Gertie and Bridget stay in a motel
The purple minivan’s magical autodriver steered it into a parking spot in the lot of the Keyes Lodge Motel. Inside, six tired teenagers and one cranky ostrich shifted in their seats and gathered their things.
“I’ll go check in.” Gertie, sitting in the driver’s seat and the only one who had truly stayed awake on the drive, got out of the car followed by a chorus of “Thanks.”
She checked the time on her phone as she wandered around the motel to find the front office. Nine o’clock. Ugh, she thought. I hope they still have rooms this late.
A bell rang when she opened the door to the office. There was a coffee station next to the front door and a green sign next to a bell on the countertop with a computer and hallway behind it.
“Ring for service, 24/7” the sign read. Gertie was impressed, and rang the bell.
“One second!” A voice said, quickly followed by a tall woman with a service-ready smile. “How can I help you?”
“Hi, I’d like a room for the night,” Gertie said. The group had stopped at many motels and hotels over their road trip, and this dance was a familiar one.
“Of course!” The clerk clicked on the computer. “How many beds?”
“As many as you have,” Gertie said with a smile. “But just two is fine.”
“How many guests are in your party?”
“Seven,” Gertie said, refraining from mentioning that one of them was an ostrich.
The woman frowned. “We have other available rooms, if you’d like to-”
“One is fine,” Gertie said. “We have sleeping bags.
The woman pursed her lips, but nodded, and clicked around the computer, typing here and there. “I’ll just need your ID and a credit card for any room charges.”
Gertie pulled them out and the woman filled in the rest of the reservation on the computer. Gertie signed some papers that she didn’t fully read beyond “damages” and “cost of the room”.
She took the room key with a grateful smile.
“Room 212.” The clerk pulled out a map of the motel. “I can show you where to go.”
Gertie watched without paying attention. She walked back to the car with the key and directed everyone up the stairs to the room.
“And I get one of the beds,” Gertie said. “Since I drove.”
“You stayed awake. It’s not that hard with the autodriver,” Faye Nessing grumbled.
“When you get your license and can be the one to stay awake, you can call dibs,” her older brother Peter said.
“According to the schedule,” Bridget said, checking her phone, “Vivien and Peter get the second bed if they want it.”
“Sounds good to me,” Vivien said, collapsing onto one of the sides of the remaining bed.
Peter pulled the thin duvet out from under Viv and threw it on the ground for Charlie. He got in bed next to Vivien and turned on his side to play with his phone.
Charlie the ostrich took the discarded blankets and made himself a nest to curl up in. Bridget and Gertie shared one of the beds, as they were used to such sleeping arrangements from trips with their parents. Ernest won a game of rock-paper-scissors against Faye and took the couch, while the youngest Nessing unrolled her sleeping bag and tried to get comfortable on the worn carpet.
“Good night, everyone,” Gertie said. They all returned the sentiment with varying levels of enthusiasm.
Normally, it would be too early to go to sleep, but they had started their day in the dark early morning before the emotional turn of having to say goodbye to Shelby. By now, the whole group needed some rest. Before long, the only sound in the room was soft even breaths and the occasional snore.
Suddenly a raucous cheer exploded from the building across from the motel and everyone jerked awake.
“What was that?” Vivien asked.
The celebration continued, accompanied by the sound of blaring horns that reminded Gertie of a sports event.
“Is that a party?” Peter asked, rubbing his face awake.
Ernest opened the blackout curtains over the window above his makeshift bed and leaned outside.
“Close enough,” he muttered.
The noisy building across the street held a bar on the ground floor. A sports bar, it seemed, by the way jersey-clad patrons were shouting and TVs flickered in the early night.
“Gertie?” Bridget said, nudging her sister.
“No,” Gertie said, refusing to open her eyes or move from her sleeping position.
“You have to go talk to the clerk.”
“I don’t want to.”
“I’ll go with you,” Peter offered.
Gertie groaned but stood up.
They walked back down to the front office. The same woman stood at the front desk and smiled when the door opened.
“Is there something you need?” she asked.
