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two of a kind by parenthesized

18 Apr

Lindsay exits her psychotherapist’s office quickly enough to see the red indicator light turn off. She glances around the room.  Another door opens to reveal a middle-aged, slightly pudgy man who seems to suffer from what she believes are medically-induced hallucinations. The aggressive way he swallows his pills with his Adams apple bulging out vulgarly…well, he never appears to be emotionally stable in the least.  She does not remember if she has once seen him calm and affable in the three or so years he has held the appointment before her.  She wonders why he is in the office now.   She, for one, is glad that her husband is not a man like him, so forthright and jittery.  After giving him a polite nod, she walks through the door and toward the elevator, hoping to avoid the awkward silence that would surely follow.

Of course, he enters the elevator with her.  She hides a shudder as he tosses back a few more blue and white pills. She softens quickly though.  Addiction is a messy subject she is too familiar with.  Everyone has their reasons after all.  Who is she to judge?

He says nothing for the first seven floors, but as they past the 18th, he says, “I hate her.”

“I beg your pardon?”  She chooses to get involved foolishly, not biting her tongue in time.  She is surprised at herself.  Normally, she is fantastic at keeping quiet, especially when it comes to male frustrations.

“My ex-wife just had that son-of-a-bitch’s baby.”  He spits out the words and digs for his pill bottle.

Lindsay does nothing to stop his self-medicating.  It is not her place to interfere in others’ lives.  She repeats this as a mantra.  It is not her place to interfere in others’ lives.

“I’m sorry,” she says, refraining from making eye contact.  She does not like the sound of broken rage in his voice and harsh breathing.

“No, I am.  I let her get too goddamn busy and what do you know?  She meets John.  Precious fucking John who looks at her like a woman instead of something to crotchet on.”

Lindsay thought crotchet was an odd turn of phrase.  Perhaps, he had more issues than she had suspected.  “Crotchet on?”

“I knit.  It’s an activity that requires a lot of dexterity, not as feminine as everyone thinks.”  She finds herself amused by his defensiveness, a small smile lifting her lips.  “Of course.”

The elevator finally reaches the parking garage.  He shakes his head, not at her, but in a bitter resignation at himself, something she recognizes.  She pats him on the shoulder hesitantly.  “I hope you…”  What is the right wording here?  “I hope you feel better about your ex-wife, um….”

“Hammond,” he says.  “It’s Hammond.  Thanks, you too about your husband.”

She feels confused.  “Why do you mention him?”

He smiles at her ruefully.  “The damn spouses make those doctors all their money.  That and the mothers.”

She laughs, and he laughs, and they both wander back to their own cars and their own lives.

***

We met Hammond previously in hammond.  We met Lindsay in embers and learned more about her in the cow creamer.

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awarded by ingridfnl

18 Apr

The elevator slowed, shuddered for a couple of seconds, stopped and was silent. The two occupants of the elevator looked at each other with shocked expressions, then the lights flickered, they heard a soft pop and it was dark.

“Holy mother of Christ,” the woman explained, “what on earth…”

“I think that there’s a black out,” the man replied.

“No shit Sherlock,” she replied. “Sorry, sorry… I’m a bit freaked out here.” She reached and grabbed his arm and then his hand. “Sorry, I just need to hold onto something.”

As she drew closer he smelled a mixture of cigarettes and sweet perfume. He heard her breathe in deeply and exhale three or four times. He felt awkward holding hands with someone he didn’t even know but thought it would be rude to pull away.

“In through the nose, out from the mouth,” she said. “I feel better now. You OK?” she asked. She let go of his hand.

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s probably just the storm,” he said, remembering the blowing trees outside of his office and the horizontal rain. His hand felt empty.

“Yeah. I hope it isn’t long. I’m supposed to pick up my little brother. Although,” she said laughing a little, “I guess he isn’t going anywhere either.” He heard something unzip, some shuffling and then saw the light of a cell phone illuminate his companion.

“No connection,” she said, looking down on it, “but I guess that’s no surprise really.” In the cellphone light she looked a little scary with spikey mascaraed eyes and a large canine smile. She proffered a hand towards him, “Casey,” and shook his sweaty one with vigor.

“Oh, yes. I’m Sam,” he replied. He didn’t realize how scared he was until this moment. Even the act of shaking hands seemed like too much motion in his rigid body.

She turned the cellphone light towards him, illuminating his face. “Well, nice to meet you Sam.” She pressed all on the elevator buttons and then shrugged. “I suppose we should get comfortable here,” she said, removing her coat.

