Fiction writers: You’re stuck in an elevator with an intriguing stranger. Write this scene.
The elevator stopped. It groaned and moaned before shuddering, the lights flickering once, twice, then a third time before they went out and plunged the space into darkness. Emmanuelle’s knees buckled beneath her and she grabbed hold of the closest thing she could find.
It was a man’s arm and in the darkness, she felt him wrap his other arm around her waist to keep her upright.
“I’ve got you,” he said in a deep voice, his arms steadyng her as the elevator moaned again and the emergency light turned on.
Emmanuelle took a step away from him, as if repulsed but really, she was embarrassed. She stood against the wall facing him and watched as he opened the panel marked ‘For Emergency Use Only’ and picked up the receiver.
As he talked to someone on the other end of the line, Emmanuelle couldn’t help but notice his accent. British, it was, and not quite as posh as she’d often heard it spoken in the Jane Austen movies she loved to watch on Saturday nights alone with her cat and a tub of ice cream.
But then what did she know about posh anyway? She was American and the only things she knew about England were limited to what BBC had to offer – that, and Jane Austen, of course. She’d always wanted to visit England, but never had the luxury of time or money, her job at the elementary school as a speech therapy assistant taking much of her time. Well, that and sitting in front of her television set watching romantic movies.
She stole a glance at him before turning her attention to the elevator panel in front of her. He wore a dark gray jacket over a black cardigan, and beneath that, a crisp white shirt unbuttoned at the neck. With tight dark jeans that hugged his lean long legs and his leather boots, he cut an imposing figure opposite her petite frame. In the low light of the elevator emergency bulb, she could see that his hair was cropped short and his skin was, even with the shadow of a day-old stubble, luminous.
She’d gotten a whiff of his scent when he had reached out to grab her just minutes earlier and he smelled, well, clean, as if he’d just taken a shower just minutes earlier. There was no overpowering cologne that would have made her go into an embarrassing sneezing fit and for that she was grateful.
When Emmanuelle finally focused her attention to the elevator panel and not on the handsome stranger she happened to be sharing a stuck elevator with, she realized that they were stuck between two floors for two numbers were still lit up above them. They were between the twelfth and fourteenth floors. What ever happened to the thirteenth floor? But then did she really want to know?
“Maybe we could pry the doors open,” she said.
The man hung up the phone and shook his head. “That wouldn’t be a good idea,” he said. “Anyway, they said it’s just a small malfunction in the computer. Someone was playing with the doors earlier and they said it probably caused a short in the wiring. Anyway, they should have the elevator up and running in no time so we might as well try to be comfortable.”
Emmanuelle pulled out her smart phone and began checking her email. She knew what she was going to find in her email box – just the usual messages from people she didn’t know selling her things she didn’t want. But it kept her hands busy and so she read the messages even though her mind wasn’t really processing them. Just keeping myself busy, she thought to herself.
“I hope this doesn’t make you late for a meeting,” said the stranger in front of her with a smile. He had deep blue eyes, an aquiline nose and thin lips, but when he smiled, as he did just at that moment, his smile was wide and brought a twinkle in his eyes.
Emmanuelle shrugged, almost jumping when her phone vibrated, indicating that a text had just come in. She glanced at it and turned it off, putting it away. “Not really. I mean, it wasn’t that important,” she replied quickly.
The stranger cocked his head to one side, his expression turning quizzical. “But a meeting nonetheless? Quite late for a meeting though, if it were meant for business.”
“No, it’s not a business meeting,” Emmanuelle said, her face reddening. She took a deep breath and exhaled. “I was meeting an ex-boyfriend, actually. He found me on Facebook and we started to chat, and then I agreed to meet him after he insisted – for old times sake, he said.”
“Here at the St. Moritz at ten o-clock at night? I hope he at least offered you dinner?” He was smiling as he said it, the corners of his eyes crinkling.
It took Emmanuelle a few moments to answer but she shook her head, her face reddening. It’s called a booty call, actually, she wanted to tell him but instead, she refrained. There was no point in divulging too much information to a stranger, no matter how handsome or charismatic he may appear to be. As it was, she had already divulged a bit too much. “He said his flight was delayed, and actually I was running late, too, but here I am.”
The stranger smiled. “Yes, here you are. Late for your date.” He looked down at his hands before him, his long tapered fingers fiddling with his jacket.
“I really wouldn’t call it a date,” she added uncomfortably, shifting about as she stood in front of him. “More like catching up with life.”
