Part 139: Remembrance of a Promise
each of them.
Christmas songs assaulted him from every angle. The stores had huge Christmas trees standing by their doorways, and hundreds of people with gleeful smiles jostled past one another clutching presents in their hands.
On Christmas Eve 25 years earlier, Hyde and his mother had moved away from this town and started living in Manhattan. When they arrived, there were Christmas songs playing there too, even amidst that metropolis of skyscrapers.
Hyde wasn't especially fond of Christmas songs. Whenever he heard Jingle Bells, it reminded him of his nine-year-old self, clutching his mother's hand as the two of them walked through an unfamiliar city where they didn't know a soul.
As he walked back to the apartment building, however, the ony thing on his mind was the promise he'd made to Rachel about that night.
A resounding buzz indicated that someone had come to see him. Hyde opened the door, and standing there alone before him was Mila.
*She's here a little early for dinner.*
He apologised immediately for missing her when she stopped by. "I'm sorry I wasn't here when you called in the other day, Mila."
"That's alright," she replied. Next time, she said, she would let him know in advance that she was coming. That was what Rachel had told her to do.
"As far as I knew, we were planning on meeting up tonight," said Hyde, more softly than his usual gruff tone.
This was met with a pained smile from Mila. "I'm afraid the dinner's been cancelled."
"What do you mean?"
She looked away from him. "Ed's been taken to hospital."
He couldn't believe it. It stood to reason, though. Ed had an ongoing heart condition. Hyde could recall a previous occasion where he'd put himself under too much stress and had an attack. Apparently Rachel was by his bedside.
*I hope the old man's all right.*
Mila explained that Rachel had urged her to rush over and tell Hyde that their dinner was cancelled.
Hyde was glad that Rachel had been so toughtful, but he was worried about Ed's condition.
He also felt sorry for Mila. She had obviously been greatly looking forward to Christmas Eve, and now something awful had happened.
Concerned as he was about Ed, though, he knew that RAchel would stay by the man's side no matter what, and let him know as soon as there was any news.
He tried to brighten the tone of the conversation slightly. "How about we go out for a meal another time? Once Ed is out of the woods I'll take you both out, just like we planned."
But if anything, she looked even more crushed. She shook her head. "I have to go back to Seattle tomorrow."
Mila had a winter project that she needed to finish before her break was over.
"I'm just glad I got to see you before I left," said Mila.
"Is that the reason you came here?"
Mila nodded vigorously.
All of a sudden, the phone rang. He hoped it was Rachel -- he wanted to hear about Ed's current state as soon as possible.
"If it's Rachel, do you mind if I answer it?" asked Mila. She picked up the phone in Hyde's stead.
It seemed to be someone else, however. Looking slightly dejected, Mila handed him the receiver. "It's a woman. I don't recognise her voice."
It turned out to be Jeanie, Kyle's mother. Hyde suddenly had a bad feeling about this.
Like clockwork, Jeanie insisted on asking him about the young lady that had answered the phone.
"She's just a friend," he replied.
She laughed. "Well, it is Christmas Eve. I'm happy that you're not planning on spending the rest of the day by yourself."
"Slow down there. She really is just a friend. You shouldn't go jumping to conclusions."
But she just sidestepped his comment and changed the subject. "I'm not trying to back you into a corner or anything. You don't have to tell me. Anyway, I'm not going to hold you up for too long. I just wanted to let you know that I've sent you a small package."
So Jeanie had sent Hyde a Christmas present. The two of them had a long-standing agreement not to buy each other presents at Christmas, but she explained that this felt like a special Christmas to her. This year, Hyde was the same age his father had been when he died.
"Merry Christmas, Kyle," she said before hanging up.
Hyde put down the receiver
little, and her fater, an art gallery proprietor, had raised her alone.
It was her father that took her to Hotel Dusk and got her mixed up in the terrible incident that led to Mila losing conciousness and spending the next ten years in a coma.
When she finally woke up, her father was no longer by her side. He had been murdered.