As her sleeve pulled over the hand that held the cellphone, the elevator went dark for a second, and Sam found himself breathing in sharply until the light reappeared. “Here, hold this,” she said handing him the cell phone.

Casey rolled up her coat into a long cushion shape and put it in the corner of the elevator, then sat down on it. She patted on the space next to her. “Come sit next to me. We might as well get to know each other. It’s not like we’re goin’ anywhere. Plus I wanna shut off my cell phone to save batteries.”

Sam didn’t really want to sit next to her, nor did he want her disembodied voice rising up to meet him. He slowly slid down next to her, attempting to avoid body contact. Casey responded by sliding closer to him.

“I just want to feel you there. Plus you’re cute.” She felt Sam stiffen beside her, “Don’t worry,” she clarified, “I won’t attack you, but what happens in the elevator stays in the elevator,” and she gave a great cackling laugh.

“I, um, I…” he replied, “that didn’t help me relax much.” He heard himself laugh that high-pitched laugh that came out whenever he was nervous.

“I’m joking,” she said, still giggling, “Jeeze, you’re stiff like my brother. You gotta loosen up a little when a woman’s flirting with you.” She laid her head on his shoulder and her hair tickled his neck.

Jon found himself sitting stiffly and uncomfortably and heard her breathe steadily next to him. “So,” he said, with a sharp intake of breath, “your brother attends this faculty?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “He’s a real math head so you probably know him. His name’s Jon. Jon Scapino.”

“Jon Scapino?” he replied.

“Yeah. That’s my little brother. He’s all I got in this world. He’s one smart kid. He’s had a hard life.”

Sam knew Jon’s story, and he was, as she said, one smart kid. Jon was a scholarship kid. Sam’s family’s scholarship in fact, “The Harkness Award for Exceptional Promise,” as initially started by Sam’s great grandfather.

Sam had heard about the lottery, and had admired Jon’s persistence. Instead of taking the easy road and living off of the winnings, he had worked hard and gotten 1st place in almost all of his final exams.

“You must be really proud of him,” said Sam. “I was Jon’s professor for a a couple of classes and he is a brilliant guy. I hope he continues.”

“Thanks,” she replied. “It feels good to hear nice things about my brother. I wanted him to go on a trip, but no way José. He wanted to finish those exams of his. So you taught him? What’s your last name? He’s talkin’ about his professors all the time.”

“Harkness,” Sam replied.

You’re Doc-tor Harkness?” she said, incredulous. She snapped open her cell phone and shone it in his face.

He lifted his hands in front of his eyes, shielding them from the sudden light. Before he had a chance to respond, she threw her arms around him, dropping the cellphone, and kissed him soundly on the mouth.

She pulled back, and holding Sam’s face in her hands, she said, “You’re the one who believed in him all along. You’re the one.”

Just then the lights flickered on and the elevator started moving.

***

Related stories: Probability and Irrational

the elevator ride by mpeonies

18 Apr

“Did you hear that?” a little girl questioned me, beginning to put her arms out, as if trying to get a hold of both elevator walls. Her arms were far too short.

I heard it. This elevator was thirty-years-old, or as old as the building was. I’ve only been working in the math department for two months, so the sharp creaking of the elevator was still startling. But it had never occurred to me that something like this could happen. I had always glared at the emergency phone and wondered if I would ever use it and what sort of voice would answer when I did.

The elevator made a loud thump, and then a long screech, fading out eventually. The floor number stopped at “4”. I leaned back—or fell back, I’m not sure—onto the railings to support myself and the baby. I was seven-months pregnant and already sweating.

When it hit me that the weird feeling in my head (it happens whenever I’m going down in an elevator) stopped, I desperately searched the elevator for a sign of help. Marble floors, smudged steel walls, closed doors, paper scraps, railings, an emergency phone, a short brunette girl in a bright green coat.

“Sorry. Yes. I heard….”

Her eyes traced my belly before my face, and then quickly looked away. She stared at her feet. She was wearing the tiniest watermelon sneakers I had ever seen.

“Oh… don’t worry. Are you here to see someone?” I asked, lowering my neck.

“My dad teaches here! He tells me he’s Mr. Perton when he’s at work… Do you know Mr. Perton?”

Honestly, I had never heard the name.

“Oh yeah, Mr. Perton! He’s wonderful!” I giggled. I wondered why I had lied. The girl gave an eager nod.

