Donald Webster tossed his suitcase down and stretched. It was amazing how every hotel room looked alike after a while – a never-ending succession of neatly made beds and sterile bathrooms. He kicked off his shoes and crossed to the mini bar. After a day like today, Webster needed an out.
“Why didn’t they buy it?” he said aloud to the room as he took his first swig of bourbon. The liquid burned all the way down, a long slow scald of release. He shook his head, tears pricking at the back of tired eyes.
“I did everything right. The figures added up, the presentation went without a hitch. What else could I have done?”
He downed the rest and slammed his palm against the wall. Now he would have to ring his boss and explain why the expected contract would not be forthcoming. They had pinned everything on this – everything. Without the backing from Franklin & Sons, his company would go under. They had simply extended themselves too far.
Donald fell back on the bed and stared at the ceiling, running one hand through his greying hair. At least he didn’t have to break the news to a stunned family, he thought with a touch of bitterness. Carol had her own life now, with Ted. His kids were grown up and living their own lives.
In fact, he realised emptily, there was no-one he could call just to talk about this even if he had wanted to. He was completely alone.
Donald rolled to the edge of the bed and sat up. He needed a long, hot shower. Perhaps the pounding water would clear his head.
He crossed to his suitcase and unzipped it.
And stood there, staring at what lay inside.
Instead of the neatly folded trousers and precisely coiled ties that he had expected to see, there was a flurry of pink frills. A skirt? He lifted it out in amazement. How had this come to be in his suitcase? Underneath lay a cloud of baby blue angora – some sort of sweater. He dug further in a sudden frenzy, searching for his socks, his shaving kit, his business shirts…
All that he found were some strappy dresses and a tangle of satin bras. He snatched his hand away as if he had been burned.
The word exploded from his lips like a curse.
“Yeah, very funny. That’s just hilarious. What is it, pick-on-Donald day?”
Webster faced the room, hands planted on his hips, not sure who he was talking to. He didn’t believe in God. Yet after the events of the day, he was beginning to feel that he’d been the victim of some cosmic joke.
Anger coursed through him, and he grabbed the suitcase, upturning it on the floor. He kicked it, hard, and it skittered away.
Somehow, seeing the litter of pastel prints and silk nighties made the anger leach out of him. His daughter could have packed a case like this. Somewhere, there was a girl who was just as frantic as him.
He knelt on the floor, drained, scooping up the clothes and shoving them back in. His hands encountered something hard. It was a journal, spiral bound.
With a sigh, Donald opened it and flicked through the pages. They were filled with writing, poured out in a hasty scrawl.
Today was the worst day of my entire life…
Donald sat back on his heels.
Dad walked out on Mum again. He took the car this time. I couldn’t get into work, and my boss absolutely flipped and yelled at me over the phone, and told me he didn’t want me working any more…
The page was puckered here, the ink blurred as if from a fallen tear. But the writing emerged more strongly on the other side.
I’m so glad that I’m not alone through any of this. Daddy God, thank you that you will always be with me – that you’ll love me when no-one else does, that you will always think the best of me. I love you so much…
Donald sank to the floor and kept reading. The words, so childishly written, seemed to strike a forgotten chord deep within him. What would it be like, to love and be loved like that?
A breeze lifted the corner of the curtain and wafted through the room, whispering peace through his jangled mind.
And two words hung in the air, strangely insistent, a hint of hope.
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