"Kyle, do you remember Christmas last year?"
He remembered it well. The two of them had stood in the storage room at Hotel Dusk, gazing at the Christmas tree Hyde had hastily decorated. At that point, Mila was mute and still had no recollection of her past.
"It was wonderful, Kyle. That tree was so pretty. I'll remember it forever."
Hyde felt the same. It had only been a year since then, and yet it had already become so ingrained, like a memory form childhood.
"I've just remembered, Kyle." Mila jolted them out of their shared reverie and produced a package from her bag. It was a present from Rachel.
Hyde opened it, and inside was a bottle of his favourite wine.
That wasn't all. Mila had a gift for Hyde as well: a picture of him that she had drawn herself.
He was taken aback, but very grateful. "I think you might have glossed over a few of my rough edges though!"
Hyde was delighted, if a little embarrassed. As he marvelled at the drawing, more of the past year's events came flooding back to him.
With Hyde's help, Mila had overcome all kinds of trials and tribulations at Hotel Dusk and got back both her memories and her ability to speak. After that, she had enrolled at an art college in Seattle. She couldn't get back those ten years she spent lying on a hospital bed, but she was doing an admirable job of making up for lost time. She had found something she excelled at and now she was making her way on her own. There was plenty that she struggled with or that she didn't understand, but she had soldiered on and become far stronger than a year ago, without losing a bit of her kindness or innocence.
"At art college I've started studying right from the basics," said Mila. She was learning all about the process of interweaving each individual line to create light and shadow, she said, and she was loving every minute.
Hyde took another look at the drawing of him, and he could see exactly what she was talking about. It was only a rough sketch, but the thickness of the lines helped to create areas of shadow that defined his face. Hyde was very impressed.
It was time, sadly, to come clean. "I'm sorry, but I haven't got anything to give you, Mila. I'll get you something next year though, I promise."
He really wished he'd managed to find her something. He lamented the fact that he wouldn't get a chance to see her open his gift and smile.
"I'm not sure I can wait until then," she replied, and after considering it for a moment, she came out with a request that startled him. "I'd like you to draw a picture of me."
Hyde didn't have Mila's kind of confidence in his drawing ability. Flustered, he tried to say no, but she was unusually obstinate about this. She really wanted him to draw her.
*Can't see that I've got a choice.*
Hyde opened up his notebook and tried as hard as he could to do a decent drawing of Mila. With a slightly tense expression on her face, Mila sat perfectly still and didn't utter a word as she waited for him to finish.
He'd never tried to draw a portrait like this before, so it took him some time. Eventually he managed to produce something that he thought resembled her to a certain degree.
When she saw it, Mila was overjoyed. She thanked him for his present and put it away as carefully as she could.
Relieved, Hyde suggested that the two of them go down to Lucky's Café to have a drink, but Mila said, "Let's skip the café. There's somewhere else I'd rather go." She explained that she wanted to get a closer look at the light-
He led Mila out of his room, but before they could get very far, Charles came over and said that he needed to talk to Hyde. Hyde pointed Mila in the direction of the elevator and told her to go on ahead, and that he'd meet her on the roof in a few minutes.
Charles had a fairly justifiable reason for accosting him: he wanted Hyde to return the sparse key to room 205, which he had lent him the day before. Hyde apologised for not giving it back sooner and fished it out of his pocket.
As soon as he had finished his business with Charles, Hyde hurried to the elevator and followed Mila up.
When he got out onto the roof, he looked and saw that Mila was standing over by the lighthouse monument.
"It looked a lot bigger from the ground," she said when he reached her. "It's actually pretty small when you see it up close."
"Smaller than you thought, huh?" Hyde smirked. His reaction had been exactly the same the first time he'd stood next to the lighthouse.
Hyde told her all about how up until 13 years ago, Cape West had been a hotel. He posited that the lighthouse had been put there because it went well with the image the name was meant to convey.
Mila spoke in a quiet tone. "I suppose you could say the best use of the lighthouse is to guide people safely through the crowded streets of the city."
