the tick tick of the clock is painful Who: James & Charlie What: Bitches should be friends, right? Where: That damned elevator. When: This afternoon Notes: Language
They had needed milk.
So Charlie thought she would take it upon herself to run out and get some. She disliked the elevator, distrusted it, but seven flights was a long way down, so she had few other options. For two floors, she had the entire care to herself, but then her precious space was invaded by a man who climbed aboard on the fifth floor. Charlie kept to her side of the car, leaning against it with arms crossed that showed she desired no conversation. The ride would be over soon, anyway, and then they could go their separate ways.
The elevator seemed to have other ideas.
Somewhere between the third and fourth floor, it came to a dead stop. No amount of button jabbing nor cursing on Charlie’s end seemed to make the elevator more inclined to move. After a moment, she slammed a fist into two of the buttons (her hand was too small to make a larger indentation) with a loud “Fuck!”
“Stupid,” Charlie kicked the wall of the elevator, “Piece,” another kick, “of shit!” A third kick was delivered, her boot the only thing keeping her from damaging herself rather than the contraption that now held her ensnared with a complete stranger. She glanced to the side as though remembering his presence, giving him a glare that warned him against starting anything.
James let out a rather large sigh and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned against the side of the elevator. He looked over the short brunette with a raised eyebrow. Women. So totally over-dramatic.
“I’m sure kicking it will get it running again,” James said dryly. “If something doesn’t work; beat it into submission, right?” Leaning forward, James flicked at the emergency button and heard the crackling noise of the elevator phone trying to call out then...nothing. “Wonderful. You’d think with the amount of money we have to pay for the damn apartments they’d update the damn elevator regularly. When was the last time this thing was serviced?”
James glared at the dead emergency button before looking over the walls of the elevator for the safety certificate. “Ha, it says they checked it a month ago. Bullshit,” James grumbled before returning to his earlier stance against the wall and giving Charlie a casual look over.
His response to her reaction of the elevator breaking down brought a severe frown out on her face. The fact that his solution hadn’t worked either gave her a small bit of selfish comfort, and she leaned back against her wall with arms crossed tightly over her chest. “Keep yer eyes in yer head, buck-o, unless yah want a swift kick to yer balls.” The elevator had always looked rather shaky, and she just knew one of these days that it was going to break down; she’d just hoped it wouldn’t be with her in it.
Now it was going to be a long wait; she pulled her phone out of her pocket and tapped out a quick text to Rylee to inform him of her predicament. She wasn’t sure how else to notify others that they were trapped in suspension between two floors.
“Well this is just fantastic,” she exclaimed more to herself than anyone else as she snapped her phone closed and slid it home into her pocket.
“Aren’t you a feisty little thing,” James replied with a smirk. She had nothing to worry about. If James were to try and get in a girls pants it would’ve been a girl with more shape to her body. This one here barely had any shape at all. But, her attitude was something James could certainly appreciate. “At least you aren’t one of those dirty fucking hippies that live in this building. You’re not stinking up the elevator from your sweaty yoga mat or whatever the hell it is that they carry around.”
James let his head fall back to bump lightly against the wall, rolling his stormy eyes to look at the ceiling he frowned. This was most certainly not how he was willing to spend his time. All he had wanted to do was get his mail. It left him with his keys and nothing else. Not even a cell phone. James hoped that the woman in the elevator had sent out a distress signal with her phone but wasn’t going to ask just yet.
One of Charlie’s brows curled. “Dirty fucking hippies? If they’re the type that protest war efforts, yah need to give me their apartment numbers. They need to meet the barrel end of my gun.” She didn’t care for people overall, but people who ran about pointlessly in the streets, waving their little signs, held something of a special place in her heart - the one labeled with ‘punch on sight.’ There had been a few altercations concerning activists and a few too many drinks when she’d been on tour, often resulting in having one party left with a black eye while the other was barred from the establishment.
“And I’ll leave yoga to the strippers, or whatever the fuck it is they do,” she mumbled afterward, the memory of Rylee’s drunken antics bubbling up, unwanted.
“I don’t know if they go and protest wars and shit,” James said with a tired sigh. Not so much towards the woman but that they were still there. “I read on the forum posts that they do all of that yoga and crap. I’m just assuming they’re stinking hippies.”
Hopelessly, James pressed the emergency call button again despite knowing it wouldn’t work. “Bunch of fucking wimps that live here,” James muttered under his breath then glanced at the shorter woman. “Don’t think I’ve seen you on the forums or around the apartment complex. Although I’ve only ever gone on it to ‘welcome’ some new woman who didn’t seem too thrilled to hear about incidents in the pool.” He rolled his eyes. All of these people and they were all either dirty hippies or unreasonably frightened. Or his sister. Or Adam. James let out a small sigh.
