By ANDREW FLYNN, Storyteller
“Hello, sir, welcome to the Congress Plaza Hotel. Are you checking in?” asked the front desk concierge.
Levi had made it to his destination, Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It had been a long day of traveling, and he was glad to have arrived with no incident.
“Why yes, yes I am,” Levi acknowledged. “What do you need from me?”
“May I have your last name so that I can pull you up and prepare your room key?”
“Kravitz. I’m Levi Kravitz, I think you have a high-floor room away from an elevator for me.”
The concierge clacked away on his computer terminal for a brief moment. They dressed their staff well at the Congress Plaza. A cobalt-blue wool blazer over a bright white shirt and golden tie made for both a professional and warm appearance. Highlighting the outfit were dark, well-pressed slacks and a sterling-silver name badge, pinned with care to the blazer. This one read “Dale”, and it was the first thing to catch Levi’s sight.
“Yes sir, I’m here to make sure your stay with us as hospitable as I can.”
“Thank you, Dale. And that’s a good name you’ve got there. This hotel knows what they’re doing.
“Thank you, Mr. Kravitz, that’s quite nice of you to say.”
Levi had his hands planted on the front desk as he turned to one side, and then the other, admiring the well-anointed lobby of the hotel.
Dale finished up clacking and handed Levi his room keys.
“If you’ll just head to the center of the lobby, you’ll find elevators there for your convenience. Your room keys are in the envelope along with your room number and contact information for anything you may require while you’re here with us.”
“You’ve got a good breakfast place here?” Levi asked.
Dale’s eyes lit up, as recommending eateries was his specialty.
“Only the best in town, sir. Of course there are many places within walking distance to the Congress Plaza Hotel, but if you’re looking for excellent service and crispy, flat bacon, The Gazebo is just across the lobby here.”
“Crispy, flat bacon, eh?” Levi repeated while beginning to salivate.
“I thought I pegged you as one that would enjoy that,” Dale went on. “For a city known for its pork products done right, our kitchen staff in The Gazebo has nearly perfected the art of making bacon. Still haven’t found a place anywhere else that does breakfast meat quite like we do.”
“You’re killing me, Dale. Killing me, you realize this,” Levi smiled. “But you’re sure making me glad I had lunch, or else I’d have to walk over there right now and demand the dinner staff fry up some of that deliciousness.”
“And I can make a reservation for you for The Gazebo if you like, too. But on a weekday like tomorrow, it probably won’t be necessary.”
“Good to know, Dale. And thank you for the info.”
“Oh, it’s my pleasure, sir. Please let me know if you need anything else at all.”
Levi grabbed his rolling suitcase to his right, and began to walk towards the hotel elevator.
Dale didn’t take his eyes off Levi as he reached for the nearby front desk phone. He mashed a few quick buttons in a pattern that was only used for those that needed to dial outside of the hotel’s many extensions and departments. Nine first, then a long distance “one”, followed by ten more digits.
“The package has arrived at the post office,” Dale said softly into the handset, and then quickly hung it up. The next guest stepped up to his front desk, and Dale went right back into concierge mode.
A few steps away, Levi checked his watch. 4:35pm. He scanned the lobby. And there she was.
Stephanie Kravitz sat on the right side of a comfortable looking brown microfiber sofa smothered in soft decorative pillows. Futzing around on her smartphone, her gaze was into the handheld technology and not anywhere else. Levi’s was right at his older sister from across the room. He decided for a sneak attack.
Carefully sidling around the back of the sofa to Stephanie’s blind side, he never took her out of his sight. Levi tucked his suitcase under the glass table that accompanied the sofa, and gleefully sprung into her sight.
Stephanie clasped her hands over her mouth, forefingers covering her nose. A good shriek was had. She launched herself off the sofa and into her brother’s open arms. There were tears from both of them, which bookended the muffled greetings they spoke from each other’s shoulders.
“I’m so happy you made it, Steph,” an emotional Levi said without blinking.
“It’s really good to see you, brother,” Stephanie beamed. “Been way too long, and you don’t call enough!”
Levi was taken aback by this accusation. “That’s a two-way street, you know.”
Stephanie dropped her eyebrows at this. “You’re right. Neither of us have tried very hard to remain in contact. I guess that’s what we have Twitter for, right?”
“Ha, yeah, I guess. Because that’s exactly what it was meant for in the first place. Indirect vague messages about someone’s life, and shortened website links.”
“Smart-alec! But it’s so great to be here with you anyways.”
“Sure is, Steph. Do you want to go for a walk in Grant across the street?”
“Yes! I was cooped up on that tiny puddle-jumper earlier from K.C., so stretching my legs would be nice.”
“Let’s go then. Let me drop my stuff off upstairs. You want me to take yours up too?
Levi looked around the sofa for Stephanie’s luggage, but there was none. “Where’s your things?” he asked.
“Oh, I don’t really have anything. Just my purse here.”
“I thought we were going to spend a day or two here. I made reservations for two nights at this place.”
“Didn’t you want to hang out with your little brother?”
“I don’t know, Levi. I didn’t think this would really last very long, in all truth.”
“Steph, it’s just that we have a lot of catching up to do.”
“We do. We really, really do. I just didn’t think it would take that long. Because of the whole thing.”
“Well, dang it. It’s going to.”
“I mean, look at it. You’re in New York, doing your thing, like you have since Dad left. And I’m back home, still trying to figure out what I’m doing next.”
“That doesn’t mean we can’t get some things straight now, since we’re finally together. I mean, shit, I rented a car and everything. Thought we could really reconnect here.”
“Pretty big assumption, don’t you think?”
“I guess I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“No, you didn’t. And renting a car and thinking I’m going to ride passenger to your mad driving? Forget it.”
Levi smiled, “I’ve gotten better, sister. Kind of had to. Job demands it.”
“Regardless if you’re a NASCAR-caliber driver or not, that’s never going to change. And watch your mouth. Cursing’s not like you.”
“Hah, NASCAR. Maybe in another life. I’ll try to curb the sailor-talk. Big Apple grows on you like that.”
“Do you even keep up with the church anymore?”
“Every now and then, but you know how it is. Man, you’re really in full-guilt mode, aren’t you?”
Stephanie put her hands to her hips. “Whoa, I totally am. How cruddy is that?”
“It’s OK, Steph. I’ll dump the stuff upstairs and meet you back down here in 20 minutes, yeah?”
Levi picked his rolling suitcase up and headed towards the elevators but suddenly stopped.
“What is it, Levi?” Stephanie asked.
He turned around to his sister, loosening his grip on his luggage. “It just kinda hit me that Mom died one year ago today. I mean I know that’s why I wanted us to be here now, but you know, it just hit.”
“Trust me, I know what you mean. Getting out of town for even a day was a really good idea, and I’m glad you made this happen.”
Stephanie walked towards her brother, and took his left hand in hers. “I think this’ll be really good for both of us, and will settle our souls a little. And I’ll even stick around past this evening if you want.”
Levi looked adoringly at his sister, his ego placated. “Thanks, Stephanie. I’ll be back down here in a bit.”
“I’ll be waiting for you on that sofa right over there, brother.”