Notes: This is the fourteenth story in my summer writing project. Missing scene from Reunion. Special thanks to Jill for the beta.
Summer of '74
by Twilight (Dawn)
"Mr. Sandburg, right? I thought you'd be on your way back to Cascade. Is Simon okay?" The young man who came to the hotel with Simon Banks this afternoon stood in front of him, hands shoved deep into his coat pockets, unruly hair pulled back at the base of his neck, face a bit pale, his blue eyes drawn and filled with exhaustion.
"They're gonna keep him for a few days," he answered, running a hand up and over his face. "He spiked a fever."
"Oh, so I suppose you'll be needing a place to stay, then?" Billy looked at the line of people still behind the young man, all waiting to be relocated to another hotel. They had made a makeshift check in at the back of the banquet hall and he had been working non-stop to find accommodations for his dislocated guests. Some rooms were available at nearby hotels and motels and some people decided to head home since the reunion had been postponed. "Let me call around and see what I can do…"
"Ah...No sir. I just wanted to see if I can get into Simon's room and get his luggage."
"Oh, well I can take you up, but we're gonna have to use the steps." He hurried around the table, knee joints popping in protest, feeling his pants pocket to be sure he had his master keys, motioning for Ellen, the assistant manager, to take his place at the desk.
"Thank you, sir."
Billy led the way, using his key to take an access hallway to the north side and up a flight of stairs. They had to exit onto the second floor to get to the other set of steps that led to the upper floors, passing the conference rooms which were set up with memorabilia and decorated for the high school reunion.
It seemed strange to think of Simon all grown up, and a fine man at that. When Billy had first met the boy, he was lanky…all elbows and knees, tripping over his two left feet.
Sixteen and thought he had the whole wide world figured out.
A small smile turned the corners of Billy's lips and he snickered, remembering the boy's first day.
Remembering how Simon acted all tough, but really, deep inside, in a place the boy didn't want anyone to see; he was just a frightened young man.
His daddy had left them that winter and things were tight, his momma was struggling, taking a job at the hotel in the kitchen, trying to pay the rent, to make ends meet.
That woman made the best pies and pastries, a real talent when it came to all things sweet.
When Winnie Banks had approached him about getting her boy on for the summer, he was skeptical. Billy had only been the manager of the Rossburg for a few months and he wanted to do a good job and he'd heard that the Banks boy had been in trouble at home and at school.
Word traveled fast in a small town.
Billy turned a corner in the stairwell; taking another flight of steps, glancing over his shoulder to be sure Simon's friend was still trudging up the stairs after him.
Three flights down and three more to go.
Nothing new, there was a time when the hotel didn't even have an elevator. In fact, the building went through a major renovation in the seventies. The summer Simon started as a Bell Hop.
The summer of '74.
"I'm here to see Mr. Billy?"
"Well you found him. You must be Simon Banks."
"Well, follow me and I'll show you around." The young man followed him around the check in desk and through the back office. They stopped at a set of doors that led to the employee lounge and locker rooms. Some people milled around, either starting their shifts or punching out for the day.
He handed the boy a time card and showed him how to use the machine. "Be sure to punch out for shift breaks and back in when you're done. You won't get paid unless you remember."
The boy nodded, so they continued on to the locker area. Billy grabbed a checkered vest hanging with others on a rack used for coats, handing it to the lanky boy. "You need to put this on. I'm glad to see you remembered to wear a white dress shirt and black slacks."
Simon took the vest, slipping it over thin shoulders and buttoning it up over his skinny frame.
He's all elbows and knees.
Billy took him back through to the front and into the lobby. "Now all you need to do is help the guests with their bags. You carry the luggage up to the guest's room; it's not hard, I'm sure you'll figure it out."
"Ah…Is this the floor?"
Pulling himself back to the present, Billy nodded, pushing through the stairwell door. The hallway was clear, a thin layer of smoke had made its way to the sixth floor, but thankfully the fire in the basement had been contained. Only minimal damage was done to the lobby area above where the fire had started.
"This way, son."
He pulled down the police tape, knowing that the FBI had already cleared the room and, in doing so, had cleared Simon.
Fresh flowers strewed the floor, the mattress was pulled from the bed and clothes draped the chair and littered the floor.
"Let me help you clean this mess up." Billy leaned over, his old bones creaking, picking up a pair of jeans and other clothing, folding them neatly and putting them in the suitcase that sat on the bed.
Blair packed up Simon's toiletries, avoiding the bathroom, he hung a black suit back on the hanger, tucking it into Simon's travel bag.
With one more look around, Billy zipped up the travel bag, watching as Blair went to the table to pick up a book.
"Whatcha got there, son?"
Blair turned the red bound book toward him, revealing a tattered yearbook with the words 'Rossburg, 1976' embossed across the front.
"It's his yearbook. I'm sure he won't want to lose this."
"Ah...let me see."
The young man sat on the righted bed. Billy sat next to him, taking the book and opening it to the senior pages near the back. "If not now, when? Ha, that boy always had a flare for the dramatic."
"Did you know him well?"
"Well enough, I guess. Spent the whole summer on his tail, trying to help his momma make sure he turned out right. I'd like to think I might have a little something to do with the man he's become." Billy flipped back a page, eyes scanning the list of names until he came to Peggy Anderson. "The fool boy should have told her long ago."
"He really loved her?"
"Oh, I suppose it could have been love... One time he dumped a whole makeup bag, spilt the whole thing on the lobby floor when he saw Peggy coming in the door. The lady owner was none too happy…"
"I'm sorry, ma'am... I'm so sorry."
"Simon Banks...what in the world are you doing?" Billy hurried around the kiosk, "I'm sorry, Miss." He escorted the lady away, toward the desk, looking back to see Simon frantically picking up cosmetics and unmentionables. "Let me offer you a complementary bottle of wine…"
"He was always gangly, getting in his own way, but when pretty Miss Peggy came around, it was like he was all thumbs."
"Oh, yeah?" Blair's eyes sparkled and Billy wondered if he should be telling on Simon; he was pretty sure that this fella worked for Banks.
Oh, what the heck.
"The boy had it bad. Me and his momma would have dinner at the restaurant after her shift sometimes and she would tell me all about the young man's yearnings, yet he never told her. Don't rightly know why."
"That's not like the Simon I know." Blair turned a few more pages in the yearbook, pointing out photos of Simon standing behind a podium, wearing a neatly pressed shirt and an oversized bow tie, thick framed bottle lens glasses perched on the end of his nose, one hand raised and finger pointing toward his opponent behind the other podium. The caption below said, 'Captain Banks', and Blair laughed. "Now that's more like the man I know today."
"Yeah, he only worked here for that summer, but his momma stayed on until his senior year and we still shared some after hour meals. She sure was proud of her boy. He really turned around that summer; got whatever needed straightened straight... Captain of the Debate team, popular, got a full scholarship to Rainier. They moved to the big city after he graduated and I ain't heard from him since, but looks like he really made a life for himself."
"Yeah," Blair closed the book, standing and tucking it under his arm so he could pick up Simon's travel bag. "He is a good man...and ah, a good friend."
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