*That's how it was for me.*
Four years earlier, Hyde had been lost at sea. It was all too much for him; he couldn't quite believe what had happened. His partner, Bradley, had been on an undercover mission that was about to see results, when suddenly he stabbed the police force in the back. Hyde had felt the knife more deeply than anyone else.
From then on, Hyde spent every waking hour asking himself, "Why?" That simple question reverberated in his head thousands upon thousands of times. Soon he started on a quest to seek out Bradley so he could finally ask the question that had burned him up inside so much. It was the only thing that kept him going.
He had arrived in Los Angeles with a heavy weight on his shoulders -- and the moment he'd seen the lighthouse atop the Cape West apartment building, he was drawn to it. He decided to move in there without even checking over the room first.
At the time he hadn't applied any grand meaning to the monument, like it was showing him the way in the darkness or anything like that; however, there was no denying that in a sense, he had really needed some direction to his life.
"Kyle, do you ever worry about things or get lonely? Is there anything that's troubling you?"
The question came out of nowhere, and Hyde had to think for a moment before he could answer. He tried to be as honest with her as he could. "When I get lost in my thoughts, I sometimes feel like a boat drifting through the night. No lighthouse to beckon me in, just the menacing darkness and the waves. When I get like this, I just find myself counting the minutes till morning comes."
The morning would come. As he opened up to Mila, Hyde was also trying to reassure himself. Yes, for now he was enveloped in darkness, but there was a light in the distance, the faint light of morning, and he was going to reach it.
*Just so long as I can find it, that is.*
Mila stared up at Hyde's rough-hewn face and asked in a fragile voice, "Will morning come for me someday too, Kyle?"
Her question filled Hyde with the overwhelming feeling that no matter what happened, no matter how far their respective lives took them, he must never let anything happen to this girl.
"Don't you worry about that, Mila. You're never alone. If it's ever too dark for you, and you're getting scared, I'll come and save you right away. You won't have to wait for morning." As he spoke these heartfelt words, he looked directly into her eyes. Suddenly, Mila was smiling from ear to ear.
Mila needed Hyde. He was her rock, and both of them understood that.
The two of them took a relaxing walk around the edge of the roof. On the opposite side to the lighthouse, they could look over the park where Hyde sometimes went for a stroll.
He pointed out his favourite bench and told Mila about a black cat that sometimes showed up when he sat there. It was a cute cat, he said, with a star in its left eye. It always seemed to remember Hyde and mew at him expecting to be fed.
"I guess I won't be seeing him any more after leaving
While making an effort to calm her down, he tried pressing every button on the control panel. No response.
*What do I do?*
He banged on the door over and over again, but the sound just reverberated inside the elevator, and no one answered.
*We really are stuck.*
But he refused to give up hope. He screwed up all his courage, and with occasional pauses to try and boost Mila's spirits, he repeatedly pounded on the door and cried out for assistance. "Help!" he yelled. "Somebody, help!"
He kept shouting those same words for he didn't know how long, when suddenly the elevator started moving again. At last it reached the first floor and came to a gentle stop.
When the door opened, Dylan was standing right outside. He had apparently heard Hyde's cries for help and pressed the elevator call button on the first floor.
*So the buttons on the inside are broken, but the ones on the outside still work?*
"The elevator just stopped when we were between floors," said Hyde. "Glad I got someone's attention by banging on the door like that."
Dylan seemed very put out by the whole situation. He had just had the elevator repaired, after all. "I'm gonna call them to fix it again, so do you mind keeping this between us for now? You know what Mrs Patrice will get like if she finds out."
Being trapped in an elevator did seem to have left Mila a bit shaken, but it was time for her to leave nonetheless. "Perhaps Rachel will be with us too the next time we meet," she said, and, with that implied promise that they would indeed meet again, she left the apartment building behind her.