“So what’s going to happen? Are we going to be stuck here for a long time? Maybe we can call someone…” she gathered her lips thoughtfully.

I scoffed at myself silently for my foolishness, and then regained my composure. “Oh! Yeah, don’t worry. I can use this phone.”

I picked up the phone and pressed the red button. It rang, the ringing was faint and almost impossible to hear. Suddenly, I heard a voice.

“Yes… um… hello? We’re stuck in an elevator in the math department. We’re on the 4th floor currently. We need some help, now!” I screamed into the phone.

The voice on the other line was a man, a very throaty voice, emotionless. But he told me “Yes, maam. We’ll get you out very soon. Please do not panic.”

So the little girl and I waited. I grew impatient quickly, letting out puffs of anger and exhaustion. I shook the railings. The girl stared and smiled sadly. She walked closely to me after a few minutes.

“Where’s your favorite place to be!” she asked, jumping toward me, bending her legs.

I entertained the silly question of the girl. “Favorite place… Favorite place… um… my grandmother’s house, on her front porch, in my chair. A table with delicious cookies that shes made riiight in front of me!”

“It works for other people too!”

“What does?”

“The favorite place question. It helps me all the time whenever I’m angry. Counting to twenty or whatever just makes me madder. But when I think about the little clubhouse I have with my friends, I always feel calm! And now you’re not all red anymore!”

It was true. I had found a sense of calm, and my mind felt clear. For the next couple of minutes, we continued to share stories—mostly I explained to her as coolly as I could about my job, and she told me all the different jobs that she wants to have when she grows up.

Soon enough, the doors stiffly opened and two men asked us if we were okay. We answered “yes”. I said goodbye to the girl, and we hugged.

“Wait, what’s your name?!” I asked her.

“Elisa! I’ll see you around!” She waved, running off in her watermelon shoes.

My husband called within a minutes, after having tried five times. I could recognize the worry in his voice within a second. I explained, trying to tell the story in as relaxed of a tone as I could.

“So we got out… me and the little girl! We’re fine. I’m fine!” I rubbed my belly. “Oh and I was wondering – what do you think of the name Elisa?

16 milk street, boston by jmforceton

18 Apr

July 6, 2008    Newton, Massachusetts


The phone rings and Jimmy picks up the portable, “Hello.”

“Jimmy, this is Alfred, how are you?”

“I’m fine Alfred, how are you? How’s the book coming along?”

“Actually, that’s why I called. The story is coming along very well. I‘ve been truly inspired by some of the stories you’ve told me about Luxor, nevertheless, other things have been happening of late that I don’t I understand.”

“Hang on a minute let me move to another room.” Jimmy decides he would rather not have Amy listening in. The subject of Lisa is always touch and go, and while Alfred is a valued friend, Amy is always suspicious that anything to do with Alfred has something to do with Lisa. Jimmy is now in a comfortable chair in the back bedroom, “Alright, what’s up?”

“First let me offer congratulations on your wedding. Given different circumstances, I would love to have been there.”

“Thanks, we had a great time, and now, we’re settled in like we’ve been married for years. Thanks for understanding, by the way.”

“Of course. Jimmy, the reason I called is that I need advice, perhaps a different point of view. You are familiar with my new novel, so let me just get to the point. Back on June second my original copy of Obélisque disappeared, then on the twelfth, both my hard drive and backup drive were erased and apparently scrubbed clean; I lost the first five chapters. Yesterday something happened that, by itself, I wouldn’t have given much thought to; a pawn on my chessboard was out of place. Well, I’ve had no guests, moreover that correspondence game has been going on for three months. The piece was in a possible position, but not where it should have been. I’m becoming concerned.”

“What would you like me to do?”

“There’s more that I’d like to tell you, but first, I’d like you to talk to Patrick. He doesn’t know anything about the book, but as you know, he is an investigator. After you two talk, I’d like to know what you think. If you would, I’d like to keep this between us for now, in addition one more factor I think may be important….”

After Alfred’s phone call, Jimmy wasn’t sure what to think. Alfred sounded worried and a bit confused, not the same man Jimmy had meet back in 2004, but then again, he was 82 now.

After that first meeting, they had talked many times as a result of Alfred finding out that he had been born in Luxor and knew the story of the twin Obelisks. Alfred was always interested in talking about what he claimed would be his last novel and had rarely asked about himself and Lisa. Anyway, they were good friends, and even though things hadn’t worked out with Lisa, he’d get involved and help Alfred; he’d tell Amy and hope she understood.

