If it weren’t for the pack of travelers lounging alongside the street curb, Sen never would have known the hostel was even there.
He approached the pack cautiously, clutching the straps to his backpack in case he needed to make a quick getaway.
“Is this… La Iguana Enudista?” he said sheepishly. He may not have known Spanish all that well yet, but even he knew that meant “The Naked Iguana.”
One of the raggedy travelers flicked a cigarette, sending it flipping through the air and landing in the middle of the stone road. He then got up slowly, brushed off the back of his poncho-esque pants, and stepped toward Sen.
“Yer noot frum around heeya are ya?” He said, snaking his head all around Sen, like a dog sniffing out a new toy.
“No, I’m… I’m American—from the States.”
“Ooooohh a Steeeeets boyyy ehhh? I spose yeh coming doon heeya for Spreeng Breek, yah? Looken ta poke sum girlies n brag aboot it ta yer mates back home?!” Behind him, Sen could see the others bouncing and jerking with laughter.
“What?? No I—”
“Aw, lay off him Charlie,” Sen hadn’t even noticed that the door to the hostel was now wide open. Leaning against the side of the doorway was a girl. Her skin was like no color Sen had seen before; a light charcoal brown that seemed to glow bronze when the light hit it. Her entire complexion was like a dark shadow, except for two pale blue eyes, both of which were now locked on Sen.
“Awwww cawmon now Ellie, we wuz joost havin a bit o fun.”
The girl pushed the scrappy traveler aside and grabbed Sen by the wrist.
“Don’t let these mangy Scots intimidate you,” she said, leading him back toward the hostel door, “They might act like pitbulls, but they’re nothing but puppy dogs, aren’t ya boys?”
The traveler chuckled and slunk back down on the curb.
“Dinner’s at seven fellas! Don’t be late,” she shouted before slamming the door shut and turning the lock. She swung around to face Sen. Sen opened his mouth to introduce himself, but the moment her eyes met his, he felt paralyzed, like a deer caught between two headlights. They were electric.
“Sen right?” She said finally.
“Yeah, how… how’d you know?”
She smiled, “You called earlier, goof. We spoke on the phone?”
Sen suddenly recognized her voice from the call he had made to the hostel earlier. “Ohhh! It’s you!”
She laughed and stepped carefully around him. “Name’s Ellie. Come on, let me show you around.”