– Fierce Fiction by Marjory Faion –
28 … 27 … 26 … She stares at the flashing red digits centered above the doors, her breathing quick and shallow. The elevator dings just before she feels the unexpected pull. Closing her eyes, Clare sees two pink lines. Shit. She opens them and takes a cleansing breath. The centre parting doors move sluggishly as if overburdened.
A woman with a pre-schooler enters. Her dark hair is pulled into a messy pony and her face is make-up free. “Good morning,” she says, much too cheerfully, then glances at the control panel: the M is already illuminated.
Clare jabs the close-door-button. “Morning.” But the golden doors, like everything else in her life, follow their own rhythm.
Finally, a smoky male voice announces, “Twenty-fifth floor, going down.”
With the sudden movement she feels light-headed. I’m not ready for this.
The boy, bumping into her leg, stands on his tippy-toes and pushes every button he can reach, squealing with delight as the circles glow like tiny moons under his chubby fingers.
“Gabriel!” The woman grabs his hand. “No.” But the damage is done.
For Fucks sake, Gabriel! Clare shifts her weight; her Manolo pointed toe pumps are already cramping her feet. They’ll be stopping at every floor below nine, until they hit the ground. Thank God the kid isn’t taller.
“I’m so sorry.” The woman gives her a look that makes it impossible for Clare to express her displeasure in any way.
She exhales steadily. “No problem.”
Gabriel looks up at her, still giggling. His cheeks are plump, his eyes little sparkling jewels.
The elevator is fully mirrored, and Clare can’t avoid watching as the young woman reaches around with her free hand, removing a phone from the back pocket of her jeans.
“What will we have for brekkie, Gabriel?” She gazes into the screen, leans on the back handrail, and sweeps her right thumb in that rhythmic scrolling fashion.
“Piggys, Mommy. Piggys!” He starts dancing moving his sneakers until they produce flashing red lights that mesmerize him.
Clare wants to scream. She is late.
Mom’s head remains down, her voice detached. “Pigs in a blanket. Yummy.”
Clare has been vegan since she turned thirteen, and her stomach lurches just thinking about pork. The hotel’s free buffet is something she always skips, but today a shot of espresso with a splash of oat milk would be ideal if she had the time. She contemplates getting off when the elevator stops on the ninth floor, taking the stairs, but she’s trapped by her own conventionality and her choice of wardrobe: pencil skirt with absolutely no give. She drops her briefcase, lightens her load, and settles in for Gabriel’s bumpy ride.
Gabriel pulls at the hem of her blazer, “I threw up last night.”
Clare bends her head and whispers, “I threw up this morning.”
He crinkles his nose. Despite his crimes, he’s adorable in his dungarees, his hair swiped to the left.
“Don’t bother the nice lady.” Mom tugs on his hand but doesn’t look up.
“He’s not bothering me.” And Clare realizes it’s true he isn’t bothering her anymore. As she gazes at Gabriel, she wonders what could be more interesting than this little creature with tiny teeth spaced out so evenly.
She expects others to enter when they stop at each floor but no it’s just her and the child. His mother has disappeared into her phone.
He starts to sing, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and moves his head gradually upward following an imaginary thread towards the top corner of the elevator. She examines his fine features, amazed by the simplicity of his actions and the allure of his sweet voice. A voice that reminds her of something … wind chimes. The hypnotic tingling draws her inward. Her mind starts humming a tune she never dreamed of singing. Gabriel swooshes his head in circles when his spider washes out. She smiles, amused by his capacity for wonderment.
His mother tucks the phone back in her pocket and immediately seems to sense Clare’s preoccupation with her son as a threat. “Gabriel, let’s go.” She glares at Clare. Clare turns sideways, giving them room to hover for a few awkward seconds while both women anticipate the sliding action of the doors.
Gabriel looks back and waves to Clare.
“Mezzanine, going up.”
Clare recedes and rests against the railing. She’s made a decision; the meeting can wait, knowing her life will be forever changed come springtime.
About the Author – Marjory Faion
Marjory Faion has won The Writer magazine’s short story contest for her entry, “Valentine’s Ghost”. She has earned certificates in creative writing from the University of Toronto and Humber College. Having completed a memoir, she is now working on a mind-bending novel.
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