The Would-Be King

Part of the draw for Anne in deciding to book the room was that it would have a king bed. Maybe it wasn’t going to be a California king bed—but, at the very least, it would be a king. Ample space to share a room with her sister. Her sister with whom she hadn’t shared a living space since they were in high school, and that almost ended in murder. So how would it all play out now? Just because they were older, “had matured,” didn’t mean that anything would be different. It might all, in fact, be so much worse. 

Corina and Anne had possessed opposite personalities from day one, finding it a challenge to agree on the simplest of things. Even consenting to experiencing the same weather temperatures proved an obstacle for them, as though doing so would mean someone in the dynamic had won the upper hand. 

Their most overt and fight-invoking difference, however, was that, while Anne loved to read and generally exist in silence, Corina adored watching TV. Of any kind. It certainly didn’t have to be “quality” so long as it was on. It soothed her for whatever reason. Made her feel focused and centered—having the exact opposite effect on Anne, who would start crawling out of her skin every time she could overhear the blasting boob tube. Though, to be fair, she considered any volume to be “blasting.” And Corina had been willing, initially, to lower the volume in order to keep some modicum of peace in their shared room, but eventually, Anne’s complaints made her wary, prompting her to turn up the sound as loudly as she could without irritating their parents, to boot. 

When Anne tried to involve the parentals, of course, Corina would turn the volume down, look up at them sweetly and say, “I’m quietly watching my shows. I don’t understand what her problem is.” Their dad would take Anne’s side and say something to Corina like, “You’re rotting your brain out with all that television anyway. Why don’t you crack a fuckin’ book like your sister sometime?”

In contrast, their mother would take Corina’s side and insist, “The girl has a right to relax, doesn’t she? After all those activities she’s involved in, the kid deserves a rest.” And so, no agreement, no sense of resolution could ever made, until, one day, Anne decided to make it herself by throwing the television right out the window. She did it when Corina wasn’t home not because she didn’t want to get caught, but because she wanted Corina to see it on the lawn when she came home. Wanted to hear the conniption from the moment she laid eyes on her erstwhile precious (now smashed) TV. 

But Anne only got to enjoy the fit of rage for so long before it was right in her bedroom, frothing at the mouth. Before she could really gather what was happening, Corina’s hands were wrapped around her neck, squeezing and squeezing—tighter and tighter. She could feel the life leaving her body just as her mother burst in to shout, “Girls! What in God’s creation is going on in here! Corina! Let go of your sister!” And Corina did. It was only ever their mother’s voice who could reason with her. 

After that day, both Mother and Father agreed the sisters should have separate rooms, no matter the cost. Which was only at the expense of their father’s study… quickly repurposed into a downstairs bedroom that Anne took over. As the next couple years of high school went by (the two were a year apart in age), they largely ignored one another. Hung with a separate crowd, partook of divergent after-school sports and clubs. It was almost as though they didn’t live together at all. Or even know each other at all.

They might have gone their whole lives continuing to pretend they weren’t related until, when they were both in their early thirties, their parents died in a horrific car crash. Father had fallen asleep at the wheel on the way back from a dinner party, and woke up too late to swerve himself correctly back on the road, as opposed to right off a cliff. Corina flashed to Thelma and Louise when she found out, but didn’t share that with Anne, who would call her a monster for thinking such things—as though thoughts could be controlled.

It was at the reading of the Will that both sisters were shocked to learn they would not receive their split-down-the-middle inheritance until both could prove to the Executor—their uncle—that they were capable of getting along with one another for at least twenty-four hours. Both of them scoffed at this and Corina added, “How can you even prove that Uncle Greg? Anne and I can just tell you we survived twenty-four hours and collect the goddamn bounty regardless.” Anne turned to glare at her and say, “Rina, you are so crass.” She shrugged, “So be it. I’m just saying what you’re thinking.”

Uncle Greg smirked. “Well girls, I’ll tell you how it’s gonna work. You’ll both need to stay in a hotel room together and film the entire encounter.” 

The two sisters blinked at him in disbelief. Anne broke the silence with, “You can’t be serious.”

Corina chimed in, “I don’t need the money that badly.” 

Anne regarded her archly and said, “That’s not what I heard.”

Corina snapped back, “And just what could you have heard, dear sister? I haven’t seen you in years.” 

“Let’s just say I’ve kept track of you. Because I actually give a shit about blood relations.” 

“I think you mean just blood. What with all the ritual sacrifices you must have performed to get a job in Washington.” 

“Oh fuck off Corina. You’re just upset I’ve made something of myself and you’re working in a goddamn clothing store. How do you even survive?”

“By knowing I don’t create the legislation that perpetuates a corrupt system I guess.” 

Uncle Greg shouts, “That’s enough! You both need to calm yourselves and agree to the terms if you want what your parents left you. I happen to know it was a dying wish of theirs to see you two get along, so maybe the one good thing that could come out of their death is that you finally do.” 

Anne and Corina glanced over cautiously at one another, as though waiting to see if the other would surrender first. At the same time, they both declared, “Fine.” 

***

Because Anne was who she was—the responsible one—it was left up to her to decide on the accommodations. The where. For whatever reason, she decided on a well-known hotel/spa in Newport. Perhaps some part of her assumed that if there were “relaxtion” activities, there could be no risk of either of them staying truly mad. Doing things like taking a steam or getting a massage together surely couldn’t result in anything like anger… right? That was the logic Anne used in booking the arrangements, along with the promise of a king bed. For that would be the key to ensuring a twenty-four armistice between them. Separate beds would have been better, sure, but a king was just as good. 

Upon arriving, however, all signs immediately pointed to a botched trip when the front desk agent informed them that their room was still being prepared. Would they perhaps like to wait at the hotel bar? Sure, why not, Corina was the one to chime in. Anne detested bars, it didn’t matter if it was in a hotel, and what with still being skittish about making contact of any kind in the public space fresh off the pandemic, she hated said environment all the more. It disgusted her to no end now. 

In short, Anne didn’t want to sit at the bar, pay for a shitty, overpriced Aperol Spritz and have to make small talk with the gross old man next to them who was so obviously champing at the bit to gab with someone. Corina, naturally, was eager to oblige his lapdog manner as the bartender told them they couldn’t be seated based on the social distancing rules. Corina turned to the old man and said, “Well if he doesn’t mind us sitting too close to him, neither do we.” On cue, he chimed in, “I don’t mind a bit. I’ve had my shots, I’m sure you ladies have, too.” Why would he assume that, Anne wondered. Did they somehow look decrepit enough to him to have jumped the line in order to have already received two vaccinations? Evidently, Corina had as she announced, “I’ve had mine, but Anne here has only had one—so if something happens, she’ll be the one taking the risk.” Hehe hoho. That was the intent behind the sentiment—that it should be laughably funny they were all taking their lives in their hands to bother with some subpar socialization. 

Anne felt as though hours had passed before the clipped, self-superior front desk agent finally came over to alert them to their room being ready. Corina, meanwhile, had exchanged numbers and social media information with “Old Pete.” It seemed like she didn’t even want to leave him when the proclamation about the room was made. In fact, Anne could have pictured her staying there all night until finally drinking enough to just go up to his room and fuck him. That’s clearly what she would have preferred to do over spending another second engaging in this sisterly charade. And, truth be told, Anne felt exactly the same. She honestly probably would have opted to fuck “Old Pete” as well if there was a choice between that and enduring another instant of Corina–knowing full well what was to come between them. Because no matter what they did, where they were or how much time had passed, they would forever be those teen girls in that confined space. At each other’s throats, polar opposites, nothing in common. Except the need to get this money in their pockets, each of them with their own pursuits requiring a financial boon. For Anne, the extra cash flow would be used to put in her next campaign coffer, while, for Corina, it would be to open up her own clothing outpost without being under anyone’s thumb. They would power through the unthinkable, the formerly insurmountable—all for the sake of this “carrot” dangled before them. Only to be given once they’d performed “successfully.”

Upon entering the room, the horrors of the trip continued to unfold as Anne instantly noticed the rather petite size of the alleged “king” bed. A queen, at best. A full, at worst. Corina, after setting her suitcase to the side and gathering herself long enough to appraise the bed, remarked in annoyance, “I thought you said it was a king.” 

She turned in brief gratitude toward Corina—as though taking pause to appreciate that this was the first time in their history that they could seem to agree on something. Then she said, “That’s what I was told it was going to be. But clearly, that’s not the case.” 

“Well go back downstairs and tell the bitch at the front desk this isn’t right. We’re never gonna make it through the night like this.” Corina was right on both counts: the woman at the front desk had been a bitch and they weren’t going to make it through the night like this. So she went back down. Indubitably, Corina had made Anne go by herself. She just had to be seen as the “chill” one between them—even in front of someone as inconsequential as a front desk agent at an expensive hotel that was supposed to deliver on the proverbial goods of what such a price point promised. Namely, a king bed. 

The interaction was off to a roaring start when Anne appeared to interrupt the woman, “Kimber” (no one’s name is Kimber, but sure), on a telephone call with another customer. Irritated, she demanded, “Yes, what can I help you with?”

“I was told the bed would be a king.”

“It is. All the beds here at Hacienda Malora are. Regardless of the room.”

This, in Anne’s mind, was simply not how to go about customer service. Even if Kimber wasn’t a duplicitous, lying cunt and she was right about the bed being a king—which it fucking wasn’t—she should have been more placating, offered more dulcet tones. Shit, at least some kind of acknowledgement of Anne’s dissatisfaction. But no, with that simple statement, she dismissed Anne, accenting the gesture by returning to her phone call.

“Fucking bitch,” Anne uttered with deliberate loudness. 

Kimber obviously heard the assessment; she called out with deliberate fake, sugary niceness as Anne got back onto the elevator, “You have a great night’s sleep, ma’am!” Anne could’ve wrung her neck. Instead, back in the hotel room, all the unchanneled hostility was taken out on Corina. They didn’t have a prayer of making it through the night without acting like two cats in a sack. 

As they both tossed and turned in the too-small bed, Anne kept accusing Corina of hogging all the covers, while Corina accused Anne of snoring. Anne denied any such thing, telling Corina she was the fat one between them. Maybe she was just hearing herself. And before Anne could go any further, Corina punched her lights right out. She was sure Anne wouldn’t snore after that.

***

The only thing they had ever agreed on, in the end, was that there was no way in hell the bed in their room was a king. Maybe, some other time, they would try again to collect their inheritance. But not any time soon. 

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