A problem with the tour bus causes a change in plans.
Claire looked out the windshield at the hotel. “I thought we were driving to the next venue.”
He shrugged, “Thought so too. Guess there is a change in plans.”
They both saw the bus doors open. Alicia was the first to step out. She immediately walked over to the RV and waited until Bob lowered the window.
“We’re stopping here for the night because Tony is worried something is wrong with the bus. The oil light came on a couple of miles back.”
“Hope they got rooms for all of us.” Bob answered.
Alicia looked past him and over at Claire, “I volunteered to see if they got rooms. Wanna come with?”
Claire, who was used to everything running according to plan, was momentarily unsure. She glanced at Bob then nodded, “Uh, sure.” She and Bob both got out and joined the others who had exited the bus.
“Man, I hope the bus is okay.” Ray said stretching.
Alicia linked arms with Claire, “Come on. I really hope we can stay here. I’m so ready for a night off the bus.” They crossed the parking lot and entered the hotel.
When they returned about twenty minutes later it was with good news. Alicia passed out the card keys to the rooms. Wearily everyone went back to the bus to grab their bags.
Bob stood looking at Claire a moment then looked down at the card key in his hand. “So are our rooms close?”
Claire was surprised by the question, “I did not get a room. I will just stay in the RV tonight.”
Bob frowned, “Oh come on. Think about it. A nice hot shower, a comfy bed. Much better than the RV.”
“I must stay with the RV.” Claire felt in charge of it during Anna’s absence.
“Why?” Bob asked.
Claire simply looked away.
He was beginning to understand her. “Anna assumed you would drive to the next venue so you think that’s what you have to do. But shit happens. We had to stop for the night. There is no reason you need to say with the RV.” He saw the uncertainty in her eyes, “I’m sure she’d want you to get a room.”
Claire was not sure of anything at the moment. Her concern for Anna right now was overshadowing all other thoughts.
Bob smiled, “Besides I promised her I would look after you.”
This caught Claire’s attention, “You promised her?”
He nodded, “Yep, she was worried about you being alone. I told her that wouldn’t happen. Now you see why I can’t let you stay out in the parking lot.”
Still Claire was unconvinced, “I will be fine.”
He reached out and took her arm, “Nope. You’re staying in the hotel.”
“But I need my bag.” She squeaked.
“Well hurry up woman, go get your stuff.”
A few minutes later after making sure the RV was locked she returned noting that Bob’s duffle bag was at his feet. He reached out and took hers from her hand. Claire walked beside him still not convinced she was doing the right thing.
Once they reached the hotel lobby she was beginning to grow nervous. Anna always made the decisions, she simply carried them out. This was not the plan at all.
Bob set the bags down, “Just wait here. I’ll handle this.”
Claire watched him walk over to the check in desk. For several minutes he spoke to the woman and it was obvious there was a problem. When he walked back over he sighed, “No more rooms. I guess we got the last ones.”
“Oh” Claire sighed, “Well that is fine.” She leaned down to pick up her bag.
“Claire.” Bob’s voice was soft, “I asked about my room. It has two double beds. Why don’t you just stay with me?”
“Oh no.” Claire began shaking her head, “I could not do that.”
He’d been expecting that answer but he had a plan. “Okay so we have some options here. One is you stay with me. Two is you take the room and I’ll stay in the RV or three we both stay in the RV.”
Claire took a deep breath, “No, you stay in your room. I have told you I will be fine in the RV.”
He could see the look of almost panic in her eyes. Suddenly he wondered if she’d ever actually stayed alone before. She was a thirty-year-old woman but judging by the look in her eyes he was beginning to think he was right and once again he found himself wondering about the strange relationship she had with Anna.
“You stay in the RV so do I.” His tone made it clear he wouldn’t budge on the issue, “But it’s kinda silly. I mean I was planning on staying with you when we got to the venue anyway. I don’t see why staying in a room with two beds would be any different.”
Claire felt trapped. What would Anna want her to do in this situation?
“Hey, what’s up?” Alicia had stayed behind while everyone else had gone up to their rooms.
“They don’t have a room for Claire.” Bob explained.
“Oh I thought when we got the rooms you were gonna stay with Bob.” She answered with a shrug. “That’s why I gave him the room with the two beds.”
Claire was feeling overwhelmed.
Bob was watching her closely and could see what almost looked like fear in her eyes. “We’ll do whatever you want.” He said to her softly.
