He first met Josi over a summer internship his father got him at a local four-star hotel.
Attending a vocational school for hospitality, they were required to spend a month of their summer vacation at a facility of their choice for training purposes. Not the best way you would imagine spending your well-deserved holidays, but the only way to graduate.
Most students on his course had a hard time finding anyone who would take them even for a few weeks. Summer was always the busiest season in the hotel business and the last thing the otherwise exhausted employees wanted was a bunch of newbies being underfoot and asking for attention the whole day. These summer internships were famous for teaching you nothing and making you very unpopular among the regular staff of the hotel of your choice.
That was the main reason why most hotels refused to accept any interns, to begin with. How his dad landed a very good deal with not even some cheap abandoned motel hidden in a rest stop on the fast lane but Vienna’s one and only Edler itself, Felix was reluctant to ask.
Truth to be told, he was scared that he would inevitably make the entire hotel loathe him on his first day and ensure that he’d never be employed in Vienna again, even if he were to pass all his exams with flying colours.
He never asked how his father ended up getting the job for him because he did not want to know the answer. But this is how he first rolled up at the huge glass door that marked the entrance of the Hotel Edler and cautiously greeted a stern bellboy, dressed in all red.
“Hi. I’m Felix Moser. I’m here for an internship starting from today…”
The moment he heard the word “internship”, the man nonchalantly pointed at the front desk inside the hotel, losing all interest in properly serving him. It was clear that Felix is not a guest, so the hospitality spirit did not extend to him.
“Just go to check-in and tell the front desk clerk that. We are expecting important guests this morning.”
With that, Felix made his way into the foyer, trying not to break down even before he would get to the back office. He didn’t have much more luck at the front desk either.
“Can you just sit down in the lobby area for a moment?” the lady (also in red) asked him and pointed at some round sofas near the luggage-keep area. “We’re expecting a lot of check-outs soon. It’s peak time.”
“S-sure,” Felix said and plopped down on one of the sofas, hugging his backpack to himself.
Surely, nothing bad will come out of this, right?
After a few minutes of waiting, someone sat down next to him.
“You’re the new boy, yeah?”
The person talking to him was not wearing the hotel’s uniform but seemed to belong here. How would he know, otherwise? He looked roughly about the same age as Felix but not quite as lost. Brown eyes, brown hair, brown outfit.
“I should be.”
“Hi, hello, welcome to Hotel Edler. Happy to see you come,” he said. “We’re going to be together. My mom says I need to get my hand in the hotel business, so she’s going to enslave me for the rest of the summer here. I said enslave but I realize it’s not cool to hear that on your first day, please don’t freak out I swear we are nice. Ah. Nice to meet you. Name’s Josi.”
Felix nodded a few times. Mom told him… Hotel heir. That’s a hotel heir he was talking to and a very talkative one at that.
“Cool,” was all he could say at first, positively frightened. “I’m Felix.”
He noticed a little too late that Josi offered his hand, but decided to awkwardly take it in the end. They shook hands, and he never felt less professional in his whole entire life.
“Are we… am I… should I dress up or something, or?”
“Elfie - our super professional, super cool, super experienced concierge - is a bit caught up with a tiresome guest at the moment, but she’ll take good care of us.” Josi winked. “Until then, I can just whatever… You hungry? We have some leftover cake that we can’t sell anymore.”
“You mean, Edlertorte?”
“Yeah? What other cake would we sell here?” Josi quickly jumped up from the sofa, then waited on him to follow. “Don’t tell my mom if she happens to ask because she’d be mad about the norovirus risk and all but… I’ll show you the way. I will keep my mouth shut if you will.”
Given that Josi so far had done nothing but vomited words on him, Felix somehow doubted he’d be able to keep his mouth shut. He was not complaining, though. There was something comforting about being attended by an overzealous hotel heir, who’d also apparently be his pal for the summer months.
“C’mon!” Josi nudged him.
