I saw the legs first, which may seem strange, but as I turned from slipping the Privacy Please over the knob, it was the line of the legs that fell into my view, the way they negligently stretched from behind the desk because he was sitting sideways in the chair. His ankles were crossed, his loafers almost ridiculously shiny for what was otherwise a casual Sunday. And his legs were straight, like something architectural designed for support.
He was reading one of my books.
Not one I'd written. One I'd brought with me and left lying around. I wondered how long he'd been there. Never mind how he'd got in.
I didn't say anything and he didn't look up. I knew him well enough to know this was not a snub; he was the type required to finish whatever he was reading before he could move on to the next thing, yes, even if what he was reading was not actually all that interesting to him. He could not stand to let things hang.
And so I went about dropping off my bag, kicking off my shoes, going to the minibar for a soda, until finally he set the book aside and looked up with a thin, strained smile.
"Surprise," he said.
He was thin, even for his normally lanky frame, and I wondered whether he'd been ill. But all I asked was, "Dinner?"
"Well, I need to eat," I told him. "Stay in or go out?"
He glanced over his shoulder, out the window at the crepuscular city. "In."
I nodded and ventured only close enough to grab the hotel binder from the desk before retreating to sit on the edge of the bed. "And what do you want?"
I flipped through to the room service menu but was unable to see the words through the hazy confusion of my brain. I turned the card stock pages forward and back only to jump when he reached over and slipped the book from my lap. "I'll find something for you," he said.
I didn't wait to hear what he ordered, went instead into the bathroom to freshen up. When I emerged, he was stretched out on the bed and already half asleep. I made for the armchair but he made a noise that I could not decipher, giving me pause.
"I missed you," he said.
But a thought had occurred to me. If room service was coming, I needed to take down the Privacy sign.