He follows her into the lobby. It is a small room consisting of a counter on the far wall, some lounge chairs and a table to one side, a spiral staircase leading up to the second level on the other. At the far opposite wall there are a set of elevators with a out of order sign hanging on a wall between them. A door to the right the counter reads STAFF. Another door behind the stairs reads BANQUET. He gets the impression that there are a lot of vacancies. She walks behind the counter and picks up a set of keys from the hooks. She slides the keys across the counter.
" Room 303 " She says. She looks down at the ledger and begins to fill it in. He looks at the keys on the counter. He looks at her.
" What is this? " He asks.
" Huh? " She says. She looks up.
" What is this? " He repeats. She stares at him blankly.
" Keys. Those are keys. " She says. She speaks slowly and carefully, like she was speaking to a small child. " For room 303. That's on the third floor. Just take the staircase up. "
He stares at her.
" I've never seen you before " He says.
She looks taken aback and slowly she nods her head. " Are you him? " She asks. Slowly, he nods his head.
" But I've never been here before. " He says.
She smiles and locks her fingers over her head. Her elbows straightens. She lets out a sigh.
" It's taken care of. " She says. She drops her arms to her size and returns to the ledger. She glances up at him. He looks at her and opens his mouth, but the words push against his lips and jam up behind his teeth. Suddenly, they seem childish.
" Thank you " He says. He walks toward the stairs
*****Someone had made an attempt to turn down the room, and though this attempt was unsuccessful he appreciated the thought. The room is a small and box-shaped. It is sparse, consisting of a single twin-sized bed, a table and a pair of identical chairs, a miniature refrigerator, a wall-mounted television and a night-stand. At the far edge of the room is a door leading to the bathroom. Adjacent to the bed, there is a set of pull apart door that he presumes is a closet. He enters the room and closes the door behind him. It is dark inside but he makes no motion to turn on the small lamp on the night-stand. He takes off his overcoat and throws it on one of the chairs. It hangs off the back like a moist second skin. He takes off his boots and his wet socks and puts them at the foot of the bed. He steps on the cold floor with his bare feet and reaches over to touch the heating vent below the window. Blessedly, no heat emits from the vent and he smile and sits down on the edge of the bed. He listens to the stillness in the room and beings to think. He thinks about time and his orientation to it. He is aware that time has passed him by, but this is a vague and unformed feeling. He wonders to the number of the year. Of the month and days and hours. He wonders how long had he been gone and how much has change since he last saw the sun. He wonders about the boy and how old he is by now. He wonders if the boy is well and if he had been taken care in his father's absence and if so where was he now.
He remembers the boy as he wants and not as he was when he last saw him. He remembers a serious child with a sorry stare and a proclivity for quiet introspection. He remembers short sandy blond hair, a slight and thin frame and bright blue eyes. He remembers pale skin the color of warm milk. He remembers the fields where a snow had fallen a night prior and how the morning sunlight would reflect the sea of white and haze the air. He remembers the drive to school that morning, with the low hanging sun at their backs as they drove across empty fogged streets. The boy looked at the untarnished snow fields with a solemn expression, thoughts deep and profound. He looked at the boy from the rearview.
" What are you thinking about? " He asked.
The boy looked up from his reverie.
" Can we build a snowman? " The boy said.
" Now? "
The boy nodded.
" No. We can't. "
The boy looked at him.
" We can't build a snowman now. You have school. "
The boy said nothing.
" We're going to be late if we stop now. We have to get you to school. "
The boy looked away and his disappointment filled the car like a silence.
He looked at the road. " I'm going to pick you up today. If you've been good today, we'll build a snowman. "
The boy turned to him and smiled.
He looked at the boy thorough the mirror.
" But that's only if you're good. Are you going to be good, today? " He asked.
The boy nodded.
He smiled and pulled up to the front of the school. He unlocked the back-seat and the boy climbed out. He called out to the boy and leaned over the passenger side. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet and removed a five dollar bill. He handed it to the boy and the boy looked at it for a moment. The boy looked up at him.
" What's this for? " The boy asked.
" You're a young man now. It's about time you get treated like one. From now on, you'll be getting an allowance at the end of this week. This means you'll have to take on some responsibility if you want to earn it. Do good in school. Do your chores at home and I'll give you another five dollars. Are you ready for that? "
Once again, the boy nodded.
" Okay. Be safe. " He said. The boy turned and walked up the path. He watched as the boy was met at the entrance by an woman and with her disappeared into the school. When the doors closed behind the boy, he drove off. And that was the last time he saw the boy that day. He looks up now and sees the man in the corner of the room. Fear grips him. The man steps further into the room. He looks at the man and the man smiles easy. The man is neither thin nor stout. He is neither short nor tall. He is neither handsome or hideous. He wears an unremarkable suit and hat, the color of old porcelain. He looks on a silence.
" Are you? " He asks.
" I am. "