Alicia smiled, “It’ll be fine Claire. Bob will be a gentleman, won’t you Bob?”
He was still watching Claire closely trying to understand her. “Hey, we can rent a movie to watch.”
Claire knew they were both wondering why this was such a big deal to her. She forced herself to make a decision, something she rarely did without Anna’s approval. “A movie sounds like a nice idea.” She tried to smile.
Alicia grinned, “Okay then. Well I guess we’ll all meet up in the morning.” She turned and headed towards the elevators.
Bob continued to look at Claire, “If you’re really uncomfortable with this we’ll stay in the RV.”
His concern for her feelings touched her. “No, we will share the room.” She said slowly.
He nodded and picked up the bags.
Claire insisted Bob shower first. When he came out twenty minutes later his hair was wet and he was wearing his sweats and a tee. He came to a sudden stop when he saw Claire sitting in the middle of her bed her head bowed as she cried.
Concern filled his voice “What’s wrong?” He asked as he sat down beside her.
Claire continued to cry not looking up.
Gently he reached out to lift her face. “Claire, tell me so I can fix whatever it is.”
His words made her cry even more. “I am sorry. You must think I am an idiot. Everyone must think that.”
Be believed he understood, “You mean because it was so hard for you to make a decision about the room?”
She nodded then lowered her head.
“Hey it’s okay.”
“No” She said angrily, “It is not okay. I acted ridiculously. I can not make one damn decision by myself.”
He heard the anger but understood it was not directed at him. “Look I understand. Sometimes a sudden change in plans throws you for a loop. It happens to me too.”
“But you do not,” she searched for the right phrase, “freak out.”
He smiled, “Oh believe me I freak out sometimes.” He reached over and took her hand, “And I think maybe part of the problem is that Anna isn’t here, isn’t it?”
Claire looked up into his kind blue eyes. She was shocked that he did understand, “Anna makes all the decisions.” She looked away, “I feel lost without her.”
Bob wasn’t sure how to respond. Finally he asked softly, “Are you in love with her?”
Claire’s head shot up when she realized what he meant, “I love Anna but not in that way.”
A smile lit his face, “Well that’s good to hear.”
Claire gave him a confused look.
He laughed, “Christ woman. You should have realized by now I’m pretty damn attracted to you. I’d hate to think I was barking up the wrong tree.”
Her eyes grew wide, “You really thought I …loved Anna in that way?”
He shrugged, “Well you two do have a pretty close relationship that I’ve noticed.” He saw how uncomfortable she suddenly looked, “I don’t understand but it’s okay.”
“I owe Anna so much.” She whispered.
Again he wasn’t sure how to respond.
Claire looked up while brushing away her tears, “I wish I could explain but I can not.”
Bob just wanted to see her smile, “Hey, you hop in the shower and I’ll be back in a few minutes. I saw a pizza place across the parking lot. You do like pizza?”
A small smile played at the corner of her lips, “Yes.”
He stood, “Okay then. If you get out of the shower before I get back check out the movies and decide on what you want to watch.” He slipped on his shoes then started for the door.
“Bob” Her voice stopped him. “Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Hun.”
Claire waited until the door shut then allowed herself to smile. He’d called her Hun.
Bob balanced the pizza in one hand and the drink holder in the other as he slipped the card key into the lock. He saw that Claire was sitting on her bed flipping through the channels.
“Decide on a movie?” He asked setting the pizza box down on the bed.
“I did not want to decide alone.” She answered.
Bob sat down on the bed across from her. “Well what are our choices?”
Claire read the list off the TV. Soon they had made a joint decision and as the movie started they were munching on pizza.
“This is so good.” Claire sighed reaching for a second piece.
Bob nodded, “Yep.” He was on his third piece. Every once in a while he’d glance over at Claire. Damn she was so cute with her wet curls.
Claire felt his gaze on her but continued to watch the movie.
Towards the end of the film Bob removed the pizza box from her bed. When the ending credits began to roll he noted that her eyes were heavy.
He stood, “Okay sleepy. Crawl into bed and I’ll cover you up.”
Claire giggled, “I am sorry but I almost fell asleep once.”
He nodded, “Yeah, I saw. I’ve been watching you.”
She crawled up to the top of the bed and Bob pulled the blankets over her. He leaned down and kissed her forehead, “Sweet dreams.” He turned off the TV and lights then crawled into his own bed.
In the darkness Claire stared at the ceiling. She was tired but she couldn’t seem to turn off her brain. She was worried about Anna. She understood how important the trip alone with Gerard was to her but so much could go wrong.
