The Lovelane Motel
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After years of searching for a suitable job, Solana lands an offer in a rundown motel that could solve her immediate housing issue and kick off her career. There's just one tiny problem - She has to work for her former one-night stand. Mark Daniels must revive his mother's motel or lose all his inheritance. He struggles to navigate the blurred lines between an overwhelming attraction and his responsibility. The problem intensifies when his friend, Phil, starts to pursue a romantic relationship with the woman who plagued his wildest fantasies.
*** Mark ***
"I could've picked up groceries yesterday evening, mah." Mark Daniels glanced at his mother on the passenger side of the car.
"Shoulda, woulda, coulda!" His mother muttered. She wound down the windshield. As if that would help her get a clearer picture of the crowd leaving and entering the supermarket. "Is it always this crowded?"
Mark rubbed his forehead in frustration. If he ignored that question, she would call him disrespectful and they'd start quarreling. "Yes, because it's Saturday. Also, you already know this. Should we go to the mall instead?"
Even as he asked this, he knew the suggestion was dumb. The mall was often much worse than Ever-Good supermarket on this day and time of the week. But he hated driving in traffic or shopping in crowded places. No doubt, there would be kids in there screaming for no reason while their parents did nothing about it.
His mother's reply was as expected. "We're already here. Also, you hate it there on Saturday."
Mark eased the car forward, moving slowly behind the vehicles in front. Soon, they were within the premises. "And now we pray for parking space." He grumbled.
"No worries there. Half of these people are leaving." His mother said idly.
Three minutes passed and they did not find a vacant parking spot.
"I'll just go inside and get the stuff." His mother said. She opened the door to get out of the car without looking and accidentally hit a passerby. Her purse, which sat half-open on her thighs, fell out at the same time.
Typical. Mark scoffed when he recalled how quick she was to call others clumsy.
"Oh, sorry my dear!" She said.
Glancing her way to see the look on the victim's face, his eyes settled on a very ordinary-looking girl. She wore a grimace which was soon transforming into a friendly smile.
Mark's eyes remained fixed on her and he found himself recalling the Sun's golden ball when it rose on the horizon at the first light of dawn.
The girl bent down with his mother and proceeded to assist with picking up the things that fell out of the purse. The wind played with her yellow flay dress when she hunched. With one hand, she held the dress down, preventing it from lifting off her thighs and revealing her underwear.
Look up. He willed her. Look at me.
Girls liked his face and for some reason, he wanted this one to notice him.
In a few moments, when she and his mother were done, she raised her head and their eyes met. But only for one second. Cars started to honk behind him, signaling that there was space to move further in the queue of cars.
She had looked but had gotten distracted and not seen him.
At that instant, his mother threw some of the things back in the seat, shut the door, and waved him off.
As he moved the car, he kept glancing at the rearview. But the girl was on her way out of the premises. He soon found a spot near the reserved space. Straining his neck to look at her one last time, he found her exiting the large gate into the street.
He got out of the car and stood there, eyes in the gate's direction, until his mom called out.
"Are you coming?"
The following week, Mark had almost forgotten the incident and went to the same supermarket to pick up some toiletries.
His mother was not with him and it was a Thursday evening. The place was much less crowded, perhaps because of the game. Which he was also in a hurry to get back and watch.
"Sir, here's a cart."
Mark turned around to find a young man in the shop's uniform thrusting the smaller shopping basket his way.
"Don't need it. Just getting a couple of these." He replied.
"Oh," Was the staff's reply.
Moments later, with two bottles of wine in one hand and a bunch of toiletries balanced on the other, using his jaw for support, he marched carefully to the nearest checkout counter. Only a few feet from the counter, Philip Gonza, the owner of the place, blocked his path.
"Need a cart?" He mocked.
"I'm checking out. Move." Mark replied, going around the man.
Soon, he had deposited his items on the counter and was bringing out his wallet when he saw her. The yellow dress girl from last time.
This time, she wore the supermarket's uniform and was sitting behind the next cash register to his own. For a moment, he considered taking his items there instead, but there was a short cue on that side. He reflected that he should've accepted the cart.
Once again as he was paying, he willed her to look up. To see him. It didn't work this time. Her eyes moved between her monitor and the counter only.
The supermarket speaker came on with the voice of a commentator, reminding him that he was in a hurry to go watch the game. He finished paying and started to leave, still looking and willing the girl to see him.
He walked past and her attention did not waver from the work she was doing.
"She works here, huh." He murmured to himself, racing to where he parked. "The game, the game, the game."
