GirlsGone Wild. Well,that was how I thought of it as we landed in dazzling Las Vegas. I was a little nervous though, because it was one of the first times I’d traveledoutside of the Big Apple. By plane at least. Most other trips had taken place in cars, motorhomes, oh, and once on a motorcycle. That was a day to remember, andat the same time,it was a day I wanted to forget in equal measure. As we waited to get to our destination, Michaela and Donna chatted away like two raving lunatics. Drinking on the plane wasn’t the best thing to do, in my opinion. Going to the bathroom every couple of minutes was bad enough, especially when you got there with your legs crossed and the sign said, “Engaged.”
I was busy thinking of the motorcycle trip. Travis said to hold on tight. That was never something he needed to doubt… because I was absolutely, fully, desperately petrified. He wrongly mistook this as affection, rather than me hanging on from the fear of falling off, and I had quite-literally been terrified about rolling down the street like a tumbleweed in a gale. Even now, I get shivers down my spine when I think about how scary it was.
I looked up and came back into reality. The smiling hostess said we were free to leave the plane. I put my hand on Donna’s shoulder as we exited the busy sea of people. “Have a nice trip and enjoy your stay,” the hostess said as I reached the front door and the tunnel.
How polite and well-dressed they were in their flashy, yellow, safety jackets. I was actually impressed. We walked through the terminal and made our way toward the security desks. There was a bit of a line. However,they couldn’t be too careful with all the terrible things going on in the world. Terrorism had made life hard for every traveler in the sky.
As we walked through the terminal,I looked aboveme. They’ddone a magnificent job of advertising Las Vegas, while not making the airport appear trashy. Above where we walked there was a mural of all things associated with the tinsel town. It looked glorious, fabulous even. I guessed it was based on a nineteen-sixties design and had all the big casino names and stars of that incredibleera. Frank Sinatra, Elvis --I’m all shookup, and the piano god himself, Liberace.
I stood with my toes on the exactedge of the yellow line as the instruction said to do. I always liked rules. You couldn’t go wrong if you knew what was expected of you. I waited patiently as Donna slid her passport to the friendlysecurity man who sat in his small cubicle. Donna leaned on her elbow and twirled her gum around her finger.
My turn. I skipped excitedly to the guard and handed him my identification. I clamped my hands together and smiled. I hoped that traveling nerves didn’traise their suspicion, or they might’ve thought I’d smuggled something.
“Business or pleasure?” he asked as he scanned my face.
“All pleasure. It’s my first big trip out of New York, unless you count the time on a motorcycle, and…” I said, cutting myself short. I realized there was still a line of people also waiting behind the yellow line.
“Come on will you!” Donna yelled.
I smiled at the security guard. “BFF, you know what they’re like. Overexcitedand keen to hit the Strip, as I suppose you call it around here.”
“Have a nice trip.” He looked at my ID. “Sienna,” he replied, sliding my ID back under the glass.
I jogged as quickly as I could with my travel luggage wobbling from one wheel to the next. We stepped on the travellator and made our way to get our luggage.
“What number of roundthing are we at?” Michaela asked.
Donna laughed. “Carousel.”
A flash of color appeared before us as we reached the top of the escalator that led to the baggage claim. It wasn’t understated by a long chalky line. Gold, backlit stars sat on grey metallic paneling that were situated to the sides of a broadyellow Welcome To,and underneath were massivered and yellow letters that only spelled one thing. Allin caps… LAS VEGAS. As if anyone wouldn’t know where they were at this point of their holiday.
Michaela looked at me in a playful, but stern manner. “Okay,Miss Smarty Pants, just cause youse heducatedan’ all that,” she replied, in the worst, possible, fake accent I’d ever heard.
I stood leaning on the handle of the cart. MichaelaandDonna sat waiting for our cases to pop from the big hole in the wall. Donna threw her arms into the air like a soccer player who’d missed an important goal. She hated waiting for anything, even coffee.
As we waited,I looked around and up. The enormousconcrete columns reached high to the roof and must have been (approximately)forty or fifty feet. It was at that point that I stood in awe, with my head craned upward and looking at each of the bluey-white lights that shone around each column. The color scheme all had a tint of blue or gray. Shiny gray tiles (two-tone) with a mottled effect, polished stainless steel, and all the signage which mostly looked like blue neon. One thing stood out from the blue and silver theme. I turned my head and noticed a flash of red and white. Wow!
“Hey girls. Look up!” Donna and Michaela ignored meentirely.
I stood underneath a plane that hung from the ceiling. Typical, it was to advertise. “The Hacienda Hotel.”