“Go to sleep Claire.” Bob’s voice cut though the darkness.
Claire smiled, “How do you know I am not asleep?”
“I just know.” Bob’s voice was deep and comforting.
Suddenly a loud clap of thunder literally shook the hotel followed by a flash of lightening. Claire gasped out loud. She had an uncontrollable fear of storms.
Bob got out of bed and pushed back the drapes. Another flash of lightening momentarily blinded him. Wanting to see the storm he left them open then got back in bed. “I figured we’d get a storm. When I went to get the pizza I could feel it in the air.”
Claire said nothing but shivered when another loud clap of thunder rattled the room.
Bob sighed and rolled over on his side. When another flash of lightening lit the room he was started to see Claire standing by the bed.
“I am afraid.” She whispered.
Throwing back his covers he gave her a silent invitation. Claire climbed into his bed and he placed the blankets over her letting his arm stay around her. When the thunder hit again he felt her body shake.
“It’s okay.” He whispered softly. “Just a storm.”
Claire turned to lay her head on his chest and he tightened his arms around her. She was shivering with fear.
Anna sat up trying not to awaken Gerard who was asleep on the floor beside her. After they had made love he’d gone to the bedroom and returned with pillows and a blanket so they could sleep in front of the fire. She glanced down and knew by his even breathing he was still asleep.
Quickly she crossed over to her purse and retrieved her cell phone.
Bob pulled Claire closer and gently stroked her hair, “It’s okay, Hun. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Claire tired to take comfort in his words but her emotions were spiraling out of control. Just as another clap of thunder hit her cell phone began ringing.
Bob reached over to the bedside table and snapped on the light. He noticed immediately that Claire looked terrified. He quickly got out of bed and followed the sound of her phone. It was on the desk where she’d left it to charge overnight. He unplugged it and as he carried it over to the bed he glanced down at the screen.
“It’s Anna.” He said softly as he handed it to her.
“Anna” Claire took the phone as she sat up, “What is wrong?”
Anna closed the bathroom door quietly before she answered, “Claire I am fine. Tell me what has you so upset.”
Claire took a deep breath as she tried to calm down. “Uh” She glanced at Bob knowing she had to be careful.
“I can take a walk down to the lobby.” Bob offered assuming she wanted to speak in private.
“Who was that?” Anna asked hearing his voice.
“Bob” Claire answered.
“Oh of course. Have you arrived at the venue?”
Claire realized Bob was still staring at her. As much as she wanted to speak privately with Anna she did not want him to leave. The storm was still raging outside.
“No the tour bus encountered a problem.” Claire nodded for Bob to sit down. “We are at a hotel.”
Anna was momentarily surprised. “Oh, you are also staying in the hotel?”
Claire tried to listen closely to her tone. “Yes. Bob was driving and we stopped with the bus. I chose to stay in the hotel.”
“That is fine.” Anna said softy. “I very understandable choice.”
“You are sure?’ Claire asked needing to be reassured.
Suddenly Anna realized something. “Is Bob staying with you?”
Claire looked down, “I am staying with him. There were no more rooms.” She was shocked a moment later when she heard Anna laugh.
“Claire you are old enough to stay with a man in his room. I take it he is with you right now, listening to this call?”
“Yes.” Another clap of thunder made her shake. Bob moved over to sit on her bed then gently reached over to hold her hand.
Anna became serious, “I do not understand. It is because you are with him you feeling such distress?”
“Oh no.” Claire answered quickly, “There is a very bad storm.”
“I see.” Anna understood immediately what was wrong. She thought a moment then explained in a way she knew Claire would understand, “You must explain to him why you fear storms. Tell him what happened, Claire.”
“I can not.” Claire’s mind was racing.
“I can feel you are very drawn to him. Tell him what happened. He will understand.” She added softly, “The part of the story you can share.”
Claire closed her eyes a moment. She wanted to tell Bob the truth, all of it.
“Claire.” Anna’s voice was now strong and demanding, “Do as I say.”
“Yes, I will.” Claire whispered.
“Good. I will call you tomorrow.” Her voice softened again, “Things are going exactly as I had hoped.”
That brought a surge of relief to Claire. “I am happy for that.”
“Thank you.” Anna whispered. “Goodnight.” With that she disconnected. She closed her phone and quietly pulled open the bathroom door. Anna came to a dead halt when she realized Gerard was standing a few feet away.