"Provisions in the Contract"
As a beautiful onyx colored luxury 1940 Packard pulled into the large drive way and pulled to a stop in front of the entrance to the infamous Grand Hotel the waiting press hurriedly pulled out their notepads, pens and cameras as they all ran to the designated press line. “Miss Fair! Miss Fair! Over here! Over here answer a question for the New York Journal-American” one of the many reporters standing around the entrance to the Grand Hotel screamed out, hoping like all the others to be the one to get the exclusive on the stunning international performer Chestiny Fair… and her historic arrival at the Grand Hotel. With the Grand’s 14th Annual Summer’s End Gala one the biggest events of the season scheduled to happen at the end of the week reporters from newspapers all over the country flock every year to Highmount, New York, and this year seemed to be the year to top it all. They all waited with baited breath to get their first look at the first, only, and likely last Colored performer asked to perform let alone stay at the prestigious luxurious hotel.
Smiling Miss Chestiny Fair the most celebrated performer in the industry was brimming with excitement as waited for Frank her manager to walk around to her side of the car where she sat with barely contained glee and open up the door for her. Taking his outstretched hand she allowed him to gently pull her out of the limo, giving him a small smile “thanks Frank. We’re here can you believe it?” not able to keep her excitement in another moment she asked him looking into his smiling face even though five foot seven was considered rather tall for a woman on the other hand for a man he was considered to be extremely short and constantly teased for it especially by her.
Laughing “you’ve gotta pace yourself Ches, if your excited now what are you going to do on Sunday?” he asked smiling at her indulgently. Their relationship was more than that of a business one through the years it had grown into a paternal one. Frank had been there for Chestiny from the beginning and had seen her through some hard times this week was just as exciting for him as well, he just covered it up better.
Patting him on the shoulder as she stepped past him “you’ll bring me back to earth” and truer words had never been spoken, Frank who had slowly taken on the role of a doting father through the years and her solace in a world often both cruel and mad. She had no idea where her life would be without him. Turning to the reporters she started to walk over intending to answer a few questions before going into the hotel but Frank’s gentle but firm hand on her elbow quickly leading her away had her looking up at him silently in confusion.
Looking down at her with an odd expression “sorry Ches but we can’t do any press while here, the Hotel management put it as one of the conditions of your contract”. Pausing he waited for the three porters to make their way through the crowd and to them “her trunks are in the back” he gestured to where their driver was already unloading their trunks and other luggage from the trunk of the limo.
“Yes Sir, right away Sir” the oldest of the three Porters said to them as they rushed past them and to their task making quick work of distributing the trunks and bags between the three of them.
Chestiny sighed mentally counting out ten relaxing breaths in her head, clearly Frank had decided not to tell her beforehand about these terms and conditions and in and of itself made her suspicious. Taking another deep breath she knew her manager probly did the right thing because if she’d known this beforehand she wouldn’t have come not that doing press was so wonderful but the implication that even though they needed her fame they still wanted to hide her away. Looking at the hotel building she had to admit this was a great moment, it wasn’t very often a girl got to stay in a real life castle, especially since there weren’t very many in the Americas. Chestiny suppressed the urge to grin like a loon as she looked at what she could of the building through the dark “it would have been better if we got to see this place during the day, why’d we have to check in so late” she fussed at Frank but he wasn’t really listening to her. Taking the small opportunity to explore a bit while no one was paying attention to her, she walked to the side of the building where no people were, she’d read about the history of The Grand years ago having always had a fascination with the opulent hotel. It still felt surreal that she was here as a guest and performer and not as a maid, or cook.
From what she’d read the Grand was formerly a castle owned by a very rich family here in Highmount, New York. No one knows for sure what ever happened to the family but it was rumored that the very same family of the original castle are also the owners of the hotel. She loved that they’d kept the originally architecture intact, the enormous stone castle was imposing and looming even in the dark casting intimidating shadows in spots that lacked lighting. The grounds was tended by some of the best gardeners and landscape artist in the country that worked tirelessly all year to keep beautiful the Grand Hotel’s four public gardens, two private gardens, the labyrinths and koi fish ponds not to mention then endless acres of flawless green grass, the shade of green so bright Chestiny could even make it out in the dark. Looking around she could see romantic candle lit lanterns lit throughout the gardens and lighting the way to cobblestone pathways meant to guide patrons throughout the hotel grounds across from where she stood to the side of the building. The entrance doors which were thrown open for the night air to cool the lobby were imported Indian wood so heavy they took five men to carry each one and attach them to the frames.
Chestiny smiled taking a deep breath of the New York State air, this was the type a place a girl like her dreamed of, never once had she thought she’d one day perform here let alone be asked to stay as a guest. She was just a little Colored girl from Phoenix, Arizona, but since then she’d defied all odds. She’d traveled all around the world, throughout the country, she’d even been asked to be in a movie and not to play anyone’s maid…but somehow this moment standing here in front of the Grand Hotel waiting for Frank her manager to her their arrangements together made her finally feel like she’d made it, like she was equal. All the doors shut in her face, not being able to walk in the front door where she was performing, having to get ready in her car cause dressing rooms where ‘WHITES ONLY’… Chestiny could feel the beginnings of a few tears threatening to come down. All of her white counterparts that’d hated her, or blackballed her because they refused to perform on the same stage as a Colored girl, now she was performing at the Grand. She smiled ear to ear her chest puffing out with pride, the Grand was one of the most prestigious hotels in the world they not only didn’t’ let just anyone perform at their ‘Summer’s End Gala’ but the only Colored people allowed in the building were cooks and maids. She was making history and couldn’t be prouder.
