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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jimmy and Mrs. Oxford (Part 1)

Jimmy always strived to be the best at what he did. When he accomplished his goals he moved up, whether this was in his job or his personal life.

The Towers was the most prestigious hotel downtown. Jimmy had seen all sorts of "A" list and similar celebrities cruise through these doors.

Besides the popular crowd, there were regulars. Some business travelers, some vacationers and then there were the honeymooners.

It had been over 20 years since Jimmy started working here. He started as a Porter and now he was the Concierge Manager. He had accomplished his goal.

A grey-haired woman walked up to his desk slowly and tapped her nails gently to get his attention. First he looked perturbed and then he smiled once he saw the familiar face. "Ah, Mrs. Oxford! Are you here for your regular visit?" She smiled at him and nodded. He called the bellhop over and had him take her bags up to Room 1015. Every year at this time, Mrs. Oxford's room was set aside and held for her. No one really knew her background or connections, only that every September she had Room 1015 reserved. She would spend 3 or 4 weeks at the hotel. She rarely left except to go out to church on Sundays and the occasional dinner in town. She looked older this time around.

Jimmy escorted Mrs. Oxford to the elevator; she grabbed his arm so tight he thought she was frightened. He looked down at her, smiled and patted her hand. A sense of calm swept over her face.

They stood together waiting for the elevator to return. When the bell chimed and the doors opened Jimmy showed her in, but she would not let go of his arm. She smiled sweetly and he got on the elevator with Mrs. Oxford.

On the way up to the tenth floor Mrs. Oxford began humming a familiar tune. Jimmy smiled and told her that was a beautiful tune she was humming. Her eyes smiled and sparkled.

Mrs. Oxford was mute due to a stroke she had suffered almost 10 years ago. She rarely went anywhere. She had a private residence in the country that was well staffed and managed by her and her youngest daughter Beatrice. The Towers was full of memories for Mrs. Oxford. She made the trip here every September. With the advancing of age she feared memory loss. Years before she'd stay only for a week or two. Now she would emerge herself in memories for a month. She had to; she could not forget the memories that made her life so special.

Jimmy and Mrs. Oxford stepped off the elevator just as the Bellhop was exiting her room. She put her hand out to the young man and he shook her hand gently and tipped his hat and said, "Enjoy your stay Mrs. Oxford." She stopped and held his hand and touched his cheek with her other hand to express her thanks and gratitude. Jimmy walked in before Mrs. Oxford and checked that the room was in order and neat. She walked in slowly behind him. She walked immediately to her luggage and began to fiddle with the clasp on her train case. Her arthritis was flaring up and it was more difficult to open it this time.

Jimmy rushed over and helped her. She opened the train case and pulled out all of these old photos. Some were in black and white, while others were in color. He could not help but notice a black and white photo of a beautiful full-figured and barely clothed woman lying on a bed with a sly smile. It reminded him of an old time Pin-Up shot. He blushed. She noticed Jimmy looking at this picture. She pointed at the picture; specifically the woman and then she pointed her thin finger at herself and winked.

"No way. That is you Mrs. Oxford?"

She nodded "yes". Next she stood up and walked over to the bedroom and taped on the wall and pointed again to the photo. Jimmy walked over and looked at the photo and then the bed, next the wall. He could not make the connection she was trying to show him. She scratched the wall with her nails. He looked again it was the same wallpaper in the photo she was pointing out.

"Was that photo taken here at this hotel?" Jimmy asked surprised.

Mrs. Oxford shook her head "yes" and then pointed to the bed and the floor. Jimmy went over to the desk and pulled out a small notepad and pen and brought them over to her. She sat on the edge of the bed and began to write as best as she could. Jimmy towered over her watching as she put every effort into each pen stroke. Jimmy felt an immediate and strange connection to her. What could it have been that made him sit next to her and be completely engrossed in her story that she penned before his eyes?

He felt like he was falling into a trance, just then his beeper began to ring. He shook and stood up quickly. Mrs. Oxford was a little startled as well. She giggled and folded the little piece of paper and handed it to him. He thanked her and left her room. He placed the paper in his pocket and went back to his station in a hurry. He took the stairs instead of the elevator.

Mrs. Oxford sat in the same spot on her bed that Jimmy left her at. She felt warm all over. She smiled to herself, "this time it was going to be different." She could feel it.

When Jimmy's shift was over he went into the basement locker and changed into his street clothes. It was getting colder much faster this time of year. He stopped by the coffee shop on his way home and picked up a large coffee with a sourdough bagel with fresh butter. He waved to Lou at the newspaper stand.

On the walk home Jimmy thought about Mrs. Oxford and the note she was writing to him. He arrived at his 1920's bungalow home that he was so proud of, especially since he had just completed the restoration. Yet there was something familiar about the house that he could not put his finger on...

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