This story is by Dawn Van Beck and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Abby’s heart skipped a beat as the door opened.
“Whoa, fancy meeting you here!” He stepped onto the 14th floor elevator in his pale blue oxford shirt and skinny tie.
Her eyes narrowed as she tugged her handbag snug to her side.
“Do I know you?”
The stainless-steel doors closed.
“Oh, no.” He chuckled. “It’s just uncommon to find anyone in the building this late.”
Abby nodded, with no intentions to explain.
“I assume we’re both going down.”
“Yes,” Abby said. Gazing straight ahead, she determined not to stare at the well-sculpted biceps straining against the fabric of his shirt.
Descending, they both looked forward, attentive to the grating sound of metal parts pushing against one another.
With a sudden flicker, the lights dimmed. An ominous creaking encased the compartment. A deafening screech preceded a violent jolt, sending her crashing into his arms as they tumbled to the floor.
“Are you okay?” Grabbing her arms, he assisted Abby to a sitting position. Heat rose to her cheeks as she straightened her blazer and smoothed her pant legs.
“Yeah. Um—so, I guess we’ve stopped.”
“Not to worry,” he said, detecting a crack in her soft voice. “It’s probably a minor glitch.”
He rose and pushed the floor buttons one by one, awaiting any movement. There was none.
“So, what’s the plan?” She swallowed hard.
“My plan was to follow your plan,” he said, smiling, attempting to make her laugh. It didn’t work. “Nothing’s going to happen.” His voice, tender. “Elevators are built for safety.”
A huge lump lodged in her throat as she imagined plummeting to her death.
“Honestly,” he continued, “it’s probably just a tripped power breaker that needs to be re-set. I’ll call for help.”
He tapped his phone, giving it a shake. No reception. Her cell phone followed suit.
“Well, cover your ears.”
Opening the door under the button panel, he pressed the red button, unleashing a tumultuous ring, causing her head to throb a drumbeat.
“Now, we wait.”
He sat down across from her, extending his arm.
“My name’s Drake.”
“Abby.” She dropped her shaking hands from her ears, accepting his firm handshake.
“Everything’s gonna be okay, Abby.”
Drake set out to reassure Abby, reminding her this wasn’t a horror movie. Modern elevators weren’t likely to come crashing down, even with a snapped cable. What he kept silent was the fact no one would probably hear them if they screamed, especially given the now skeleton staff in the business tower. Just to appease Abby, they pounded on the doors, sounding forth a few, hearty shouts before Drake gave another push of the emergency button.
“You hungry?” Revealing a protein bar from his briefcase, Drake handed her half, taking note of her soft skin as his hand brushed against hers.
Glancing at Drake with furrowed brows, she tossed back the long strands of blonde hair that fell around her like a curtain.
“I know, it tastes bad.” Drake continued chewing. “Aside from the peanut butter, it pretty much resembles cardboard.”
Abby’s giggle revealed a charming dimple as Drake rubbed his hands together, dispelling crumbs.
“So,” he cleared his throat. “Since we’re stuck, we may as well get to know each other. I’m still curious why you’re here so late. Do you work here?”
“No.” She’d rather not explain.
“Is there someone in there?” The woman’s booming voice crackled.
“Yes!” Abby squealed at the box. “We’re here! The elevator stopped working!”
“We’ll need to locate a mechanic to fix the problem,” the woman explained. “In the meantime, is there anyone I can call for you?”
“Thank you, Ma’am.” Drake nodded. “Yes, I’ll give you the number for my parents—they’re watching my son.”
Abby shot a curious glance at Drake’s direct gaze as he pointed to the box.
“Oh, yes,” Abby said. “Will you please call my . . . husband. Tell him I’m okay.”
Drake raised an eyebrow. Abby raised one right back.
The woman took their phone numbers, promising rapid rescue efforts.
“So,” Drake said as they sat back down. “You have a husband.” He was hoping she didn’t.
“Newly married. You . . . have a wife?”
Silence soaked the space between them.
“You’re happily married then?” Drake finally asked.