As if it had been timed to perfection, the second Mila was gone, Tony walked in through the front door like some kind of half-assed replacement. He was holding a package in his hands, and without Hyde expressing even the tiniest amount of interest in it, Tony started to explain what it was.
It seemed that while he was outside the building he had bumped into the mailman and, without thinking, he had accepted a small package addressed to Mags. "Hyde, you gotta give it to her for me!" begged Tony.
"No way," said Hyde, unflinching in his coldness. "Do it yourself."
Tony put on a morose expression and appealed to Hyde again. "If I see her now she'll ask me why I haven't paid my rent yet!"
He sighed and took the package. "I'll help you out this time, but get your act together and pay her the damn money!"
Just as he was about to walk away, Tony asked Hyde if he had any plans for that evening. Hyde replied that his plans had fallen through, to which Tony asked, "How about joining me for a drink, then?"
Hyde glared at him. "I'll be honest, I don't like the idea of you sponging off me to drink all night."
"Come on, it's Christmas Eve! I have no plans to sponge anything off you! Anyway, I'll give you a shout a little later." He trotted up the stairs without even waiting for Hyde to reply.
Shaking his head as Tony left, Hyde walked across to Mags's room with the package and knocked on her door.
Hyde handed Mags the package, and she looked all over it to see who it was from. Suddenly she froze in horror and exclaimed that the sender's name wasn't written anywhere. Her hands trembling, she placed the package on the table and asked, "Mr Hyde, you wouldn't mind taking a look inside the package for me, would you?"
With a nod, he bent down over the table and carefully opened up the package. Inside was a gold pocket watch.
Mags breathed a sigh of relief, as if she had been expecting something much worse to be inside that box. "What did you think was in there?" asked Hyde.
Reluctantly, she admitted her suspicion. "It was making a ticking sound, so I was concerned that it might have been a bomb. Also..."
He wasn't about to let her just brush that aside. Sure, it had turned out all right in the end, but if it had really been a bomb, he wouldn't be standing there now. In fact, if she was genuinely worried about a bomb threat, evicting everyone from their apartments should have been the least of her worries.
Was someone trying to save themselves some effort and get the building's destruction over and done with, he owndered?
As he processed all of this, he became incredibly angry at Mags's attitude towards the whole situation. He lashed out at her. "Mrs Patrice, if you really thought that was a bomb and you made me open it instead, that doesn't say much
she thought it was someone's tasteless idea of a joke, so she tore it up and threw it away.
But when Hyde had given her that anonymous package, it suddenly hit her that the threat could be genuine.
Continuing almost in a whisper, she said, "There are all sorts of people living in this world, Mr Hyde." People, she went on, who might use any methods necessary to try and get their hands on her apartment building, who didn't care in the slightest about the people they intimidated.
Hyde sensed a distinct air of unrest about Mags.
Mags apologised that he had to see her in this state, and for how she had reacted in her confusion. Then, with a marked change in her demeanour, she asked Hyde, "Oh yes, who was the charming young lady who paid you a visit today? It's a tad unusual for you to be entertaining a young lady like that."
Hyde was surprised to learn that she even knew about Mila's presence, but apparently they had encountered one another in the lobby. When he reacted with a rather forbidding expression, she dismissed the matter, insisting that she was merely curious. "I have absolutely no interest in giving any advice on who one should or shouldn't date."
He decided now was the right time to break off their conversation, so he said a quick goodbye and made his exit.
Once he was back in the lobby, his pager started beeping. *Figures. Where was that when Mags was asking me about Mila?* He headed back to his room to give Rachel a call.
*I hope Ed's okay.*
In contrast to Hyde's apprehensiveness, Rachel's voice was just as level as he was used to. She gave him an update on the situation. Apparently Ed had been telling everyone not to fuss too much, that it was the same condition as always, but according to the doctor this time was much worse than usual.
"I'm gonna take a trip to the hospital," said Hyde.
"It would be better if you didn't go, for his sake," Rachel warned. "He'll do anything to avoid letting you see him in this weakened state."
