Home > Dream Big, Stella!

Dream Big, Stella!
Author: Ashley Farley




Three jobs in less than a year. I’m living proof that a college degree is no guarantee for success. My BTech degree in Hospitality Management from CUNY is a bogus degree by some people’s standards. For years, I attended school part-time and worked full-time in the shoe department at Bloomingdale’s to earn it. I’m a born and bred New Yorker, the ideal person to greet tourists upon their arrival and accommodate them while they’re here. I know the best shops and five-star restaurants, and I can score prime seats to sporting and entertainment events. Concierge is my dream job. If only I could get promoted from guest service agent. Which isn’t likely to happen at my current gig, a boutique hotel on Fifty-Second Street near Madison Avenue. The guest service supervisor is looking for a reason to fire me.

I can feel Mr. Moran’s eyes on me from where he’s positioned at the far end of the counter. He’s watching my every move, waiting for my next screwup. I’ve been taking too long with my current guest, a supercute guy whose brother plays for the New York Knicks. Mr. Cannon is in town for the Knicks’ game against the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden. While I may be flirting with him just a little, he asked for my recommendation on the best nightclubs in Manhattan, and I certainly can’t be rude.

When I hand Mr. Cannon his key folder, he steps away from the desk and disappears into the crowd. Guests arriving for the weekend flood our lobby. Throngs of people swarm the bank of elevators, stand in line at the reception counter, and wait for seats to open up at the bar.

An attractive couple in their fifties moves forward, and I greet them with my brightest smile. “Welcome to The Sydney. Checking in?”

The man gives me a curt nod. “Last name, Davis.”

My fingers fly across my keyboard as I locate their reservation. “What brings you to New York this weekend?”

Mrs. Davis looks to her husband to answer. When he doesn’t, she says, “We’re here to see our daughter. And meet her fiancé.”

My hand flies to my chest. “A wedding! How exciting for you. Congratulations. Where are you from?”

Mrs. Davis lifts her head high and proud. “Texas.”

Her husband casts a disgruntled look at the fat snowflakes falling outside the lobby windows. “Houston. Where spring is in full gear.”

“Don’t be such a grump. I love the snow.” Mrs. Davis hugs her husband’s arm. “It’s so romantic.”

I smile at her. “It is, isn’t it? Late season snow showers are common for New York. I consider this the perfect kind of snow, pretty to look at without the headache of event cancellations and travel delays.”

Shrugging his wife off, Mr. Davis glances at his gold wristwatch. “Can we hurry this up? I have a conference call in fifteen minutes. I’d like to take it in my room.”

“Of course.” I print out their paperwork and slide it across the counter for him to sign.

I take this opportunity to study the woman. Teardrop diamonds dangle from her earlobes, a Chanel crocodile bag hangs from her shoulder, and a silk scarf in vibrant shades of pinks and blues is knotted at her neck. I’m no fashionista, but I know a lot about labels and brands from my best friend, Rachel, who works for the hit reality show Say Yes to the Dress.

I touch my fingertips to my collarbone. “I love your scarf. Hermès?”

She bobs her coiffed blonde head. “A Christmas gift to myself.”

Her husband clears his throat in irritation as he thrusts the paperwork at me.

“Right, your conference call. We’ll have you settled in your room momentarily.”

I encode two plastic key cards in the machine, and hand the folder to Eric, the most senior member of our bell staff who is hovering nearby, his cart piled high with an obscene amount of Louis Vuitton luggage. “The Davises are in room 326.”

Panic overcomes me. Or was it room 324? Nope. It was definitely 326.

I turn back to the Davises. “The fitness room is on the second floor. Breakfast is served in the lounge from seven until ten in the morning. And we offer twenty-four-hour room service if you’re in the mood for a midnight snack.”

The Davises follow Eric to the elevator, and the next guests in line approach the counter. I’ve served three couples and the fourth pair is stepping forward when Eric returns with the Davises and their luggage. Mrs. Davis wears a smile of amusement, as though she’s keeping a naughty secret. Meanwhile, her husband’s head is ducked with phone glued to one ear and hand pressed to the other to block out the cacophony of noise in the lobby.

Eric, his neck disappearing into hunched shoulders, says loud enough for Moran to hear, “You gave me the key to the wrong room.”

Mrs. Davis is quick to explain, “We walked in on a man and a woman in a compromising position. I assume she was his wife. She was . . . well, it was all rather embarrassing.”

Mr. Moran appears at my side. “My apologies for the inconvenience. I’d like to upgrade you to a suite at no additional cost to you.”

Mrs. Davis drops her smile. “Interesting. There were no suites available when I booked my room a month ago.”

“As it happens, I’ve just gotten off the phone with one of our regular guests. She’s had an unexpected death in the family and won’t be able to make the trip this weekend. The suite is all yours.” Without giving the Davises time to resist, he keys two new cards. “The suite is on the concierge floor. The view is magnificent. I’ll take you up myself.”

As he passes by me, Mr. Moran snarls under his breath, “I’ll see you in my office when I return, Miss Boor.”



My spirits plummet as I traipse home to Greenwich Village. I love the snow, and I don’t mind the cold, but today the gray weather feels dreary. I’m not worried about finding another job. There are over seven hundred hotels in New York. However, without a reference from Moron Moran—and he made it clear one would not be forthcoming—the past ten months were a waste. I’m right back where I started from, applying for entry-level positions. I’m nearly thirty years old, and I have nothing to show for my life.

The smell of garlic and onions greets me in the vestibule of my apartment building. Home sweet home. A decade ago, when my parents moved to Red Hook, I opted to stay in the village. I’ve lived here all my life. And, even though the building is rundown and my apartment is a five-hundred-square-foot studio, I don’t aspire to live anywhere else. With the loss of income, I don’t know how I’ll pay next month’s rent. The apartment is a hand-me-down, my parents’ former art studio. To move would mean giving up a rent-controlled space in one of the most sought-after areas in New York. No one in their right mind would do that.

I check my mail, removing three past-due bills from the brass box and stuffing them in my bag, and climb the stairs to the third floor. I’m pausing at the top of the stairs to catch my breath when I notice a gentleman waiting outside my apartment. With ankles crossed, his back is against the wall, overcoat draped across folded arms and black leather messenger bag at his feet. He must be lost. No one in this building wears tailored suits and expensive silk ties.

When he sees me, he pushes his lanky frame off the wall. “You’re Stella Boor,” he says, a statement not a question.

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