11:00 pm – continued
Nick nodded and crammed himself and his family into an elevator with another family of four. Iris and the two boys, both around her age, smiled shyly at each other, but clung to their parents and didn’t say a word. The ride up was swift; Nick and his family getting off on the level before the other family.
The young family made their way down the hall and to their rooms, staying close to the walls as people still streamed in all directions around them. The walls were made from some shiny silver material punctured periodically with equally silver doors on one side. Each door had a number in bold black print, the numbers rising as they made their way down the curved wall. Round windows were set every twenty feet along the opposite wall, but they only looked out onto brown walls and industrial lighting.
Under his breath, Nick repeated the number for their rooms until they reached it. As they came to a stop at door number seventeen, he frowned at the closed silver door for a few moments, wondering how to open it. There weren’t any door knobs or button panels or any other kind of outward indication of how to open it. It appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be a solid sheet of shiny silver metal. Feeling confused, he glanced down the hall and noticed one of the wait staff members help another family by having the man press his hand to the door, which slid open.
“Try it,” Rose said with a shrug. “If it doesn’t work, we can always ask that young lady.”
Nick shrugged in response, figuring they didn’t have anything to lose. He looked down at his hands and selected his right hand, hoping it didn’t matter which hand he chose. Pressing his hand, fingers spread out, to the middle of the door, he hoped for the best. Almost immediately, the door silently slid open, vanishing into a slot in the wall it retreated into. He and Rose traded equally pleased, if a little surprised, looks and Nick ushered his family inside. A moment after the three of them entered, the door silent slid back into place behind them, effectively cutting off the noise from the hallway.
It was a rather spacious space that they found themselves in. The living space had adequate seating for twelve people, a coffee table, bookshelves, and a desk. Above the couch sitting opposite the door was a concave window that looked out onto the field. In the distance, they could barely make out the lights of a distant city. To the left of the living space was a fully equipped and functional kitchen with a dining table right off of it. Next to it was the open door to a bathroom. To the right of the living space were two doors standing ajar, each apparently leading to a bedroom. It was fully finished, but felt a little clinical to Rose. In her mind, it would need a lot of work to make it feel like a home. It was a good thing, though, that she was an interior designer. It would give her something to do.
“This seems cozy,” Rose remarked as Iris went straight for the large window to gaze out at the field and the distant city lights. “I guess we’ll have plenty of time to scope out this place. Any idea of where we’re headed anyways?”
Nick shook his head and went towards the bedrooms. “No clue. Come, Iris, we need to get ready for the party. Mommy will help you get dressed.”
Iris gave her father an indignant look. “I can dress myself.”
Nick lifted his hands, turning back to look at his daughter so his palms faced her. “Okay, okay. If you need help, just call for Mom, okay.”
“I know, Dad,” Iris said with a tired roll of her eyes and a soft sigh.
Nick disappeared into one of the bedrooms and didn’t emerge, so Rose followed him in to what she supposed must be their bedroom. Iris gave the outside world one last look before heading to the second room, wondering if that city in the distance was her own and if Alice was thinking of her, just as Iris couldn’t stop thinking of her best friend.
Wiping away the tears forming in her eyes, Iris walked into the second bedroom, a light flickering on as she entered. It was small, smaller than the one she’d had in their house, but it had all of her favorite books, stuffed animals, and toys, so she supposed she was happy. She had a pretty, pink canopy bed in the middle of the room and a little silver table at the foot of the bed with three matching chairs. There was a closet in one wall and her clothes had already been hung on one side. The other side had drawers and, as she opened them, she saw the rest of her clothes had been unpacked and neatly folded.
Iris frowned at her clothes. The captain had said it was going to be a formal party. She remembered her parents had gone to a wedding a year before and her mother had said something about a formal dress code. Her mother had come down the stairs in a beautiful burgundy dress that fell to her toes with a matching shawl around her shoulders. She supposed that meant she had to wear her best dress for the formal party tonight. Her brow creased with concentration, she drifted over to where all of her party dresses hung. One by one, she touched all of them, remembering when she had worn them, listening to the familiar, comforting crinkle and rustle of the materials.
Her fingers brushed against a white and lavender dress with a poufy skirt. She’d worn it for her birthday this past year when she’d had a tea party with her friends to celebrate. Alice had been in a white and pink dress.
Iris wiped away the tears from her eyes and moved on to her next favorite dress. She’d worn this one at her parents’ anniversary party. It would do. She looked up at the bar the hanger was perched on and realized she couldn’t reach it on her own. Tugging on the skirt didn’t help, either. Looking around, she spotted a stool she could stand on to get her dress down. After carefully pulling the dress out, she laid it on the bed and stared at it for a moment. It was a pale green dress with puffy sleeves, a slightly puffy skirt, and a purple sash around the waist. The hem was embroidered with lavender flowers and framed in white. She thought the best part of this particular dress was that it was easy to get into and she didn’t need her mother’s help.
“We’re heading out in five minutes, sweetie,” Rose called out. “I’ll be there in a minute to make sure you’re ready.”
“Okay,” Iris called back as she began to undress.
In no time at all, Iris had her dress on. She rummaged around in a drawer and found a pair of white lacy socks. After pulling them on, she slipped her feet into white Mary Jane shoes that had a half inch heel. They were the last pair of shoes her mother had bought for her two months before.
“All ready?” Rose asked as she walked into Iris’s room, a hair brush and golden barrette for Iris’s hair in her hands.
Iris presented herself to her mother and nodded, turning in a slow circle with her arms held out to her sides for her mother’s approval. Rose smiled, though her face looked more solemn than cheerful and indicated Iris should sit on the foot of her bed, just like they had done at home whenever Rose brushed her daughter’s hair. The little girl did as her mother asked and Rose quickly ran the brush through Iris’s hair, her red silk dress rustling as she worked. Rose quickly pulled up half of Iris’s hair and clipped it with the barrette.
“Okay,” Rose said. “All done. Let’s go show Daddy.”