*Guess she's right. I'm sure Ed's in good hands with Rachel around.*
"Kyle, are you upset that we couldn't meet up this evening?" she asked.
"You know I am."
"Right answer. Merry Christmas, Kyle."
Saddened by the thought that he had again missed the opportunity to spend Christmas Eve with Rachel, he tried to make his Christmas greeting as heartfelt as he possibly could. "Merry Christmas to you too, Rachel."
Shortly after their call ended, a buzz came at the door. The package from his mother had arrived.
Earlier she'd told him she had sent a Christmas present this year because he was the same age as his father was when he died, and that made it a special year. Hyde opened the box and found a baseball and a car key inside.
He picked up the baseball first. He knew right away that this was the ball he and his father used to play catch with. He took a look at the key as well, but it didn't spark any particular connection for him. He wasn't quite sure why his mother had sent it.
A Christmas card was included with the present. He read the message inside it.
"Merry Christmas! In this package are some very precious things from 25 years ago. Your father had been keeping them in his case. Take care. Love, Mom."
When Hyde's father was killed 25 years ago, and his body was discovered in a downtown parking lot, beside him had sat the case he used to carry to work.
Hyde became lost in thought as he wondered what memories and emotions this ball might have represented for his father as he carried it with him, and for his mother as she treasured the things her husband had been holding the day he died for all these years.
Thinking about the significance this present had previously held to both of his parents left Hyde overcome by the poignancy.
The sunlight started to fade, and soon it was dim enough outside that Hyde had to switch on the light in his room. Just as he was doing so, Tony knocked on the door.
"I've come to get you, just like I promised!" he said, adding that tonight was on him. He seemed to be in a very good mood.
*Guess it wouldn't hurt to knock back one or two with him.*
Tony was thrilled when Hyde acquiesced. He said to meet him later at Lucky's Café, then darted back to his own room.
Just as agreed, Hyde went to Lucky's Café. There he was greeted, as ever, by Claire's
Claire seemed perturbed, however, that Tony was allowed to run up a tab but nobody else was. "And didn't you also invite him here and tell him it would be on the house?"
"If I want to spread a little happiness on the night before Christmas, I have every right," he insisted.
Hyde started to feel a little awkward about the whole situation. "Truth is, I only came here tonight because Tony asked me to. He promised to cover my bill too."
"Heh, that's quite amusing!"
Hyde asked what was so funny. Sidney explained that when Tony had asked if it was okay to bring a "friend", he had assumed he meant a girlfriend.
"Guess you must've softened to him a bit now then, am I right?" asked Sidney, looking at Hyde with an inquisitive stare. For his own part, Sidney said, he had been a fan of Tony's music ever since the glory days.
Hyde thought back to the song Tony had played him for the first time two days earlier. He'd liked it a lot more than he expected to, and he could still recall the melody.
Hyde wondered why Sidney didn't tell Tony how much he enjoyed his music, but Sidney had a strongly-held conviction that prevented him from doing so. "I'm a real fan," he said, "and real fans don't need to make themselves known to the artist. They're happy to observe them from afar. They just sit back and wait for the music."
Hyde thought that attitude made Sidney pretty cool. "Tony's a lucky guy if his fans are anything like you."
"Anything, just remember, tonight's on me," said Sidney.
Sidney seemed a little torn up as he pointed out that this might be Hyde and Tony's last chance to have a drink here together, so Hyde didn't see any sense in arguing with him.
Sidney also asked Hyde to pick something from the jukebox, so he went over and took a glance at the selection while he waited for Tony.
*This sounds like a pretty smooth tune.* He put on Belief.
The scrathy music started flowing from the speaker of the jukebox.
Hyde was just on his way back to his seat when Tony strode into the café, a real spring in his step. It soon became clear that Tony was in the mood for some serious drinking.
"Maybe you should consider slowing down the pace," said Hyde, doing his best to appeal to Tony's better nature. "You don't wanna bankrupt Sidney!"
Tony flushed in shame as he realised that Hyde had rumbled him.
