Caroline and the loud stranger stumbled back to the Hotel Excelsior around two o’clock in the morning, flush with the excitement of the evening’s events, not to mention, seven or eight glasses of champagne. Caroline tiptoed into Emma’s room and replaced the opal necklace she had lent to the stranger back on the bureau.
The next morning Emma awoke to a pounding knock on her door, feeling as though the knocking was on her skull itself.
Emma pulled the covers over her head and waited for the knocking to go away. She supposed it was housekeeping. “Come back later!” she implored.
“This is not housekeeping,” a tiny, forceful voice replied. “Please open the door – I need to speak to you about last night.”
Emma pulled apart the cobwebs in her hungover brain. Oh god, what did I do last night?
She allowed one leg to inch toward the edge of the bed and eventually slide all the way off. One down, one to go. By the time she had both feet on the ground, the knock had restarted. If this was Clare with an unnecessary cheerful breakfast wake-up call, she would not be forgiven.
Emma poured herself into her Frette robe and opened the door a few inches. A petite woman with a frazzled bun on the top of her head stuck her foot in the door and pried it all the way open with little force.
“The woman down the hall told me that you are the owner of a large opal necklace, is this correct?”
Emma looked around, making sure she hadn’t lost her favorite gem from Rhett in some drunken stupor last night. She sighed relief when she spotted it. The petite woman followed Emma’s gaze and naturally her eyes also found the necklace. Without a verbal response, the petite woman already had her answer.
“I’m the personal assistant to Courtade Houston, the woman whose fiancé you tried to steal last night. She’s asked that you meet her at La Yaute café this evening at five o’clock.”
Clearly this was a case of mistaken identity – both women (the stranger and Emma) were tall and willowy and unbeknownst to Emma, both were wearers of a (Emma’s) large opal necklace. Unfortunately, nobody with more acute visual knowledge of the subtle differences between the women was present during this exchange. And so the high jinks went on uninterrupted.
Emma, always one to give the benefit of the doubt and aware of her unfortunate proclivity to forgetfulness when drinking, (she started tallying her drinks from yesterday….they had started at 10 o’clock in the morning EST and god knows how long she had stayed in that hotel lobby) turned red and replied, “I’ll be happy to meet your boss….”
“Ms. Courtade Houston,” the little woman filled in.
Finally the little woman left and Emma let her body collapse onto the bed. She would deal with all of this later. What she really needed now was a mimosa.