Strangers of the Past: Part XI
Posted on 03/10/2012
Stalking down the hallway from the stairwell, Ameya glared at the anxious bellboy standing near the front door of the hotel. “Where did they go? They are not here.” she asked firmly when he grimaced at her expression. “Please…” she softened her tone as he fidgeted in front of her.
The bellboy sighed. “Your colleague took them. The tourists waited since yesterday but you didn’t show.”
Ameya frowned. Why hadn’t anyone at the office summoned her? She heaved a sigh of her own. “Fine. What did this friend look like?” Her eyes beseeching him to loosen his tight lips and tell her everything. She kept picturing the older woman who had looked at her fondly, and wondered what she would think about her now.
“Tall, light-skinned, yellow hair…” the young man replied, eyeing Ameya suspiciously.
“Millicent…” Ameya stifled a groan, scolding herself for discarding her promise to return for the eager tourists. Not to mention the havoc she would face once she returned to the headquarter office and encounter Warren’s open criticism of her again. “Thank you,” she replied softly and watched as the young bellboy snorted his reply and trudged away.
She walked to the desk where an amused hotel concierge tried to hold back a grin. “Yes Madame,” the man said, eyeing her wrinkled uniform shirt. “May I help you?” he said in perfect English, his gaze silently mocking her.
Ameya wrinkled her nose in reply. “Puis-je utiliser votre telephone? Can I use your telephone?”
The man narrowed his eyes instantly, his smile fading and he cleared his throat. “Oui,” he answered begrudgingly and pointed to the standing phone booth near the entrance of the hallway.
With a nod, Ameya turned on her heel and hurried to the phone. Quickly, she dialed a familiar number and propped it against her ear, while reaching inside her bag for a worn leather notebook. The call connected and she heard excited chatter and laughter on the other end. “Milli, hallo?”
“Enh, hallo? Who is this, please?” a high-pitched voice said in stilted English.
“Milli, c’est Ameya… D’ou es tu? Where are you?”
“Ah, Ameya!” the woman on the other end replied excitedly. “Kisa ki rive ou? What happened to you?”
Ameya sighed. “Long story… Where are you?”
“Fond Doux Estate,” Millicent replied easily, pausing to laugh at something someone had said on her side of the phone. “Eh, Ameya… You in trouble?”
Ameya bit her bottom lip. “Poukisa? Why?”
“Warren say you should come back to the headquarters. Sa k’genyen? What’s the matter?”
“I don’t know. I will find out. Mesi. Thank you.” With a heavy sigh of resolution, Ameya disconnected the call against Millicent’s protests. There was definitely trouble if Warren sent Millicent, a junior tourist to take care of the tourists instead of her.
Rubbing the back of her neck, Ameya trudged past the smirking concierge and out to where her truck sat in the driveway. Climbing into the front seat, Ameya stared bleakly at the blinking engine light as she tried to think up any excuse that Warren hadn’t heard already about why she’d forgotten all about her job responsibilities. Somehow she had a feeling this might be the last excuse he’d want to hear from her.
Jonathan stared at the floor underneath his feet, half-listening to the misplaced comforting words from both his brother-in-law Marcus and Hapta. He kept repeating Warren’s words about Ameya having a son and feeling sick to his stomach with each passing minute. The resolve he’d mustered a few hours ago was weakening quickly and he could do nothing to strengthen himself. Now leaning his back against the cushioned chair that offered as much comfort as his two companions, Jonathan pictured the feisty Ameya in his mind and shook his head. There was now more reason for her to doubt him about what her life was before this. Especially now that a child was involved.
He groaned aloud and covered his eyes with one hand.
Hapta paused in speech at Jonathan’s dismay and glanced up at Marcus. “Maybe we should go to plan B…”
Jonathan didn’t bother lifting his eyes. “What’s plan B?”
Marcus shook his head. “That’s too risky.”
“Nevermind…” Jonathan mumbled and squeezed his eyes shut. “It’s useless.” He dragged a hand over his face.
“Calm down,” Marcus mumbled, glancing over his shoulder at the door of Warren’s office propped open.
The men had followed the Sunrise Tours manager and owner back to his company office while Chief Francis returned to his post at the police station. They listened as Warren dispatched one of the other tour guides to take Ameya’s current gig and asked the eager, wide-eyed bleached-blond young woman to inform Ameya nothing except that she should return to the headquarter office as soon as she could reach her. Apparently, Ameya did not like carrying the mobile phones assigned to each guide.
