Chapter 2 - Part 1

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Exiting the plane makes me feel tremendously better. Feet firmly on the ground, I follow the instructions around the terminal. First stop, baggage claim. Second stop, rental car office.

This is another exciting part of traveling on my own: I rented an Audi A4 convertible. I'm going to have fun, just like I promised myself. In Chicago, I have a Lexus SUV: luxurious, comfortable, reliable, and conservative. The Audi has all the same qualities, but it's sporty and adventurous. Nothing exotic. Keeping a low profile is better in my case. I've been down that road before, where I'm looked at as an asset, a career advancement, a status symbol. I want none of that now. Just the simple me.

I get settled into my new ride and put in the address for the rental condo. Plugging in my iPhone, I go for my playlist. I decide on Maroon 5 mixed with some SHM. I love their track "Don't You Worry Child." Makes me want to believe the heavens really do have a plan for me. The night is warm, and I put the top down. I try not to get lost navigating the ramps around the airport and luckily make it to the highway pretty quickly. Music is blasting from the speakers, and I'm speeding down I-95. The wind is in my hair, whipping it into a crazy mess. The neat waves that once were are long-gone now, replaced by wild and tangled curls. I guess I won't be wasting time straightening my hair on this trip-in a battle with the Miami weather, I didn't stand a chance. On second thought, I kind of like this new, raw look.

Half an hour later, I arrive at the condo. It's a tall, modern, glass building right on the ocean. Palm trees line the front, and the fountain is lit up from beneath the water's surface. I turn the car and luggage over to the valet, grab my purse, and enter the foie. The interior is luxurious, with ceilings three stories high and intricate granite patterns on the floor. There are antique-looking columns scattered all around, and arches leading down to secluded alcoves stuffed with seating areas. The whole place is a mix of European luxury and tropical comfort. A bar is tucked away in the far corner, private and inviting.

A tall blond with a professional smile plastered on her face greets me from behind a rich mahogany concierge desk covered in black granite. I make quick work of checking in, then head for the elevators. I rented a one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, living room, and a separate master bedroom suite. Once upstairs, I slide the key card into the lock and push the door open.

What I see is everything I wished for, plus a little more. The foie area is covered in white stone tile brushed to a mirror shine. To the right is the living area, with an open gourmet kitchen. The cabinets are white and glass, with some built-in lights to make everything glow. The countertops are charcoal grey, with sparkles twinkling from somewhere deep in the stone. The kitchen itself is a work of art, and I promise myself I'll take full advantage of it.

I make my way down to the living room. The entire back wall is made of glass, with a sliding door leading to a wide balcony. The moonlight is reflected in the ocean, and I see the white foam of the waves breaking against the shore. It's late, past eleven for sure, but below me, life is raging.

Walking around the dinette set, I see a recliner covered with a luxurious pillow top and towels, then spot another sliding door leading to the bedroom. In the center is a king-sized bed, positioned for a view of the ocean. The headboard is a mix of dark wood and lush, soft fabric; beige, brown, and teal patterns echo the colors of the beach and the ocean. There are at least fifteen throw pillows, all different shapes and sizes, sitting at the header. I sprint a few steps forward and jump onto the bed. I laugh to myself, happy as a kid. I love it!

Finally, I make my way to the bathroom, and oh my, oh my! It's huge! There is a Jacuzzi tub that could easily fit two, a stone-walled shower with multiple jets lining the walls, and two sinks with at least four feet of gorgeous marble counter space between them.

Everything is covered in light beige stone with golden undertones. I can almost see my own reflection in every shining surface. This is simply amazing! I can't say I haven't stayed in nice places before, but this place makes me feel something different. It's probably the fact that I'm alone here. This is my own little fairy tale.

I look into the mirror and see myself smiling; even my eyes have a new sparkle to them. I'm normally a composed person, with a polite smile that rarely touches my eyes. I look closer and see evidence of my recent lack of sleep, in the form of new under-eye circles. I look a little paler too. No wonder, I never had any dinner. Food and flying are a bad combination for me.

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