The bell pinged to announce the lift had arrived at the top floor and the doors slid silently open. She stepped out onto a gleaming marble floor that resonated with the sound of her heels. As she approached the enormous doors that faced her, an impeccably uniformed man bowed deeply. Murmuring, a quick thank-you, she glided through into a scene that took her breath away.
To her left, the largest and most well-stocked bar she had ever seen ran the entire length of the room. Subtly back-lit, it soared to the complete height of the wall, displaying an impossibly large array of bottles, gleaming seductively. Glancing away and across the room, her eyes took a moment to adjust to the dim lighting. Downlights twinkled in the high ceiling, picking out the many low tables in tight pools of light. Beyond, the tables, the outer wall was entirely of glass, providing a panoramic view across night-time Tokyo.
Looking up, from the large glass of cognac he was swirling in his hand, he saw her enter the bar. It wasn’t hard to see why she had drawn his attention. Her striking red, hair set off a bright green silk blouse and a black pencil skirt, holding captive an amazing figure. There was a quality about the way she walked across the room that suggested it wasn’t due to the impossibly high heels. No, there was an almost imperceptible hesitancy about her that informed him she was not only new to Tokyo, but to life in the grandest of hotels.
Even before she had time to think about where she might sit, a solicitous waiter appeared at her elbow and guided her to a seat. Her table commanded a view, both of a large sweep of the half empty bar and the mind-numbing view. Bowing, the waiter handed her a cocktail list and glided silently away. Her quick shower had not enabled her to overcome the effects of the long flight and the time difference. She tried to calculate what the time was at home but jet-lag and the dramatic view rendered the task beyond her. Seated some 40 floors above the twinkling lights of the vast city, she found herself both elated and humbled by what she saw.
He sat back in the deeply padded, leather armchair, took a deep swallow of the whisky and concentrated on her. He guessed her to be early-thirties and, noticing she was wearing no ring, was single. She was, he reasoned, either divorced or career had taken precedence over the search for Mr Right. He was somewhat perplexed about her, though. Given her lack of ease in the luxurious surroundings, she had clearly not climbed far enough up the corporate hierarchy to be blasé about the international lifestyle. And Tokyo was not on the average young exec’s travel circuit. He watched as the waiter re-appeared at her elbow. Gracefully taking her black patent handbag, from where she had placed it on the floor, he hung it from the table edge using a little stainless steel hook. He smiled to himself.
She saw the waiter’s attentions to her handbag. He then stood with his hands clasped in front of him and, head inclined, he waited for her to order. Embarrassed, both at her lack of attention to the cocktail list and her inexperience, she hesitated. She knew she had her first meeting early next morning. She should try for a good night’s sleep; at the moment, she was wide awake.
Staring from his seat, cloaked in shadows, he saw her hesitation deduced that she was not waiting for anyone. Downing the rest of the whisky in a swallow, and easing himself up, he quickly crossed to her table.
Taken by surprise, she looked up and saw him for the first time. He was placing a restraining hand on the waiter’s arm and smiling warmly at her.
“These long flights can be hell” she heard him purr in a deeply resonant and cultured voice, “Let me take a little of the burden off all the decision making and suggest a glass of champagne. Never goes amiss before dinner, eh?”
Coming to her senses, she saw him to be an extremely stylish, older man. He must be, she thought, late-forties, early-fifties with his greying hair swept back from a tanned face. She took in a crisp, white shirt under an impeccably tailored, lightweight navy suit. His hand, resting on the waiter’s arm, looked solid and reassuring. Warm and inviting, she thought; she wondered what it would feel like touching her skin.
“Tell you what” She heard him continue, smiling at her, then turning to the waiter “let’s have a bottle of the Bollinger ’95. That should sharpen up the old appetites before dinner, eh?”
“M’name’s Marcus, mind if I join you?” he went on quickly seating himself, before her befuddled wits would allow her to reply. “And who do I have the very greatest pleasure of meeting?”
“I’mm S’Sarah” she stuttered, blushing deeply.
“I see the waiter’s been protecting y’er honour then, Sarah!” he responded with a captivating smile that was beginning to grow on her.
“Oh, and how is that?” she responded, pulling herself together.
“Ah,” his smile widening, his hand touching lightly upon her handbag, “here in the land of the rising sun, a lady’s honour is held in the highest esteem.”
“I don’t understand” she giggled, “What on earth has that got to do with my handbag?”
“Well, there are, not to put too fine a point upon it,” he explained, leaning closer towards her, close enough to make her aware of his musky cologne,” there are, how should I put this, ‘ladies of the night’, who might come into places such as this hotel, plying their wares, so to speak.”
“Surely not?” She responded, warming to this intriguing man. “But I still don’t understand what that’s got to do with my handbag!”
“Ah, you see,” Marcus went on placing his hand now on her bare arm, sending shivers through her like an electric shock “These ‘Ladies of the night’ make their, ahem, ‘availability’ known by placing their handbags on the floor.”
Sarah blushed to the roots of her red hair.
“Our waiter friend clearly saw you as a lady of the very clearest virtue and that’s why he brought his little hook over for your bag!”
“Now”, he ventured, giving her arm an almost imperceptible squeeze, “Once we’ve finished the old champers, what about a spot of dinner? They have a wonderful Tempura restaurant here.”