“She’s a stubborn one, that woman,” Warren said in warning, eyeing the men carefully. “Are you sure you want this trouble on yourself?”
Since Jonathan was stunned to silence, Marcus answered for him instead, confirming their resolve to have Ameya de Jonas as their tour guide. Now Marcus wondered if insisting on a woman who had clearly forgotten all about her old life was a good idea after all. What if she denied their requests?
Hapta rubbed the back of his neck. “If we continue on plan A, you can’t act like this, man.”
Jonathan lowered his hand and frowned up at the man. “Act like what?”
“Like your whole life has just been turned upside down.” He lifted a hand out to stop Jonathan’s protests. “Even if that’s really how it is, imagine how suspicious she’d react by your obvious behavior…”
“Yeah, he’s right,” Marcus piped in. “She’s already not fond of us. We have to keep a professional attitude about this, no matter what the circumstance is.” Inwardly, his heart twisted in sympathy for Jonathan. If Tampa had been in Ameya’s place, he wouldn’t take this news lightly either.
Jonathan turned hurtful eyes to Marcus. “She has a family, Marcus… A son, a husband, and God knows who else in her life.” His lips trembled, eyes stinging from holding back tears. “What could I offer her? What can I say to her? That she’s my wife and I want her to leave with me despite all this?”
“Shh!” Hapta whispered fiercely, gesturing to Warren’s open door.
Jonathan swallowed hard and looked away. “I’m not doing this. Forget it.” He stood to his feet and stepped around the two men who did nothing to stop him. “Tell Warren that we’re calling the whole thing off. “ He reached the front door and twisted the knob. “I can’t do this to her…”
As he pulled open the door, Jonathan’s words faltered at the sight of the very woman who made his heart tremble violently. In front of him stood a very breathless, penitent Ameya dressed in her Sunrise Tours uniform. When she finally registered the tanned man standing on the threshold of the door, Ameya’s famous scowl returned and she stepped back.
“What are you doing here?” Ameya snapped in an accusing tone that stabbed at Jonathan’s weakened resolve. She peered over his shoulder at the two men somberly staring at her. Her eyes widened. “Why are you all here?” Her jaw clenched tightly and she snapped her glare back to the silent man gazing down at her, his incredibly light eyes probing hers. Ameya’s tongue instantly stilled as she stared back at him.
“It’s okay, Ameya…” a deep voice of her manager said from behind Jonathan, causing both Ameya and Jonathan to break their gazes. Ameya glanced over her shoulder again to see Warren standing in front of the other men, a smile crossing his lips. “I have a new assignment for you.”
Ameya frowned. Warren who didn’t hesitate to reprimand her for abandoning her duties at his job was now smiling kindly as if she was his best employee. Unsettled by his words, she shifted her gaze to the men standing behind him. “What is it?”
He had the audacity to chuckle amid the heavy tense air in the room. “Why don’t you come in and we can discuss it with these kind gentlemen?”
Jonathan glanced over his shoulder at Marcus and Hapta who were now silently looking at him with pleading eyes. He swallowed hard and shifted a step backward to let Ameya enter, his eyes now trained on her face.
Jaw still clenched, Ameya slowly stepped into the lobby of the Sunrise Tours headquarter office and stood in the middle of the room, the silent man standing directly behind her. “What is the assignment and what does it have to do with these men?”
Warren nodded, grinning at the two men standing behind him. “She doesn’t waste any time, I told you. If only she was like this insistent on the job.” He turned back to his scowling employee, his grin not wavering. “Ameya, you will be assigned to these men. As their tour guide,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Her surprise was not missed by the three gentlemen and Jonathan pursed his lips, hating that he didn’t protest sooner or firmer. Ameya scoffed. “Says who?”
Warren smiled wider. “Your boss says so.”
“With all due respect, I cannot—will not accept the assignment. I-I already have an assignment, so you can tell Milli to do this one.”
Warren chuckled. “No can do, Ameya. It’s already settled. They requested you and I accepted it in your stead.”
The curling of Ameya’s fists did not go unnoticed by Jonathan and noting at her stiffened shoulders, he felt the rejection of her words hit him hard. What if she rejected his explanation this strongly?