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The dancing lasted two more hours, and Parker spent the first one sitting uncomfortably in the common house watching Gail have fun. So when Shuhjeet sat to have a drink, Parker asked him if he could step in. “Sure,” Shuhjeet replied.
When Parker walked over the where Alice, Czajka, and Gail waited for Shuhjeet, he was met with two wide-eyed friends and one mirthful girlfriend. “It’s about time you got off your ass and joined in,” Gail said. Parker just bowed and took his place in the square.
The fiddler picked up his bow and began to strum. At the microphone, the caller held forth, rattling off instructions faster than Parker could execute them. His feet began to get tangled, and the heat of frustration rose in his face. After the second turn, Gail squeezed his hand and he looked up at her. Their eyes locked, and Parker saw her take a deep breath, copying without thought. “Follow me,” Gail whispered as she swung around him in an allemande-left. Or was it right? It didn’t matter, he followed.
Between Gail’s nudges and Czajka’s eyebrow waggling, Parker managed to figure out which way round he was meant to go. Then it started getting fun. For the next forty-five minutes Parker allemande’d and do-see-do’ed with a smile on his face. When the fiddler finally put done his instrument and the caller said “That’s it for this time, folks! Hope you all had fun!”, Parker applauded as enthusiastically as Gail.
Gail turned to Parker with a twinkle in her eye, “Now I know how to get you dancing!” She leaned toward him, slipping her arm through his and kissing his cheek.
Parker beamed. “So, uh, what do we do now?” he asked, looking at the two locals.
“You’re staying the night?” Alice asked. At Parker and Gail’s nods she continued, “Then I suppose we could show you to your room.” She smiled, took Czajka’s arm, and began to lead the way toward the door back into the atrium.
Parker blinked and looked at Gail uncertainly. “Relax,” she replied, “we’re all grown-ups here. No one’s going to care if we share a room.” Parker looked skeptical but followed Alice nonetheless. He had to sleep somewhere.
The four of them exited the common house, walking back across the atrium towards where Parker and Jonah Kin’s meeting had been. Parker slowed, his face scrunched in confusion. He glanced at Gail. She smiled and shook her head, then, with a thrust of her chin, gestured that they should continue following. Parker moved forward.
They went down the hall that led to the meeting room but, instead of rounding the bend toward as before, Alice led them straight. It was a door they had passed, and now they passed through finding stairs on the other side. “Oh!” exclaimed Gail.
Alice and Czajka went up the stairs, which opened out onto a small hall above. There were only two doors off this hall. “Down there,” Alice gestured left from the top of the stairway, “is the bedroom. The meeting room’s just below but I don’t think there’s any more meetings scheduled for tonight or tomorrow morning. That one,” she pointed right, “is the washroom. Saves having to trudge up and down the stairs. There’s a shower, too, but no bath.” She shrugged apologetically.
“That’s more than fine,” Parker said. “Who can afford a bath these days with rations and all?” The four nodded in commiseration.
Alice stepped down the hall and knocked on the bedroom door. “Just in case,” she said to Parker and Gail’s quizzical looks. There was no response from within the room, so she turned the knob and opened the door. “Don’t worry, you can lock it from inside. It was just too much of a pain to have a separate key, and only a few folks have the master.”
Gail shrugged and Parker nodded. “Makes sense. We’ll just have to be careful we don’t lock ourselves out.” He smiled.
Czajka chuckled. “Yep, ‘cause I’m not coming to rescue you at two in the morning, man. No matter how loud you yell.”
“Ha ha,” Parker said. He and Gail peered into the room. The walls were a faded yellow, there was a pine dresser with a mirror above it, a large wardrobe, two bedside tables, a window, and one queen sized bed with a faded blue and yellow flower print duvet.
Gail stepped into the room and bounced on the bed. “Comfy,” she said.
“And quiet,” winked Czajka.
Alice just rolled her eyes. “Have you two got your stuff?”
“Oh!” Gail bounced up from the bed. “I totally forgot about it! It’s still down in the common house. I hope.” She started toward the door, but Alice put a calming hand on her shoulder.
“Relax, no one will have taken it. How about you?” Alice turned to Parker.
Parker shook his head. “Me neither. Will it still be open if we go down and then come back?”
Alice nodded. “No one’s got any guests scheduled at the moment. You’re fine. Come on,” she said to Czajka, “let’s go help them find their stuff.”
Czajka shrugged, and they all trudged back downstairs. Parker headed down the hall to the meeting room, realizing he’d probably left his pack in there when he got distracted with the wool count. He jiggled the knob, but it didn’t open.
“Fortunately for you,” Alice said with a smile, “I have a master key.” She unlocked the door, and Parker step into the room. Gail followed him, letting out an ironic chuckle.
“So much for you looking after my stuff. Seems you couldn’t even remember to look after your own,” she said.
Parker bent down and retrieved their packs from beside the chairs they’d sat in earlier. “Nothing happened to them. It’s fine,” he retorted, passing Gail her pack.
Gail undid the top strap and peered in. Her clipboard was there, and a pile of overnight clothes. “Looks fine,” she shrugged. “Lucky you.”
Parker glared at her, opening his mouth to retort back, when Czajka cut across him. “Hey, hey, calm down,” Czajka said, stepping between the two, arms outstretched. “This is the ‘Song. Stuff’s fine here.” He looked between his two friends and, seeing their annoyed but resigned faces, lowered his arms. “Okay, good. You good for the night?”
Gail and Parker looked at each other, sighed, then nodded.
“Ok then,” Czajka said. “Night.” He turned and hugged Gail briefly. “Night man,” Czajka said, clasping Parker on the shoulder in a one armed guy-hug.
“Night,” Parker nodded.
“Night,” Gail said, nodding to both Czajka and Alice, “and thanks.”
“Not a problem,” Alice smiled. She turned and crooked her arm around Czajka’s waist. As they walked off, Gail saw Czajka place his arm around Alice in exactly the same way.