After finishing the letter, Tom unpacked and showered. Refreshed and dressed – jeans, loose shirt, flip-flops, and sunglasses, he stepped out of his room and walked to the lobby. A new desk clerk was on duty. He gave her his room key. She was beautiful, tall for a Thai woman. Her black, braided hair was wrapped around her head. She smiled at him.
“May I mail a letter from here, or must I send it from the Post Office?”
“You may leave it. I will ensure it goes to the Post Office for delivery.”
“How much to mail it?”
“Where is it going?”
“Oh. You are with the American Sailors who arrived from the Philippines today?”
“I lived in America. My father was the cultural ambassador at the embassy in Washington.”
“That explains your very good English.”
“It’s helpful when dealing with tourists from all over the world. Nearly everyone speaks or understands some English.”
Tom smiled. “You speak better English than some Americans I know.”
She leaned toward him and spoke in a confidential voice. “You would be astonished by how many Thais mangle our language.”
“What’s your name?”
“Saucy. I like that. Is it short for something?”
“Sasithorn. It means beloved moon, and it’s pronounced Sahzee not Saucy; do I look like that kind of girl?” Her smile dazzled him. She picked up his key and placed it in his mailbox. She looked at the register. She seemed startled. “Your name is Tom?”
“Yes. How’d you know?” Duh. She’s the desk clerk. She’s supposed to know.
“I’m the desk clerk. I’m supposed to know.” She leaned forward and whispered. “It’s written by your room number on my ledger. Your room number is on the key, too.” She smiled.
“Ah. Of course. I thought you had fallen madly in love with me and memorized my personal information so you could write love letters to me.”
“Silly, man. I thought you had fallen madly in love with me and were waiting for me to finish work.”
Her manner had begun lighthearted, but the intensity of her gaze and the lift of her eyebrows when she tilted her head made him wonder.
“Alas, dear lady. My dance card is full and no amount of longing could tear me from my commitments. I am genuinely distressed.”
She pursed her lips and gave him a sad look. “Ah, well,” she said. Then, nonchalantly, as she ran her finger down the list of countries and postage requirements, she asked “Are you friends with the one named George?”
“George? He with the black curly hair, an attractive gap between front teeth, and gold necklaces around bronze neck?”
Her eyes sparkled as she said “Could you be a little more descriptive? I want to be sure that is him.”
“Funny lady. He’s my roommate.”
“Is he? He asked me to go out with him.”
“Is he a good guy?”
“He’s a great guy, and a great dancer too. You’ll have fun with him.”
“Good. I don’t often go out with hotel guests, but your group has some charmers.”
Her sweet smile melted his heart.
Tom blushed. He didn’t know what to say.
“You Americans blush more than any people I know. You’re so funny that way. It is endearing, though. Are you sure you cannot dance with me?”
“My heart breaks, Sasi, truly, but I’m engaged tonight.”
“My heart breaks too. Truly.”
She seemed sincere; the disappointment in her eyes convinced him.
He gave Sasi the postage and letter and walked away, reluctance in his footsteps. Something about her tugged at his heart, the way Susanna had done the night they met. A thrilling undercurrent of joy raised his awareness and heightened his senses. The emotional lift limned their brief encounter, giving it the vividness and sharp detail of a dream. Tom wasn’t the brightest intellect when it came to discerning female emotions, but Sasi was forward enough that he was sure she wasn’t playing a game. Susanna hadn’t played games either. He wouldn’t get his hopes up. Besides, he had to tell Lek about Aida.
Aida. He fluttered his lips.