The next day, Jimmy made two phone calls, one to Pat, Lisa’s brother-in-law, and the second, to Sam Burns. He was sure Sam had never met Alfred, even thought he had been in Paris that day; he wanted to talk to Sam because part of his conversation with Alfred had been about the probability of certain repeated accidents occurring. Jimmy still had the mathematician’s business card, and last year he had actually run into Sam downtown, a block from the MIT campus. After they talked, Sam had said he would get back to him later this week.

16 Milk Street, Boston    1:15 pm July 10, 2008

Sam is on his way to have lunch with Ed Brady. They worked together for two years at John Hancock Financial Services before Sam decided to return to academia. Ed is an actuary who has an office on the eighth floor of an older brick building on Milk Street; they plan to have sandwiches at the Cosi next door.

It’s a ninety-degree, humid, day, and Sam’s wearing a blue and red plaid short sleeve shirt, tan shorts, and topsiders. He’s early for the appointment, and as he walks over the Charles River on his way from campus, he stops on the bridge for a few minutes to watch the eight-man shells rowing on the river. “Beautiful precision,” he says to himself. Farther down river, he sees a group of sails schooling like minnows, likely a race.

Later at Ed’s building, Sam stands alone waiting for the elevator as the doors open. A man in his early fifty’s, wearing a suit, is carrying a folio and steps out briskly. The dark haired woman in the elevator stays on. Sam at first doesn’t notice, but then he does look at the woman; she’s quite attractive, a bit flushed, and is freshening her lipstick. He steps in, as she turns slightly to button a top button on her blouse, the doors close, and the elevator rumbles and lifts.

She gets off on the fifth floor, and Sam sees a glass walled lobby and bronze plaque for the offices of Alex Bannon & Associates, PLC, and again the doors close.

On the eighth floor Sam steps out into a large open area with wide oak floorboards and scattered wood desks, and he sees Ed. Ed doesn’t look like the typical sixty-year-old actuary; he’s wearing a polo shirt and slacks; he is trim, tanned; he says he still plays a great game of tennis and rock climbs. Fifteen minutes later, as they get on the elevator, Sam is saying, “..so, an acquaintance asked me some questions related to event probability, and I told him I’d get back to him. He wanted to know the odds of simultaneous events happening. You’re the actuary, so I thought I’d run the question by you.”

“Alright, what else can you tell me?”

“OK, an accident happens once, then not just a second time, but four times under nearly identical circumstances. I thought it improbable but not impossible; what do you say?”

“We’ll need more data but at some point…” the elevator doors close.

The doors opened at the fifth floor, and the same woman gets on, followed by a much older gentleman. Sam looks at the man, and as they get to the ground floor, the doors open, and Sam says, “Excuse me, but are you the author of Obélisque?”

“Yes, I’m Alfred Jamison.”

“Now that’s a coincidence. My wife has your book, and when we were in Paris in 2004, we had an accident; she saw you walking by. I’ve seen your face on the back cover a dozen times.”

“Nice to meet you, this is my granddaughter Paula O’Brien.”

“The pleasure is mine. My name is Sam Burns, and this is my friend Ed Brady; he works on the 8th floor.”

Ed follows with, “Paula, Alfred, nice to meet you. Paula, of course I’ve seen you before; great to be introduced.”

Paula, looking a bit uncomfortable, grabs Alfred’s arm and pulling him away, says, “Well nice to meet both of you, but we’re late for our lunch reservation.” Ed is grinning.

*    *    *    *

In the Groton warehouse, Ernie runs his hand through his gray hair and shakes his head. They put a tail on Sam for a few days after Jimmy called him on the seventh, and Ernie is listening to Alfred’s conversation with Sam via the button mic they planted in Alfred’s favorite light wool slacks. “I can’t freaking believe this. You can’t make this stuff up,” he says into a headphone. A young tourist with a camera around his neck and Red Sox hat on, standing across the street from the lobby on Milk Street, smiles and nods very slightly. Ernie makes scribbled notes on his pad, and the recording equipment continues to run. “You freaking rookie, if you hadn’t knocked over that pawn, I bet this wouldn’t have happened.”

a conversation between floors by juleshg

18 Apr

“Shoot, I have to get this,” Jason looked apologetically at Lisa as she hit the up button on the elevator.  He tried to juggle his briefcase and reach for the cell phone in his pocket without spilling his unopened coffee cup.