Charlie’s phone buzzed in her pocket; she withdrew it, and found that she was receiving a phone call from Rylee.
“Hey babe,” she answered, shortly before Rylee started off on a torrent of worry that was so loud the other party in the elevator could hear the tiny chirping noises coming through the phone. Charlie closed her eyes, waiting for her boyfriend to either run out of steam or to reach the point where she’d need to quiet him herself. It seemed that the latter was the more likely course of action.
“Ryry, Ryry. Breathe. Can yah just get a hold of the concierge or somethin’? I ain’t goin’ anywhere, K?” More chirps sounded back, and Charlie nodded, though obviously the person on the other end wasn’t aware of the action. “OK. OK. Jus’ stay calm, all right? Thanks, babe, I’ll see yah soon. Sorry to interrupt yah at work.” With a few more mumbled replies and a nearly whispered ‘love yah too’, Charlie clicked the phone shut.
“My boyfriend is gonna see if he can’t get us outta here. Might take a bit, though, he’s not actually here in the buildin’,” she casually mentioned, settling back against the wall to try and adapt to the fact that she was stuck here for however long it was going to take the building employees to get them out.
James sighed loudly and slid down to the floor of the elevator, taking a seat and looking up at the woman with a raised eyebrow. “Might as well take a seat since it will probably be awhile. Even if your boyfriend can get someone to do something...I don’t really trust anyone who works here to actually do their job.” James pressed his lips together tightly and looked at the wall opposite him. “Should’ve found another apartment the moment I heard someone drowned in that damn pool. This place is strange.”
This was the first Charlie was hearing of anyone drowning on site. Karin’s death still stung her, but it had been on that god-awful island off of the beach. What the woman had been doing there was a mystery to Charlie, but she had no care to investigate. She’d lost more friends in the ‘conflict’ and understood the pain of loss better than one her age potentially should have. But her face adopted a worried look, brows furrowing as her mouth pulled into a tight line.
“That’s one rumor I ain’t heard of. I can see why they wouldn’t have included it in the brochure,” she commented, keeping her gaze fixed on the man on the floor. She had no desire to sit, instead perfectly comfortable standing. Whether the building was strange or not was relative - Charlie had always been of the opinion that it was her PTSD causing her hallucinations and odd occurrences. Of course, it didn’t explain Rylee’s strange transformation, but Charlie was perfectly content to bat that to the back of her mind and ignore it entirely. “It’s not so bad. Pricey, sure, and shit doesn’t work, but it ain’t been weirder than that.”
“Yeah, I guess before I got here they found someone floating in the pool. Guess it looked like a sacrifice or something,” James replied as he picked at a rip in his jeans. His eyes flicked back to the woman and only stared at her briefly before turning away. “I don’t know, place seems weird and... I don’t know, weird things have happened. But mainly, what pisses me off is that we pay a high price and have one elevator that is freakishly small and doesn’t seem capable of running.” He gave an angry look at the elevator doors and frowned for a moment before looking at the woman. “What floor do you live on? Do you take the elevator often?”
Charlie studied the man for a moment, weighing whether to continue the conversation or not. But there was something better about filling up the (albeit small) empty space with talk rather than letting an awkward silence grow for whatever amount of time they were going to be stuck in here for.
“My apartment’s on the first, but I spend more time in my boyfriend’s, on the seventh. I sure as hell ain’t startin’ to take the stairs,” she replied, adjusting the balance of her arms. “But yeah, that is pretty shitty. At least the power only went out the once. If there was a lawyer livin’ in this buildin’, I’m sure shit would change like that.” Charlie snapped her fingers, to exemplify her idea of ‘that’.
“Though can’t do much shit about the people who live here, but it’s not like we’re runnin’ up against each other all the time. Hell, I can’t really remember a time when I was runnin’ into people that I knew or didn’t know.” Complaining seemed to be a good way to get her to talk, especially for one who was normally morbidly silent among people she didn’t know.
James looked at the woman and took a moment before he continued. “Do you know a lot of people here? Guess you’ve bumped into enough people to start dating someone here. I’ve only really met people through the forums... otherwise I only know the people on my floor and a girl on another. Even two of the people on my floor I’ve known for years.” James had intended on moving close to Alex but he had not thought Adam would be there as well. Even still it annoyed him slightly that the other man was so close: to him, his sister, and a constant reminder of what James didn’t have.
James rolled his eyes to the ceiling and focused on the elevator lights. How long had it been, five minutes? He had a feeling he wouldn’t be out any time soon.
