Finally, the three women were reunited in Geneva. They rented an SUV, nominated Clare to drive and buckled in. After driving along the impeccably kept Autoroute Blanche for 15 minutes, a wash of serenity and excitement seeped into the car. The quaint French music that nobody but Emma could understand began to melt away any tension leftover from the journey.
An hour and a half later, they arrived at the Hotel Excelsior. Everybody was surprised at how much cuter it was in person than online – it was, embarrassingly enough, under the umbrella of a Best Western. But who cared, it was $150 a night versus the other chalets that were closer to $800.
At the hotel check-in desk, a woman, clearly an American woman, was speaking loudly and gesturing so wildly that one might think she was a sign language interpreter. The Pickwicks walked in mid-monologue as the woman was yammering on to the hotel clerk, “The party tonight will be just fabulous, don’t you think? I just don’t know what I’m going to wear – the airline doesn’t expect to return my luggage until tomorrow and the shops are closed already…I’ll go in a rented ski suit if I have to…I can’t wait to see the who’s who…I heard, from a very good source, that Carl Quick was coming… a friend of a friend you know…after the injury from his last race, rumor has it, Courtade has been losing interest…so goes his fame, so goes her ski poles apparently…if you know what I mean.” The loud lady winked to really seal the innuendo as if the entire hotel didn’t already know exactly what she meant.
The hotel clerk nodded, clearly not interested in the words coming out of this booming woman but intrigued by her outspoken demeanor, and not minding terribly if she picked up a word or two of gossip from this self-proclaimed plugged-in habitué.
The loquacious woman felt the Pickwick women behind her and exclaimed, “Oh excuse me! My sweet little loves!” They were clearly all near the same mid 30s age, there was no reason for anyone to be calling anyone else “little loves”.
“Let me get my giant tush out of your way so you can check in and get all settled into this marvelous hotel.” She was 5’9″ and 115 pounds at most.
Clare stepped up to the desk, “No problem, thank you. We’re checking in three guests under Bleakly, Stanbury and Ichnomor.”
“Fellow Americans!” the loud stranger cooed. “You must unpack your bags and meet me in the lobby for a drink. I’ll give you all the shortcuts to having fun around here.”
Despite the nagging thought that this woman would drive them all mad, they couldn’t resist getting the inside scoop so they all met the loud stranger in the lobby at 7pm. To their surprise, their local loud leader was wearing Manolo Blahnik heels, a diamond tennis bracelet, men’s boxer shorts and a Just Do It Nike T-shirt. “I’m in such a pickle ladies…the airline still hasn’t returned my luggage and I must go to this party tonight or I will simply die…how will we get in with me dressed like this?”
Clare and Emma exchanged somniferous glances and excused themselves after expressing the minimum amount of sympathy for the Pantsless Empress. Emma had been drinking for hours – on the plane, in the car, in her hotel room, and it was starting to catch up with her.
Caroline heard “party” and “we” and immediately offered, “Let’s just dash up to my room and you can borrow some of my clothes, I have this beautiful new necklace from our travel club that I think will be fabulous with your skin tone. Well it’s Emma’s but she won’t mind if you borrow it.” And so Caroline and the loud stranger clomped up to her room. Caroline couldn’t help getting excited thinking about all the possible love interests she might find that evening.