“Okay Maddie,” said the woman standing behind me. “Turn around and put both hands on the rail while I do the final check.” Paying close attention, I obeyed in silence as I grasped the cold metal rail, my heart giving a solid thud. Besides the woman’s instruction, all I could hear was my own pulse, and the twang of the metal grate under my feet. She tugged at my harness, challenging my balance, securing it so tightly, pain shot through my hips and sternum. “Okay Maddie, final check complete. Turn and face The Strip, toes on the edge.” My breath caught in my throat. I struggled to swallow. I tried to remember why I was there in the first place, but for a moment, my mind had gone totally blank. Attached only by harness and cord, with my toes on the edge of the platform, I looked straight ahead. The cold night air felt like ice in my lungs. The lights of the Las Vegas strip illuminated the skyline in brilliant reds and yellows. Although far off in the distance, they popped out at me like fireworks on the Fourth of July. I heard the operator over the rushing in my ears, “Maddie, jump on my count of three.” She then radioed down to another operator, who was waiting on the ground to receive me, one hundred and ten stories below. “Here she comes!” “Roger that. Ready!” he responded. Jumping off the Hotel Stratosphere was this thrill seeker’s dream. But I was standing up there for another reason. I wanted to let go of the past. To let go of a love and its memories and leave it all in the trail of spirit that lingered behind me. “One…two…three…Go!” Startled, without thought or hesitation, I leapt from the platform, and was falling fast, but in that moment, time stood still. I was suspended above the shining lights of the city from where it all began and was transported back to the last time I felt this alive, and the price that I paid.
The Vegas Trip
One year earlier.
Standing in the line for the concierge, in the lobby of the sixth largest hotel in the world, I couldn’t help but gaze up and around, astounded by the authenticity of the Luxor’s Egyptian sandstone carvings and interworking of the thirty-story pyramid. A massive sphinx statue, perched on top of an arch, bathed in hieroglyphics, led the way into the casino, and drew my attention to its alive and buzzing action. A tingle shot up from my toes, along my spine, and down to my fingertips. A sharp whisper, from the voice that occasionally sounded off from the core of my inner being, confirmed my body’s reaction. “You’re going to have the time of your life!” “Next in line, please.” I faintly heard, my head turned in the opposite direction, distracted. “Next in line!” came louder. Snapping my head around, I made eye contact with the smiling concierge, then turned to the man waiting behind me. “Whoops.” I said. “Sorry, but this place is amazing!” He was so close to me, when I turned toward him, I could smell the fresh, aquatic fragrance of his cologne. I breathed it in as I would the cool Pacific Ocean on a hot summer day. “No worries.” He spoke with a thick British accent. “I agree. This place is spot on.” A shock took over my senses when my eyes met his crystal blue stare. He had a shaved head, and was casually, yet stylishly dressed in crisp and clean tan shorts rolled at the knee, and a pale blue button-down shirt that set his eyes afire. Heat rose at the back of my neck and my checks went flush. I forgot myself, and clumsily littered the floor with my reservation print out, and I.D. The Englishman rushed to pick them up, studying my driver’s license before handing it back. “California.” He said. “Lucky girl!” He glanced again at the card he was holding, then gave me a mischievous look, “I would have guessed your age at twenty-nine, not thirty-nine.” “Hey! I can’t believe you checked out my age!” As I snatched it back, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. “Not to worry, I’ve got you beat,” he said, handing me the rest of my papers. “Miss?” The concierge beckoned. I smiled again and turned away, stealing one last glace at the attractive stranger as I approached the check in counter. His eyes locked on mine and my breath caught in my throat. Never had I ever had such an immediate reaction to total stranger. “Good afternoon, miss. Checking in?” I studied at the man behind the counter, while