“Yah sure are full’a questions,” was Charlie’s reply. Small talk was not her forte, and though only a moment before she’d been perfectly content to strike up a bitchfest with this complete stranger, she wasn’t necessarily interested in getting to know one another like they were at a girl’s sleepover. “Anybody ever tell yah that curiosity killed the cat?” Scuffing a shoe against the floor, she finally slid down to a sitting position as well, her legs growing a little tingly from standing in one spot for so long. Charlie was ever used to moving around and being active, but that wasn’t possible inside of the small box they were trapped in.
“I s’pose yah’ll wanna know my favorite color and time of day next.”
“Well what do you suggest we talk about, oh-empress-of-conversation?” James’ gray eyes slid back to staring at the woman that was now sitting across from him. “I’m just trying to pass the time here. Believe me, I can think of a list of things I’d rather be doing than sitting in an elevator. Watching TV, sleeping, throwing stuff at people’s heads...” Smacking someone in the face (preferably punching) would be nice. It would alleviate his annoyance for being trapped in the elevator.
“Ain’t we stuck in kindergarten,” she snickered, crossing her legs into a sitting position and resting her hands on her knees. The tease was hypocritical at best, but Charlie didn’t care to notice. “Yah gonna go eat paste, too?” The needling was part of her nature, and once she got going, it would take hell to stop the ball from rolling into a continuous downward spiral.
“Not until you finish eating your fill. I’ll stick with sniffing the scented markers, thanks.” James slid his legs straight out in front of him and raised an eyebrow at the woman. She could try her best to needle him but James wasn’t going to just let it continue without getting his own jabs in.
Charlie made a face, showing both amusement and annoyance in one. At least this guy wasn’t boring, like some people. “A huffer, huh? Whatever gets yer rocks off, I guess. Yah ever tried even just smellin’ the glue? Can’t imagine what that shit would taste like. Kids are fuckin’ weird.” She settled back against the wall, her head coming to rest lightly on it with her eyes aimed at the lights on the ceiling. Even if it had only been five minutes, it felt like an eternity. Surely Rylee would have called the building management by now...of course it begged the question as to why she hadn’t just done it herself, but Charlie usually relied on Rylee for these sorts of things. Her solution to the problem would have probably lied in climbing out of the elevator car and trying to pry open one of the doors, then continue her descent on the staircase. At least this way she wasn’t putting herself immediately in danger, or destroying someone else’s property.
“An’ no, I ain’t met many people here, ‘cept a couple that live on my boyfriend’s floor. First floor’s a little...weird.” It wasn’t that awkward to be there, except every time she glanced at Karin’s door it felt strange. To think that the person who had been there, who had spoken to her, given her advice for her relationship with Rylee, someone who she’d had beers and a few good times with, was gone, wasn’t an entirely alien thought to her, but Charlie had believed such things done with once she was out of the military. Both her mother’s and Karin’s passing taught her otherwise. “Not weird like yer sayin’, though,” she quickly added, not meaning to chalk it up to the power outage or the elevator breaking down.
“People seem to keep to themselves unless they are offering food or weed,” James sighed. “Maybe it’s just bad timing. All this weird stuff or whatever.” He stared at the girl and frowned. “You think your boyfriend got a hold of anyone? Or should we start prying the door open?”
She was definitely starting to feel a little restless.
“Well, ain’t it better to be productive than sittin’ aroun’, waitin’?” She grinned, pushing herself to her feet. Even if Rylee was busy corralling the local fire and police stations, at least giving pushing the doors open a shot would be more interesting than sitting there, plugging away at a useless conversation that wasn’t going anywhere quickly.
“So what, we jus’ pull? Yah take that side, I’ll take this. See what happens.” Charlie approached the door, looking it up and down while her hands searched out a hold.
James’ lip curled up into a mischievous smirk before he got to his feet and followed the woman to the door. He stood beside her and looked over the shining metal doors before trying to press his fingers into the crease between the two sliding doors. “Looks like they part a little at the bottom. Maybe that’s where we can get a good hold.” He looked at the woman and smiled, waiting to see if she agreed before they got to work.
“Sounds good to me,” she replied without looking at him, kneeling to curve her fingers around the edges of the door. “Pull on three. One, two...” Charlie anchored herself to the floor, leaning back on her toes to give herself leverage against the doors. She would be pulling using her knees rather than her back, the old lesson taught to her long ago. “Three!” Giving a hard jerk, her teeth gritted as she gave a hard pull, trying to get the doors to come unstuck.
James pulled at the doors with as much strength as he could muster and fell to his butt as the door pulled open by an inch; Charlie’s motion was similar, both nearly falling in sync. “Ha! It will be easier now if we have a better grip.” Quickly he clambered for another hold of the door and looked at the woman to see if she was ready to go as well. Waiting for her call, he gripped the door frame tightly before pulling it back again.