"Come on, don't take it so hard. What's a little embarrassment among friends?"
That last word made Tony's face light up. He threw his
Tony really did seem unusually cheerful today, thought Hyde.
Evidently Tony had realised this himself. "Don't know what it is, but happiness seems to be in the air today. I feel like I've been given a present from Santa. Sidney offers to pay for my drinks, and you declare that we're friends. Not to mention..."
Listening to Tony's good news, Hyde instinctively quipped that Tony was less happy and more just plain lucky. Apparently he'd received a telephone call from the director of the radio programme that had played his song, and it had apparently been very well received by the audience. Not only that, but there was interest from a record company.
"I can't say I'm not a littel worried, though." Tony explained his dilemma. He needed to make a proper demo tape, but to do that he'd need to rent out a decent studio, and that would cost money -- money he didn't have.
Hyde asked, "Would $1000 be enough?" and handed Tony the cheque, a gleam in his eye.
Sidney came over to inform them that he was still preparing their food, and suggested that they play some billiards while they waited.
Lucky's Café was home to a fully-fledged billiards room that might well have been a vestige from the hotel era. Taking Sidney's advice, Hyde and Tony went into the billiards room.
It had been a while since Hyde had last held a billiards cue in his hand, but he was sure his former prowess would return once he got warmed up. The two of them made a bet: if Hyde won, Tony would perform a song, while if Tony won, Hyde would buy him a glass of the finest liquor in the house. Hyde was eager to hear that song again, and Lucky's Café would be the perfect venue.
They agreed to determine the winner based solely on the break shot. Whoever potted the most balls would claim the victory. It seemed perfect, since it wouldn't take long and they only had a short wait before their food was ready. They decided to make it best out of three.
Their showdown commenced. "I'll go first," said Tony, grabbing a cue. He shot the cue ball and it struck the other balls, spreading them out from their carefully arranged starting position to various points all over the table.
Next it was Hyde's turn. The moment he started to line up his shot, he felt his intuition for the game coming back to him from the depths of his past. The final score was 2 - 1. In the end, Hyde won.
Tony asked Hyde where he'd honed his skills, and Hyde
"Damn, I lost!" said Tony. "I've gone and forgotten my guitar though. How about I play you a song later?"
"Actually, I'd like to change the plan slightly. Instead of playing it for me, there's someone else I'd like you to play it to." He told him that the person he was talking about had been a fan ever since Tony's days as a successful artist, and had never lost faith in him. Hyde asked if he would play his new song for this dedicated fan.
Tony nodded, a proud smile on his face.
Sidney popped his head in, perhaps to tell them that their food was ready. Claire was with him. When the two of them heard the details of their break shot compeition, they both wanted to join in. Tony left to go and have a drink in the meantime, so Hyde was about to face both of his new opponents alone.
If he won against Sidney, he would be able to drink the finest vintage bourbon Sidney owned. If he beat Claire, she would make him a wonderful Christmas meal of her own creation. These seemed like fair conditions, but Sidney had a certain confident air about him.
Sidney unleashed his first shot.
The final score between them was 1 - 0. Ultimately, Hyde won.
Next up was Claire, Sidney's protégé. She put up some stiff competition; it was quite a match. Claire had a real knack for the game. The final score was 1 - 1. Hyde drew.
It had felt great to play billiards again. He'd even worked up a bit of a sweat.
When he got back to the café proper, a seldom-seen customer was sitting at the counter. It was Will White from 306.
Hyde rarely saw him in the building at all, let alone here. In fact, he was certain this was the first time he had ever seen Will patronising Lucky's Café. Will knocked back his drink in a single gulp and slammed his glass back won on the counter. Then he said, "Well hello there, Mr Hyde. Are you by yourself?"
Hyde responded to the contrary; he was accompanying a friend.
"That's a shame," said Will. "I've been waiting for the opportunity to have a drink with you for some time. Tell you what, what are you having? Maybe we could have just one drink together."