I gathered my senses. “I am.” I handed him my reservation info. “Great. I have your reservation right here Miss Madison. What brings you to Vegas today?” The concierge’s name tag said Matthew. His brown eyes sparkled, and under a bushy brown mustache, so did his smile. “My best friend is getting married.” I smiled, “I’m in the wedding.” Matthew’s eyes were so welcoming, I briefly thought of telling him about all the reasons I really needed this getaway. I had recently been grieving the passing of my favorite uncle. Also, I had been a frustrated mess trying to absorb all the information thrown at me in my Real Estate Licensing classes, while still working late hours singing in a dive bar. To top it all off, my rough water swim training had been wearing me out. Nevertheless, I decided to spare him from the tedium of listening to me drone on about my life. When’s the wedding?” he asked. “It’s tomorrow.” The Englishman walked up to the open window on my left and smiled my way, and the foremost reason I was uptight as of late crossed my mind; Two years of self-imposed abstinence. Matthew leaned in. “Cute!” he said, taking an admirable glance. He obviously had similar tastes. “British.” I whispered. “I’m a sucker for an English accent.” “Who isn’t? He keeps looking over here. It seems you’re trip is getting off to a good start!” “We had a moment.” I said, still blushing. “I guess so.” He laughed. Matthew handed me a booklet that held my keys, and hotel information. “I threw in a couple of drink vouchers in there for you, but let’s keep that between us. Have a great time!” He said with a wink. As I gathered my things, I glanced over at the next teller. No Englishman. # I jumped in the shower and washed off my travels. The water renewed me, as it always had. I’ve always had a thing about water. It calms the burning inside of me. I’ve always lived near a beach or a bay, so I can submerge myself daily. If I don’t, the little stresses in life get to me. Sometimes I swim for miles. Sometimes I wade as far out as far as I can and just float on my back in an anionic state, looking up at the sky. # Revived, I stretched out on the bed with my phone. I posted a message to Facebook, letting my friends and family know that I had arrived in Las Vegas safely, then called Laura, The Bride. “Maddie!” Laura burst through the phone. “I can’t wait to see you!” I glanced at my red cocktail dress hanging on the back of the bathroom door. “No problem! I’ll see you the bottom of the escalator in the lobby in one hour.” “I’m getting married, baby!” Laura squealed and hung up.
As I ascended down the escalator, I spotted Laura below me in the bustling lobby. I realized in that moment how much I missed her. She moved a few months back, and was now an eight-hour drive away, opposed to a three-block walk. Now there she was, standing alone in the lobby, searching the passing faces for mine. She had on a green crushed velvet dress, that complimented all of her attributes. I ran up behind her and tackled her with a huge hug, almost knocking her over, “Hey, mama!” I shouted. “Woah...” she steadied herself. “Hey!” She paused and looked me over. Our red and green dresses stood out amongst the droves of khaki clad vacationers. “Oh my God, we look like Christmas ornaments.” She looked great. She always did. Her beauty was effortless. She was slender but curvy, her hair fell in glossy black ringlets. Her high cheekbones were always rosy red. She looked like a living doll. I had always envied how she didn’t have to work hard to maintain her figure, whereas I had to swim like a fish to keep mine. It was so good to see her beautiful face.
“Where are the other bridesmaids? I was hoping to meet them.” I asked. “One gal is out to dinner with her husband. She drank too much last night and thought it best to turn in early. The other two girls aren’t drinking because they’re training for a marathon, so they agreed to watch baby for me tonight. It’s just you and me.” “Wow. I guess that’s what happens when you plan a wedding at eleven in the morning.” I rolled my eyes. “I mean, come on. Who does that? It’s Vegas! Thank god I’m staying a couple of extra days, so I can party a little.” “Shut up Maddie! I wanted a morning wedding.” “How much cheaper was it, anyway?” “A lot.” She laughed. “I thought so.”