“All right, on three...” She counted out the strokes again, and both repeated their earlier motion until the door was open wide enough for them to stick their hands through. The car was solidly ensconced between the third and fourth floors, making it so that they would either have to slide out and drop down to the third floor or climb out onto the fourth. Charlie pulled away from the doors, glancing back at the man who’s name she did not know, nor care to ask for.
“Few more pulls, I think, then we should be OK. Long as the cables don’t snap, but then again, I might’a jus’ jinxed us,” she replied, grinning. Standing this time, she curled her fingers around the door edge once more.
“All right, let’s go,” James replied with a grin before tightening his hold on the door frames and giving another pull with all of his strength. He felt his muscles burning in his shoulders, not often used for this type of sport, but a surge of pride rippled through him as the doors slid open even further. “Perfect! Maybe we won’t have to wait for your boyfriend to get help. We can just crawl our way out.”
It had been some time since she’d done such gratuitous physical activity, but she found herself feeling invigorated none the less. “Yeah, Ryry’s probably busy callin’ in the National Guard... Ain’t they all gonna be surprised. One more pull an’ I’ll fit, two more and yah’ll fit, too... Damn, yer as skinny as a girl,” she finished, eyes going to critique the man’s slim figure. It was much less of a check-out than the one he had performed on her earlier in their meeting, but she gave a shrug as she moved to fall back into position.
“Same deal. Three!” Charlie pulled for all she was worth.
“You’re pretty twig-like yourself!” James replied with huffs of effort as he pulled back on the door and inched it further along. She was right, they’d be able to squeeze out in no time. “And what type of name is Ryry? Is that a pet name or something? Okay... on three. One, two...”
“Yeah, well,” she grunted in reply, giving a strong pull, “I’m a chick, yer a dude. Yer almost pretty as a girl, too. An’ Ryry is short fer Rylee,” she continued, a teasing grin wandering about her features. The doors finally gave, slipping apart enough to admit Charlie through. She stepped back from the door, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand.
“Almost there. Where the hell is the fire department? Rylee’s gettin’ slow in his old age.” A few deep breaths had her ready for the next pull, which would hopefully be enough to widen it for the man’s body width. “C’mon, let’s get this done before I start growin’ gray hairs.”
“Sure you don’t already have some? I think I see one or two in this light,” James replied as he gripped the sides of the door again. “Pull!” They tugged at the doors, making enough room so that he could crawl out as well. “And I’m not a pretty boy.” James grumbled as he stood up straight, brushing off his hands as he looked over their handy work. With a sweep of his hand towards the two floors he looked at the shorter woman. “Going up or down?”
“Naw, yer a pretty girl,” Charlie responded, grinning widely. Without replying, she crouched down and squeezed her thin frame through the small gap they’d made in the doors, intending on dropping into the third floor. She had been on her way out of the building, after all. Going out face first proved to be a poor idea, as she was forced to catch herself with her hands before she faceplanted into the floor, and then walked forward a little on those same hands to pull her legs out, leaving her on all fours before she was completely free of the elevator. If she was someone with more pride, such a display might have left her feeling embarrassed, even with no one around except the stranger in the elevator; but Charlie didn’t care, instead simply glad to be free of their suspended prison.
“Comin’, slow poke?”
James sighed and crouched to follow the woman’s lead. Feet out first, his body much longer than Charlie’s, he made a more graceful exit other than his shirt getting pulled up as he slid out of the elevator car. Dropping to his feet, he pulled his shirt down and stared at the woman. “I’m not a pretty girl. Got that, pipsqueak?” He brushed at his pants and stood up straight before beginning to walk towards the stairs.
Her feet moved quickly to catch up with his, having no difficulty since she’d been doing it all her life in walking with those who’s stride was longer than she was tall.
“What’s’a matter, pretty girl? Ran out of yer conditioner?” Now that she’d found a nerve, Charlie wouldn’t stop picking at it for anything in the world. The guy did have a sort of girlish quality about him, perhaps something about his slenderness or just the structure of his face. Regardless, she was only seeing it as a way to tease, an act she’d grown up with. “Better tell me yer name, or else I’ll have tah call yah pretty girl all the time.”
James smiled slightly, stopping suddenly to turn and look at the woman. “My names James. What’s your name? Munchkin?” He grinned fully and slid his hands into his pants pockets.
Charlie made a face in response. “No, dumbass. Who would have a name like that? It’s Charlie.” Her words were tart but playful; her expectations were for him to make some remark about her having a man’s name, but he could take those questions and shove it. There were few people in the building she felt she could tolerate, but he was quickly falling into that category. Silently she wondered what his drinking tolerance was - it would either be fun to see him be able to keep up with her, or else it would be fun to watch him fail, hard.
“Charlie,” James said simply and gave a nod, a playful smile still clear on his face. He let out a small laugh and continued to walk towards the stairs. “At least you aren’t a fucking hippie.”