“Yes! Here we go,” Donna squealed as our cases magically came one after the other. That was very surprising. I thought we might have had to wait until near the end. That must be so painful, the thought your case might be left back in the city.
As we ambled closer to the luggage desk, I noticed other things that increased in numbers. The airport was home to a seriousamount of slot machines. I wonder how many people have lost big time, without even leaving the airport?
We walked to the Nothing to Declare,green light. I had nothing in my case to actually declare, butI still had that feeling of apprehension. What if someone had tampered and slipped something inside? One of those harmfuldrugs… or something desperately illegal.
“Excuse me, Ma’am,” the luggage checker said as I started walking through the gate.
“Yes!” I squealed ina mouse-likevoice.
“Can I check your bags please?” he said. I gave a nod to signal my permission.
He walked from behind the counter and lifted my case onto the countertop. He asked me for the combination, soI gave it to himwithout attempting to open it myself. I stood watching with clammy hands. He openedthe case and folded back the top half. I watched nervously as he rummaged through my clothes. I closed my eyes.
No! Not my underwear, please.
The guard gave a cough. I sensed that was a signal of some kind, and then he pushed his hand inside my panties pile. Oh boy,that’s a first. Airport security hadtheir hands inside your panties before you left the airport. Weird.
Donna and Michaela stood inside the sliding doors and waited there. Donna looked annoyed, as per usual. I guessed it was rather hot outside. The sun streamed through the doors, and as I got there after my weird search by the bag guy, we all slipped our sunglasses over our eyes.
The doors parted, andit was hot, sweltering hot. “My word, it’s warm,” I said.
Donna huffed as she fought to stand her case on its end. She sat and slumped her shoulders in half-defeat. “You mean it’s freakin’ hot! Just say it, Sienna. Christ, sometimes you can be so naïve.”
“Donna… Donna… Donna. You know we shouldn’t use a wordlike that.”
Donna stood and spread her arms. “Fuck it, woman, we’re in Vegas.”
I looked over my shoulder and bowed my head a little. I was slightly embarrassed at her gung-hoattitude. I’d hoped this trip wasn’t going to be a mistake. First real vacation and my friends ruin it for me. I hoped not. They could be selfish, sometimes. I didn’t really understand why.
Michaela waved a cabbie who pulled up. The cabbie opened the trunk and squeezed our cases into the back. “Where you going?” he asked. I turned to Donna and Michaela. I saw they had no idea what the name of the place was.
I shook my head and tutted under my breath. “The Queen’s Hand.”
“Nice place. It’s not the largest place in the world, but it’s got everything you girls will need,” the cab driver explained, politely.
Donna leaned on the front seat. “Mister, you know if it’s got a pool?” He gave no answer as he sang to a Jamaican-inspired song on the radio. I don’t think he heard her, to be honest.
The cab pulled out from the airport and headed down the Strip. Hechatted with Donna as her lips smacked while she lovingly chewed on her gum. I heard him say the motel had a rooftoppool, which was convenient. One elevator ride from the second floor to the roof, and all that sunbathing. I imagined us all sipping on exotic cocktails while tanning and relaxing.
I leaned my head against the window and looked at all the obscure motels and casinos we passed as we made our way to Fremont Street. I’d done some research, andThe Queen’s Hand was the top end of motelsthat wasn’t on the Las Vegas Strip. If it hadn’t been for the fact we gained a significantdiscount,we might’ve ended up nowhere near the hub of activity at all.
“No more Tanby and Tanby for a while. I can forget all that number crunching,” I said to Michaela.
“Why did you go into accounting in the first place? You gotta admit, it’s not very girly, isit?Look at Donna. She’s the epitome of femininity, and she has the perfect job to show it off.”
I sat with a really puzzled expression on my face when I turned to look at Michaela and answer. “Donna works in a shoe store.”
“What was that?” Donna said, turning her head from chatting with the cabbie.
I smiled at her. “Nothing, we were just commenting on how feminine you are.”
Donna smacked her lips in response and finished by blowing me a kiss. “Yeah-right! I come from the Bronx, you think I’m gonna be ladylike?”
Michaela turned to me and smiled. “What did I tell you? What an absolute lady.”
The cab pulled to the front of The Queen’s Hand. A valet opened the trunk and pulled out the cases and loaded them onto a cart. With a wide smile, he wheeled them through the front door of the motel.
We stood and looked at the frontage. It was very-much understated because it was right onthe corner. The entrance sat under a golden-litcanopy with the words emblazoned like sequins. It looked amazing as each letter twinkled with silver, sparkling lights.
