head back to his bedroom, get out of his godforsaken uniform and catch a ride down the central strip in the city.
But today was different. He couldn't find Geoff, his ultimate wing man, for a start. Though, even if he could, Duncan was not in the mood for drinking himself stupid. Many nights he'd come back to the hotel not remembering his own name let alone remembering whatever bimbo was draping herself around his body.
After the display in the dining hall, Duncan wanted to throw up. He didn't realize his hands had been shaking in her presence, but as soon as he'd got close enough to fill her glass, not stopping to even look at her, he'd tripped over his own clumsy feet and spilled the pitcher. Over Courtney. If there was a worse way to get her attention, Duncan didn't think it'd been invented yet.
He'd fucked up. Again. That's all he seemed to be able to do around Courtney. There was something about the way she carried herself, it changed his skillful brain into mush that bled from his ears whenever she was around. Duncan thought he could get passed it, she was only another girl that had wasted her time trying to turn him into something he wasn't. It had blown up in everyone's face and now they were destined for awkward silence for the three months they were going to be forced to spend together.
The walk up the tower staircase was one he hadn't made in a while. He had no reason to head up there anymore, but walking the familiar path had crushing memories tied to it. Falling over each other in races, falling over each other in passion. She had him pinned to the wall in anger, he had her pinned to the wall in lust.
Before the last two spirals, there were two doors. One to the cleaning closet, one to where she'd be. Duncan didn't hesitate to open the door, knowing if he stopped now he'd back away altogether.
He stepped out into cooler air, the moon hanging low in the sky. The stars were starting to appear, dotting around her sullen frame across the rooftop. She had her back to him, Duncan guessed, as she'd had no sudden reaction to his appearance, but his footsteps echoed as he walked towards her, giving it away.
She knew it was him, Duncan knew it for a fact. He was the only person who would think to look for her at the rooftop pool after closing hours. It was a long story, one he didn't know how he'd even retell to someone who hadn't been there. He didn't know how to explain it all to himself. But the pool had become their safe place. Somewhere to run in their hour of need. And, in their hours of need, they had needed each other.
"I'm sorry about dinner," Duncan mumbled. It was what he'd been trying to say at the table, but Courtney had stormed away before the words would form.
She remained silent.
"I wasn't expecting to see you here, and you always turned me into such a klutz when-"
"Just stop," she whispered softly, her voice trembling as if she was crying. Duncan knew that was impossible. Courtney Taylor didn't cry. Courtney Taylor was the toughest girl he had ever known. "I don't need this right now, Duncan. I don't want to be here, as much as you don't want to be here."
"It's for everyone's best interest if you just stay out of my way. Pretend you don't know me and ignore me when we're forced into it."
Abruptly, she turned around, forcing Duncan back onto his feet in shock. Courtney rose with him, anger blemishing her face but hurt reflecting in her eyes.
"I just thought-"
"Well stop thinking," her words cut across. "I'm done with you thinking. I'm done with you, period." Duncan took a step back, sensing this wasn't the worst of it. "I have been done with you for two fucking years, Duncan! A-And, you know what?" Courtney stuttered, almost not sure if she was going to tell him at all. "I've moved on. I'm getting married next summer. I don't want anything more to do with you."
That was when he fell back down, the world of memories he'd been living in crashing to the floor around him. One by one, Courtney destroyed any hopes he'd had left. She left him sitting there like an idiot, feeling stupid for thinking he could apologize to her for anything and everything. She left him there knowing his last chance had just walked away all over again.
A/N: Oh the drama!
I wrote this back in July for Camp NaNo. I literally wrote this chapter and then never picked it back up...I have some ideas though, and the original plot scribbled down somewhere, so I hope it'll be interesting.
I so wanted to write story based in a hotel since forever, but I was watching The Grand Budapest Hotel at the beginning of the year and I just fell back in love with the idea. I kept it for Camp and then never got very far...
This is one I want to finish to let me know what you guys think!
Thanks for reading, please review (: