By Beth Kander
It was 3:47 AM when Debbie's iPhone started screaming at her to take cover.
Eep eep eep! Take shelter now. Check local media. Eep eep eep!
She lay in the too-soft hotel bed for a moment, wondering whether or not she really needed to get up and head down to the lower level of the Fairfield. She silenced the phone. It started shrieking again.
I'll feel like a real idiot if I stay in bed due to sheer laziness and a tornado really does touch down here.
She got up, quickly pulling on her tennis shoes and a bra. If she had to deal with strangers at four in the morning, doing so barefoot and braless was not an option. She headed to the stairwell, cursing the tenth-floor room location but aware that taking the elevator would be stupid.
When Debbie reached the lobby, there were only two other hotel patrons down there. They appeared to be a married couple, red-faced and wide, she with big mussed bottle-blonde hair, he with a bad combover. They were wearing matching camoflage-print pajamas. Debbie knew she shouldn't judge, but she immediately assumed they were from Florida.
"Tornado alert?" The man asked, grinning, as if natural disasters were hilarious.
"Yep," she said, shaking her phone at him like a moron.
"We been through too many 'naders not to take 'em seriously," said the woman with an incongruous smile of her own.
Florida for sure, thought Debbie.
"You live near here?" The man asked.
Debbie automatically wanted to snap No, I stay at local hotels right here near my very own home all the time.
But then she remembered. She wasn't on some work trip in New York or Dallas. She was from here. She had finally made good on her threat to leave. She'd left, with no plan. Gotten herself a hotel room for the night just to think things through. Get a good night's sleep. Get away from all the screaming. Figure out what might come next.
"Uh, no," she lied.
"Us either," said the man.
"We're from just outside Pensacola," offered the woman.
Florida, thought Debbie, somewhat cruelly comforting herself in her haughty indictment of the perfectly pleasant couple. I knew it.
She looked outside, where the sky was shifting, and it really did look like a storm was coming.