“I never want to leave,” Janey said, resting her head on her husband’s shoulder.
“Stay here forever?” Stan smiled, keeping his eyes on the road, “That’d be nice.”
For the last month the couple had been traveling across Western Australia. They’d driven through the mysterious Pinnacles desert, climbed the red-rock canyons of the Kalbarri Gorges, gazed at ancient rock paintings, swum with dolphins at Monkey Mia and on one particularly magical dawn, stood hand in hand by the ocean before the stromatolites, those ancient, oxygen-producing rocks which were among the oldest lifeforms on the planet.
“That’d be very nice,” Stan repeated and they both fell silent. Now the holiday was over, they had to return to Boston to find out if Stan still had a job. Why not splurge on this dream holiday, while they could?
“It’s getting dark quickly.”
“Look there,” Janey sat up, as they crossed a bridge and a light appeared through the trees, “It’s a hotel maybe.”
“Let’s find out,” Stan turned off the road.
The building was a simple shack, with a wide verandah and a sign reading “Lethe Bar and Motel”. Janey and Stan walked up the dirt path and opened the front door.
Crossing the room, they heard people speaking in French, German and Japanese. They were clearly not the only tourists.
A large man behind the bar gave them a gap-toothed grin, “G’day. What can I get you?”
“A meal maybe?” Stan stared around, “Do you have any spare rooms?”
“Sure do. You can stay as long as you like. Forever maybe.”
An elegant Frenchwoman in the corner raised her head.
“My name’s Kev,” the large man said, “Take a seat. I’ll bring your beers right over.”
The elderly man sitting along the bar looked up from his copy of the Chicago Tribune, “How’s it going back home? What’s that Clinton doing?”
“Hillary?” Janey asked.
“Bill,” the old man snarled, “He’s the President isn’t he?” as if they were stupid.
Janey smiled and nudged Stan in the ribs as they sat down at a table.
“I’m telling you Greg Norman will take out a masters title this year,” the men at the next table were arguing, as their wives smiled benignly.
“Timeless sort of place, isn’t it?” Kev said as he placed their beers on the table, “Lot of people never want to leave. Funny how they all find their way to our hotel,” Kev straightened up to his full height, “I’ll get that meal underway.”
The men were arguing about Greg Norman again and Janey giggled.
A man at another table cast them a disapproving glance. He was reading a brand new copy of The Firm by John Grisham.
“This really is the place that time forgot,” Stan murmured raising the glass to his lips.
“Do you want to stay here forever?” the Frenchwoman had appeared at their side.
“We love it but I don’t know -” Janey said, “We have to get back, to see Dad and our nieces. No matter how hard it will be, I think I do want to go back.”
The woman stretched out a slender hand, “Then don’t drink that.”
Kev was cleaning glasses behind the bar. He narrowed his eyes and crossed his hairy, sunburnt arms.
“This place is for those who want to leave everything behind, to forget,” the Frenchwoman’s brown eyes were sad, “Make sure you are certain before you decide.”
The woman returned to her husband’s side.
Janey stared at Stan, “Let’s check the car,” she said loudly and Stan nodded.
Janey and Stan stepped onto the verandah. As they closed the door behind them, there was a sudden wind, which blew them to the ground. They heard a sound, like the Frenchwoman sighing.
The wind continued. It was pitch dark now, almost impossible to see, but it seemed like the hotel behind them was no more than a ruin. Janey and Stan held on to each other as they ran over the path, got into the car and drove away.
* * * * * *