Expired Edlertorte for breakfast. How lovely, Felix thought, as he decided to follow him to the back office, then through the kitchen. He tried not to look anywhere, and seem as invisible as it was humanly possible in an attempt to avoid being scrutinized later.
He knew this in the back of his mind of course but Felix had one more chance to realize that the restaurants and the guest rooms were only half of what made a hotel. In dark, hidden pockets of the same building, they could find the steamy kitchens, the small employees’ canteen, locker rooms, and many other hidden places that were not meant for the eyes of a revered guest.
Josi made him sit down at the empty canteen and came back with a stolen (and expired) torte in a few minutes. He placed it between them on the old, wooden desk with a stiff nylon cover on top and handed a fork to him.
“Let’s dig in, and get to know each other better,” he said.
They did begin getting to know each other better, until Josi’s mom found them in the canteen, with Elfie trailing behind her. She was not mad, but Felix had the impression that she could kill both of them at any given moment with nothing more but a single glance, and he did not want to press his luck.
He tried to wipe the chocolate cream off of his face as quickly as possible, and pretend that he had been up to nothing naughty with Josi at all.
“Franz Joseph, I thought I told you to wait for Elfie in the lobby.”
“She was busy with concierge stuff,” Josi retorted. “And Felix was so lost in the lobby, and I didn’t really have breakfast at home, and I thought what a moment to bond and show him around before his real shift would start and…”
His mother cut him off before he could finish his list of useless excuses. Next to him, Felix tried to appear invisible.
“Just like your father, you agree to whatever I say, then proceed to do whatever you feel like doing,” she complained, with a deep sigh.
“It’s Felix’s first day at the Edler, I wanted to give him a warm welcome. Very warm. Almost hot, but not uncomfortably hot.”
“You wanted to get to the cakes before they’d be disposed of.”
Josi looked down on the floor for a second then stared back at his mother. He had nothing left to say. Which was a very first, at least for today.
At the same time, Felix wondered if he had already ruined his chances at a good impression on his first day. Was it his fault that he agreed to come and eat cake? Should he have said no? Will he be fired on the spot?
Fortunately, nobody really considered his presence as anything close to important, and the Edlers all went back to work. Elfie took them by the shoulder and invited the boys over for some informal training, as she put it.
“Don’t worry about your mother,” she told Josi. “She will forget about this entirely when you do something much worse in the afternoon.”
“That doesn’t help, Elfie.”
The three of them made their way to the back office, surrounded by constant noise and the phone ringing persistently. Elfie did not really seem to have anything to teach, she much rather spent the time talking about her convoluted life before the Edler, although nobody ever asked. Josi would look at him from time to time and subtly roll his eyes, giving him a sympathetic smile.
At least they were not alone.
Being alone here would be too much, Felix decided. It wasn’t only the incredible sternness the walls of the hotel oozed, but the idea of being the only person who is underfoot in this whole entire realm of expensive cakes and yellowed walls.
Josi asked him if he wanted to grab dinner - outside of the hotel, of course - once they were done for the day, and he agreed. He voiced the same concerns Felix had.
“I am glad I don’t have to be alone,” he said, waiting on some cheap meal at a nearby place. “I mean, I usually have to do this all alone, so it is refreshing to have someone with me. You know Elfie is nice and all but it’s good to have someone from my own age group to hang out with, I don’t get half of her references.”
Felix wasn’t sure what to say. Your mom is terrifying? I feel sorry for you? How old is Elife anyway? Is she human, or just pretending?
“I hope we didn’t freak you out,” Josi added, after the considerable amount of silence from his side. “Everyone is great at the hotel, they’re just a little intense.”
Well, little intense was certainly one way to put it.
Josi continued. “Actually, we are intense. I shouldn’t really make myself exempt from this because you see, I’m an Edler, I belong here, intensity is just in my blood, I get very bad results on blood tests, it’s ridiculous. Doctors don’t know what to do with me.”
