Once, With Maggie

The door slammed shut!

“What was that all about? I thought you were going in there to talk some sense into him?”

“Yeah. I was. He just…wouldn’t listen to me.”

“Did he bring up Maggie again?”

“Yeah!”

“Why does he keep doing that? I told him before, now isn’t the time for that.”

“Oh, this is the perfect time for that.”

“C’mon, you know what I mean.”

“I’ll go back.”

“No. I’ll go. I think I know what I can do to change his mind.”

The door opened. Zane sat with his legs apart, elbows resting on each knee, palms propped up beneath his chin. His stare continued as Milo entered the room.

The door slammed shut.

“Don’t churches get donations all the time? You’d think they could put some of that money towards fixing this door,” Milo whispered to himself.

“It’s always been that way,” Zane said, taking a moment to look up at him.

“How would you know?”

“I just know.”

“Hold on a second – are you telling me that you did something that I don’t know about?”

“I didn’t say that I did anything. I just know that, that door swings back as fast as you open it because it has a spring response mechanism. It’s to keep the flies out.”

“I don’t’ know why a fly would want to come in here. It’s hotter than…” he said pausing momentarily as he glanced over at the crucifix that was judgingly staring back at him, “I don‘t know what!” Milo yelled as he loosened his tie and unclasped the top two buttons of his shirt before walking over to Zane.

“Don’t think for a second that you’re going to change my mind,” Zane said as he suddenly stood up, facing Milo.

“Change your mind? Why would I do that? It’s your decision. You’re the one who has to live with it for the rest of your life! Look, I’m your best friend. I’m just here to be the best….”

“Man? The worst man is more like it,” Zane grumbled as he began pacing across the room.

“I’m here to help you!”

“Okay, then, help.”

“Ivan said the two of you were talking about Maggie.”

“We were, that’s exactly my problem!”

“No, you see that’s not the problem because Maggie is gone. She’s been gone for seven years now. She hasn’t even called. Right?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright then, problem solved. Now all you need is your waistcoat and your jacket,” Milo said as he handed Zane his things. Zane refused his offer.

“Please! There are several malignant family members out there, just waiting. One of them being my mother in law.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to! You’ve gone too far!”

“That’s entirely not true,” Zane uttered stopping his tedious O.C.D behavior, reorganizing some cups that were sitting on the corner table to glare back at him.

“What about all the money?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“You lost your job. Still haven’t told her; have you?”

“I’m…I’ve just been waiting for the right time. I‘m a businessman. We thrive on uncertainty! She should know that by now. Okay, well I don‘t. I need stability. The money‘s good. But we‘re getting off subject,” Zane said as he pushed Milo out of his way so that he could continue his pacing.

“Oh sure. The right time being after I Do?”

“That’s not the point,” Zane replied plainly.

“No. It isn’t. But you just have to realize that Maggie’s not coming back.”

Zane stopped and sighed. He looked over at Milo who wasn’t giving him the reassurance he needed.

“Just, look at it this way. If you really were supposed to marry Maggie, then why are you here, right now, in a church, on your wedding day, about to walk down that aisle with another woman?”

“I can’t,” Zane let out firmly clenching his teeth.

“You have to!”

“I told you, I can’t.”

“Why not?” Milo pleaded.

“Because I can’t. I love her, but I‘m not in love with her.”

“What makes you think you’re not in love with her? We‘re men. It‘s a proven fact that we never know what we‘re thinking. We just do, without thinking. That’s why we end up alone, divorced, or for those unfortunate few, married! Not that it’s anything against what you’re doing today. I’m just saying.”

“I know. But I miss Maggie. I just do.”

“You’re just nervous because it’s such a huge step. But, you’ve always been a one woman kind a guy, so why not marry her?” Milo said shrugging his shoulders, offering a second attempt of the clothing.

Zane refused his hand out.

“It’s just. I mean,” Zane continued.

“Yeah?” Milo said as he took a seat on the couch. His eyes followed Zane back and forth across the room, but he remained still.

“It’s just that my grandfather,” Zane said as he took a seat at the opposite end of the couch hoping his words would get through to Milo.

