The Rose Hotel is an impossibly narrow structure sandwiched between a chain restaurant and a meth rehabilitation center.
In the lobby, the attendant googles how to pronounce gnocchi on the reservation computer. Above her, in room 2-1, a balding man phones his wife to ask if she will let him come home tonight.
Next door, in room 2-2, Mae blinks at her reflection. The concerning red blotches from the day before have faded. She cups a hand over each breast, like seashells on a mermaid. Waking up naked, that happened; how many people have seen what she sees now?
It's Monday morning and Mae is not in school. Everyone else must be there without her. They probably voted for student council in homeroom. Ethan probably won.
Mae grabs a towel. Who has found her? Her mother? A truant officer? No, it's a young woman's voice. “Hotel staff, open up!” The lobby attendant stands perplexed, master key dangling from one finger. “Oh. Uh, excuse me miss, but check-out time was eleven. I just wanted to know if you'll be staying another night?”
Having just inspected herself, Mae knows what the attendant sees: heavy makeup caked against pale skin; a visible hickey; yesterday's hair in a bun. What she must be thinking: Prostitution. Drug use. Runaway.
Mae tightens the towel wrapped around her chest. “You have to check out at a certain time?”
“That's right, eleven a.m. Will you stay another night? Do you need more time to think about it?”
For the first time, Mae considers never returning to Pearville. Who would notice? Taylor. Maybe Shelby. Her mother would take it personally. Mae can hear Courtney now: Don't you love me? Don't you care what they're saying about me? If going home is inconceivable, staying is impossible.