A man’s drunken, loud hollering to no one on the sidewalk abruptly tipped Almarón back into the present by the time he stepped off the curb and crossed 59th, headed straight for The Plaza’s entrance. There, the capped and uniformed doorman smiled and opened the door for him.
“Good day, sir!”
“Indeed, James. It is a marvelous day, isn’t it?” he replied.
Almarón’s spirits had lifted with the renewed expectation of another superb dinner in one of the Plaza’s gracious dining rooms. A welcome guest on many other occasions, Almarón remembered James and his staff every Christmas season, stuffing their palms with generous wads of cash.
“I believe it is, indeed, a good day, sir,” James’ reply rang in his ear.
The Plaza, as usual, was decked out with glittery accouterments that included fresh, sculptured floral designs in large vases. The scent of orchids, lilies, and roses sprinkled with iconic pinks in homage to the Plaza’s doyenne, Eloise, whose portrait hung on a wall, accented the bustling lobby. An eclectic mix filled the space: foreign travelers checking in at the front desk, suited business-types checking for messages, or seated and engaged in earnest discussions; giggling debutantes admiring each other’s gowns, and awed tourists ogling the decor as well-to-do matrons and widowers checked their ageless visages in the mirrors. Arranged much like a cinematic, modern Georges Seurat painting, ladies-in-waiting gathered and dispersed like small clusters of soldier ants on recon missions as soon as their husbands or, perhaps, a discreet paramour, stopped by and whisked them away.
Standing in the center ring of the circus, Almarón paused and absorbed the sights just as he had on several sabbaticals to the hotel with Emily. She fancied herself an interior designer unusually gifted in the art of the floral arrangement, and she, too, was a not-so-secret admirer of the famed Eloise.
Almarón advanced toward the Rose Club room. Upon seeing his approach, the staff generously welcomed and assisted him. One, anticipating his wish, called out a drink order to the bartender. Another scurried to the room’s comfortable chairs to plump and freshened up his favorite: the one that faced the oxblood couch that hugged the full length of one of the dark mahogany walls.
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