With a sigh Lisa reached over and grabbed the hot cup to give Jason a free hand.  “Look, we are going to be late.  I’ll go up ahead to the office.  You take your call and meet me up in suite 510 when you are done. “

“Thanks,” he said blowing her a kiss as she stepped onto the elevator.

Lisa walked to the back wall of the small car and leaned against the mirror before noticing that she still had both coffee cups.  Great, she thought, I am only a few weeks pregnant and I am already getting absent-minded.

“Thirsty?”

Lisa looked over at the older lady standing on the other side of the elevator and smiled.  “No, just tired, really tired.  I…”

Before she could finish her sentence the two ladies were shaken by a sudden stop of the car and a flash of the lights overhead.

“Are you OK?” Lisa asked the older lady who was clutching elevator rail in an effort to stay balanced.

“Oh, I’m fine dear.  How are you?”

“I’m good.”  Lisa crouched down to put her purse and the coffee cups on the floor before crossing the elevator to open the emergency panel.  It was an old building with a beat up phone and she lifted the receiver to see if she could get help.  After a few minutes chatting with the security guard downstairs Lisa hung up the phone and turned to her companion.

“Well, good news and bad news.  The bad news is that it will take at least 30 minutes to get someone here to fix the elevator.”

“Oh dear, the good news…?”

“We have two fresh cups of hot coffee.  Can I help you down to the floor?  We may as well get comfortable.”

The older lady smiled and laughed.  “Thank you dear.  My name is Margaret and coffee sounds delightful.”

“Hi, Margaret.  I’m Lisa.”

The older lady chuckled quietly as she settled down on the floor and stretched out her thin legs.  “My daughter Rose is going to be having a fit downstairs.  She is always telling me how busy she is and about all of the appointments she has to re-arrange just to take me out of the nursing home for a few hours.   I almost feel sorry for the repairman who has to listen to her while trying to get the elevator running again.”

“Jason will be on his case too.  He already had a really busy day planned and had to move two meetings just to get here for this appointment, let alone an extra half hour while they spring me from the elevator.”

The two women laughed and toasted with their paper cups.

“So, what brings you out today, Lisa?”

“I’m pregnant,” Lisa said looking down at her cup.

“I am sensing that may not be the best news,” Margaret said quietly.  “I don’t mean to pry but I am a stranger on an elevator and completely impartial.  Who better to tell your secrets too?  Plus, I have been around the block a few times myself.”

Lisa looked up with a grin.  “I think I’m more shocked than anything.  Jason, the baby’s father, is thrilled.  I wasn’t planning to have a baby for a few more years and now I feel like I am in a run-away cart that is heading downhill and picking up speed.  Everything is out of control.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.  I’ll get married I guess,” Lisa said with a shrug.  “Jason is a nice guy and he’ll be a great dad.  He has been wanting to get married for a while now and I’ve been stalling.  My mom will be thrilled to see me married to a successful lawyer but will be horrified that I’m ‘knocked up’.”

Margaret cackled.

“In my day, a woman in your situation was either sent away to live with relatives out-of-town or in a white dress at an altar within the week.  That’s what happened to me.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes,” Margaret said with a smile.  “I was in love with a lovely man named Alfred but his parents hated me.  It broke my heart when he moved away to take another job and I poured out my heart to a very nice boy named Peter who had always had a crush on me. “

Lisa smiled as the other woman blushed.  She gave her a light poke with her elbow encouraging her to go on with the story.

“Peter was a dear man and was so kind to me.  At first I was just trying not to hurt his feelings but before I knew it, I realized that I was a little sweet on him too.  We had not known each other for very long but one night we went out and one thing lead to another…. Well, I guess I don’t have to explain it to you.”

Lisa laughed at the teasing.  “Did you marry him?”

“Oh yes.  Peter was not the sort of man who would have stepped away from his responsibilities.  When I told him about the baby he went right to my parents and asked for my hand.  We eloped to Niagara Falls the next day and I had Rose seven months later.”

“Were you happy?”  Lisa stared at the other woman intently.  Margaret saw desperation in her eyes:  like a drowning woman watching for a lifeboat.

Margaret reached over and put her hand on Lisa’s knee. “We were married for fifty years and I loved him dearly.”

Lisa took a deep breath and sighed.   “I don’t know if I can do it,” she confessed.  “I don’t know if I can just get married and live happily ever after.”

