A piercing and continuous ringing woke him. Jonathan was halfway opening his eyes when the racket stopped. He nestled his head deeper into the pillow and pulled the duvet cover tight. A vague headache surfaced and settled behind his eyes. He tried to moisten his lips, but his tongue was so dry it seemed like a grater scaling the skin from his lips. He shut out the pounding inside his skull and dozed off, only wakened by the persistent ringing once more. He pushed himself up against the headboard. Again, the noise stopped before he was able to determine where it came from and for a moment he thought he had imagined it.

Despite the headache and the cotton balls that seemed to have replaced his brain, he knew where he was. The suite had not changed since he collapsed onto the bed. He remembered the day, the bag, his arrival at the hotel, meeting Victoria Walter and Matt Turing. He remembered everything up to Victoria’s email, the dinner brought to him by the asshole in the monkey suit and his own embarrassment. He remembered his anger when he discovered the LinkedIn profile picture.

What he didn’t remember was undressing and tucking himself in. He had collapsed onto the bed, yes, to close his eyes for a minute in an attempt to overcome the effects of the champagne and the burning pain in his knee, but he knew one hundred percent sure he had been dressed when he closed his eyes. And that the curtains were open. He was naked now. And the curtains were shut tight, leaving him in a darkened room. Jonathan moved his leg. A sharp pain shot through his upper leg. No dream. No hallucination. He reached under the duvet and rubbed his knee, when the phone rang again.

“Good morning, Mr. Bard,” a cheery voice tweeted in his ear. “This is your wake-up call. It’s seven thirty. You are expected in the main meeting room in one hour. Have a nice day.”

In a daze he muttered a thank you, but before he had finished, a dry click told him that the girl had already disconnected. The receiver clamped in his hand, he sank back into the pillows. Good morning. She had said good morning. He had spent the night in the suite. One simple task he had set himself: find out what was going on. Instead, he had downed a bottle of champagne and fucking passed out. He hauled himself out of bed and tottered to the bathroom, where he stared at his reflection in the large mirror, at his ashen face with the dark bags under the eyes, his chest heaving too fast for his age, and down until his gaze hitched at the flaky specks of dried semen plastered to his blubber gut. He raised an eyebrow. Really? Instinctively he glanced at his right hand. “Stupid drunk,” he muttered. “Fucking wino. You can’t even remember the good things.”

The shower flushed the leaden feeling from his brain but not from his legs, like basalt blocks chained him to the floor. The minty taste of toothpaste did chase some of the hang-over remnants. He squirted some more on the hotel’s toothbrush and rinsed his mouth with it, before he wrapped a towel around his waist and plunked down on the bench at the bed’s foot. His cloths were folded in a neat stack next to the bag Victoria had left. He searched his fogged-up brain for even the slightest shred of memory. Nothing came up. He touched the Tee and jeans, hesitantly, as if they weren’t his. He shook his head. They weren’t his. This wasn’t him. This wasn’t his style. He would’ve dropped the clothes where he’d taken them off, no longer pestered by the superior looks of his ex.

Jonathan smacked himself in the head to get rid of the fog. This wasn’t him. And whatever Barbie and Ken wanted him to believe it was, he couldn’t care less. They could stuff their lame jokes up their asses. He was too tired and too sick to bother.

He slipped into the jeans and zipped up, the indigo fabric cutting into his gut. He threw on the Tee and dragged himself to the door.


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