“Welcome to The Laelynn,” a man said pleasantly as he opened the metal gates, a thick Spanish accent accentuating his words. His white shirt was opened at the collar and neatly tucked into his gray pants. On the left side of his chest was a pin; two concentric black circles.
He extended his hand and pointed up a set of brick stairs. “Please, follow me,” he said, standing up onto the first set of steps. “You can leave your bags here and our staff will be pleased to take them to your rooms.”
The Laelynn was an impressive building. Five stories high and its tallest peaks seemed to cut the sky open with their sharp points. The brickwork around the windows was intricate, but curiously, all the windows were barred.
The grounds surrounding the hotel were well manicured and full of bright flowers. Tall trees surrounded it, and tiny shrubs lined each of the walkways leading from the main entrance. The perimeter wall was covered with thick vines.
“What’s with the bars?” Alan asked, pointing towards them.
Reena shrugged. “Maybe security?”
He nodded as he looked around the property.
“It’s a nice feeling knowing we’ll be safe this week,” Reena reasoned.
He nodded again, seemingly taken aback by the imposing nature of the hotel. “It feels more like a gated community than a resort,” he said, looking towards her.
“It does, but -” She was interrupted mid-sentence by the concierge from the main gate.
“Please, come this way,” he said, beckoning them.
They followed, briefly stopping to notice a symbol on the façade of the hotel, just above the entrance. Two concentric black circles. The same as the concierge’s pin.
“Excuse me,” Reena said, pointing to the symbol. “What is that design?”
He looked at it and smiled. “Oh, it’s just a design that the owners came up with long ago,” he said.
Alan looked at Reena and raised his eyebrows.
The inside of the hotel was filled with modern paintings and furnishings. The white and grey tiled floor sparkled as the sunlight from the windows fell on it, nearly blinding them.
Imposing archways lined the hallway that led to the first level rooms, and as Alan looked down them, they seemed to stretch forever.
“It seems so humble,” he said, turning towards Reena.
She laughed and continued following the concierge.
As they approached the desk, she thanked him for his help.
“No problem,” he said, “I was happy to help.”
As he turned to walk away, she stopped him. “What’s your name?” she asked.
“My name is Luis,” he said as he hurried away, following another set of guests down one of the hallways.
“Next please,” the woman behind the desk said, ushering for them to come forward.
“Hola!” Alan said as he stepped towards the desk.
The woman laughed. “Buenos tardes!” she said. “A little Spanish goes a long way in Mexico, but every staff member at the hotel is fluent in English as well.”
Alan laughed and made a gesture to wipe his forehead. “That’s good, because I’ve already exhausted my Spanish.”
“What name is the reservation under?” she asked.
“Mr. and Mrs. Trino,” he said.
The woman typed for a moment and then turned around and grabbed a stack of papers. She handed them to him. “Here are your room keys, our welcome package, information related to all of our activities, and your wi-fi password.” She continued. “Also, we would like to let you know that hotel policy states that if you leave the grounds and venture into private land, we are no longer responsible for your well-being. Do either of you have any questions?”
They shook their heads. “Not at the moment,” Reena said, turning to look down the hallway.
“Well then, let me find Luis and he can show you to your room,” the woman said before she disappeared down the same hallway Luis went down.
“What do you think?” Alan asked Reena.
“It’s nice,” she said, a question mark almost audible in her response.
He shuffled his feet. “You don’t like it?”
“I do,” she said. “I’m just a bit tired from the flight and the bus ride. John and Lily didn’t exactly take the hint that eyes being closed means someone typically wants some sleep.”
He laughed. “I’m a bit tired too,” he said, glancing at his watch. It was three-thirty. “Why don’t we unpack and see about a nap, then we can have dinner and take a walk to the beach.”
She nodded. “That’s a good plan.”
After a few more minutes, Luis came hurriedly around the corner.
“My apologies,” he said, looking behind him at the receptionist, who was staring at him disapprovingly. “I’m new here and I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have left you so soon.”
Reena touched his forearm. “There’s no need to apologize,” she said, noticing that the receptionist was still watching him. “Really, there’s no need to be sorry.”
“Come with me and I’ll show you where your room is,” he said, guiding them towards an elevator across from the main desk.
“So, Luis,” Alan said, as they stood inside the elevator. “How long have you been here?”
He cleared his throat. “I’ve been here for three months,” he said, rubbing his hands against his pants.
“Is your wife here, too?” Reena asked, motioning towards the wedding ring on his left hand.
“Oh,” he said, twisting the wedding band. “No, unfortunately. She passed away just over three months ago. It’s just my daughter, Ava, and I. She just turned five.”
Reena sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay,” he said. “She worked in the hotel actually.”
Alan looked at him curiously.
“There was an accident and she died. It was just off the grounds.”
Reena looked at him sympathetically.
“After her funeral, I was offered her job by Hugh,” he said, as the elevator opened at the top floor.
Reena stepped up to Luis’ side as they walked. “So, after your wife passed away, Hugh hired you to fill her position?”
He laughed. “It does sound a bit strange, but yes, that’s what happened. Hugh offered it to me and now my daughter and I live and work here.”
Reena stopped as he turned towards them.
“You live here?” she asked.
“We all do. All of the hotel staff live on the basement level.”
She looked at Alan and frowned. “The basement?”
“Yes,” Luis said. “It’s actually very nice down there. We all have our own rooms, there’s no rent, and we’re never late for work.” He laughed to himself.
As he inserted the master key card into their door, Alan heard a faint growl behind him. He turned and saw a German Shepherd, walking backwards from him. He moved a bit closer and the dog turned, showing a large cut several inches long in its neck that appeared fresh. He took another step and the dog turned and ran down the hallway, disappearing behind the corner of the wall.
