The maid smiled shyly as she retreated. She stopped by the door and blushed. “I am so sorry,” she said, casting her eyes on the floor. “I hope everything is to your satisfaction.”
Shane raised the corners of his lips into a smirk to indicate his amusement. She didn’t know enough to be freaked out, and he was going to wait for a while, too. In fact, he had no intention of letting her know. In the past, he had been careless. He had never had any consequences in mind. Indeed, that would not have been a problem if the incident hadn’t taken place. It was easy to fake remorse, to trick people into believing that he had actually become a better person. But there was the occasional sceptical cop and he had seen the glare as he had signed his release papers. He had also heard the words that the other had uttered under his breath, a warning to his colleague and soon-to-be-released inmate alike. I’ll be watching out for you, bastard. Shane had understood. He had to leave town anyway. Until then, it would probably be to his advantage to steer clear of any strange incidents that may or may not reach the eyes and ears of the police.
“Really, don’t be like that. I don’t mind. Feel free to clean up.”
“I didn’t want to disturb you, sir.” Her eyes were still fixed at the carpet just by his feet. “It’s just that, nobody responded to the knocking and I thought I might get things done early – you know, it’s my son’s birthday and I still have to bake the cake. But I didn’t mean to…”
“Oh, please. One’s family is the most important part of one’s life. I understand. Go ahead.”
“Mr O’Feray, sir…”
“Yes, sir. Would you mind putting on some clothes?”
He stared at her while she fidgeted, still rooted to the same spot. “If you must insist,” he replied and picked up the fluffy white towel, wrapping it around his body. She seemed relieved and finally proceeded further into the room. He stepped out of her way, sat down on the couch and pretended to read. In reality, he was watching her. She was one of the first people who actually cared to respect his privacy – somewhat – since he left prison, and in some strange way, he felt grateful for that.
“Many people coming?”
“To the birthday party.”
“Oh. You know. Some family. Some friends. Nothing special, but we couldn’t afford a party last year, and I’d like to make something special this time.”
Shane nodded slowly. “I’m about to go on a family visit, too,” he told her. “My sister, you know. I haven’t seen her in years.”
“She moved away after our parents died. Tragic death, you know. Unexpected and all. I guess she couldn’t take it, so she just left for good. We haven’t been in contact since.”
“That’s terrible. How did you manage on your own?”
“Oh.” Shane smiled. “There were a lot of people who took care of me.” Indeed. Many of them with guns and other weapons. “But she seems to blame me for all the tragedy in our life. I feel I should go and apologise.”
“I hope you find her. Even though you’re estranged – well, I don’t know what happened, but nothing can be so bad that you’d give up any contact at all.”
“Yes, I suppose.”
He leaned back, turning the page every once in a while without actually looking at it, and stared at the clock on the mantelpiece as she dusted it. Time. Yes, it would be time soon. Time to leave and return to his old life – an enhanced version thereof, as far as he was concerned. He had learned from his mistakes and others’, had gotten many tips from fellow inmates, and in return he had promised to look into a few ‘family matters’ once he got out. He didn’t mind; it was only polite to reciprocate. He had to find something to do with his life. Once the boredom hit – that was the dangerous part, the impulsive part. The red flag that was raised all of a sudden. He didn’t want to go there at the moment. He wanted to take a different approach to life – a more positive, more appreciative one. It was only too bad that he had promised himself to wait until he was out of town. This one, oh, she was a perfect image. Sweet and good-natured, a big generous heart, as far as he could tell. A perfect image that should be frozen in eternity before it got corrupted…
When she left, he gave her a generous tip. “For your son’s party,” he explained as her face lit up. “And for taking the time to talk to me. I haven’t had that much kindness in a long time.”
“Can’t understand why. You seem like a nice enough man.” She hesitated when he took a step back. Nice. “Listen, sir, if you happen to leave town on your way east, why don’t you stop by the party and have a piece of cake? I’m sure nobody would mind.”
He smiled and nodded slowly. “I would like that.”
“Wonderful. I’ll see you then.”
Shane watched her as she took the cleaning cart and wheeled it out of the hotel room into the corridor, on her way to other places to clean. His smile deepened into a malicious smirk. On his way east – and almost outside town.
He’d make this an unforgettable day for the little one and his way too perfect mother.
Oh, he would. Frozen in eternity.