The other shoe was about to drop.
As I walked through the hotel lobby to the management offices, I could feel everyone’s eyes on me.
Management could only break my contract for a justified work-related reason and the lawyer inside of me had made them spell out in detail what that looked like. And seeing as to how they had no official code of ethics and conduct implemented yet, they had absolutely nothing to reproach me on. But if they really wanted me gone, I wasn’t going to put up a fight. They would still have to pay me for my entire contract so whatever happened would happen.
I took a deep breath before knocking firmly on the hotel manager’s office door.
We had tried our best to not attract attention but in this day and age, everyone and their grandmother knew how to take pictures and videos on cell phones, photographers had expensive telescopic lens and juicy headlines sold copies. Big floppy hats, large Jackie O-esque sunshades, arriving and departing in separate cars and using backdoors had been on our menu for weeks. But it was just a matter of time before someone got a clear picture of me and they finally had. And I was about to pay the piper.
A few weeks after the party, the first picture of us had surfaced with a three word headline buried at the bottom of an entertainment gossip column in the newspaper – ¿Un nuevo Alejandro? But with the picture being dark and grainey, it was impossible to tell that it was me next to him.
The second set of pictures was at an outdoor showcase Alejandro did in Cabo Rojo limited to certain media and PR types. I had decided to watch from the comfort of the air conditioned restaurant a few storeys up with Nate and Alma. The photographers must have noticed Alejandro looking up in our direction and decided that the woman in the large sunshades and run of the mill baseball cap holding Nate’s hand was worthy as the lead story of the entertainment section – ¿Nueva mujere para Aleja y nino? The short blurb reminded readers of Alejandro’s trials, tribulations and that he had new music coming out soon.
But the most recent photos from our trip the weekend before to Culebra told a story. A very intimate story.
On the beach, no sunshades on, the floppy hat tossed aside, there I was lying on a beach chair in the shade, Alejandro wedged between my sandy thighs, leaning backwards so that the back of his head rested on my stomach, his eyes closed. I had my cell phone in both hands above his head but was watching Nate make a turtle out of sand with his little cousins.
That picture spoke a thousand words and the headline of the gossip column a few days later screamed – ¿La nueva familia de Aleja? Quien es Cleopatra? I was clueless as to why the columnist had referred to me as Cleopatra but Ella, having placed a Google alert for all-things-Alejandro-Morales related on her cell, had been quick to explain that the nickname was due to my Cleopatra pose in that beach chair. That was stretching it but whatever…
I walked in, closed the door behind me and waited for Mr. Cruz to offer me a seat. Always a man of few words, he said nothing but gestured for me to sit down. It was hard to read him since he always had a poker face. Upset, angry, it didn’t really matter because I had my arguments ready to go.
What I do on my personal time was my personal business.
The hotel isn’t open yet so there is no possible conflict of interest.
How could my “friendship” possibly affect the hotel?
I sat down and saw that he had a copy of the newspaper open to the photos taken of us the weekend before. I said nothing and waited for him to show me his cards first.
“Ms. Sampson, what would you like to tell me about these?” He pointed to the newspaper.
I smiled artificially and was professional in my tone.
“Mr. Cruz, I think the question is, what would you like to know?”
This was the first time I had seen the corners of his mouth curl upwards a tiny bit.
“This is you, right?”
“Yes, it is.”
“So you and Alejandro Morales are … involved?”
“If we were, how would that be relevant to my contract with this hotel?””
The corners of Mr. Cruz’s mouth curled up a little more.
“You are definitely a lawyer.”
I was already beginning to get annoyed at this personal intrusion.
“What is it exactly that you would like to discuss Mr. Cruz? Is there a problem that I need to be aware of?”
“I don’t see this situation as a problem, Ms. Sampson. Actually, I see your…umm…friendship with Morales an opportunity.”
I gave him a blank stare.
Mr. Cruz’s smile had spread wide across his face.
“Yes, the hotel opening will be in a few weeks and it would be great publicity if you were to bring him as your…uh…guest to the party.”
Now I saw the angle he was trying to play.
Everyone who was anyone important in Puerto Rico was being invited to the opening. Business people, local celebrities, media and someone like Alejandro in the mix would only add more attention to the event.
“You are asking me to invite Alejandro Morales to the opening?” Mr. Cruz nodded. “I strongly suggest that you have the hotel’s PR department contact Mr. Morales’ people.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I felt a little stupid calling Alejandro “Mr. Morales” seeing as to how those photos were sitting on his desk.
“The PR department already did send a formal invitation but no RSVP yet. But seeing as to how the two of you are…close, I thought that you could perhaps ask him in personally.”
“Mr. Cruz, I can’t make any promises.”
Mr. Cruz leaned back in his chair. “I understand. But please see what you can do. We need to make this opening as successful as possible.”
At least Mr. Cruz was honest about his angle.