Elkie trusts Don absolutely. He’s a cross between a boyfriend and a father, though Elkie knows boyfriends and fathers aren’t supposed to be the same thing, and he’s not at all like a regular client. But then one Sunday he doesn’t show up. She knocks on the door of his usual room at the Radisson by John Glenn International and doesn’t hear the familiar plodding of Don’s feet, his gravelly voice telling her to hold her horses. She texts him, Are you here? I have that spring break thing at seven. She counts to ten, then twenty. She is sweating into a bustier-and-panties set by Agent Provocateur. Don fails to appear.
She examines the door. A Do Not Disturb sign is tucked into the keycard slot, which could mean Don doesn’t want to be disturbed and could mean he hasn’t checked in yet. Maybe his wife has discovered Elkie and Don’s emails, their texts, and is listening to Elkie’s voicemail right now. She could threaten divorce, threaten to take the kids. Don always tells Elkie his wife is the worst kind of gold-digger.
She checks her phone. After five. She really does have to meet with the Ohio State Spring Break Service Club at seven tonight, at her apartment with her mother and grandmother, her friend Brianna, who is the club’s secretary, and the other members—young people looking to pad their CVs before applying to med school or law school. They’re going to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation this March to build straw bale homes for indigent Oglala Lakota. Elkie is the club president.
She knocks again, then she presses her ear against the door, over the peephole. She closes her mascaraed eyes and wrinkles her nose and concentrates, not sure what she expects to hear. Don may or may not be on the other side, snoring in one of the cozy Radisson armchairs. He may or may not have his face planted in the red Radisson rug, his body twisted in some freak fall. Don has young children, but he’s no longer a young man. He’s sexy the way George Clooney is sexy, with graying temples. Sexy, but when she’s riding him he’s been known to growl, “Try not to blow out my hip,” in a way that’s both playful and serious.
She pulls back from the peephole, then she texts Brianna, because she texts Brianna after each appointment to make it known that she’s fine. Only this time, instead of texting, I’m fine, Elkie writes, Don’s a no-show, and Brianna writes back right away: Men.
Elkie’s phone says it’s five-ten. She’ll call Don. She’ll get in touch later.
Brianna sends a second text, Come home early? I made cookies. Brianna is forever plying Elkie with carbs, which Elkie can’t have because she’s watching her weight. Her clients always tell her how skinny she is, how sexy and skinny.