“Please,” Luis interrupted, touching Alan’s elbow. “This is your room.”
He nodded and stepped through the doorway.
Inside, they were greeted by a bright and spacious room. The bed was king size, dressed in crisp white sheets with a bouquet of bright red and pink flowers on top of it. At the side of the room was a desk with a phone, and on either side of the bed was a nightstand. A large dresser sat against the wall across from the bed.
“Is there anything I can get you?” Luis asked.
“No, I think we’re good,” Reena said as she looked through the room.
He nodded and turned to leave. “Oh,” he said, “just a reminder, breakfast is offered downstairs in the dining room from seven until nine, lunch is offered from eleven until one, and dinner is offered from five until seven.”
“That sounds great,” Alan said, lifting his suitcases onto the bed.
Luis smiled and turned, walking through the doorway and shutting the door gently.
They spent the next half hour unpacking their suitcases; filling the dresser drawers with their clothing, and then arranging everything the way they wanted it.
“It’s nap time,” Reena announced as she closed the closet door.
Alan nodded and climbed into bed, shuffling beneath the blankets. He held them up and looked at her. “Are you coming?” he asked, shimmying his shoulders.
She smiled and set an alarm for an hour before swinging her feet under the covers and resting her head on the pillow. Within minutes, both of them were sleeping.
Reena blinked and rolled over, noticing Alan staring at her.
“Hello, Sleeping Beauty,” he said, yawning loudly.
“What time is it?” she asked, sitting up in bed.
“It’s six. I let you sleep a little longer,” he said, moving his feet to the floor as he yawned again. “Did you have good dreams?”
She paused for a moment. “I don’t think I even dreamt,” she said, slowly getting out of bed. “Did you have a good sleep?”
He shook his head. “Not a great one.”
She frowned. “That’s too bad. We’ll try and get to bed earlier tonight then,” she said, standing and looking out the windows which gave a view of the front grounds. The security bars were a nuisance for the view.
“Are you hungry?” he asked, walking to her side.
“I’m starving.” She rubbed her stomach. “Let’s go down and get something to eat.”
They each put some comfortable clothing on and left the room.
Alan recalled the dog he had seen and paused, wondering what happened to it.
“Are you coming?” Reena called to him as the elevator door opened.
He nodded and followed, slipping past her as she glanced to where he had been looking.
“What did you see?” she asked, letting the elevator doors shut.
“Nothing,” he said, brushing off an uneasy feeling.
On the fifth floor, the doors opened and Luis stepped inside. He greeted them with a bright smile.
“Hola!” he said. “Did you get all of your belongings unpacked?”
Reena nodded. “Yes, we did.”
He smiled. “That’s good. Now it’s dinner time?”
“We’re both starving,” Alan said.
“The dinner here is a very good one,” Luis said, turning towards the door as the elevator slowed. “It’s buffet style, more food than you can imagine.”
The door slid open and he exited, turning around quickly. “The dining room is down this hallway,” he pointed. “Take a left and then a right at the end of that hallway. Enjoy your dinner!”
They followed his directions and found the dining room. It was empty, except for two other tables with two people at each, and they chose a seat next to one of the barred windows that looked out onto the surrounding wall of the hotel.
Reena set her phone down and turned towards the food, which sat on large tables covered by heat lamps.
“Are you coming?” she asked Alan, who was seemingly staring off into space.
He nodded and followed her. They both admired the selection of food and quickly served themselves, rushing back to their table to eat. It was divided into cuisines; Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and American. At the end was a section dedicated to desserts.
They decided to take a walk to the beach. The sun was setting to their left, and it illuminated the road to the beach in dark orange and yellow light.
“This is beautiful,” Reena said, grabbing Alan’s hand and swinging both of them together.
“Not as beautiful as you,” he said meaningfully, pulling her hand up and kissing the top of it.
“What should we do tomorrow?” she asked him.
“We should go to Sun Garden Resort and see what the shopping is all about,” he said, noticing someone walking out of a driveway up ahead.
“That’s a good idea,” she said. She also noticed the man up ahead.
As they got closer, they saw that he was wearing one of the uniforms from the hotel, complete with the pin on his chest.
He greeted them. “Hola! How are you two this evening?”
They nodded in unison. “Very well, thank you.”
The man bowed his head slightly and stood in place, watching them as they kept going.
“I wonder what he’s doing out here?” Reena said as she took her eyes from the driveway and looked out onto the ocean. The movement of the waves was hypnotizing, and the smell of it was relaxing.
Alan turned and looked behind him. There was a truck parked further back, which hadn’t been there before. He saw the shape of a figure in the driver’s seat.
“That’s odd,” he said. Reena followed his gaze. “That wasn’t there when we walked past, and if he drove up, he was quiet about it.”
“That’s a little strange,” she said, not seeming to care.
As they approached the beach, another hotel employee walked by. She nodded at them and kept walking up the road towards the hotel.
“Let’s go closer to the water,” Alan said, stepping towards it. He reached down and removed his sandals. He stepped into the moist, cool sand and pushed his feet far in.
Reena did the same, enjoying the feeling of the sand between her toes. The chill of it felt relaxing.
He noticed a bench further up the beach and pulled her hand as he started walking to it. They sat down and looked out over the ocean. The waves crashed lightly as the sky became darker towards the east.
He put his arm around her and she leaned into him, breathing in the scent of his faded cologne and the fresh mist of ocean that floated their way.
“This is going to be a great week,” she said, closing her eyes.