“Welcome to the Nottingham Road Hotel. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay. Oh, and if you happen to see Charlotte, please tell her that room service is only until 12.”
Nottingham Road Hotel
A cosy home in the Midlands
December 5th, 2012
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I frown, “Excuse me?”
The receptionist smiles, “Never mind, it’s just a joke we make with all our visitors new to the area.” And she turns to the doorman, “Please see to it that our guest is comfortable, will you?”
I take a rosebud from the vase that’s standing on the counter, smell it, close my eyes and taste the aroma. It transcends me to an era long forgotten. I push the bud back in its place, the only yellow rose among the pink ones.
The hotel has 10 rooms, and number nine is allocated to me. I open the windows, inhaling the crisp breeze coming through it. Oh, this is good. I imagine being in the English countryside. I look around, walk to the mirror on the opposite wall, push it level, and suddenly I shudder from an unexpected chill that runs along my spine. I don my jacket and run downstairs for the famous Tiddley Toad served in the Notties Pub.
The barman looks up with a question all over his face, “Seen anything unusual yet?”
I lift my brows in puzzlement, “No, why? Should I have?”
He shakes his head, smiling, “Just checking.”
What’s wrong with these people? First the receptionist, now this guy. I shrug my shoulders and down the Toad.
I think I may have exceeded my limit as I stumble over my own feet, back up to my room. A bell rings in the distance. I hear the wooden floors crack behind me and a lady’s voice whispering: "Hot chocolate serviced to room number 22, please."
I spin around, expecting to see someone there. Nothing. The muscles in my stomach tense into a knot. That’s weird. I could have sworn I heard someone. The door to room number 10 creaks in the silence, closing shut – and with relief, I release the air from my lungs. That figures. I must have had the room numbers wrong.
I open the door to my room. The mirror hangs angled and prickles run up my neck again, pushing the fine hairs erect. I know I had levelled it before I left. I lock the door, undress and let my clothes drop to the floor. I’ll pick them up in the morning, I'm too lazy right now. I plunge onto the comfy bed with a contented sigh, pulling the feather duvet over my ears and drift off to sleep.
I awaken to the birds chirping and I grin. What a wonderful way to wake up. Nottingham Road in winter: frost outside, cracking fire in the hearth, hot coffee brewing. The thought makes me jump out of bed, but I freeze as I look at the floor. My clothes are no longer lying where I had left them last night – they're all folded up neatly on the chair next to the bed. Cold fingers squeeze around my heart.
I walk to the door, checking if it’s still locked. It is. My hands start to shake. No one could have come in while I was asleep. I walk over to the window. No way could anyone climb through here, either. I get into the shower with jelly legs, trying to wash away the cobwebs.
I have the day planned out and go down to the reception desk, checking in for the Ale Trail tour. I walk past the vase of roses. A ‘plonk’ resounds behind me. I spin around and gasp for air as I look to the floor. It’s the yellow rose I had fondled last night. And no one else is in the foyer. My heart thunders against my ribs, my hands shaking.
The receptionist walks in with a broad smile, “Good morning. I trust you had a good night’s sleep?” She stops at the anxious expression on my face, looks down at the rose and giggles. “I see you’ve met Charlotte. She… um… has been our shadow hostess for the last few decades.”
I try to swallow the knob in my dry throat, rubbing away the icy tingle on my arms. And I remember: the mirror, the clothes, the cracking floor, the voice, the wrong room number, the rose…
I sigh, walk to the closest chair and ask, “Please tell me about her.”
The receptionist smiles, “Charlotte was the victim of an unsolved murder 'back in the day', and has remained in residence here: 'charming' generations of the hotel’s owners, staff and guests. She is now part of the family here at the hotel. Actually, she’s harmless and very friendly. That’s why we've never even considered calling the ghostbusters!”
I shake my shoulders, throwing the chills of my back and laugh, “A thrilling experience, indeed.”
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