Her feet throb in shoes that are a size too small, Mary Janes dyed special to match the totally rancid dress Minnie''s big sister, Jennifer, picked out just for her. She only knows that she wants to see this man up close, to discover what has ejected him so violently from room This is the biggest hotel she''s ever been in. That''s just a movie. Important, and scary, and Jennifer--who has never told her little sister a single private grown-up thing--says she can''t tell anyone about it, okay? When the doors open, she bolts into the hallway and feels afraid.
He promised her he''ll never do it again, and she believes him. Don''t think about that. He is wearing a tuxedo with a sort of wide belt the color of Smurfs. It turns yellow under her thumb. When it lights up the cracks glow like little bolts of lightning and Minnie wonders how many times you have to push a plastic elevator button to crack it. It stretches on and on in either direction, the lights on the walls low and flickery. She knows she''s in the tallest part, the tower, but there are hundreds of rooms and empty ballrooms and swimming pools more than one! He offered to take her and Mike on a tour, to the auditorium, the library, the shops, and the indoor squash courts, whatever those were; he was super-excited about showing off but Minnie didn''t want to go. She stomps across the hotel lobby, away from the ballroom where she can hear the rest of her family gobbling those bacon hotdogs and blabbering--probably about how beautiful Jennifer looked, and wasn''t Theo handsome. Minnie is free; she doesn''t wait for her parents or her brother, she just walks away. Minnie Graves, who has never in her life had cause to be frightened of anything not contained on a television or movie screen, who has a surfeit of imagination and twice as much curiosity, convinces herself none of this will hurt her. The priest talks forever, and then, because she is part of the poofy-dress brigade, Minnie can''t go with the rest of her cousins for cheese and crackers and little hotdogs wrapped in bacon--she actually has to stay and take pictures with these morons, and act like she''s happy and everything is totally awesome, and pretend she doesn''t know what she knows about her big sister. She still can''t shake the awful feeling that the lobby, with its brick-red and gold and white curlicue carpet and red and gold fabric on the walls, is the stomach of some giant animal, that the old crooked chairs facing each other in half circles are rows and rows of teeth. A door in front of her explodes and a man, his chest a bursting red balloon, flies out and crumples against the opposite wall. What she saw in the mirror this morning. A nice old man with a bow tie gave her a piece of candy and leaned down to say "Welcome to the Bellweather! Standing with her back to the bathroom mirror, looking over her shoulder at a low bruise the size of a cantaloupe, the right spot for a kidney punch. When the doors open, she bolts into the hallway and feels afraid. He is still warm. Minnie doesn''t know why but her stomach aches. She smiles so hard her cheeks hurt as bad as her smashed toes. She smiles a real smile for the first time all day. At the elevators, she pushes the triangle pointing up. But Minnie''s mother lied: Her bangs are crispy with Aqua Net. He reminds her of her Uncle Bill:
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