You don’t have to my dear.  It’s a different world than when I was in your shoes.  Maybe it was easier for me not having to choose.  Looking back I don’t know what I would have done if I would have been given an option.”  Margaret shook her head.  “I don’t envy you.”

Once again the lights flickered and Lisa and Margaret felt the elevator begin to move.

As the doors opened the women looked out to find Rose and Jason waiting frantically on the ground floor and Margaret gave Lisa’s hand a squeeze.

********

falling-out by phoenix.writing

18 Apr

When the elevator lurched to a stop, Patrick knew they were in trouble. Obviously, it wasn’t good when an elevator you were in yawed in an ungainly manner and the lights flickered—there was always that possibility that you were about to plunge to your death—but the real trouble resided in the two people that Patrick was stuck in the elevator with.

Because if looks could kill, the other man would be stone cold dead by now.

They’d all stumbled a little, and both of them had reached for the blonde woman to steady her. She shook herself out of the other man’s grasp as the lights came up to what looked like an emergency level.

“Doesn’t that just figure. Stuck in a broken elevator with you.”

From the tone of her voice, what the cat dragged in—as his gran would say—would have been a great deal more welcome.

She turned to Patrick and flashed him a smile as she held put her hand.

“I imagine you’re a perfectly decent human being. You can call me Angel.”

“Patrick,” he answered, smiling back at her and trying to work out how to mediate between the two of them so that they all got out of here in one piece.

On balance, he decided that it would be better to not even address the decent human being comment.

“Shall we see if we can get out of here?” he suggested.

The emergency call button, they discovered, wasn’t functional, and Angel pulled out her cell with a growl of frustration.

“You need to move,” she said immediately to the person on the other end. “Can you please call someone who can fix this because I’m stuck in your elevator with the goddamn Antichrist.”

On the other side of the elevator, the other man grimaced, although Angel was frowning fiercely as she listened to the person she had called.

“How am I supposed to know? I’m hardly going to talk to him, am I?  You already told me I wasn’t allowed to rip his balls off with my bare hands, and that’s really the only option that has any appeal.”

The other man grimaced further, and Patrick winced a little in sympathy.

Angel started talking again.  “Yes, please. As soon as possible if you don’t want me hauled off to prison for something perfectly justifiable but frowned upon for some reason in the current law system.”

Yeah, there was definitely a lot of rage there.

“Right. Please do.”

She flipped the phone closed and then addressed herself to Patrick since she was still clearly doing her best to pretend that the other man didn’t exist—if only to prevent herself from being arrested.

“I’ve got a friend who lives in the building; she’s going to make sure the super knows what’s going on and we get out of here as soon as possible.”

Patrick considered and discarded any comments on how sooner would be better in order to prevent murder.  He also wouldn’t call Karen unless it seemed like Angel’s friend wasn’t coming through; she’d been sensible enough to warn the blonde woman off injuring the other guy, so that was a good sign, and Patrick didn’t fancy doing anything that might be considered an act of war when the three of them were stuck in an enclosed space like this.

The other man spoke.

“Is she—”

Angel raised her hand palm out in the classic “Talk to the hand” gesture.  Patrick couldn’t recall the last time he’d actually seen someone do that, but as in all things he’d witnessed thus far, she pulled it off well.  She had a lot of poise, though it was very different—sort of “in your face”—from Karen’s.

“Don’t even think about speaking about Jo in front of me,” Angel growled, eyes narrowed to slits as she glared at the other man.

“Look, Angelica—” He had started to sound annoyed, but she cut him off again.

“No, you look.  You may think I’m joking but I’m really not.  It is solely on Jo’s sufferance that I haven’t pitched you down the elevator shaft and listened for a really satisfying splat at the end.”

Patrick was kind of impressed that all this vitriol was on behalf of someone else; when it had become clear that they were fighting, he had suspected that they were a couple on the outs.

“I didn’t mean—”

“You didn’t mean?” Angel was clearly incensed, and Patrick didn’t think the other man was going to get the opportunity to complete an entire sentence any time soon.  “You didn’t mean?  That’s almost as bad as trying to tell me it was an accident.  Newsflash: your penis didn’t fall out of your pocket and wander over of its own accord to get intimately involved with someone else!”

“I—”

Angel clapped her hands together, clasping them in front of her chest and cutting him off once more.  It made her look even more literally angelic—except that she was smiling in the sort of way Patrick imagined a shark would.  “I know, let’s get a second opinion.”  She turned to Patrick, and he felt a bit like a deer caught in the headlights.  “Patrick, what do you think?  Is it wrong to have sex with someone else when you’re in a committed monogamous relationship?”

