Catherine didn’t crack a smile at Vera upon being introduced. Instead, she swiftly moved toward Owen and gave him a quick slap in the face before trudging through the turnstile doors to get some much-needed air to cool down.
Catherine’s exit left a breeze, with Vera and Owen’s hair blown back against their heads. Owen gave a wink to Vera.
“It’s already working,” he whispered.
“Why is she even getting married?”
“She’s been with him forever. She’d feel guilty if she left him.”
And if she left him for Owen, it’s not like she’d never encounter him again. Suddenly, Vera realized that this “him” was another sibling to her. Her very own half-brother.
They had reached the hotel elevator. Owen pressed the “Up” arrow button and they both entered the compartment.
“Hold the elevator,” said a male voice.
Vera looked up to see a man that looked a little like Owen–dark hair, tall, and with an air of “money.”
“Charlie,” said Owen. They shook hands.
“And who’s this?” said Charlie, who was referring to Vera.
“Denise, my lady friend.”
Vera shook hands with Charlie, and they rode up the elevator. Weird. She was in an elevator with the brothers she never knew she had.
“You meet Catherine yet?” said Charlie.
“Yes,” said Vera, recalling the slap. “She’s just . . . lovely.”
“Right? I’m a lucky man. So what do you do, Denise?”
“I’m a blackjack dealer in Vegas.”
“Cool.” Charlie was polite enough, but she knew he was judging her faux-profession, as his eyes grew sad and calculating. She wondered what he’d say if she had said she was a librarian. Or–better yet–a Loan Some escort that provides fabricated friendship to the lonely.
“I’m so happy to have you here, Owen. You have no idea how much this means to me.”
“Where else would I be? You’re my brother.”
This is a painful elevator ride, Vera thought. Not only did she feel uncomfortable with the idea of these two men being her brothers, but she also hated thinking that by the end of the week, relationships could be shattered.
They got off on level 4.
“I’ve got to make a few calls, some last-minute things for Catherine. Great to meet you,” Charlie said to Vera, before heading off in the direction toward his hotel suite.
Vera followed Owen toward their room.
“He’s very nice,” she said. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“We’re in love,” he said, while sliding his hotel card in the door. After the red light on the door blinked, Vera followed him in.
“Are you sure?” she said. “Maybe it’s just lust. The idea of the forbidden. You know, in Nabokov’s Lolita—“
“I don’t want to hear it.”
Inside, the suite looked more like a luxurious apartment than a hotel room. There was a work desk area with one of those green library lamps and a computer. Plus, the artwork was not tailored for the everyman: It was classic Playboy issues framed quite beautifully.
Vera pointed to these and grimaced to Owen.
“My request. Ask, and ye shall receive.”
Then, Vera stumbled upon an area that took her breath away. A library. This hotel room had one, complete with an inviting fainting couch for lounging and reading. Vera neglected her drag bag and grabbed a copy of A Visit from the Good Squad, lying back on the couch and relaxing with the turn of the first page.
“I’m gonna jump in the shower,” said Owen. “Make yourself at home. Although I see you already have.”
Just as Vera was about to dive into Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize winner, she heard something ring in her bag. Like a phone. Vera had forgotten Cole said he was going to pack her one before they left.
Following the noise from her drag bag, she finally discovered it in the front pocket.
“Hello?” she said.
“How’s it going?” It was Cole, obviously.
“Owen got slapped by Catherine after one look at me. And this suite is out of this world. It has a library!”
“That sounds awful.”
There was a knock at the door.
Vera ventured to the suite door, looking through the peephole to see who it was. Who was knocking on the door? Please return to the top of this episode to vote on what happens next!