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If they were, I would be near to tears with stress at the delay, especially when he starts explaining some of the different techniques I used to create the painting. As Diane expresses her amazement, Jack smiles at me from the other end of the table and tells everyone that I am very clever indeed. It's during evenings like this that I'm reminded of why I fell in love with Jack. Charming, amusing and intelligent, he knows exactly what to say and how to say it.

He prompts Diane and Adam into revealing information about themselves that will help our new friends, such as where they shop and the sports they play. Although Esther listens politely to their list of leisure activities, the names of their gardeners and babysitters, the best place to buy fish, I know that I am the one who interests her, and I know she's going to return to the fact that Jack and I have come relatively late to marriage, hoping to find something — anything — to tell her it is not as perfect as it seems.

Unfortunately for her, she's going to be disappointed. She waits until Jack has carved the beef Wellington and served it with a gratin of potatoes, and carrots lightly glazed with honey. There are also tiny sugar peas, which I plunged into boiling water just before taking the beef from the oven. Diane marvels that I've managed to get everything ready at the same time, and admits she always chooses a main course like curry, which can be prepared earlier and heated through at the last minute.

I'd like to tell her that I'd much rather do as she does, that painstaking calculations and sleepless nights are the currency I pay to serve such a perfect dinner. But the alternative — serving anything that is less than perfect — isn't an option. I hesitate a moment, because it's a story I have told before. But it's one that Jack loves to hear me tell, so it's in my interest to repeat it. Luckily, Esther comes to my rescue. Mistaking my pause for reticence, she pounces. We often go there on a Sunday afternoon and that Sunday there happened to be a band playing.

Millie loves music and she was enjoying herself so much that she got up from her seat and began to dance in front of the bandstand. She had recently learnt to waltz and, as she danced, she stretched her arms out in front of her, as if she was dancing with someone. But there was a part of me that was loath to because —'. I mean, people don't usually get up and dance in a park, do they? Confusion floods Esther's face and I feel annoyed that the people who told her everything else about me didn't mention Millie.

Well, Millie was delighted and, as they began to waltz, everybody started applauding and then other couples got up from their seats and started to dance too. It was a very, very special moment. And, of course, I fell immediately in love with Jack for having made it happen. She was so attentive to Millie, so utterly selfless. I had never seen that sort of devotion in anybody before and I was determined to get to know her.

It amuses me when everybody nods their head in agreement. Even though I am attractive, Jack's film-star good looks mean that people think I'm lucky he wanted to marry me. But that isn't what I meant.

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Free Registration is required to log on. Click on the logo to visit our website. Registered in England and Wales Privacy Policy. Who we are. I stopped at the doorway of the open room, my toes just at the edge of the door frame. I felt, no I knew, that if I took just one more step, I would topple, plunge into—into—nothingness. I swear I could even hear the hollow echo of a bottomless abyss.

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In seconds, it clicked: it was the room. Sarah had gone back to the room to change, and with the closing of a door, she had vanished. Disappeared from existence. Dad had gone back, shut the door, and—poof! But Mom, Sam, and I stayed in the room too, I wondered. Then I realized: Dad and Sarah had gone in alone. And, now, so would I….

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This realization had happened in seconds. I took three huge steps backward and ran smack into Mom. My heels dug into the carpet and I started to scream. Let me go! I scratched at her arm and kicked her legs. Even then, I was appalled at myself: this was my sweet, adoring mother, and I had never lashed out like this before. She had no idea she was pulling me toward death, or worse, nothingness.

Guests poked their heads out of their rooms at the commotion.

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Sam sat down in the middle of the hallway and began to wail. We were at the edge of the room, and in a desperate attempt to free myself, I bit my mother on the hand that was holding me. Shocked, she dropped me and stepped back into the room. I fell to the ground. Then, though it was an accident, I did something that I regret to this day: while scrabbling backwards, my leg kicked out and slammed the door shut. All was quiet. I stared at the door in horror. After what seemed like an eternity, I stood up and, against my better judgment, turned the doorknob. It was locked. Oh, right, I thought, and fumbled for the magnetic key in my pocket.

I turned the knob again, and the door swung open. The room was empty. Fresh tears pricked my eyes, and I turned away. His face was unstained with tears, and the only flush in his cheeks was the glow of a happy baby boy. He looked up at me and cooed. Just then, the stairwell door swung open. She was pushing her cart of cleaning supplies past us, when she noticed my expression of horror. She knelt down and asked me what was wrong.

When she looked at me, there wasn't even a flicker of recognition. I sunk down on the floor and hugged Sam to me. The police came that night, along with CPS. The hotel staff had been stumped as to how two children had shown up in their hotel alone, and no one had noticed it until now.

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The house was empty and the number disconnected. It was on the official report that Sam and I had been abandoned at the hotel, for reasons unknown. No foul play was detected. It seems that no family members came forward, so Sam and I went into foster care for a brief while before he was adopted. My previous life has all but vanished without a trace, aside from Sam who I see only occasionally. One fear has still lingered: I refuse to be alone in a room with the door closed. Well, my boyfriend, Ryan, and I decided to take a short trip before heading back to college for our sophomore year.

I froze when I read the sign— it was exactly the same hotel. I broke into a cold sweat, but at the risk of Ryan thinking I was absolutely crazy, managed to stay calm and suggested we get another hour or two of driving in tonight. Ryan shrugged and said that was fine by him. I breathed a sigh of relief. But it was just a couple miles down the road when I saw something that made me slam on my brakes. Ryan cursed as the car behind us blared its horn and swerved around us. What I did care about was the house just in front of us.

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And outside in the garden was a familiar woman with a shock of red hair…. I was in shock. And, as unlikely as it seems, I still have the carved necklace she gave me, one small token from my previous life. We parked outside for almost an hour as I worked up the courage to walk up to the front door. I got out of the car, gave him a small wave, and headed across the street to the house.

I had to do this alone. I knocked. The third time, I stopped mid-knock when I saw the curtains rustle in the window next to the door. The door creaked open. I gasped as a woman stepped forward: red hair, grey eyes, it was her! It felt like it was a dream come true, or a nightmare. She remembered me! Without thinking, I flung myself into her arms and began to sob. She hesitated for a second, and then hugged me back. She remembered Mom and Dad. I sniffed and took a step back.

Lydia stroked my hair and looked at me, smiling fondly. There was just so much to take in, and Lydia seemed to understand. Inside, the house looked the same as I remembered it. The walls were a little dingy, with peeling wallpaper, and the shelves were lined with all sorts of little knick-knacks: ceramic figurines, decorative plates and utensils, and strange dried flowers.

The whole house smelled of herbs of some sort. I wondered if she cooked often. I looked for photos on the wall, hoping to see one of my family, but there were none. Aunt Lydia handed me some tea. It was bitter, but the warmth felt good.

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I sipped it and waited for her to speak. Because my parents were sucked into a haunted hotel room, I thought. And the second I thought that, it seemed absolutely ridiculous. I was a child then, could I have remembered it wrong? Aunt Lydia mistook my embarrassed blush for one of sadness, and patted my arm. We spent the rest of the day talking, not about the sad subject of my abandonment and, subsequently, our estrangement, but of my life.

I told her about school, Ryan, and my friends back home.

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She listened intently to my every word. Before I knew it, it was dark out. I stood up to go, and Aunt Lydia stopped me.