As soon as the door closed behind them, the sound of music and cheering disappeared.
“There’s something going on across the street,” Gertie started, pointing in the direction of the bar with her thumb.
“Yes, it’s the last game before the championship,” the clerk explained. “It sounds like our Paladins are winning. I expect the celebration will last a long time.”
“Is there any other room we can get?” Peter asked. “That won’t hear the party?”
“I’m sorry,” the woman said, not sounding sorry at all. “But that’s the last two-bed room we have.”
“However, we do have a sound-proofing spell, like the one in this room.” The clerk gestured around the office. “If you’d like, I can activate it for your room right now.”
“That’d be great,” Peter said with a relieved smile.
“Great! I’ll just put the hundred dollar charge on your card?” the clerk offered.
“What?” Gertie said, bristling. “A hundred dollars?”
“Uh, I left my wallet in the room,” Peter said hurriedly, to keep Gertie from properly expressing her anger. “I can’t make her pay for everything. We’ll be right back.”
“I’m not paying to get a simple spell activated!” Gertie said, once they were outside and the office door had closed behind them.
Peter hummed in agreement, pulling his phone from his pocket.
“I mean, there’s no way it’s that expensive to keep it running,” Gertie fumed. “I once kept a silencing spell on my dorm for a few hours without even thinking about it!”
Peter typed something into his phone and stared at it as they walked.
“Well, say something!” Gertie crossed her arms.
“I agree, it seems like a fairly simple spell,” Peter said, turning his phone so she could see. He had looked up the way to cast the silencing spell themselves. “With all of us in the room, I can’t imagine it would drain any one of us too much.”
The duo arrived back at the room to groans as they let light spill in from the door.
“Why is it still loud?” Faye asked, her pillow pushed over her ears.
“We’re going to cast a sound-proofing spell,” Gertie said as Peter placed his phone on the bureau the room provided so both he and Gertie could read off of it.
“Hxa’mer ien sil-ocht,” Gertie casted, drawing magic from her storage keychains. The sparkle of a shield glimmered in front of her hands and she grinned, enjoying the feel of the spell.
“Hxa’mer ien sil-ocht,” Peter continued. A similar shield spread in front of his hands, and he waved them to lead his shield to connect to Gertie’s.
“Hxa’mer ien sil-oooocht,” Ernest said with a yawn. In his corner of the room, another shield sprung to life. He swung his arms wildly, spreading his shield across the walls and flinging it to connect with Gertie and Peter’s. They started moving through the rest of the room, covering every barrier to the outside world.
Then an alarm went off.
It blared and flashed a light, and the sound-proofing shields disappeared as everyone tried to cover their ears.
A knocking started on their front door, and with one hand on his head and his other shoulder shrugged up to try to block out the alarm, Peter answered it.
The woman from the front desk stood with her arms crossed.
“You are not allowed to cast within the rooms,” she said briskly. “It is against the rules of this motel, which you signed that you understood,” she aimed the last statement at Gertie.
“Sorry,” Gertie shouted. “Won’t happen again.”
The clerk nodded and turned to a panel on the wall outside the rooms. She unlocked it with a key and revealed a panel of breaker-like switches that corresponded to the various rooms on the floor. One was activated, and she flipped it back into place.
The alarm stopped and everyone in the room relaxed.
“Have a good night,” the clerk said, and turned to clink down the stairs on her heels.
From across the street, the loudest cheer yet reverberated through the room.
Gertie looked out the window. The patrons had spilled out onto the street, and music began blasting from the speakers at the bar.
“I think they won,” Gertie said.
“Ugh,” Faye groaned and collapsed back onto her pillow. “Why didn’t I pack any earplugs?”
Gertie looked up at Peter, eyes wide. He chuckled and pulled out his phone.
Within fifteen minutes, they had driven to the nearest convenience store, paid three dollars for a jar of a hundred earplugs, and distributed them to the tired group.
“Now good night for real,” Gertie said to a chorus of groans.
While the city flooded the streets in celebration of making it to the championship for the first time in decades, Gertie, Bridget and their friends slept soundly.