“He could have done that on Facebook,” the stranger mused, a playful expression on his face. “That is, if catching up is the only thing he intended to do with you. Do you like him still?”
With that question, Emmanuelle frowned. She sighed. Good question. Did she still like him? “Well, I loved him once, and he broke my heart. He traded me for a fashion model, or a girl who looked like one. He said that he liked girls who wore dresses up to here and high heels and all that. You see, I’ve always been a tomboy.”
Emmanuelle kicked off her high heels as she spoke, lifting one foot so she could massage her toes. She hated wearing high heels, she thought.
“Is that why you’re dressed exactly the way he liked his girls to dress then?”
Emmanuelle laughed nervously. “Why do I feel like I’m being interrogated? Who made you the chief of police in the land of stuck elevators?” She pointed towards the emergency phone panel. “Can you call the elevator guys again and find out how much longer we need to be here?”
The man lifted the receiver and handed it to her. “Why don’t you do it?”
When Emmanuelle didn’t take it from his hand, the man returned the receiver back into its little panel and closed the door.
He slipped off his jacket, folding it neatly and draping it over his forearm. “Would you like to sit down? I could put this on the floor for you.”
“Are all you Englishmen always this polite?”
He smiled. “I don’t know about all Englishmen, but this one was raised to be polite. Besides, I know you want to sit down. And even if you didn’t want to, I definitely am sitting down.”
With that, he lay his folded jacket on the floor by her, patting it. He sat down in front of Emmanuelle, straightening his long legs as he leaned his torso against the wall. It was a small elevator and his legs reached across the space between them.
That was the thing with New York, Emmanuelle thought. Small elevators. Even, elevators that you could only operate with a hand crank.
Yet even inside such a small elevator, he looked way too comfortable, Emmanuelle thought as she watched him lean his head back and close his eyes. But she had to admit that he was right. She did want to sit down. Standing on those killer heels had been pure torture and really, who was she kidding?
Leaning her back against the wall, Emmanuel slid down towards the floor, keeping her hands along her backside to keep her dress against her skin so she wouldn’t flash him by accident. The man’s eyes were shut so if she had managed to flash him, he was oblivious to it.
Or maybe he just didn’t care, she thought.
She straightened her legs, suddenly aware of how short her dress was. She placed her purse over her lap and for a few moments they sat there, him with his eyes shut, propped up against the wall and her sitting stiffly across from him, her back straight and feeling a bit more uncomfortable than she wanted to admit. Besides, her dress was way too tight and she could barely move.
“That’s it,” Emmanuelle breathed as she zipped her purse open and rummaged through its contents. She pulled out a pair of jeans and stood up again. She slipped them on, tugging them up to her hips and zipped the fly close.
The man kept his eyes shut.
“Don’t open your eyes but I need to change into something more comfortable,” Emmanuelle ordered as she pulled out a shirt from her purse and draped it on the railing. “I do have a can of Mace and I’m not afraid to use it.”
She pulled out the black can from her purse and placed it next to the shirt on the railing. The print on the can had long vanished from the constant rubbing against other objects inside her purse but she knew what it was even though to someone else, it could easily be mistaken for hair spray. Thank goodness Emmanuelle had no use for hair spray or she’d have maced herself a long time ago.
Emmanuelle tried to pull down the zipper of her dress, but even though she’d gotten it down past her shoulder by bending her elbow above her head behind her, she couldn’t reach it any more as soon as the zipper reached the area between her shoulder blades without hopping around, just as she had done when she was putting it on inside her apartment. It was some sort of a contortionist’s trick really, but as long as he wasn’t watching, who was there to know?
“Do you need any help?”
He was standing behind her and Emmanuelle gasped. She hadn’t heard him get up but then she’d been too caught up in her awkward zipper dance to notice anything. She just really wanted to be out of this damn skimpy dress. It seemed to scream Booty Call and she couldn’t stand the idea that even he, a stranger, understood it.
Emmanuelle forced herself to stand still, her back to him. “That would be nice,” she said but suddenly turned to face him, her eyes scanning his hands, “as long as you don’t have a knife or anything and have some twisted plan to kill me –”
He chuckled. “You watch too many scary movies,” he said as Emmanuelle allowed him to turn her back around, and he pulled the zipper down slowly. The sound it made filled the space between them and she swallowed nervously. Who ever thought the sound of a zipper would sound so sensuous?