Solana arrived home from yet another failed interview and flung her bag on the chair in frustration. She had done poorly and knew she wasn't getting the job. The cosmetic company had also replied with a declined email, so she decided she was still pathetic and destitute. Turning on the air conditioner, the familiar buzzing that filled the silent room was quickly accompanied by the sound of her ringing phone.
She quickly kicked off her shoes and flopped onto the sofa bed while getting the phone out of her bag.
It was the supermarket manager. Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of his name. She braced herself to sound as sick as possible.
"Hello, Mr. Gonza."
"Just saw you getting off a cab." He said.
"Are you sure? Because I'm indoors." Her heart was thumping in her chest.
"Yes, I'm sure. You got out of a dirty white cab moments ago, Solana."
"Oh. Yeah, I was getting back from the pharmacy."
"I see. Self-medication huh."
The comment sounded like mockery and for a brief moment, Solana considered hanging up and turning off her phone. She could lie that her battery was low and died suddenly.
Brushing off the idea, she replied, "It's woman sickness, Mr. Gonza. I didn't need to see a doctor."
"Hmm OK. Feel better." He hung up.
“Damn!” She exhaled as she allowed her head to drop on the large sofa’s backrest.
The man (her boss) was a strict, by-the-book fellow. What he lacked in his kind eyes, he made up for it in his cold, one-liner, direct, manner of speech. Mr. Gonza didn't mince words when he spoke.
She recalled his last interaction with a former staff member, which she witnessed from behind a shelf in the store. It had been with the pretty Fiona, one of the former cashiers. Solana had been helping with inventory that day because Jonah was on sick leave.
"You asked to see me?" At the sound of Fiona's voice, she had quietly tiptoed to the most comfortable eavesdropping spot closest to Mr. Gonza’s desk. He hadn't asked the girl to sit. Instead, he had stood up from his chair to stand in front of her.
Solana recalled thinking she was about to witness an office tryst. The cool, no-BS manager was involved with a cashier, huh? He had to know someone was somewhere inside this store. Or didn't he? She had been so wrong and it had only taken a moment for her conclusion to self-correct itself.
"You are pretty. But I'm sure you already know this." Mr. Gonza had the kindest smile on his face when he said this, causing the girl to blush with a shy smile. If Fiona had known what would follow that compliment, maybe she would have saved her smile for another situation.
The kind expression on the manager's face had quickly been replaced by an earnestness that wiped the smile off Fiona’s face, even before she heard the next comment.
The manager had placed a hand on his chest when he continued. "I'm confident you'll find many people out there willing to entertain your tardiness and lackadaisical attitude to work." His expression had been so kind yet serious, that one would've thought he was preaching the word of god to the girl.
"You're fired, dear." He even patted her arm gently when he walked past her.
Fiona had stood there stunned and open-mouthed. Solana had tried to hurry back to continue her counting and recording, but she was sure the manager caught her from the way he paused by the door before heading out.
That talk with Fiona was the longest she had heard Mr. Gonza interacting one-on-one with a staff member. She had been working there for barely two months at the time. That was when she quickly learned that, even though this job was a low-pay temporary one, the manager did not tolerate any form of nonsense. He also was not into giving many chances because from what she heard afterwards, Fiona only got one warning. Strike two was the pink slip.
Damn it, I hope he believed me. He had seen her on the road when she had claimed she was ill and couldn't come to work. She feared what he might do about it. Well, she would find out tomorrow, wouldn’t she? No matter how wretched the job was to her, getting fired was a bitch though. It was better to quit on one's own terms.
Tomorrow arrived and Solana arrived early at the supermarket. She couldn't help but worry about yesterday. What would Mr. Gonza say once she inevitably runs into him? Like clockwork, she was about to clock in for work that morning when she heard her full name.
"Solana Jang." The boss called out as he marched briskly into the staff hall.
*** Solana ***
Solana's heart was in her stomach as Mr. Gonza approached. Linda, his assistant, was beside him. She had a file under her arm as she typed on her phone with one hand.
Please god, I still need this job... for food... and rent.
Her boss slowed his strides when he came a few feet closer.
"Good morning, Mr. Gonza. Miss Lance." She greeted the two.
"You're early today." Her boss said.
He had a curious frown on his face. She wondered if there was a right and wrong reply to that comment.
"I woke up early." Lame reply, she thought.
"Oh. Sweet. The meds must've worked wonders." He said.
Was that sarcasm? She would never know because she lacked the courage to ask. "I... guess." She mumbled.
The silence didn't last three seconds but it started to get awkward fast before he said,
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