Friday, November 1, 2013

A Lucky Day

I was riding the elevator in the Professional Arts building to the thirteenth floor to visit my dentist when it jolted to a stop, and then the lights blinked out.
I'm sure the young woman riding with me was as surprised as I was. We had no warning. Just a breath-stealing jolt.
Then darkness.
The woman said, "Oh-oh!" not very loudly but with a definite note of panic in her voice. She probably hadn't figured on being stuck in an elevator this morning with a man she didn’t know.
"Are you all right?" I asked. No answer. Only the raspy sound of her breathing.
When she'd boarded the elevator just before the doors glided closed, I'd caught a clear impression of a tall, slender woman, about my age—thirty—with a tumble of blonde hair. I remembered a white blouse. A floral-print skirt. And I remember thinking Wow!  And my heart going Thump!
I wondered if the elevator jolt had sent her sprawling to the floor.
"You are all right, aren't you?" I asked. "I'm an off-duty policeman. Don't panic. We'll be okay."
I eased toward her in the darkness. Suddenly her hand found mine and squeezed hard. "Are you claustrophobic?" I asked.
I sensed her head nodding frantically as her breathing became heavy, almost a pant, and then she whispered, "Yes."
I gripped her hand with both of mine. "Look, everything's going to be fine. We've experienced a momentary power outage. The power will kick in, the lights will come back on, and then up we'll go."
"Oh my, oh my...I hope so. This is Friday the thirteenth—such a  gloomy, cloudy day outside. And I'm going up to the thirteenth floor..."
"You're superstitious?"
"A little."
Like frightened people often do, she suddenly couldn't stop talking. She told me she'd grown up on a family farm. When a tornado ripped through the area on a Friday the thirteenth, her mom, dad, older brother and sister, and she scurried to the basement.
They survived, but their house and outbuildings were blown away.
Before I had a chance to point out how lucky she is to be alive, she went on to tell me she was here to visit her lawyer. She'd been divorced two years and she was here to sign papers that her ex had finally signed. On this day three years ago, she'd discovered he was having an affair.
The elevator lights blinked on. I felt a gentle bump, a surge of power, and then we rode the elevator to the thirteenth floor. When the doors swished open and we stepped into the hallway, she sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm so embarrassed..." Pink crept into her cheeks.  "Claustrophobic. Superstitious. Rattling on about stupid."
"Forget it," I said. "I've been a cop eight years. I've heard lots of frightened people tell me their stories."
She thanked me for listening and for being so kind.
An hour later when I left my dentist's office, I spotted her approaching a door in the hallway that said STAIRS.
I came up beside her and said, "You really should take the elevator. Otherwise you'll be climbing steps in tall buildings like this forever."
She offered me a sheepish, blue-eyed smile. "You're right. Absolutely right. Like if you fall off a horse, get right back on him. Or a bicycle."
"Exactly. I'll ride down with you."
"Thank you," she said.
Her smile and blue eyes started my heart thumping again.
By the time we reached the elevator we exchanged names: Sara Spencer, Bret Carter. She sold real estate. Inside the elevator, she took a deep breath and silently watched the lighted numbers over the elevator door click off our descent. When we glided to a stop at the lobby level, I swallowed a big lump in my throat. "Look, I'm not married, never have been, and I was wondering if—"
But she cut me off. "I've got to ride this thing by myself. All the way up. All the way down. Will you wait? Please."
I stepped out of the elevator, the doors closed, and now I watched the lighted numbers track her assent and descent. No doubt about it: I felt smitten.
When she got off the elevator, her face beaming in a triumphant smile, she said,  "It's nearly lunchtime. My treat.
Will you join me?"
I blinked. "That's not fair—I was going to ask you to dinner tonight."
"Oh, my!" she said. "I accept. But only if you have lunch with me."
"A deal." We shook hands.
"I can't believe it," she said. "Maybe this is a lucky day."
Now it was my turn to smile: "I know it's my lucky day," I said, as we headed out the building's front door into a day suddenly filled with bright sunshine.
The End
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