My high heels clipping against the limonium floors, I wove through the crowds of people in the lobby. A cup of coffee in one hand and a small purse swinging on my shoulder, I cut a quick path to the shining elevators across the room. As I neared the silver doors I could see a man tapping the button, then stepping back to wait as the “up” symbol lit up. Even though I could only see the back of him, dark black hair cut short against his neck and the top plastered with gel,, a clean navy suit settled across his broad shoulders and a solid gold watch glittered against his wrist as he reached up to adjust the tie at his neck, I knew exactly who he was.
I felt my nose scrunch up as I spun around, looking for the door to the stairs. Almost reaching the stairwell, I glanced at my own leather watch and cursed under my breath. Even if I ran, effectively ruining my image for the meeting, I would probably still be late. I stamped my foot softly against the floor, biting my lip as I marched back towards the elevator doors. The elevator chimed and the man walked on. The doors started to close and I speed-walked desperately, crying out. A splatter of steaming coffee hit my wrist and I grimaced but continued to race towards the door. To my relief, the man leaned over, his hand keeping the door open. I hopped on, reaching over a hand to push the button for the top floor. The doors closed and I quickly recomposed myself, smoothing down my curly mane of brown hair as I stood as far apart from him as I could. He cocked his head in my direction looking me up and down from a head above me.
I glanced back out of the side of my eye, refusing to turn my head, “Charlie.”
He sniffed self-importantly, “Well if I had known it was you yelling, I wouldn’t have opened the door.”
I choked back a snarl and forced myself to focus on the rising numbers at the top of the elevator.
10…..11……12……13….the elevator jerked to a stop, lights flickering.
I stumbled against Charlie, throwing my arm away from me to avoid another coffee explosion. The instant we made contact, I pushed him away and steadied myself against the closest wall instead. Nerves shaking, I waited for the doors to open, grateful that Charlie would soon be out of my way. After a minute, I sighed, jabbing my finger into the “open door” button.
Charlie frowned at my movement, his deep voice filling the silence stretching between us.
“I thought you were headed to the top floor.”
I nodded, briefly breaking my silent treatment, “I am, aren’t you getting off here?”
He shook his head, “Of course not, I’m headed to the top too, for the manager interview.”
I ground my teeth, a yell rising in my throat, “You’re going for the manager position? When you know I have specifically worked for that for three years? How could you?!”
Charlie rolled his eyes, the flash of green accentuating his annoyance.
“Please, take time to reprimand me later,” he started to press the emergency call button. “Hello?”
Static returned his call and he banged his head against the wall slowly.
“Power must be out.”
After a pause Charlie pressed the button again, speaking over the scrambled sounds, “If anyone can hear me, the elevator has malfunctioned and two people are stuck somewhere between the 13th and 14th floor. Don’t bother replying because the communication on this side is also failing. Hurry, and thank you.”
I openly faced him, rolling my eyes as I felt steam puff from my ears, “Wow, so professional, are you interviewing for a position as an emergency communicator too?”
Charlie crossed his arms across his chest, raising one eyebrow, “Tempting, but I think I’ll prefer a manager’s salary.”
I almost raised an eyebrow in return before remembering that that was a skill I did not possess.
Saved just barely from embarrassment I sighed loudly, “So you are openly admitting you only want the job for the money? Can I get that in writing because the interviewers will probably find that very interesting.”
I smirked at my own wit, watching as I received a green glare in my direction. He huffed and took a small step closer to the opposite wall.
I practically growled, “I can’t believe you right now, through all our competition you knew that this was my ultimate goal. I have worked so hard to get here, what did you do, bribe all the interviewers?”
Charlie regarded me coldly, “I come from generations of businessmen, it’s in my blood to be successful.”
My mouth gaped and the red in my vision tinted the room as he added, “Just stay on your side of the elevator and we won’t have a problem.”
I scoffed, “What are you, five years old?”
With one hand, I reached forward, specifically crossing the invisible line between us.
“Uh oh, are you going to tell your mom?”
Just when I thought Charlie wasn’t going to reply, he sighed deeply as he leaned against ‘his’ side of the elevator, back to the wall as he openly faced me.
“You know as well as I do that my mother would take my side.”
I grunted in agreement, setting my coffee and purse in the corner of the elevator and leaned against the wall behind me.
“Yeah….she was always quite the fan of me.”
We chuckled in synch and for the first time in years, I opened my mind to the past.
Charlie looked at me, the sharp lines of his face softening slightly, “I don’t suppose you have your cell phone on you.”
I shook my head adamantly, “Of course not, bringing your cell phone to a meeting-“
Charlie finished with me, nodding, “-is unprofessional. I know, I didn’t bring mine either.”
With another sigh, he sank to the ground, still leaning against the wall, his feet stretched out in front of him. I remained standing a moment longer, debating whether I would relax in front of him. My feet soon made up my mind and I sunk to the ground, my hands holding my skirt down until I was seated completely. I pulled off my heels, wiggling my toes in the new freedom and rubbed my sore feet. We sat for a moment, silently contemplating before his words caught my ears.
“What happened to us Bea?”
The old nickname caught me off guard but the question quelled my initial shock.
I chuckled bitterly, “What happened? Well let me tell you a little story.”
Charlie sighed, twisting his mouth to the side, words on the tip of his tongue but efficiently held back.
I continued, “Once upon a time, two families lived next to each other, one household was a little shack, the home of an inventor and his daughter. The other was a mansion with a business man, a business woman and their son. The rich family often paid the inventor to fix up their mansion and so the children soon became fast friends. As they grew older, the rich parents forced their son away from the girl, forcing him to become a success in business. As the girl strived for the same thing, the boy decided to only go for the positions the girl was, breaking the friendship she once thought they had. The End.”
I scowled towards Charlie, anger resurfacing in my heart.
Charlie tilted his head to the side, “Intriguing story, but I don’t think you have all the facts straight.”
I scoffed, awaiting the rest of his sentence.
“I don’t think the boy wanted to go for the girl’s position, I think his parents forced him to, threatening that if he failed even once, he would be kicked out of the house and disowned forever.”
I looked up, eyes widening, “And...what do you think the boy felt towards the girl?”
Charlie ducked his head, raising his eyes to look at me, “I think he had the biggest crush ever and loved her enough to get disowned, but also loved her enough to want the money and resources to provide for her.”
My eyes misted over as I stood, walking over to sit directly next to him.
I reached over to grab his hand and whispered, “Maybe the girl doesn’t care about riches, she just wants back her best friend.Her best friend that she fell head over heels for so many years ago.”
Charlie smiled softly and dipped down to place a whisper of a kiss against my cheek. He leaned towards my ear, his words tickling the side of my face, “I surrender.”
I looked up in confusion.
“I’m dropping out of the interview.”
I couldn’t stop the smile that spread across my face and hoped he saw the thanks in my eyes.
“I surrender too.”
Charlie dropped his jaw, “No, this is your dream, you have to-“
I put a hand over his mouth, a soft laugh escaping my lips, “Oh I’m definitely crushing that interview and getting the job. But I surrender to being yours, to being with you through thick and thin.”
I looked up into his eyes, aglow with happiness, “I love you.”
He beamed and squeezed my hand a little tighter, “I love you too.”
Together we settled against each other, my head against his shoulder, no longer caring if anyone ever came.