We walked under the Sphinx into the casino, where I spotted a cocktail lounge. There wasn’t much to the place. It had a high glass bar that glowed a cool milky blue light from within. Low seated cocktail tables that surrounded its perimeter. We ponied up to the bar and got comfortable. I pulled out my phone and the drink vouchers Matthew had given me. There was a message on my phone. It was from Trip Edwards. With an exited jolt, I instantly sat up straight, involuntarily thrusting my chest forward. “Trip is in town!” I exclaimed. “Who’s Trip?” Laura asked. “Let’s get our drinks first. It’s a long story.” The bartender came over and took our order. The place was nearly empty, except for a couple of older guys wearing business suits skulking at the other end of the bar. I had felt their eyes on us as soon as we sat down. One of them stood up, straightened his tie and began to approach. The bartender put his hand up and gestured, No. The man stopped and sat back down. “Did you see that?” I asked Laura, “I think that guy thought we were hookers!” “I’m pretty sure you’re right.” Laura said, glaring across the room. I realized that by forgetting myself in my excitement over Trips message, I put myself on display, drawing him in with my body language. I took a breath and consciously relaxed my shoulders. “How did the bartender know to stop him?” “I don’t think hookers use complimentary drink coupons.” I said. “Good point.” We grabbed our drinks and sat at a small cocktail table, out of sight from the creeps at the bar. “Okay Maddie, who’s Trip?” “He is a really old friend of mine. I haven’t seen him in at least five years. I think he lives in Nebraska now. When I was in college, we worked together at one of those all-purpose drug stores. He’s a cop now. Trip was an All-American, know-it-all, white boy. He was fresh out if high school, and I was in my second year of college. I thought he was cute, but never thought of him in a romantic way. I was more into the long-haired rocker type back then. So instead, we became friends. Years later, when Trip turned twenty-one, he joined my pool league at my favorite bar. We hung together all the time. One night, we drank too much and slept together.” “You slut!” “Shut up, Laura! I seem to remember you telling me that you sat on your co-worker’s face in the supply room while you were...” she cut me off, “Okay, Okay, Bitch. Keep going.” “Alright then.” I leaned in, “What I am about to tell you, I haven’t uttered to another soul.” “What?” she asked, her eyes widening. “Trip had a crooked dick!” I blurted. “It didn’t just have a little curve in it. It bent hard to the left like a fucking candy cane!” I held up my index finger and curled it over for visual effect. Laura sputtered, choking on her martini. “Shut up!” she squealed. “I’ve had one of those!” she paused, “I kinda liked it.” “You would! Not me. It hurt. Normally I would have ended things with the guy after that experience, but I felt that Trip deserved another chance. So, I endured two weeks of trying to find a position that worked. Nothing worked; And he ended up dumping me for a chick named Willa. She looked more like a William. Her name didn’t fit her but maybe Trip’s crooked cock did.” “You’re so mean.” Laura teased. “I was relieved, honestly. We went right back to being friends, as if nothing ever happened between us. A couple of months later, Willa broke up with Trip for another girl. You didn’t need a crystal ball to see that one coming. Anyway, he’s staying in a hotel on the strip. I think I might go meet him for a drink while you go and get your beauty sleep.” Laura gave me a serious look, “Don’t over-do it Maddie. I need you tomorrow.” “Don’t worry. I have no intention of riding that ride again. Besides, when have I ever let you down?” She looked visibly worried as she sipped the last of her drink. I knew I should appease her, and retire for the evening, but I knew I would regret missing the opportunity to see my old friend. I waited until Laura headed back to her room, before I sent Trip a text, “On My Way!”
I Petrified blowfish and shrunken heads hung from the palm frond thatched ceiling. I scanned the dimly lit bar. Through the red glow of Tiki torches, I caught sight of a man waving in my direction. His smile gave him away. Forty extra pounds of muscle swelled under his tight navy-blue t-shirt. He was clean cut no more. He now had sleeved tattoos, and a trim beard. “Oh My God, Trip! I almost didn’t recognize you! You look totally different! Really good, but different.” He looked me up and down. “It’s been five years, Maddie. Things change. But you haven’t. You look damn good.” “Thank you.” I blushed. “Been working out much?” I poked at his chest. “You like?” He smiled. “Hmmm, still cocky, I see.” As I sat down, Trip handed me a shot of tequila. “To old friends!” he toasted. “To old friends.” Seeing Trip again brought back a rush of memories. We were loss prevention officers. Our job was to apprehended shoplifters and lead internal theft investigations. “Do you remember all of the crazy stuff we used to see from the catwalk above the store?” The catwalk was a small walkway above the store with a double-sided mirror that enabled us to see everything that went on in the entire store while remaining undetected. “Of course, I do!” Trip said as he slid another shot towards me. We reminisced about a day at work, where a vagrant woman entered the store, and walked to the very back, where the refrigerators were. She grabbed a twenty-two-ounce beer and drank it. Then, she turned around and pushed all the products off of a shelf, pulled down her pants, sat down and peed. We witnessed the whole thing. I remember the two of us contemplating whether to bust her. She was dirty. Neither one of us wanted to touch her. We reasoned she left the merchandise in the store. It would have been considered a non-productive stop; we could have gotten into trouble for not retrieving any stolen merchandise. So, we let her walk right out the door. “Clean up in isle three!” I shouted, held up the shot of tequila and joined Trip in laughter.