That made Felix laugh out loud, and Josi smiled wide, joining in.
They somehow ended up talking about the beginnings of the Edler. Josi had no siblings, and he was expected to take over the hotel business when his parents (by parents he most likely meant only his mom) decided to retire from managing the place. It was never really a question whether Josi actually wanted to pursue this path or if he had any other plans in mind.
“I don’t absolutely hate it, you know,” he explained. “It could be a lot worse, and I do think that hotels are super fun. I mean this one could be more fun with a gym and sauna and all. But you know when it comes to making choices in life, I’d like to do things my way and give far longer explanations about it than needed. Sorry. I have this bad habit, I talk. I talk until you shoot me dead. ”
“Yeah I… kind of noticed,” Felix said.
“But you haven’t shot me yet.”
The two of them shared a smile.
They began their shared summer internship like that. Every morning he’d look forward to seeing Josi at the entrance of the hotel, and feel relieved that they are going through everything together. When Elfie was particularly busy, she’d give them boring tasks like helping out at the cleaning department, or checking the freezer temperature back in the Patisserie.
“Every good hotel manager starts from zero and works their way up,” she explained, which was the code word for “leave me alone.”
Felix didn’t mind - at least he could say at vocational school later that the internship proved to be useful. And goofing around with Josi was fine anywhere.
They stripped beds together and hoovered floors until Josi’s mom couldn’t find a single dusty spot anywhere. They also ran after the packed carts when they forgot to take the pillow covers off and hid in the laundry room pretending to fold bedsheets for far longer than necessary. Felix felt safe because he was with the son of the hotel owners. Not too safe, of course, but safe enough to play.
He was also very aware that the possibility for an unpaid intern to be fired on the spot was relatively small, as people had no time to waste on him during busy summer weeks. If anything, Romy Edler was probably happy that the two of them were not standing in the way of smooth operations and found their own amusement in discreet manners.
In fact, they were having so much fun that on the weekends Josi would sometimes visit to play silly video games and forget about the hotel for a while. Felix was still living with his parents, so it was awkward for the first few times, making the introductions and explaining who Josi was and why he’d be visiting, but they got used to one another pretty soon and Josi would be a regular weekend visitor.
They would lie on Felix’s narrow bed the whole afternoon, competing against one another in their video game of choice for the weekend. At times, Josi would even stay for the night.
He charmed Felix’s parents by coming with a whole Edlertorte on his first day - and Felix only hoped that he did not bring one of the expired ones. He may have been a little awkward and silly, but the thing about the chocolate cream in the torte is that it would charm even the stonest of hearts, and Felix’s parents weren’t particularly strict or cruel.
“They love you so much,” Felix told him once.
“Despite the fact that I practically moved here? Occupying your space? And that I accidentally go off on random rants nobody cares about at the dinner table? I’m sorry about that.”
“I think they love you for that even more.” He had no idea where that thought really came from, but Felix knew that he was telling the truth.
Or perhaps he was just projecting into his parents.
It was either the cake or something much more subtle that made his parents fall in love with Josi. They made sure to ask about him when Felix would come home from a long day at the hotel, giving him that expectant, curious look that accompanied the question. He did not really get it but liked to talk about his day over dinner, so he didn’t mind at all.
He only ever visited Josi once because he was still somewhat scared of his parents. Well, his mum to be precise. Romy Edler was a tough boss and an even tougher mother, and that filled Felix with a brand of dread he had never known before. Whenever Romy was around, he felt like being the good employee, wise hotelier one can only ever dream of being.
That one time, however, the Edler parents were not at home, and that is why Josi felt so confident inviting him over after their shift ended.
Josi’s family lived in the city centre, in one of those historical brick-buildings that hid the most lavish apartments inside. Felix was almost a little scared entering the living room with dark marbled floor and wide but uncomfortable-looking sofas.