“Oh no. No, no, no. Not the grandfather story again. I’m not sitting through that.”

“It’s not the story,” Zane mentioned.

“It’s what he said at the end,” they said in unison. Zane’s tone was hopeful, while Milo’s dragged on each word as if it were a fifty pound child clung to his ankle as he moved.

“Yeah. He said that when you find that special someone, you know. You just know, right then and there. It’s when your eyes meet that you know, never after. It’s not about getting to know that person and learning to love them. It’s loving them before all that, in that moment, when you first look into each other’s eyes,” Zane said leaning in closer to Milo.

“Okay, clearly you need to be watching a lot more sports channels, and a little less Oprah. Maybe you’re just in need of some manly bonding. We should hit the gym more often. That is if…”

“Don’t say her name! I don’t want to think about her right now,” Zane said moving back into an upright position.

“Okay, alright,” he said throwing his arms in the air as if he were being held-up at a convenience store.

“That one true soul-mate. That’s the person you marry,” Zane said smiling before he continued, “That day, in the elevator. That was the best day of my life.”

“Wait, I thought you said…”

“Don’t” Zane interrupted before Milo could accidentally say her name a second time.

“Okay. I thought you met her in the elevator. You told me she was your quote unquote true love?” Milo said sloppily making his own air quotes when he got to the words true and love.

“That wasn’t her! It was Maggie.”

“Are you sure?” Milo said in desperate need of an answer.

Zane stared back with deep confusion for Milo’s apparent need to ask such a question.

“Of course I’m sure. What kind of a question is that?”

“I’m just saying. I don’t remember you telling me that, that was Maggie, in the story. Then again I don’t really remember the story at all. When you mentioned the elevator my mind thought of something. At least I think it did. What were we talking about?”

“Are you serious?” Zane yelled seemingly frustrated over the issue.

“No, no, I got it, I got it. Maggie, elevator, story. See I’m paying attention. So yeah, you might be right.” Milo defended as he leaned his back into the couch, moving his legs apart, placing both hands behind his head.

“Of course I’m right. I told you that, that was Maggie,” Zane paused, looking at bit overwhelmed.

“Hmm, I thought I did,” Zane said deeply pondering for a moment with his fist against his mouth.

“I can’t remember now. I’ve spent this whole morning thinking about that day in the elevator. It’s all I‘ve been able to think about; and today of all days.”

“Alright. Well, I can’t help you if I can’t see things from your side so just tell me the story again. Then maybe we can work towards some kind of solution together. Geez, now I‘m starting to sound like Oprah.”

“Alright,” Zane agreed as he leaned back into the couch resting his head at the top of the cushion, face turned up at the ceiling.

_________________________

 

“Where are you going? The meeting is in twenty minutes. We can’t have the client waiting.”

“Relax. They’re not here yet. I’m just going to rush down to the truck and get some food before it’s gone,” Zane said standing in the office doorway adjusting his tie.

“Okay, but hurry back.”

“I will,” Zane nodded as he went on his way.

Zane swept himself into the elevator just before it was about to close. After pressing the button labeled one, the car began to move. It made its way down to the ninth floor when the door opened and five more people pushed their way inside. At the fourth floor they all shuffled out. All but one.

“Wow, today must be a busy day,” the young woman said.

“Don’t I know it,” Zane replied, keeping his eyes fixated on the floor the light had lit up just as they reached ground level.

“Do you work here? Or are you from some big law firm or something; trying to make a deal?” she asked.

“I work here, yeah. Sorry, my mind is somewhere else right now,” Zane said finally making eye contact, then continuing to himself, “I just really hope that the truck is still there.”

“Which truck?”

“It’s one of those food trucks. They make the best burritos I’ve ever tasted. I eat off of it almost every day. The food’s homemade. Fattening but still,” Zane said with a smile just as the bell rang signaling that the car had come to a stop.

The young woman remained at the back left corner of the elevator while Zane stood center to the front, ready to bolt out from behind the doors. Nothing happened. A few seconds passed when Zane began hitting the open door button repeatedly. Still nothing.

“Are we stuck?” she asked.

“We can’t be. We’re on the first floor,” Zane said while searching for the emergency call button.