Hyde flatly refused. "We're both going to be leaving this place shortly anyway. What's the sense in making friends if we won't ever see each other again? Just because we have a few things in common doesn't mean we'll get along."
Will laughed and said that he'd expected just such a reaction.
Hyde didn't see the humour in the situation, and raised his voice without thinking. "Something funny?"
Will apologised for laughing and then started analysing Hyde. "As I said, that reaction was precisely the sort of thing I expected. You're stubborn and selfish, and like everything to go your way. You have a distinct inability to read the emotion of others and are outspoken.
"You have no qualms about ordering other people around, either, but you're keen not to let others learn of this trait, as word travels fast. In short, you have a very tiresome personality."
"Tell me, Mr White..." asked Hyde, "do you normally run off at the mouth this much, or is it the drink speaking? Hope you don't talk to your customers this way."
"I'll let you guess, shall I?"
"To be honest, I couldn't care less," said Hyde flippantly. "I've already decided that I've got far better things to do with my time than talk to you. Especially seeing as this is Christmas Eve and I'm trying to enjoy myself."
Hyde truly couldn't stand people like this, and he had no inclination to waste any mor ebreath on him. It was Christmas Eve, after all.
Will responded to Hyde's tirade with a comment that he thought Hyde would ultimately regret turning down this offer to talk to him. He left the café without another word.
Soon, however, another familiar face came into the café. It was Betty. "I know it's technically still a day early," she said with boundless enthusiasm, "but Merry Christmas!"
The moment Betty entered his lign of sight, Tony's face lit up and he started talking to her. It seemed that the plans she'd made for that evening had fallen apart, something she seemed less than thrilled about. She said she was in the mood for a few drinks, however, and invited Tony to join her.
Tony was anxious about the fact that he had failed to buy her a present like he'd promised, but she didn't mind a bit, and even offered to pay for his share of the drinks.
"I'm sorry, Hyde, but you
was playing on a small handheld game system. "Did you win that?" asked Hyde. It was the same Pinkie Rabbit Land game that could be won from the juice bottles sold in the vending machine in the lobby.
She boasted that she had tried her luck over and over again, and finally she'd got one, just in time for Christmas. "Do you have on too, Mr Hyde? I've only just started playing, but I'm going to rack up the best high score of anyone in the building. Just you wait and see!"
Idly she wondered what score she would have to beat to reach that status. The glass of bourbon still in his hand, Hyde simply answered, "000."
Claire laughed heartily. "Is that your high score, Mr Hyde? I'll beat that in no time!"
After a while, Claire rushed off, telling Hyde and Sidney that she was heading out to meet a friend. The two men were left alone in the café. Sidney turned off most of the lights, leaving only the counter fully lit. At once the atmosphere changed entirely. They
Sidney joined him in having a glass. "You know, when my ex-wife and I used to run this place, we'd always have a quiet drink together after closing time, just like this."
"Why did the two of you separate?"
Sidney answered frankly. "It wasn't her fault, it was mine. I was way too stubborn."
After taking the empty glasses away and putting them on the table behind him, Sidney suddenly asked if Hyde was familiar with a song called "Promise". Hyde shook his head, and Sidney suggested
This record held some very precious memories for Sidney. It was the only copy left in the shop where he bought it, but Claire's mother had gone there at the same time to buy the exact same record. That was how they had first met.
"Let me guess, that's when you fell in love, right?"
"Absolutely," said Sidney. "It was love at first sight."
"What kind of woman was she?" asked Hyde.
"She was the best. At least, the best for me."
"And do you still feel that way even though you're separated?"
Sidney laughed gently. "Of course!"
Sidney made a lighthearted jab at Hyde for letting the conversation take such an embarrassing turn, and asked if he wanted another drink.
"I think I've reached my limit," he replied.
"Fair enough. Then it's probably time for me to shut this place up for the night."
Sidney made a start on closing up. Hyde thanked him profusely for the wonderful evening and made his way out.
The lobby seemed oddly still