A Port In A Storm
    
    ‘Thought you said we were in for a dry day.’
    ‘Don’t blame me; I’m not a weather girl. I’m simply going by what the bloke said on the box.’
    Joe Sommers glanced at his girlfriend, Natalie Watson, and then focused on the sky from which
marble-sized raindrops were beginning to fall.
     ‘Well we’re in a for a drenching,’ their mate Tony Partridge murmured, adding further despondency
to the gloom.
    ‘Then let’s find shelter,’ Natalie shrugged. ‘If you two wimps can’t handle a drop of rain...’
    ‘I’d hardly call it a drop,’ Partridge said, eyes fixed on the leggy girl, tracking her from bottom up.
‘Anyhow, the coastline’s deserted and so is the promenade – just where do you suppose we find
shelter?’
    ‘Dunno, fat chance...’ Joe glared at Partridge and bent into the wind, swiping the increasingly intense
rainfall from his brow. He gave a start at the sudden roll of thunder overhead. ‘Two miles from home
and we’re caught like...’
    ‘Let’s head inland.’
    Before the two boys could respond Natalie had a foot on the sea wall, and with a hand gripping the
railing she’d hurdled onto the promenade. ‘Come on, shape up,’ she said, hands on hips, eyes cast down
on them, impervious to the storm’s gathering fury.
    Joe spluttered incoherently and laboured over the sea wall followed by a less cumbersome Partridge.
    ‘There’s a large porch at the back of the hotel,’ Natalie said pointing along the promenade – ‘we can
shelter there.’
    Joe shook his head dubiously. ‘The hotel staff will probably move us on. I’ve no cash on me to
spend in there...’
    ‘Me neither,’ Partridge said, exposing his pocket linings to emphasise the point.
    ‘We won’t need any,’ Natalie responded, grabbing Joe’s arm and propelling him forward. 'The place
is being renovated, remember? There’ll be nobody about on a Sunday – now quit lingering, you’re the
ones complaining of getting wet...’
    The hotel rear lay at the head of a narrow mews, and the porch, long and deep afforded ample
shelter from the storm. Natalie ducked in first, pirouetting and swinging her arms. ‘See I told you –
deserted and not a painter in sight.’
    ‘Then why’s that open?’ Partridge forked a finger towards the right corner of the porch where a door
flapped in the wind. Natalie shrugged her shoulders, swept her long dark hair back from her cheeks.
‘How should I know? Probably because some careless decorator forgot to secure it. What say we take a
look inside?’
    Joe glanced apprehensively at Natalie and Partridge. ‘I don’t think we should.’
    Natalie’s brow furrowed, her dark eyes narrowed. ‘Why ever not? Where’s your sense of
adventure? Her eyes roving to Partridge, she asked, ‘Are you with me?’
    Something told Joe that Partridge would sound the affirmative and he also saw the expectation
written on Natalie’s face...
    Sure enough, Partridge was only too willing and Joe was damned if they were going in without him.
    Natalie led the way up a wide flight of stairs leading into the main foyer. White sheets draped the
walls and the smell of paint wasn’t slow to invade their nostrils. The abandoned reception desk was a
receptacle for the decorators’ tools.
    Outside thunder boomed and rain lashed hard on the plate glass windows. ‘See,’ Natalie said glancing
around, ‘someone’s forgotten to lock the door. There’s no need to be nervous, Joe.’
    Joe reacted as though he’d been rapped on the cheek. ‘I’m not nervous,’ he shot back with sharp
severity.
    ‘Anyway, better in here than outside, despite the reek of paint.’ Natalie swung round, spotting an
open door beyond the reception desk, leading apparently to an office. Her brows knitted momentarily.
    ‘What’s up?' Partridge asked, his fingers ceasing their shuffling in his trouser pockets.
    ‘I thought I saw something move in there – a shadow or something.’
    ‘Nah – it’s probably the lightning playing tricks with your eyes...’ but Partridge headed for the door
anyway.
    ‘You stay here, Joe...’ Natalie said sternly to her boyfriend. And in the face of his objections added,
‘Look you’ve gone awfully pale. I wouldn’t want you to have an asthma attack and besides, if someone
really does come through the door you can give advance warning.’
    Natalie followed Partridge through the door and along a narrow office before slapping him on the
back and letting out a soft giggle. ‘Fancy the storm coming to our aid; I thought we might be struggling
for an excuse to get inside here.’
    ‘Yeah – fancy.’ Partridge laced an arm around Natalie’s shoulders, drew her to him and guided her
out by the far door. ‘Thought I was pretty convincing,’ Partridge stated, clearly pleased with himself.
'We’ll find a cosy room for an hour or so. Bet you’re glad to be free from that idiot’s shackles – but we
don’t have long – if my dad happens to check his work coat he’ll notice the hotel keys have gone...’
    ‘Yeah. I know. But smart move Partridge, you sure are a one.’ Natalie focused her alluring eyes on
him, registered his greed and smiled expectantly. ‘Oh look, room thirty nine; sea view if I’m not
mistaken.’
    ‘Who gives a fuck about a sea view – I know you don’t,’ Partridge grinned.
    ‘I’m beginning to think you know me too well.’ Natalie took Partridge’s hand, tightened hers around
it and led him into room thirty nine. ‘Ah – freshly decorated too; how cosy.’
    ‘You don’t think he’ll follow us?’ Partridge asked, unusually for him he seemed edgy.
    ‘Not a chance,’ Natalie dismissed. 'He does what I tell him to.’ But then she mused. ‘Though I
suppose we’d better put key in lock. I suppose even the dimmest creature can be disobedient.’
   ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment,’ Partridge said, a pumpkin-like grin cracking his face.
    ‘I bet you have.’ Natalie locked the door behind them, crossed her arms and began to remove her
tight-fitting top, watching Partridge beginning to drool.
    Suddenly there was a tap on the door –
    ‘Partridge groaned. ‘It’s him - hey – what are you doing ?’
    Quickly Natalie had spun round, her fingers locating the key and lever in one smooth movement and
before Partridge could fathom out what was happening he was alone in the room, and to his
consternation hearing the lock engage from the outside.
    ‘Let me out you louse!’ Partridge screamed, hammering his fist on the door.
    ‘Don’t panic dear,’ Natalie teased, her arms closing around Joe’s shoulders. ‘Your dad will be here
first light tomorrow; no doubt he’ll let you out. Either that or try tying some sheets together, if you can
find any.’
    Natalie descended the hotel steps hand in hand with Joe. Outside the storm had moved on and the
sky had cleared.
    ‘He really didn’t know me very well,’ she said. ‘Take note.’


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