“Try it again,” she said moving her way closer to him.

“It won’t open. Ugh! Okay it says to push the call button.

Zane pressed the big red button. Nothing happened.

“Try it again,” she said reaching out to push the button herself.

“See,” Zane replied.

“You weren’t in a hurry, were you?”

“I’m always in a hurry,” Zane said placing his ear to the speaker. Although nothing could be heard from the opposite end.

“I can’t believe this, and today of all days,” he yelled slamming the phone back into place.

She jumped, startled by his reaction.

“Sorry, I, I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m not a violent, psycho killer trying to keep you trapped in this elevator or anything, I promise. I’m just really frustrated right now.”

“No. No it’s alright. I was actually on my way to appeal a traffic ticket, but its fine, I was hoping for an excuse not to go anyway. Now I‘ll just have to do traffic school.” she said waving her hand across her face as if it were a windshield wiper.

“Ahh, that’s, I’m sorry. I’ve been there before. That’s never fun,” Zane said almost smiling, watching her for the first time. His glance turned to a heavy stare as she continued to talk and he pretended to listen.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, his mind, just began to unravel in a most peculiar way once he noticed how beautiful she was.

Her deep black hair had been twisted and pulled up into a bun that was safely fastened with two plastic chop sticks. She wore a light blue dress wrapped up tightly at the waist but loosely at the knee, presuming that it could act as an umbrella if she were to spin around in a circle. Her shoes were as black as her hair. Satin heels that forced her up on her toes as if she were a ballerina.

“What about our phones?” she asked delighted in her realization.

“That’s right!” Zane said feeling for his pockets.

Zane continued to tap at them once and again, but all he could find was his wallet. He pulled it out.

“That’s all I got. That’s right. I left it on my desk. I was in a hurry to get food, so, all I needed was my wallet. Typical guy move, that’s what that is.”

“I have mine. Here. Oh look the battery is about to die. What are the odds, right?” she said as she handed it over to Zane.

“Here, call someone from your office,” she suggested.

“Okay,” Zane complied as he dialed the number and the phone rang.

“Come on. Pick up the phone guys.”

The call went to voicemail. The phone beeped signaling a second warning of the inevitable.

“Hurry, try someone else,” she exclaimed.

He did. He tried five other numbers. But no one answered.

“They’re all in that meeting. Still the front desk should…” Zane continued when the phone turned off.

“Here. It looks like we are just going to have to wait,” he said handing it back to her.

“Hmm, well at least there’s air conditioning.”

“You raise a good point. At least there’s that,” Zane said unconsciously loosening his tie.

“Do you ever get claustrophobic?” she asked.

“Uh, maybe. I haven’t been stuck in an elevator before, so…I’ll let you know when this is all over.”

“If they ever come and get us,” she giggled.

“That’s really not funny. I don’t see what’s funny about that. It’s definitely not funny,” Zane commented, showing his nervousness.

“Don’t worry. We can’t be locked up in here forever,” she assured him.

“We can’t?”

“No. Someone will notice that the elevator isn’t working, then they’ll call security, who will call maintenance, who will see on their camera surveillance that we’re stuck in here,” she said walking back to her corner.

“Okay. It’ll be fine. We’re going to be fine. Yes,” Zane said giving himself a pep-talk.

“Do you ever see a psychologist?” she asked.

“No. Why? Why would you ask me that? Do you ever see a psychologist?” he said throwing the question back at her as he began to pace.

“I am a psychologist. I tell my patients to give themselves pep-talks whenever they get nervous. It doesn’t always work but they’ve told me that it helps so, I continue to recommend it.”

“You’re joking right? You’re a psychologist? What are you doing in this building then? Trying to stop another businessman who’s hit rock bottom from tossing himself out of a window?“ Zane asked jokingly in an attempt to make himself feel better.

“Yes, really, I am. But you shouldn’t joke about that stuff, it’s more real than you can imagine.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. It’s none of my business,” Zane said backing off of the subject.

“I’m not allowed to just give out confidential information but he’s someone that I’ve been working for, for a long time now. He’s what I consider to be a good client because he’s actually making progress,” she said smiling.

