Celeste blushed as she and Allen continued to chat. Was he serious. . .? Allen and Celeste went through all she’d heard and he took notes. . . Allen asked all sorts of questions and she wondered about some . . were they really related to the story . .? As she was about to ask a child threw a tantrum that could not be ignored. This abruptly ended their evening and they walked to Allen’s car.
He held her hand in a friendly way on the drive back and asked where she was staying. Celeste drew a deep breath and realized he’d missed her whole point about finding someone else to help as that would give her a place to sleep for 1+ nights. . . quietly Celeste began again to explain about Arnold’s. .
Allen interrupted, “You are homeless??!!??!!”
“Yes”, she replied softly. “But this is so much better than the last years. . .”
Allen cussed under his breath as he pulled off the road. Then he turned to Celeste and drew her into a crazy-good hug . . the sort of hug you feel with your heart. Slowly letting go he looked deep into her eyes and saw the depth of her pain for the first time. His heart broke with all that her eyes held and he felt so ashamed he hadn’t noticed before.
“I’m getting you a hotel room. The paper will reimburse me so don’t worry about the cost.” Allen stated firmly.
“I need to be close to downtown so I can do more research and help more business owners,” Celeste responded. “I do appreciate the offer, but there are no decent cheap hotels nearby.”
Allen thought a moment then patted her leg and drove on smiling mysteriously. Soon they were parked in front of nice motel in a nearby town. Allen hopped out of the car and ran inside before Celeste could object, returning moments later with a room key and a huge grin. They drove around to the back of the building and Allen handed her the key. Celeste noticed the letters were worn so it read ‘oom #4 3’. She chuckled and asked Allen what the number was and they headed that way.
Once inside Celeste felt a weight lift off her shoulders. . . a weight she hadn’t realized she was carrying. She tested the bed and peeked into the bathroom before sitting down.
Allen had been watching her and realized there was a lot more to this woman than he’d seen before. He wanted to talk more but knew she needed sleep so he made arrangements to pick her up the next day, kissed her gently on the forehead and headed out, making Celeste promise to lock the door soundly behind him.
As Celeste listened to Allen’s car drive away she was already starting the shower . .