“Ches” Frank yelled for her to come on “where are you girl come on” the tiredness of the trip was clear in his voice.
Shaking her head a bit to clear it Chestiny lifted her dress a few scarce inches so she wouldn’t trip and using a mix between a jog and a shuffle hurried over to where her manager stood with a group of hotel employees. “sorry here I am” she apologized to Frank not wanting im to look bad in front of the Grand’s Managers, she knew how people treated him for representing a Colored person for talent and she promised herself she would never give him cause to be embarrassed with her.
Frank turned to her as she slowed down and stood by his side “good Miss Fair I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Clark Johns” he gave her a subtle shake of the head their code telling her the person in front of her would find it offensive if she were to extend her hand for a shake. “Mr. Johns here has come to check us in personally and make sure we get settled in, nodding politely to the women standing slight Mr. Johns left “This is Ms. Elody Martinique she’s of the maids in the hotel, she’ll be seeing personally to your comfort as well” he finished not bothering with introducing her to the other two people with the group so she assumed they mustn’t be important.
“Ms. Martinique, Mr. Johns” Chestiny gave each one a polite nod “it’s very nice to meet you both. Thank you for having me here the hotel is beautiful…” she complimented intending to ask him a question about the hotel but the manager cut her off.
“Yes I know it is, we all work very hard” he said smugly, looking at her with thinly veiled contempt “please call me Clark Miss Fair” he asked as if the very question was like pulling teeth. Waving a nonchalant hand behind him “and call Ms. Martinique Elody, now please come with us and we’ll get you checked in and settled in you suite” he said in loud slow tones as if one was talking to a dumb animal. Without another word and rather rudely he did a military style turn swiveling on the ball of his foot and started walking towards the entrance not bothering to see if his guest followed.
When the group made a curve to the right and began walking towards the side of the building Chestiny stood a few feet away from the main entrance looking completely perplexed “excuse me?” she called out just loudly enough for the entire party to hear her and stop walking, turning to look back at her. Pointing to the main doors “I know I haven’t been here before but isn’t this the main entrance? Why are we going down there?” she looked back and forth between Frank and the Clark the hotel manager.
Clark looked between Chestiny and Frank a few times before a look of annoyance crossed his features “she wasn’t informed” he asked Frank clearly he would rather Chestiny not be there at all.
Frank walked back to Chestiny and took her hands in his and she knew he was going to say something she wouldn’t like “well you see the condition of you staying at the Grand during the duration of your performances is that you are not to be seen by the other guests. The Grand still maintains its stance as a segregated hotel and doesn’t want to offend or loose the patron of its more prestigious guests, therefore the agreement is while you are not making an appearance at one of the social events you have been booked for while here or performing for one of the shows you are to stay in you suite where you have the entire floor to yourself so that there is no risk of you being seen” he recited now memorized first paragraph of the conditions of Chestiny’s contract, the guilt he felt at keeping this information from her before she signed the agreement was clear but the prestige performing at the Summer’s End Gala would add to her career for Frank outweighed all of the grief she would get from these prejudice pricks. For him his kid’s future was more important than anything, especially with the secret she carried in the end she needed all the power she could get if ever suspicion clouded her.
Chestiny felt the tick starting in her jaw, it always went off when she was aggravated and lately it seemed to be happening more times than not. Deep within her she felt her Leopard spirit stirring with irritation as well and quickly put her arms behind her back when she saw the skin on her arms literally crawling out the corner of her eyes the telltale sign that her inner Leopard was close to the surface than usual. She’d never have to worry about losing control actually shifting being a Therian but she could still do some freaky things humans would put her away for and knew she had to get it together. She could feel her pacing back and forth her rage mixed with her own anger mingling until neither of them could tell one from the other, a growling sound snapped her out of her inner thoughts and had her looking around.
“Was that you” Clark looked at her his eyes nearly bugged out of his head as he shook it in confusion, ‘was that an honest to God growl that came out of her mouth?’ he mumbled under his breath.
Frank pressed up close to her back and mumbled under his breath so quietly no one else could hear but her “get it together Kid” he rubbed the back of her neck briefly in a soothing manner her cat instantly responded “you can’t afford to lose it here, not this weekend too much is at stake” he warned stepping back just as quickly.
Giving him a barely perceptible nod that she understood Chestiny felt her leopard settling as she turned back to the hotel manager, clearing her throat a few times “sorry I have a frog in my throat. Now why are we going this way”.
Clark was quiet for a few moments looking her over suspiciously as if he instinctively knew something about her was off but couldn’t place what, as if coming to some inner decision he finally answered her “well to be frank Miss Fair The Grand has never allowed a Colored person through the front doors, we are already breaking precedence having you here management has no intention of prancing you through the front door” the resentment in his voice was palpable. His eyes traveled down her body again this time with hate as he took in her floral half hat piece placed expertly in her pin-curled red hair, the navy and white silk dress by Mme. Eta Hentz and her black geometric shaped corde purse with the Lucite handle that hung in the crook of her arm, her nude expensive silk stockings with black roses embroidered at the ankles and her expensive Chanel heels. Everything about Chestiny screamed success and she knew in the very moment his eyes finally met hers once more and widened in surprise at being caught before the disdain returned that she would have to watch Mr. Clark Johns.
“Very well” Chestiny nodded letting it go, the contracts were signed she couldn’t put up a fuss now, besides this was her dream wasn’t it. Pulling herself up with all the poise of a queen just like her mama taught her she held her head high dispite their nasty looks “fine then let’s go” she said waving her hand as if granting them permission, she could tell she’d pissed them off more but who cared…she knew no matter what she did they would hate her, so she mine as well have some fun.
Look out for Book 2 of the "Grand Hotel Series" available soon!