“Sounds great. He wouldn’t happen to also be telepathic would he? Maybe you could send him a message with your mind. Tell him to get us out of here,” Zane said with the utmost seriousness in his voice.

“Hmm, I guess its true then,” she said with an evil glare in her eye.

“What’s true?” Zane wondered taking a step towards her.

“What Oscar Wilde once said,” she giggled.

“Who’s he?”

“An Irish playwright. Well he was. He also did some other writing, in his time. He once said, and I quote, ‘My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.’ I’m guessing that you feel the same way.”

Zane looked back at her, unable to read her emotions since they seemed to be changing as quickly as the words that left her lips.

“Yeah, I guess I do. I would think that most people find other people’s business more interesting than their own.”

“I’m starting to get cold,” she said briskly rubbing the sides of her arms with her hands.

“Here, take my jacket,” Zane said offering it to her.

She reached out with both hands, gladly taking it from him.

“Thank You.”

“No problem. Oddly enough I’m feeling hot.”

“So what should we do?” she asked.

“Oh, about being stuck in here? I don’t know. I could try calling again,” Zane said just as the elevator phone rang, and a voice was heard from the speaker.

“Hello. Did someone call?” the voice asked.

“Yeah. We’re stuck in here, on the first floor. Can you get us out?”

“Yes the fire department is on their way now. Someone on the fifth floor reported the elevator non-operational. We weren‘t sure if anyone was in the car.”

“Why does the fire department have to come? Can’t you guys just get a crow bar or something and pry open the doors?”

`    “I’m afraid we can’t do that. We have to follow procedure. Don’t worry. They’ll be here as soon as they can. Just sit tight until then,” the voice said before the speaker went off.

“But the…” Zane said realizing they could no longer hear him.

Elevator music played from the loud speaker in a faint, echoing whisper. He became annoyed by this realization.

“So you’re hungry?”

“I’m starving!” Zane said flopping himself down on the floor.

“Here, you can have the other half of my sandwich. Its roast beef. Hope you don’t mind,” she said pulled a foot long sub from her purse.

“Do you always carry around large sandwiches?”

“You have a really hard time being grateful don’t you?” she commented, handing it over.

“Yes. I do. How did you know?”

“I’m a psychologist.”

“Right. So does that mean that you’re going to start analyzing me?” Zane asked as she took a seat on the floor beside him, folding her legs off to the side against the wall.

“I already have.”

“Tell me. I want to know what you think,” Zane mumbled with a mouth full of food.

“You are the type of person that’s seriously grounded. You are positive. You see the glass as half full. You are an all facts man. You are not a bit abstract, and possibly have O.C.D,” she said smiling back at him after taking a small bite.

“Wow, that’s amazing.”

“Did I get it?” she said raising an eyebrow.

“Hit the nail on the head,” Zane agreed.

“It takes one to know one. I mean the O.C.D. So, what was your meeting about?”

“Oh it’s boring. You don’t want to hear about that.”

“Well we’ve got some time to kill,” she said seeming interested.

Zane looked away, then back at her. He then took what was left of the sandwich and wrapped it back up in the paper before he spoke.

“I can see we are moving into serious territory now.”

Zane laughed, and smiled. She smiled back. He watched as her eyes changed from a light blue to a haze of grey. Her long slender hands gripped the sides of the sandwich like a birds nest holding a un-hatched egg. Zane wondered if her skin was as soft as it looked, like vanilla silk, having a shimmering pearl like quality.

“Your meeting?”

“Yes, sorry, the meeting, So, I, or we, have these clients who come in and discuss integrated stake holder involvement from our related companies. The names of these companies I can’t disclose.”

“I understand.”

“So the stake holders are the employee’s, management, venders, etc. These people are also known as what’s called the Buy-in. See, with the ‘said’ companies integrated within the system, they like to make the stake holders believe that they are involved in serious decision making, but it’s all just a lie. The companies, ours being one of them, likes to make the client happy, and most of the time that involves lying to their face.”

“Honesty. That’s a good quality to have,” she said taking another bite.

Zane unwrapped the sandwich a second time.

“You should never trust a businessman, they’re all liars, trying to get ahead. My honesty though, I get that from my father. My mother tells me it’s my only quality.”