Patrick swallowed, not particularly wanting to consign the other guy to his fate because he looked so uncomfortable and unhappy, but not much wanting the avenging angel to decide that he was a prime target, either.  And really, given the question, there was a pretty simple answer.

“Yes.”

She turned back to the other man triumphantly. “You see?  Decent two thirds of the elevator clearly in agreement on this point: you’re an asshole.”

Patrick opened his mouth, not entirely sure what he was going to say except that he didn’t actually know anything about what they were discussing.  Maybe the other man was an asshole, but Patrick wasn’t really ready to make that sort of judgement.

Perhaps fortunately, the other man spoke before Patrick could.

“There are sometimes extenuating circumstances.”

Angel was glaring again, and she spoke stonily.  “No, there aren’t.  You’re an asshole, end of story.”

The other man turned to Patrick, his look appealing.  “Haven’t you ever been in love with someone you thought you couldn’t have in a million years?”

It had never been his intention to declare his life history in the elevator, but Patrick found it impossible not to answer the question.  “Yes.”

The other man was looking only at Patrick now.  “For years and years.”

“Yes.”

“And then, suddenly, things change, her interest changes.  She wants you, and it’s everything you’ve been telling yourself you wanted for years.”

“Yes.”

Patrick knew full well that his situation had not been unique, that he was hardly the first person to feel what seemed like an impossible love from afar, but he hadn’t exactly anticipated being stuck in an elevator with someone who had the exact same story.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

They both turned to look at Angel, and Patrick didn’t think that he was the only one who had momentarily forgotten that she was there.  Her look of disdain was quite pronounced.

“So that’s it, then?  Someone else gives you the time of day and it’s all right to cheat on your current partner?”

The other man frowned.  “I never said it was all right.  But you keep biting my head off every time I try to say that it was a mistake.”

For the first time since she had got into the elevator, it looked as though Angel was actually looking at him.

“She had to watch you kiss someone else in the middle of the street.”

He grimaced, looking chagrined.  “I know.  I wasn’t thinking—and I know that’s not a good excuse, but unfortunately, it’s the truth.”

She huffed a breath.  “I still want to pitch you out of the elevator.”

He sighed.  “I don’t disagree with you.”

“Shit,” she muttered, and leaned back against the elevator wall.  “I liked you better when I could just hate you.”

“I never meant to hurt her.”

“That doesn’t help.”

But from her expression, it actually did—or at least made it hard for her to go back to the vitriol that had started the elevator ride even if it clearly couldn’t fix the fact that he had hurt Jo.

Patrick couldn’t think of anything useful to add, and it grew very quiet, all of them lost in their own thoughts.

The elevator lurched into motion again, startling them, but they were all braced against the walls this time.

When the doors opened, Patrick knew immediately why it was that Angel had been so angry.  He knew without anyone having to tell him that apart from the super and the elevator technician, it was Jo who was standing there—because he saw exactly where her eyes went first, scanning anxiously, and he knew exactly what look was in them.

The other man had broken her heart, and she still cared about him.  And none of them knew how to fix it.

He agreed with Angel’s one-word assessment, he realized.  Shit.

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Links to Jo, Chris, and Angelica: The Dangers of a Red Shirt, Conspicuous, and Consequences (bonus fic that shows the day after Conspicuous).

Link to Angelica: Tomatoes and Tempers.

Links to Patrick: Cobwebs and Connections and From a Distance and Face-to-Face.

consequences by phoenix.writing

18 Apr

Author’s Note: This is a bonus missing scene between last week’s Conspicuous and this week’s Falling-Out.

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Jo wanted nothing more than to crawl into a hole somewhere for a few days and ignore everyone who knew her.  But calling in sick would only leave Angelica asking lots of questions, and it was generally better for Jo's peace of mind when she wasn't doing that.  There were certainly no questions that she wanted to answer right now.

She'd sat on that address for a week, and as long as she didn't act like a complete idiot, there'd be no reason for Angel to suppose that she'd suddenly made use of it.

Not acting like a complete idiot seemed a little more difficult than it had been in the past, but there was no need to add insult to injury by going all to pieces where other people could see her and comment.  She'd keep herself together, give Angel no reason to be suspicious, and everything would be fine.

