“Welcome to the Inn at Bear Creek.” The petite woman at the front desk greeted me when I only had one foot over the threshold. Without responding I looked around the lobby of the small bed and breakfast I’d chosen. It would do. It would do quite well actually. It was quaint, a little too charming and perfect for my taste but then no one would think to look for me in a place with doilies on the tables and an antique settee by the fireplace.
I stepped up to the solid wood bar used as the registration desk, running my hand over the wood that had been worn smooth over time. How many women had stood in this exact spot looking for sanctuary? Or maybe the guests here were mostly couples looking for a romantic retreat. Maybe I was alone in my quest for solitude.
“You must be Mrs. Bennett -”
“Miss,” I corrected, without thinking. The name Bennett was fictional anyway. Did it matter if she called me Mrs.?
“Yes, of course.” She looked at a ledger spread out on the desk, running her finger along a list of names. “You will be in our ‘Lilacs and Lace’ room.”
Of course I am, I thought. I didn’t expect them to have a forest-themed room which would be more my style, but lace? Really?
“Thanks,” I said, trying to sound grateful.
“Your stay has been paid in full. I just need you to sign these forms…here…and here,” she said, pointing to the lines at the bottom of each page. I picked up the pen, then hesitated, the point poised over the paper. I’d practiced the signature over and over, wanting the act to look natural. The longer I waited the more nervous I became.
She’s going to notice, I thought. Just do it already!
My hand trembled slightly and I glanced at the woman. She was busy making a note in her ledger. You’re being paranoid. Sign the paper!
Taking a deep breath I forced my hand to scrawl the words Jessica Bennett. It wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped but I finished before she looked up. She tucked the pages into the back of her book, then handed me a key on a large keychain in the shape of a flower. With effort I kept from rolling my eyes. “Breakfast is served every morning from 7 to 9. It will be laid out in the dining room. Just help yourself.”
I nodded, suddenly barely able to contain my tears. This was how it had been since I started running. Even something simple like the thought of breakfast was enough to choke me with sobs. Would it ever get better or would my past keep haunting me forever?
It was too soon to know. There was really only one way out.
I took another deep breath. If I was going to get out of this I was going to have to fix it. I was going to have to change. It wouldn’t be easy, but the alternative was unthinkable.
I forced a smile on my face and said, “I’m sorry. I’m being rude. What was your name?”
Her face glowed. “You can call me Daisy, everybody does.”
I covered my sudden laugh with a cough. Of course her name was Daisy. “Well, Daisy, thank you for your hospitality.” I grabbed the key and turned, only then realizing I had no idea where the room was.
Daisy stepped around the bar, then reached for my bag. I grabbed it before she could get to it, smiling to soften my reaction. She looked momentarily taken aback before saying, “Let me show you to your room.”
I followed her up the staircase to the right of the entryway, the wood treads creaking under our feet. At least I’ll be able to hear anyone coming, I thought. She walked to the end of the hallway and stopped in front of the door to the left. “Make yourself comfortable, and please let me know if there’s anything I can do to make your stay more enjoyable,” she said before turning back down the hall.
The door swung open with a whine. As I entered the room I felt like I was walking into a new life. A better one, I thought with determination. Things are going to be okay.
Or so I hoped.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Haunting.