I looked up to see that a woman was approaching my table. I put the menu down and began to stand up when it was clear she was, indeed, coming over to see me. She was about 5'6", not slender but only a troll would call her overweight. Curvaceous, definitely, with olive skin and dark brown hair. She was wearing a snug-fitting black skirt that came just below the knee and a black blouse. A thin black belt with silver buckle defined the point where the skirt and blouse met at the narrowest part of the hourglass. A simple thin silver chain necklace and a big clunky silver watch with a black leather band were the only accessories. A classic look with a bit of funkiness tossed in by the big watch and black leather ankle high boots.
"Oh, don't get up," she said.
I, of course, stood up and with a gesture of my hand suggested that she sit down in the chair to my right. As she nodded slightly and sat I returned to my seat.
I looked at her quizzically and before I could ask her anything she spoke.
"I'm sorry to bother you... but we're leaving in a moment and... well, when you walked in I was certain I knew you. Now, I'm not so sure... shoot, this is embarrassing."
"Don't worry about it," I said, "who did you think I was?"
"Somebody I met a long time ago. William Wilson's his name, but..."
"That's me," I said.
Of course my mind was racing now. I figured that she was about mid-30s so "a long time ago" probably ruled out any relationship. Besides, there's no way I would've forgotten her if we'd ever been together and I was certain I didn't know who she was.
"So I was right! It is you!" She was delighted to have not been mistaken. I was relieved that she was so happy.
"But how, if I may ask, do you know me?" I said.
With that she began to tell me about her first job out of college twenty years ago at a radio station in Atlanta. There had been some problems with the station manager and I had been the guy who came in from out of town to work with him and, as it turned out, eventually fire him. I remembered that whole mess, of course, but sadly didn't remember the then-new receptionist. She forgave me for not remembering her, "Well you had your hands full with all the problems at that place. I was pretty low on the totem pole then."
"Things got better after I put, ______ in there though, right?"
"Oh my god, yes, you were like our hero after that," she said.
"Well, I'm glad it worked out. Hard to believe it was twenty years ago though," I said.
"Tell me about it!"
"Well, you certainly don't look old enough to have been at W___ at that time."
"Thanks, that's sweet, but, yeah, I'm gettin' up there. Just turned forty last month."
"Well, you know my name but I don't know yours."
"I'm Janelle, Mr. Wilson," she said.
"Hello, Janelle, please call me Wil," I said as we shook hands.
We had a bit more conversation until we could hear that the five women at her table were getting up to leave. I had been able to see them over Janelle's left shoulder as we spoke and they seemed very interested in our conversation although I couldn't tell if they'd actually heard any of it.
As we stood up and she started to go with her friends she said, "You'll like the food here. The lunch menu's very good-- sorry I've kept you from ordering." She smiled broadly.
"That's OK Janelle, it was fun to meet you, again. Thanks for coming over to talk. I hope the food's good, I'm staying here all weekend and might be too lazy to go anywhere else."
She looked back at her friends and said to them, "Go on ahead, I'll catch up in a second, OK?"
Smiles and nods greeted that statement and her crew headed across the lobby to the doors leading onto the street.
Janelle stepped back closer to me and put her left hand on my right arm at the elbow.
"I'm feeling really brave today, I guess, but since I was correct about recognizing you, well, I'm on a roll so I'll say this too... people really appreciated that you listened to them and fired that guy back then. And you replaced him with someone who was really great too, so yeah, it was a really good thing what you did. You should know that."
"Thanks, Janelle. It's nice to hear," I said.
"And, I'm not done, (long pause)... ah, no I'm done. Bye."
She turned and walked away. I stood there watching her leave the restaurant and go across the lobby where the doorman nodded as she walked out into the bright sunlight. I saw her stop and pull a pair of sunglasses from her purse. Sunglasses on she walked in front of the big windows without looking back in the hotel even once.
The waitress came to take my order shortly after I sat back down. I ordered a club sandwich and iced tea. It was excellent. I kept thinking about how amazing it was that somebody recognized me from a brief encounter twenty years ago. I thought about how she had left abruptly, getting choked up maybe, I couldn't tell for sure. What was that about? And I also thought a lot about what she looked like from behind when she was striding purposefully. The girl knew how to work a long, tight, slit skirt to her best advantage. Seeing Janelle walk was going to keep me up nights.
As I was signing the receipt for lunch the charming woman from the front desk came over to tell me that my room was ready and, for waiting, they had upgraded me to a mini-suite. My relaxing weekend was off to a good start.