03-26-2012, 02:14 PM
There, the lesson plans were completed, the last worksheet assignment had been graded, and there was nothing for Angela to do but stare out the giant window of the hotel suite and wish she was somewhere else. Friday morning had just turned to afternoon; she had been working for three straight hours but did not feel at all hungry or tired or anything but the need to escape the gilded cage she was forced to share with her sister, Bianca. But where to go?
Friday afternoon. Angela remembered that Fridays were her shelter volunteer nights. She knew where the shelter was, but her little Chevette was back at the house (Bianca insisted on driving her sporty Lexus, claiming "that bucket of bolts" Angela drove was unworthy of being seen at the Luxor) and so she had no transportation to get there. She wondered if they had buses in downtown Las Vegas. If not, well, then she'd have to take a cab, expensive though it was. One thing was certain: sister or no sister, she was not going to shirk her duty at the shelter just because she got shanghaied into staying in some fancy hotel.
But it was only twelve-thirty, and she didn't have to be at the shelter until six; that left five and a half hours with nothing to fill them. She looked out the window again. Las Vegas, the Entertainment Capital of America, lay spread out before her like a glorified carnival midway, and here she was, stuck in this fancy hotel room with nothing to do while Bianca was out there living out her champaigne fantasies on a budget of two thousand a month from her trust fund which shrank drastically every day.
Angela turned away from the window and found herself facing her reflection in the mirror above the dresser. She saw a thin, haggard face, grown old before its time. Her mouth had creased into a near-permanant frown. When was the last time she had laughed? When was the last time she had experienced pleasure? she wondered. True, she enjoyed teaching, and her young students' innocent remarks often amused her at times, but when did she ever really go out and enjoy herself as a person, as a woman? She had never had a boyfriend, not even in high school; she had always been a wallflower, too shy to attract any boy's attention. To her, falling in love was something that happened in romance novels like the ones her fellow volunteer, Darlene Milliken, was always devouring. Maybe it happened in real life, but not to her.
She looked away from her face and at the green shift she wore. She could not afford a new wardrobe, not on a teacher's salary, and besides, she was always the one paying the utilities, the cable bill (premium package, on Bianca's insistance) the property taxes and the insurance on her car, leaving little left over for personal expenses and teaching materials though the county covered most of the cost with vouchers. She made do with thrift shop finds and whatever she could do to recycle from her old wardrobe. "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," her late mother had always taught her daughters, but it seemed that the younger adhered to it more out of necessity than good counsel while the elder ignored it altogether.
Bianca was a clothes horse. The piles of luggage she had brought with her for the weekend was proof of that. A perfect body like hers had to be dressed in style, she always insisted. God forbid she should go out looking like a slob like Angela, with her shabby, outdated clothes and shoes falling to pieces ("Where do you get your clothes?" she had demanded once. "At that homeless shelter you work at?"). She lived for the latest fashions: she worshipped the designer du jour whose latest creation she just had to have; she almost rivaled Imelda Marcos for the number of pairs of shoes in her closet (twenty-eight at last count), and she spent untold hours and who knew how much money at the salon getting her hair and nails done. Bianca was queen of her own little world and she was going to look like one, and damn the expense, while poor Angela shuffled through life in whatever article of clothing that would fit her frail little body, her unstyled dirty-blonde hair hanging limply around her face as if it had given up the will to live.
Angela began to feel something inside her welling up like a tea kettle full of boiling water. It's not fair, she told herself. Why should Bianca have all the fun while I'm stuck behind doing lesson plans? Don't I deserve to have a little fun, too? I don't want to die an old maid! I want to get out of here! I want to go out and see people, do things, see things, experience things I never did before! I want to be free! I want to be loved! I want to be alive!
She turned abruply away from the mirror, retrieved her shabby handbag, and dashed out of the suite before she changed her mind. She had five hours and fifteen minutes before her shift at the shelter, but she was determined to make the most of it.