“Well, I’m married.” Abby felt a sick lurch in her stomach as Drake’s brown eyes locked on hers, holding them prisoner. “Let’s change the subject. Why are YOU in this building so late?”
Drake crossed his legs, folding his hands in his lap. A financial planner for a company on the 14th floor, he worked late on Friday nights tying up loose ends, returning calls, and catching up on emails. He had a six-year-old son, cared for by his parents every Friday. Abby concentrated on the calm, steady tones of his voice when not distracted by the thick, black curls of his hair and the sandalwood scent of his cologne. Abby imagined him a combination of devotion, dependability, and . . . passion.
“So, what happened with you and your wife?” Abby tilted her head to the side.
“Well,” Drake drew a long breath. “Let’s just say loyalty wasn’t one of her strong points.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks. I’m still curious about you though. What brought you to the 14th floor elevator?”
Abby explained her tedious day of job interviews for a paralegal position, finally ending at a law firm on the 15th floor of the building. The crystal blue sparkle of her eyes held Drake captive as she bubbled about her last interview, her favorite one, which went well. Most impressive was their accommodating her after hours on a Friday evening. Afterward, she’d gone out to the lobby at the end of the hall to sit and rest, just for a moment. A flush crept to her cheeks as she admitted waking up three hours later in a crumpled heap on the sofa.
“Now . . . tell me why you’re not happily married.” His gaze was steady.
“How do you know I’m not?” Abby stammered.
“Because,” he paused. “Eyes never lie.”
His vivid eyes turned intense, burning through her defenses.
“It’s complicated. Let’s stop talking.”
“I apologize.” He backed off.
Abby wasn’t ‘happy’. She married a good man with whom she’d been friends, well, strong acquaintances with for several years. Periodic barbs of pain stabbed at her chest however, ever since declaring her vows, begging to question her motives. The wedding symbolized somewhat of an accomplishment–like crossing off a task from a to-do list. Neither of them was “crazy in love”. What kind of marriage is that?
Three hours passed since their entrapment. They’d told jokes, talked of family, and shared a water bottle before retreating to their own thoughts.
Sudden uneasiness tied knots in Abby’s stomach; her face turned ashen. Abrupt fear closed her throat. Clammy palms shook as thoughts of panic flew wildly around her head, like a trapped pigeon in a closed room.
Drake sat erect, absorbing the fear in her tone.
“What’s happening?” He took her hands.
“I-I-don’t know. What if we’re not rescued? What if this can’t be fixed? What if we stay . . . trapped?”
“Come here.” Drake pulled Abby into an embrace. “I think you’re having a panic attack. Take some deep breaths.”
Abby relaxed in Drake’s arms. They breathed deeply, together.
“Shhhhhhhh.” Drake whispered. “Just relax.”
Several minutes passed; Abby’s heart rate returned to normal. Wrapped in Drake’s arms, she remained nestled to his chest as one thought taunted her.
She wished she wasn’t married.
Another hour passed in silence before Drake’s gentle hand lifted Abby’s face.
“You know Abby . . . it’s difficult to be close to you . . . and not kiss you.”
The heat of Drake’s gaze swept over Abby’s face, causing a rosy color to bloom in her cheeks.
His words were clear. He knew however, this line couldn’t be crossed. Abby was a married woman.
“Abby,” he added. “Your eyes say you’re feeling it too.”
Her heart thundered. He was right. One truth remained, however. She had a husband.
Thick silence hung in the air for a long moment. Lights flickered again; muffled cries emerged beyond the doors.
“We’re here! We’re getting you out!”
Springing to their feet, they braced each other’s arms as a heavy grinding forced the doors open. Tears blurred Abby’s vision as the opposite side of the door revealed a police officer and the open arms of her husband. Pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes, she turned to Drake.
“I’m glad you were on the 14th floor.” A faint smile crossed her face.
“Here,” Drake winked, offering her his business card. “In case you need any ‘finances planned’.”
Abby slipped the card in her pocket as their eyes locked on each other, holding their gaze a little too long.
“Abby,” Drake said. “I sure hope you get that job.”
Abby turned to face her husband, squeezing tight the business card in her pocket.