“I’m sure there are others. But I can tell you’re the work-real-hard type of guy that usually puts himself down even when he’s doing well, always leaving room for improvement, yet, still afraid of change.”

“That’s right. I do live for improvement. I can always be better at whatever I‘m doing.”

“And you will with such insight in your chosen career. It will drive you forward in life.”

“I see behind their lies and I refuse to buy into them. But thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment, even though I’m also just another one of them,” Zane said almost laughing.

“Do you have room for your own relationships outside of work? Or are you simply too busy?” she asked.

“I don’t have anything going on right now. It’s been a while since I’ve had a relationship lasting longer than a week. Not that I’ve had a lot. It’s my job. I spend so much time in the office that it scares women away. It’s a curse.”

“What do you mean? Why would it be a curse?”

“Well you know. Most women see a businessman and think cheating, lying, manipulating, bastard. That may be true for some but not most. The truth is, with what the company puts us through, we’d be lucky to have enough time to brush our teeth before we have to go to bed and do it all over again in the morning.”

“But you enjoy the busy work?”

“Yes.”

“Are you happy?”

“You really want to go there?”

“Afraid?” she said after finishing her sandwich, placing the wrapping back in her purse.

Zane stared back into her eyes. They did something to him. He couldn’t understand it. It was different. He liked it. She broke away from her glance to adjust the end of her dress so that it came down over her knees. Zane watched the light reflect off her ankles, unconsciously reaching out to touch them.

Are you afraid?” she said as he stopped himself. He recovered by bringing his hand up to his head, combing his hair to one side.

“No. Of course I’m not. Happy? That all depends on what you mean by ‘happy’.”

“Have you ever been happy? Were you happy yesterday?”

“Yesterday? I guess I was. But today, being stuck in an elevator. It could’ve been worse.”

“You mean I could’ve been unattractive.”

“Yes. I mean no! I mean…” Zane said shyly looking away.

“Didn’t expect me to be so direct?”

“No.”

“You deal with business, right?”

“Yes.”

“I would think that they’re all very direct. They know what they want and, they get what they want. They willingly go after it.”

“That‘s…true.”

“So what do you want?”

“In life?”

“If that’s the direction you’re headed, then sure.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean. I was taking it another way, but if the interest isn’t there then…” she shrugged rising to her feet.

“I didn’t say there wasn’t interest. I, I mean, I have, or may have interest.”

“I don’t think so. Let’s talk about something else. You brought up your life. Let’s start there,” she said as she walked to the opposite corner leaning her back into the wall, one knee bent slightly behind the other leg, arms crossed in frustration.

“I don’t want to talk about my life. It’s boring. Trust me, there’s interest,” Zane said also coming to his feet.

“Why should I? You’re a business man.”

“I know but…forget what I said before.”

“Alright. What are you saying now? Where’s the interest?” she said pushing herself off of the wall.

“It’s…”

“It’s where?”

“It’s, in your clothes.”

“What, this dress,” she commented looking down at it.”

“Yes,” Zane said knowing it wasn’t what he meant to say but was the first thing that he could think of.

“My dress. I bought this dress at a department store. There must be a ton of these dresses on a hundred different women all around town. So then you mean to tell me you’re interested in them too?”

“No!”

“So what is it then? Where’s the interest?”

“In your hair and, your eyes,” Zane said pointing to each as if he were giving a presentation on the subject.

“Hmm, that’s a little better. What about them?”

“Your eyes they…they change color,” Zane said pulling at his tie a couple of times.

“Breathe.”

Zane took in a deep breath, thanking her with a nod before continuing.

“They were light blue, but now they’re grey. Your hair…” he said as she slowly pulled out the chopsticks that were stiffly keeping the bun in place. The long black locks fell from each side in a cascading dance around her shoulders bouncing back a couple of times before settling at the edge of her soft skin.

“It’s beautiful,” Zane said with confidence.

“Thank you,” she said smiling back at him.

Zane took a step closer. She responded by doing the same.

“And your lips.”

“What about them?”

“I’ve been wondering if they’ve had any interest in mine, over the past hour that we‘ve been stuck in here.”