“I have to say. The service is excellent. How helpful theyall are,” I said as we walked toward the foyer.
Immediately, I saw that the inside was a little more glamorous, a blast from the past, in a way. White marble floors that were in layedwith smaller ebony colors at the corner of the floor tiles. The counter appeared to be real cream marble, and it had decorative circles embellished down the full length of it. I then looked up. The ceiling was covered in mirrors and lights.
We checked in and found out that we were, in fact, booked in on the second floor. The valet wheeled the cart to the elevator and smiled politely as he walked us to the room. He slid the key in the lock and pushed open the door.
Donna entered first, as usual, and it made sense because she’d always been the assertive one.Andthen, Michaela and I walked in after her. I was pleasantly surprised how clean and inviting it felt. The room looked lovely. Two, large, double beds (two of us were to share) and funky-colored, striped drapes. Apart from that, the furnishings looked top quality and were dark oak, mostly. Atop the drawers sat a large flat screen for the times when we weren’t lounging around by the pool.
The valet politely coughed. I sensed he was waiting for a tip. I reached intomy bag and pulled out ten dollars and slid it into the palm of his hand. He left.
“You tipped him?” Michaela asked.
“Of course. Statistics say that people in this line of work rely on…” I attempted to say.
“Of course they do,” Donna butted in, as she focused on looking out of the window.
Michaela started to strip. “I’m not sure about you two, but I’m going up to the roof pool to do a little evening swimming.”
Donna yelled with excitement. “I’m coming with you. Sienna, you gonna come, or what?”
“I’ll give it a miss. I’m going to have a walk around downstairs and check out the amenities.”
“Suit yourself, you know where we are.”
The door slammed as the two girls headed upstairs, nearly immediately. I changed into something a little more casual. I shoved twenty dollars into my pocket with the room keys, and then I headed back down to the ground floor.
I looked at the large notice board and read what was on offer. It was easy to see that for the hustle and bustleand free music, we’d definitely chosen the right place. Fremont Street staged the free Downtown Hoedownthis week, which might be fun.
I tilted my head back as I heard screams billowing in shrieks from the gaming room. It sounded as if someone just won a jackpot on one of the slot machines. I was tempted. My pocket had a twenty that itched to be changed and join in the fun. I liked gambling… in moderation.
I left the cashier window with a paper cup full of coins and strolled around the slots. By the time I’d reached halfway down the container,I thoughtI wouldn’t win.
Not the jackpot, although coins streamed out from the machine. I happily filled the cup, and then some. I headed back to the cashier’swindow and converted them all to chips. My twenty had now become fifty.
I walked around the tables. Poker —too hard. Craps —I really had no idea how to play. So, as if by magic, I found myself at the roulette table. I knew this was pretty simple. Pick a number and place your bets as the croupier called out each time he spun the wheel. I stuck to red and black —being an accountant I hedged my bets against losses, and slowly increased my pile of wonderful chips.
Suddenly, I felt that someone was watching me. I looked up and saw a familiar face. I kept my head bowed as I glanced from the corner of my eye. A little older than me, with short, dark hair. Piercing brown eyes. Where did I recognize himfrom?
Think, think. Oh… Shit. He’s coming this way.
The apartment building?
Oh boy! He’s coming to me.
I felt a warmth pursue my face. I kept my head tilted as the croupier slid another few chips in my direction.
Elevator. He’sthe guy who goes past floor two. It’s…it’s…floor four.
I recognized the guy. He lived in the same apartment building as me in New York. I noticed his face in the polished stainless steel of the elevator. He leaned on the rear wall and looked cool, calm and collected.
Tanby and Tanby. He worked at the same firm as me. The guy with the smoldering good looks and rugged, handsome features.
It’s…it’s… that hotshotlawyer. It’s Benjamin Barker. In my motel, in Vegas. At myroulette table. Walking toward me. Oh God!
He sidled up at the side of me.
He must’ve seen that I’d recognized him. Who wouldn’t recognizethe one and only Benjamin Barker? All the girls swooned in the office when he was around.I wondered why he was here. In Vegas, at the same time.
“Benj…” he started to say with a smile. I impolitely butted in. More from nerves than being ignorant.
“Sienna. We live in the same apartment, I’m floor two, and you’re… um,” I said.
I then mentioned we worked at the same firm (Tanby and Tanby) and he asked if I was a guest at the motel. He smelled divine. A mix of peppermint and strawberry that made my nose feel tickly.
He smiled. “Well! Isn’t that a coincidence?” he chortled.
Isn’t it just.