She sat down in the clothes that had been lain out for her and opened the envelope on her dressing table. In it were a small note, some money and various slips of paper.
Good morning! I hope you like the dress. I’m sorry I can’t be with you on your first day in the city. To make it up to you, here are tickets and coupons to fill your day with fun and relaxation! Enjoy yourself and don’t worry, I’ll be back to join you in no time!
I love you, honey XOX
ps. Say hi to the guy down the hall. He’s our (temporary) roommate and he kind of helped me put this day for you together.
pps. Don’t worry about the vanity! I’m having the mirror fixed!
She loved the dress. It was her favourite colour. She started leafing through the tickets and coupons. They seemed to be stacked in order of succession: a fancy breakfast at a hotel, a bus tour around the city, a hotdog with everything on it…
“A hotdog isn’t real food and you know it,” she said with a half smile.
…a ticket to an expressionist art exhibition at the museum, a three course meal at a French-Spanish restaurant and finally Don Giovanni, her third favourite opera.
“I love you too, honey.”
She smoothed down her dress and got ready to go.
“I wish I had that mirror now,” she said, admiring the lace. She noticed her hands were a bit rough.
A knock at the door.
“Ma’am, there’s a taxi for you outside.”
“Oh!” she was surprised he had even thought of that. She opened the door. A tall, skinny young man was walking down the hall.
He turned his head.
“Oh, I said thank you. Thank you for helping my husband with arranging such a wonderful day.”
“It was my pleasure, ma’am,” he adjusted his glasses, turned and walked down the hall.
“Well, yes it was, it was very kind of you,” she said quietly to his retreating back.
She went downstairs to catch her cab.
The taxi dropped her off at the hotel. She had Belgian waffles with cream and fresh fruit and two mimosas. She sat by the window, watching the people go by, wondering if they all were off to work or if any were lucky enough to have the day off, like her.
“I love having a day off on a workday,” she said to the waiter clearing her table, ”It feels special, like I’m on vacation.”
“I’m sure miss. I’d love to have today off.”
She blushed a little, thinking she might have offended him. She turned away to look outside. Her reflection looked odd. But then she noticed the tour bus right outside and realized she needed to hurry. She left the voucher and a tip on the table and rushed outside.
The tour was wonderful. She loved learning things about the world and the history of how things came to be. It all felt horribly familiar to her, but that didn’t dampen her enjoyment. It was a nice day and the tour guide had a nice voice and made corny, but funny jokes. Most modern cities must seem alike in many ways.
After the three hour tour she was feeling a bit peckish and debated whether she should skip off program to find something other than a hotdog. In the end she decided to trust her husband, but wouldn’t go so far as to leave the relish on.
The art exhibition had a certain hit and miss quality to it. For every piece that demanded at least fifteen minutes of her time, there were ten that she surmised were more the product of good sales qualities than actual painting talent. The museum was huge though, and more than large enough for her to fill an afternoon. However, one particular painting caught her eye.
“I just love this piece,” she said to what seemed to be an arts student, who sat off to the side, behind an easel, sketching the painting. “I get the feeling I’ve known it all my life.”
“I know right? The juxtaposition of the real imagined with the esoterica of the assumed experience really cuts deep. I’m going to write my thesis on his collected works.”
She sat there for the better part of forty five minutes in silence, before getting up to make her way towards the exit.
The sun had started to set outside, bathing the glass of the surrounding buildings in its warm hues. She headed off towards the restaurant. Her voucher came in a beautiful little envelope that also contained a small city map. It was only a few blocks down from the museum, so she decided to walk.
Her table was waiting for her when she arrived and she felt a little silly at first, seated alone, but forgot all about it when the food arrived. The meal was exquisite. The first course was a spicy fish with lemon and rosemary and it had little bubbles of some sugary substance on it that each released a puff of paprika infused smoke when she burst them with her fork. The main course was thinly sliced salt cured ham and a cutlet of slow roasted ham sprinkled with crystallized coffee. For dessert she was given a small bowl of champagne and a small bowl filled with little balls of orange spun sugar, which she would dip in the champagne, causing them to snap and crackle and explode with sweet, orangey flavour in her mouth.
Sated and content she checked the time and figured she would have just enough time to quickly go to the restroom. The restroom mirror had been covered with a trash bag and tape.
“Here, honey, would you like to use my mirror?” an older lady next to her offered her a small pocket mirror.
“Oh, yes please, thank you.”
She could barely see more than her lips in the small mirror. She reapplied lipstick to her admirably done mirror-less job from that morning. She noticed a few dark lines at the corners of her mouth and tried to rub them away, only to find they were wrinkles.
“I’m sorry, honey, but I should be getting back to my table.”
“Yes. Yes, I’m sorry. Thank you again.”
“Wasn’t nothing, dear, but you’re welcome anyways.”
She followed the older woman out and went back to her table to pay. Once again, she left the voucher and this time, a very nice tip. She asked the waiter for directions to the opera house and he offered to call for a cab.
She enjoyed the opera. She loved the outdated comedic situations by Da Ponte and the score by Mozart, but she could never really take the serious parts seriously. She would always joke with her husband that she would kill him herself before some statue could if he pulled any of Don Giovanni’s tricks.
The last of the money was more than enough for the taxi home. She figured she’d give the rest to the young man down the hall as a thank you. She went up to her room, hung up her beautiful new dress and got ready to go to bed. She read the note her husband had left her one last time, pressed a lipstick kiss on it and slid between the sheets, tired but deeply, deeply satisfied.
It was the dead of night when the young man quietly slid into her room. He let the dress hang where she had hung it herself and lightly snuck over to the dressing table. He picked up the note and was about to slide it into an envelope filled with slips of paper when he saw the lipstick kiss. He sighed softly and in the dim light from the hallway he copied the note onto a clean piece of paper. He slid the new note into the envelope, closed it and placed it on the table. He made his way back to the door, pausing right before he closed it.
“Goodnight mom,” he said, softly.