“Don’t worry, my room is normal,” Josi told him as if he was able to read minds.
“Everyone thinks so.”
Their house was truly a bit like a museum, and if Felix wanted to be honest, it looked more like a fancy hotel than the Edler itself. On the other hand, Josi’s room really looked normal. He had fluffy pillows and appropriate posters on his freshly painted walls. Josi also had one of those cool sofa beds that every teenager was secretly dreamed of. Not the cheap kind that was uncomfortable as both a sofa and both as a bed at night.
“Make yourself feel at home,” Josi told him. “Welcome to Hotel Edler. Four stars and counting. Our hotel is first in Vienna for customer satisfaction. Did you know? Of course you did, you are practically an Edler now.”
Josi left the room just to return with a huge bowl of popcorn and then turn the computer screen towards the sofa.
“What are we watching?”
“Do you want to pick?”
Felix did not end up picking, he always felt like he took the backseat when it came to these things, and perhaps, perhaps he did not mind. And after all, the choice ended up not mattering, around thirty minutes later, when Josi’s arm carefully snaked around him, pulling him closer into some kind of an embrace. He looked at his friend instead of the screen for a second, bewildered.
“You mind? Part of the famous Edler hospitality spirit.
Felix shook his head and tried to get his eyes off of Josi’s face, so he could focus on the movie again. It was something popular that came out just that year, and he should have been invested in it, to begin with, but he couldn’t bring himself. His heart was beating too fast to concentrate on anything else.
He was wondering why they hadn’t come up with anything like this earlier when they were playing video games. Much more comfortable. And Josi smelled nice. He actually noticed that before, but never quite wanted to admit it, not even to himself.
But this wasn’t playing video games. Not at all.
Josi used his free hand to get the bowl of popcorn out of the way, placing it somewhere on his nightstand. It was almost out of reach, but he stretched enough just to manage. Then, he returned to Felix once again, now snuggling even closer. He gently booped Felix’s nose.
“Have you noticed?” Felix asked, slightly tilting his head closer.
“You haven’t been vomiting words for a while.”
He then could not properly recall how the events unfolded. Certainly, it was Josi who kissed him first, pressing his lips against Felix’s, without a single care for the movie they were watching. The next thing he clearly remembered was Josi’s fingers tugging at his shirt, clumsily trying to pulling it off of him. That was, incidentally, also the time when Felix realized what they had been doing. There was something to be said about this situation, but his brain did not work well enough for him to figure out the words.
He stopped Josi with a simple motion, intending to keep his clothes on.
“I’m sorry,” Josi said, having lost some of his previous courage and enthusiasm. “I think I made an oopsie.”
He looked sheepish, but his usual brand of being awkwardly charming was still prevalent.
“No, I just… uh… I don’t really make out with my guy friends during movie nights,” Felix tried to explain.
“Well. I think you should give it a whirl? You were pretty good at it. I mean trust me, I know a bit about this and if my opinion matters at all I’d say you have a lot, a lot of promise in this if you were to keep doing it and…”
That was the point where Felix gently shushed him, and Josi’s fingers travelled from his torso to draw a line along his jaw, beckoning him for another kiss.
“I like being your hotel pal, Felix,” he added. “It’s like the two of us, basically… hm, should I use the word fate? It’s like we were meant to find each other in the Edler, you know. I never had such a good time over the summer and you are cute and I’m always thinking it’s better to try than to regret for the rest of your life and I...”
“And you talk,” Felix said, trying to finish his sentence. “I know you, you talk until someone shoots you down when you’re nervous. Or when you’re bored, or when it’s a Wednesday… I know.”
Josi scratched the back of his head and laughed.
“Yeah… thinking about it I should have asked first and kissed second but… what do you say? Wanna try it? Cheesy summer romance, just like the movie?”
Felix tilted his head, thinking. “Give me some time to decide?”
But in the next moment, his lips were all over Josi’s already.