I enjoyed catching up with Trip. We had shared so many crazy experiences. But after three shots of tequila, I began to fade. “Sadly, I have an early day tomorrow and the bride is counting on me. I have to get back.” “I’m beat too. I’ve been here for three days. I’ll walk you to the taxi stand. Unless…” He picked up my hand and softly pressed the tips of my fingers to his lips. “Unless you would like to stay here with me.” he said provocatively. For a moment, I was tempted. Having gone without male attention for such a long time, along with the pull of Trip’s seduction, made my constitution waver. My head began to swim with exhaustion and tequila. I reminded myself this would end up nowhere, just like the first time, and I didn’t want another regret haunting me. That’s when I remembered another reason this would be a bad idea, Crooked dick! Crooked dick! “I can’t sweetie. I must be responsible. But I appreciate the offer.” “Too bad.” he said disappointedly. “Come on, I’ll walk you.” He held my hand, tangling his fingers in mine as we strolled through the lobby to the front of the hotel, where he waved down a cab. I gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, and jumped in. Waving goodbye from the back seat, I thought, Bye, bye Trip. See you in another five years. While I was in the cab, my head started to spin. I made it safely back to my hotel and found my way to the food court. I have a vague recollection of shuffling barefoot back to my room with a greasy pizza box in one hand, and my shoes in the other. # The next morning, I jolted straight up in bed, an hour before my alarm, with a terrible taste in my mouth and a pounding head. Ugh, Tequila. I was surprised to see my hair and makeup from the night before were still perfect. I must not have moved and inch. The fluffy white duvet that covered the bed was also undisturbed. The only evidence of my presence was the smelly pizza box hanging over its edge. I grabbed the box and crammed it into a waste basket and hid it in a far corner of the room, so I wouldn’t be reminded of how sloppy the night ended. I turned the shower to cold, hoping the shock of it would wake me up, peeled off my cocktail dress from the night before and jumped in. It worked. Feeling a little more like myself, I fixed my hair and face, then went to the closet where my bridesmaids dress was and opened the wardrobe doors. There it was. The unflattering pleated orange chiffon thing that I almost didn’t forgive Laura for. The strapless bra required to hold in my double-d boobs pinched under my arms, dug into my diaphragm and constricted my breathing. I reluctantly slipped the dress on over my head, and immediately had to fight myself from having a reaction similar to a cat wearing booties. I just wanted it off of me. Still a bit hung over, and in a poor me, I hate this dress, foul mood, I headed out. When the elevator doors opened into the bustling lobby, I hung back and surveyed the best route I could take to quickly pass through the lobby without notice. I knew I was being silly. I reminded myself that I knew no one there, and so what if this ball of orange flurry caught the eye of everyone I passed. But to my dismay, when I stepped out of the elevator, I immediately caught sight of someone familiar. The handsome Englishman was standing about twenty feet away, outside the gift shop, browsing the news rack. He was wearing a white and blue striped polo shirt, and faded jeans. I froze at the sight of him. Mortified, I flew past him to the hotel exit, only to get held up in the revolving glass door that led outside. When I turned to pull my dress free from the door that faced the innerworkings of the hotel, there he was, staring right at me. Shit! Before I could react, my dress broke free and I stumbled back through the exit door and out into the one hundred-and fourteen-degree heat. Laura’s hulking hotel, The Mandalay Bay, neighbored mine. It appeared closer that it was, so instead of taking the sidewalk that bowed around the hotels’ vast entryways, I tried at a short-cut, by tromping through the conjoining parking lot, and climbing up and over some tricky barricade bars. When I looked up at the building I was trying to get to, it hadn’t gotten any closer. Shit.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.