Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Checkout (06/09/11)
By Rachel Phelps
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She could do it alone, if she was so inclined – just as she could get up without their help and go through the day completely on her own. It wasn't need that made her stay. It was for comfort, really. Convenience, perhaps.
He was looking at her, smiling that knowing smile. He knew she wasn't being entirely honest. He'd been teaching her about that lately, and she wasn't sure she liked it. She flipped her key in her hand and considered.
She'd left before. Handed them the key to her room and just walked out, their assurances of a perpetual welcome back ringing pleasantly in her ears. And come back she had. Not because she needed them. It was just so nice to have them.
He reminded her that she'd been dissatisfied lately, never quite at ease when she returned here. They still gave her excellent service, but it didn't fill her up like it used to. He said it never had, that she had changed, not the place.
She didn't know why He was so insistent that she leave for good. It wasn't as if they did any harm. He reminded her of the relationships lost, the opportunities she had given up because they came between her and this... comfort, or convenience. She'd scoffed and turned away at His words.
But He was right. It wasn't enough any more. She found herself thinking of Him instead of them. She was fairly certain she was falling in love with Him, but He'd created an impasse. She could choose Him or she could choose to stay in her comfortable room. There was no way to reconcile both relationships, He said. It was a risk, but He was worth it. She wouldn't regret the change.
They were waiting, too, not quite as patiently as He was. They stood in the doorway, arms folded and feet tapping in near-unison. She glanced back at Him. He'd told her that he would take her rough, painful edges, that she didn't have to hide them from Him. She knew He spoke truth. But was she ready to give them up forever?
Before she'd always known she could come back. Not this time. If she chose to leave with Him, she would be changing her allegiance, telling them that they could quit saving the room for her. Was He truly worth it?
The answer settled easily but firmly in her chest.
She stood. He stood, too, smiling at her with a warmth that made the room dim in comparison. She took a confident step forward, holding out her key to the group in the door.
“I'm checking out – for good.”
Their obsequious smiles faded. The lead one spoke, in a voice quite unlike the one she was used to hearing.
“That's impossible, I'm afraid. You've booked this room for life.”
She extended her arm further. “No, I'm leaving. I've decided.”
The leader shook his head. Subtle changes were marking his face the longer she stared. Hard, angry lines replacing the kindly wrinkles she remembered. The facade of the room faded, leaving dingy walls and frightening attendants.
“You can't leave.”
She threw the key on the floor. Quicker than she had time to think, it was back in her hand. One of them had sidled next to her, whispering soothing monosyllables to ease the panting fright.
“Don't you see? You need us. You know you do. Let's not fight about this.”
Two of them came, attempting to lead her back to the bed. She struck out at them, but hit only empty air. Their hands tightened on her arms. Terror surged from her toes to her scalp.
“Just let me go!”
They laughed. The key was back in her hand, scorching her skin as she tried to release it. They were too strong. Was it so bad, after all? Her thoughts swirled, tripping over each other, giving in.
He was there. Standing just outside the melee, hands outstretched, an aching in His eyes. She reached for Him.
They all cringed.
“Jesus!” She screamed again, sobbing.
He dealt with them before she had time to call again. They scattered like dust, and she found herself in the shelter of His encircling arms.
“Give me the key, dear one.”
It fell into His palm with blessed release.
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