“Maybe. I’m not sure. I’ll have to further consult with them on the subject,” she said momentarily looking down at the ground feeling a bit shy.

Zane stepped in closer. The two were less than an inch apart. She looked up at him, almost startled by what he had done. Still she didn’t back away.

Radiohead’s, “No Surprises,” began playing over the loud speaker.

“There’s music,” she realized.

“I know,” he said as he gently ran his hand up the side of her leg, stopping at her waist, pulling her in.

“Has it been playing, this whole time?”

“Yes,” he whispered as his other hand reached up to her lips, gliding over the unmistakable terrain.

“I hadn’t noticed it before,” she said a lot less confident.

“You mean you hadn’t noticed my interest, before,” he said as the palm of his hand slid along her jaw resting firmly behind her left ear.

“I can see it now.”

“Where? Where’s the interest?”

“It’s…” she fumbled over her words as if they were giant logs rolling towards her as she climbed up a hill.

“Yes.”

“It’s in your hair, and your eyes,” she said breathing slowly while her heart raced with anticipation. She continued.

“They’re brown. They don’t change, because you’re afraid of change.”

“I’m not afraid,” Zane said as he leaned in and kissed her. Her lips were like ice melting against his resonating warmth. The music continued…

“…with no alarms and no surprises,

          no alarms and no surprises,

          no alarms and no surprises please…”

    

__________________________

 

“Now I remember.”

“No you don’t!” Zane said staring back at Milo with disbelief.

“No, no I do. Back when we were still roommates. You came home one night higher than a kite, mumbling something about an elevator girl,” Milo phrased unequivocally.

“Yeah, I know! I kissed her! She kissed back, and I left. Like an idiot, I just walked away. Didn’t even ask her name,” Zane said as he stood up, having an incessant need to pace.

Milo stayed seated while his eyes followed Zane’s movements as if his feet were about to start a fire from all the intense rubbing across the carpet floor. He shook his head with an attempt to clear his mind.

“And then, a week later, she was in your office.”

“Yes. She told me later that she had gone to every floor asking for a businessman who was tall, dark, and handsome.”

“In your office building? Must have took her a while.”

“It did. It was my receptionist who was able to pin point her description of me. And there she was.”

“So I’m guessing that’s when the two of you told each other your names and exchanged information.”

“Obviously!”

“Alright so then you guys dated, for what, five and a half years?”

“Six,” Zane said stopping momentarily to look back at Milo for what he felt was an atrocious error. Milo then rose to his feet placing his hands in his pockets.

“Okay six years. Then she just up and leaves you. Doesn’t even give a reason why. You wake up and she’s gone. So, you move on with your life, meet another woman, get happy again, but this time, this time it’s different. This time you propose, she accepts, and you end up here, in a church about to get married.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to! Like I said before, you’ve gone too far. There’s a nice young woman out there, who your friends actually like, waiting for you to say I do. Come on. I’ll walk with you.”

“I don’t,” Zane mumbled.

“You don’t what?”

“I don’t want to say I do, not to her.”

The door opened. Ivan walks in, seeming composed with himself.

The door slammed shut!

“We have a problem,” Ivan says calmly.

“Not now, we’re talking,” Milo says waving a hand at him, attempting to shoo him away.

“It’s a big problem,” Ivan insists.

“It can wait.”

No it can’t,” Ivan assures.

“What is it?” Zane asks.

“It’s Maggie. She’s here,” Ivan says, now staring directly at Zane.

“She’s what?” Milo questions stunned at the very utterance of the words.

“Yep, it’s really her, and she’s really here. She’s waiting outside the church, for you.”

Zane walks to the door grabbing the handle. Milo rushes over and stops him, taking a firm hold of his arm.

“Wait!” Milo insists.

“What? Why can’t you just be happy for me?”

“I’m your friend. I just want to make sure you’re doing the right thing. She hurt you before,” Milo said letting go of his arm.

“People marry the person they want to spend the rest of their life with. The person they love. I’ve only been in love once,” Zane admitted.

“Just once?” Milo asked.

“Once with Maggie,” Zane said before turning the knob and walking out of the room.

The door slammed shut!

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