“Hola?” I heard someone say from beyond a door at the back of the office. It was open a crack and I could hear shuffling. I made a quick prayer that this person spoke English.
To my surprise a young woman with brown hair piled on top of her head poked her head through the door. The minute she saw me, her eyes widened and she came hustling out, a stack of papers in her skinny hands.
“Miss Miles!” she exclaimed in a British accent.
I frowned. “Yes?” As if I didn’t know who I was.
“Oh my god,” she went on, her forehead furrowing with concern. “The bus just left.”
“What?!” I threw my head back and groaned loudly. It was actually quite loud. I probably sounded like a lion in heat. “Fuck.”
“Don’t worry,” the woman said, throwing the papers on the desk and picking up the phone. “I’ll call the bus, I can stop him for you.”
Oh god. This was just what I needed. Everyone is already on the bus, getting to know each other and making friends and small talk and whatever the fuck, then I show up and slow everything down. Vera Miles with her tattoos and crazy hair, here to make things more difficult.
The woman held the receiver to her ear and continued to talk to me. She was pale with big round eyes, a gaunt face and some freckles. “Don’t worry, they haven’t gotten far.”
“I though the orientation was at two,” I said, trying vainly to defend myself. God damn it my backpack was heavy. I took it off and placed it on the floor with a thunk. My shoulders screamed with the freedom.
“The orientation is at the resort,” the woman said, her eyes seeking the ceiling as the phone rang audibly on the other end. “The bus pick-up was at two.”
“And you boarded the bus that fast?” I asked, as if they were the ones at fault. “What about waiting around for me? I mean, didn’t you know you were missing someone?”
She nodded, mouth open. “We did. We called your cell. There was no answer.”
“I was in the metro,” I said feebly. “You see, my flight was late and then I didn’t have the right directions because I downloaded the new Nine Inch Nails instead and then it was really hot and I got confused…”
She wasn’t listening to me. “Yes, Manolo, hola, hello. We have Vera Miles here, she just showed up.” I could barely hear Manolo’s Peanuts-type squawking on the other end. The woman nodded. “Yes, but she’s here. Hold the bus and I’ll come meet you.”
Oh god, this was even worse than I thought.
She hung up the phone and snatched her keys off of her desk. “Come on, I’ll give you a ride.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” I said breezily, as if she was just dropping me off at my house when I normally walked instead. Suddenly I felt like maybe this whole thing was a bad idea after all. Maybe instead of spending a month at an all-paid for resort, I could just slum it in Madrid, hiding my tail between my legs until I got home. Of course, I’d probably end up working the streets…
“Forget it, it’s fine,” the girl said. It was only then that I realized she never smiled. It wasn’t that she was angry but that her skinny face seemed always frozen in a state of perpetual shock—eyes wide, mouth open. She reminded me of Shelly Duvall in The Shining.
“How did you know my name?” I asked, bending down to pick up my backpack. I looked at my chest and realized I was giving her quite the cleavage shot. I wiped my hair out of my face before I swung it up on my shoulders. “You know, when I first came in.”