“Time for check out,” I said, standing over her near the bed. “Carina? Are you going to be able to get up? What time’s your flight?”
“Oh, God! My flight!” she exclaimed, looking at the clock.
We didn’t have much time.
As I watched, she rushed into the bathroom, grabbed a quick shower and changed. After, she run around the hotel room and eventually just shoved all her belongings into her suitcase. She would have to sort things out when she got home.
I think Carina wanted to start a conversation with me about our situation, but she looked like her head was pounding. She couldn’t seem to focus and now she had to rush to the airport.
I made her a coffee in the room and bought her a croissant on the way out of the lobby. Eating that seemed to make her feel a little better.
Outside the lobby, we stood in the sun waiting for her airport ride. Carina put on some sunglasses. She looked exactly like one would expect after a night of drinking and she would tell me later she felt about as good as she looked.
“So, you’re going to Chicago?” Carina managed to say with a mouthful of croissant. “For an escort job?”
I didn’t know if I should continue this conversation now. Maybe it was better that I went to Chicago and let Carina go.
Who was I to get involved with a nice teacher like her? I didn’t feel good about myself, having been an escort all this time. Maybe I could find someone new who would never know about my past.
“Yeah,” I finally said, not looking at her. “It’s too much money to turn down.”
“Oh,” she said, sounding a big disappointed.
Was that it? Did I just ruin the whole weekend?
Carina got quiet as we got into the car to head for the airport. I couldn’t tell if she had given up on me or if she was just too hungover to talk. She leaned her head against my shoulder in the backseat as we got onto the freeway and the city passed by.
“Have you given much thought to coming back to L.A.?” I asked.
The thought of her leaving was starting to get to me and her warmth by my side was a reminder of what I was going to be missing.
Carina suddenly perked up. Perhaps my question gave her some hope that I was still interested.
“Uh, yes, actually,” she said. “I was telling Vicky last night, New York is kind of played out for me. I miss the sun. I don’t know if I could give up my raise in the New York State school system though.”
“Seems like you’re young enough that you could still earn it in the Los Angeles school system,” I told her. “From what you told me, you have a pretty stellar record.”
“Yeah and I’m almost done my Master’s. If I got that degree, I could pretty much write my own ticket in most school systems,” she explained. “But I’ve been thinking about opening my own school for disadvantaged kids. There’s opportunities in New York.” Her voice trailed off and she looked away.
“I’m sure there’s some here,” I added. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I mean, I’m going to Chicago, but I couldn’t stay there that long. Just for a while.”
She sat up a little and looked at me. “Oh. So, you’re coming back?”
I didn’t know why we were both dancing around the subject. Maybe I was afraid of commitment.
Jim’s offer was exactly what I wanted. Sure, the Chicago thing was good money, but I couldn’t do the escort thing forever. Also, it was just too sleazy. I wanted to be a respectable person, not just someone who did things for money.
Plus, if I had real love – with Carina – I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. This must be real love, then, because for the first time, I was wanting to turn down a well-paying job.
Did Carina understand that?
How could I prove it to her?
“Yes, definitely,” I replied. “Los Angeles, at the end of the day, is the right place for me.”
“Oh,” she said a little disappointed again.
Dammit, did I say something wrong? Why is this so hard?
Here we are, two people who shared a weekend together and neither one of us could talk openly. I wanted to tell Carina that I thought she was beautiful and wonderful. I wanted to tell her that I could see us being together for a long time, if not forever. But somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to take that leap.
Maybe it was because I had been burned in the past. You get your heart broken too many times and you become gun-shy.
I had been on this doorstep before. I thought I was in love, threw in with someone only to find out they weren’t the person I thought they were. But what I felt with Carina seemed real and if I didn’t follow my heart, what good was I as a person? I might as well stay an escort and get rich.