The room didn’t get it.
“Why,” he thought, “do they always make romance pink and frilly, more a mauve, that color between awful and bordello?” He brought his wife here for their twentieth anniversary. If he’d known the pictures were this accurate, he’d have made reservations somewhere else. The bed and breakfast had four poster beds, chintz curtains and tasseled tie backs and oh well, they booked two nights.
“We can put you in the Shangri La room,” the woman said. What a woman, blousy and slightly smelling of spray perfume, probably Paris Nights though he had no way of knowing and would not ask.
“I love it,” his wife said when they entered the room. “This is just right.” They had been married twenty years. They had their differences.
Then it happened.
He began to look around.
The room had been decorated on a theme. A woman had gotten married long ago and this was her room, as if it had been then. All the photographs and memorabilia, the folded fan, the white silk gloves, the sequined tiara attached to a veil and the wedding dress on a headless dress form in the corner all made it a bride’s boudoir, a twentieth anniversary grand finale.
He hated it and as his wife freshened up for dinner, taking her time in the trompe l’oeil decorated bath depicting swans on a lily pad strewn pond it happened.
He fell in love.
“You are cordially invited to the wedding” engraved on heavy linen paper between her and him at such and such a time on a date long gone in a fashionable church followed by a reception at what he found himself staring at was her wedding picture, the one taken before the wedding, the formal portrait that abruptly, even violently stole his gaze.
He had loved her even as a boy, certainly as a youth, moreover as a man, but never found her. The dark wave of hair, the eyes at once pleading and accusatory, the magnificent high cheek bones and Napoleonic stance, all captured him and fulfilled the belief that such a woman most somewhere, somehow exist.
He fell in love with her immediately and kept staring at the portrait as if it moved, as if it had been an animated televised image surrounded by a sterling silver frame, well, at least pewter.
“Honey, I thought you were getting ready,” his wife asked, the way she always asked without adding the question mark.
“I am,” he said. “I am getting ready.”
“No you’re not. You’re just sitting there. Is something wrong?”
“No. There’s nothing wrong,” the way he usually said without answering.
The image haunted him at dinner. They talked about twenty years and out ahead another however many. He subconsciously could not wait to get back to the room. They made love and yes, he looked at the picture while he did and she didn’t seem to notice, neither his wife or the woman in the picture.
“Who is she?” he asked the owner when he went downstairs to breakfast while his wife checked her emails in the room.
“She’s my mother,” the woman answered.
He saw the resemblance.
He felt it too.
“Did you and your wife enjoy the room?”
“No,” he answered truthfully. “I fell in love with your mother’s photograph. We’re celebrating our twentieth anniversary.”
The answer took the owner off guard. She answered truthfully too.
“I’m sorry. Would you like to move? I can put you in another room. It wouldn’t be as large, but I’ll make an adjustment on the rate.”
“The room is fine,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the room. It’s me.”
“You’re entitled to be happy.”
“Then I’ll come back here someday,” he said. “Alone.”
The owner of the bed and breakfast didn’t reply. Then she said, “Wait a moment,” and went into the office behind the counter. “Here,” she said. She placed a photograph of herself on the counter in front of him.
He looked at it. He looked at her. His wife was coming down the stairs.
“It’s a good likeness,” he said.
She slid it toward him.
“I’m my mother’s daughter,” she said.