It was a toss-up, really, to say whether she wanted to see Angel or Chris less right now.  Given that Chris had been doing a stellar job of avoiding her recently, she hadn't really thought that was going to be an issue.  Murphy's Law was clearly in effect, however, because when she closed the store that evening, she found that he was waiting for her outside.

"Can I talk to you?"

Punching him or screaming at him that no, he could not would probably not be very mature.  Jo practiced her deep breathing and allowed him to escort her to the nearest coffee shop.

He was clearly ill at ease in a way that he hadn't been before, and she knew before they even sat down what he was going to say—except that he seemed to be scrubbing his hands through his hair a lot and not actually speaking.

Jo's patience wasn't exactly at its best right now, and she survived through refusing a coffee, watching him get one for himself and not drink it, and about two minutes of silence before she snapped.

"Let's make this simple," she said, voice clipped but quite civil, she thought, all things considered.  "You're breaking up with me."

He looked at her with this shocked expression as though he could not believe that she had worked it out, and she barely suppressed a very bitter laugh.

Finally, he managed a shaky nod.  "It's not what I thought would happen.  I mean, I really like you, and—"

"Don't you dare," she interrupted, glad that the anger was preventing the tears from doing more than prickling a bit in her eyes.  "You can take liking me and you can shove it, because you don't cheat on someone you like."

A stupid way to phrase it, probably, because maybe you did cheat on people you liked because they just weren’t important enough, weren’t someone you loved, weren’t beautiful and blonde and clearly more desirable than Jo was.  But she wasn’t feeling terribly eloquent at the moment.

“How did you find out?”

At least he hadn’t tried to deny it.

“Beyond the fact that you were behaving like someone I didn’t even know over the last month?” she asked, kind of incredulous that he could be that clueless.  “You should maybe give kissing other women in the street a miss if you’re trying to hide the fact.”

“You saw me and Jennifer?”

Maybe he had a thing for names that started with “J”.  As far as she had been able to see, that was the only thing beside gender that she and the other woman had in common.

“You were standing in the middle of the street.  Anyone with eyes could see the two of you,” Jo answered sharply.  “My mother, my best friend, my boss: anyone.  I asked you what was wrong, and you had ample opportunity to tell me it wasn’t working out before.”

“I thought I could get it sorted.  I didn’t mean for any of it to happen. Circumstances conspired.”

Yeah, and his tongue had accidentally fallen down Jennifer’s throat.

She raised an eyebrow and eyed him superciliously.  “In what manner?”

“She’s getting over a bad break up.”

Jo bit her tongue until she tasted blood to prevent any “rebound” commentaries from coming out.  He might deserve it, but they were in the middle of a coffee shop that was located down the street from her workplace.  A big vocal fight with her ex-boyfriend was not an option.

And it didn’t really matter in the end.  Jennifer had been getting over a bad break-up, and Chris had left Jo every single time to go to the other woman.  Jo had seen people go through bad break-ups, and she sympathised, she did, but leaving your girlfriend in the lurch repeatedly for weeks to go deal with the bad break-up of someone else—and hiding that fact—was pretty indicative.

Sticking his tongue down her throat was more than indicative.

When it became clear that she wasn’t going to say anything, he kept going.

“I’ve known her for years, you see, and uh….”

The cute little half-smile, and suddenly, Jo really did understand.  Jennifer was extraordinarily beautiful, Chris had been crushing on her for forever, and she had finally taken an interest.

Jennifer won hands down without even having met Jo face-to-face.  She’d won before Jo even knew there was competition, and there had never been anything she could do to stop it.

Jo rose from the table, and Chris looked up at her, startled.

“I hope you’re happy.”  Part of her just wanted to smack him, but it was tempered by that continuing desire not to cause a scene and the fact that she did understand better than she had done.  “I hope that you get everything you want.  But just,” she swallowed and reminded herself that crying now would still cause a scene, “don’t be an asshole next time.  Deal with it before you make the person you’re with feel completely worthless.”

Really not wanting to know if he had anything to say to that, she turned and fled, though she ensured that this was restricted to a slightly fast walk so that she was still not causing a scene.

She wondered if he got how different it would have been to break up because he’d become interested in someone else rather than breaking up because he’d cheated on her.

Since the past couldn’t be undone and she wasn’t ever going to have anything to do with him again, she didn’t suppose that it mattered.  It was officially over.

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Links to The Dangers of a Red Shirt, Conspicuous, and Falling-Out.

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