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In the morning there is more banging on the door which wakes me up. I say Yes? without thinking and hear a muffled voice say Breakfast.

Coming, I say.

I turn to look at Kate but she’s still buried beneath the sheets, dead to the world. I stand in the shower for a while and let the water flow all over me.

The dining room at the Shangri La is quiet and empty. Everybody else must have already eaten because there’s only one table laid where Kate and I sit opposite each other. I can tell that Kate doesn’t feel like talking this morning because she’s got her sunglasses on, so I fill the silence by humming the first tune that comes into my head. It’s ‘Advance Australia Fair’.

The manager comes in to take our order for tea or coffee but forgets to ask us how we like our eggs. Then he returns with a trayload of cups and bowls and stuff. His hair is perfect this morning, like freshly smoothed cement. He disappears into the kitchen again and I can hear him talking angrily to somebody. No doubt it’s the dog up to no good.

Breakfast shows a lot of promise but is slightly erratic overall. The bacon is fatty but the toast is fresh and crisp and the tea is piping hot on my tongue. When I suggest that perhaps the fried tomato is not completely successful, the manager looks at me for a while but says nothing. Then he asks me if I think he enjoys playing mother to a couple of complete strangers. I think we both know the answer to that one.

Kate is having cigarettes for breakfast today. She’s obviously keen to get going, constantly stretching and looking at her watch, so I try to chew a little faster without getting carried away. In the end, it all comes together quite neatly and I manage to combine the last mouthful of toast with the final slurp of tea. I’m completely stuffed.

Kate checks the fluid levels in the car while I empty the room and return the key to the manager who is already waiting for me in Reception.

The morning sun has wiped all colour from his office. The little telly screen has faded and even the tropical fish tank – so bright and bubbly last night – seems pale and empty. The dog is nowhere to be seen. I look down at the smoked glass coffee table and see blue sky and clouds reflected in it, like gazing at the heavens upside down. It makes me feel giddy.

The manager looks very frail in this light and I can’t help thinking how easy it would be to blow him away. Puff. Only the hair would be left, like a tiny patch of cirrus in the sky. Such fine white hair. I wonder if it’s his mother’s. I feel like telling him that I have my father’s eyes. A tiny voice on the telly says,

Officials fear an escalation in violence...

We have to get going but first I want the manager to know how much we’ve enjoyed our stay. One day we may even return. You never know. I can tell that he dislikes seeing us go just as much as it hurts us to leave. Still, we all have to go some time. It’s good to know there will always be a warm welcome waiting for us at the Shangri La.

The roar of the engine cuts short any farewells and before I know it, I’m fastening my seatbelt and getting ready for take-off. Kate gives it a bit of throttle and we put down some rubber in the car park. Just before the Shangri La disappears from view, I look back and imagine I can see the manager heading towards our room with a fresh change of bed linen. Pretty soon you won’t be able to tell we were even there.