“I’ll turn around so you can change,” he said before she could ask him and as he did, she slipped off the dress and put on the t-shirt. She folded the dress and stuffed it into her purse along with the shoes.
When he turned back around to face her, he smiled. “You look much more comfortable in those,” he said as he sat back down on the floor in front of her. Emmanuelle did the same and as they sat there with their legs straight in front of them, she swore they could have played a game of footsies if they wanted to.
She reached forward to rub her toes. They were still sore from being crammed into the two hundred dollar shoes she’d just bought for the occasion. She wondered if she could return them if she made sure there weren’t too many scuff marks at the bottom?
“May I?” He asked and though his request had taken her by surprise, Emmanuelle leaned back, allowing him to rub her feet. “I just think it’s much more comfortable for you if I did it. That is, if you don’t mind.”
Emmanuelle smiled. “You like keeping your hands busy, don’t you?” His warm fingers kneaded her toes gently and she could tell that it was something he was quite used to doing. She watched as he continued massaging her feet, his face bearing an expression that was neither bored nor too engrossed in what he was doing. “I mean, as long as you don’t have a foot fetish and all.”
He chuckled and shook his head. “No, I don’t have a foot fetish. And yes, I do like to keep my hands busy.”
Emmanuelle sighed. “Well, you’re doing a great job, and for someone I’ve just met for less than ten minutes, I’d like you to know that I normally don’t offer my feet to anyone for a foot rub like this. I mean, I’ve never done this before.”
He shook his head. “Neither have I.”
Emmanuelle allowed herself to sink back and enjoy whatever it was he was doing, his firm touch against the skin of her feet sending shivers up and down her spine, but something else. She felt really good, like tub-of-ice cream good, not after-sex good.
She remembered an episode of The View where the actor, Matthew Mcconaughey admitted to liking giving foot massages and learning how from watching his parents do it. So really, what was so wrong about receiving one from a stranger? At least he wasn’t threatening to have sex with her or anything.
“What’s your name?” He asked a few minutes later as he glanced at his watch. Sweat had begun to gather along his brow as the heat built up inside the cramped space between them. “We might as well get to know each others’ names if we’re going to be spending any more time together like this.”
“My name’s Emmanuelle,” she replied, adding with a raised finger. “Just Emmanuelle. And what about you, inquisitive English stranger? What’s your name?”
He smiled. “I’m Richard,” he said, adding mischievously as he raised his own index finger. “Just Richard.”
Emmanuelle didn’t offer to shake his hand and neither did he and she was glad, for she’d rather he kept doing whatever it was he was doing, even though it seemed that the foot massage, just like all good things, was coming to an end.
For a few moments they remained silent, listening to the sound of people from the floor above them. There seemed to be a party going on at the fourteenth floor, she thought. Too bad the party didn’t extend to their little elevator space, she thought, although her toes were begging to disagree.
He stopped massaging her feet, returning it back onto the floor. Emmanuelle dug her hands into her purse and handed him a packet of sterilizing hand wipes, which he accepted.
“So what else do you have in that carpet bag of yours, Mary Poppins?” He asked playfully as he wiped his hands clean, wiping each long finger with care.
Emmanuelle shrugged. “Everything but the kitchen sink, as my mother would always say.”
“So,” he said a few minutes later, his expression turning serious. “I noticed you were heading downstairs. Did you meet him already? This Facebook friend of yours?”
“I was supposed to meet him at the bar downstairs, but he texted me and asked me to meet him in his room instead.”
Richard didn’t say anything, but Emmanuelle saw his left eyebrow lift up.
“I’m embarrassed to say that I did go upstairs,” she said, biting her lip. “But I could never step out of the elevator and it’s probably why it broke. I kept pushing the button to keep the doors open, but I couldn’t get myself to take a step out of it.”
“So you made your way back down,” Richard said softly, the left side of his lip curling upwards.
“I’m not as brave as I thought I was, or daring for that matter,” Emmanuelle said. “He always said I wasn’t. He always said I was too timid to his taste.”
“If you ask me, I don’t think it’s a question of bravery, or daring. Neither do I think that you’re timid,” Richard said carefully. “But whether it’s even a question to be asked at all isn’t even the issue here, Emmanuelle. Maybe your heart thought it was wrong, or maybe it did not want to be broken by the same man again? Sometimes hearts are fragile like that.”
The way he said the last sentence made Emmanuelle stare at him for a few seconds, her breath at her throat. She looked away, avoiding his gaze and busied herself with something inside her purse.
She pulled out a pair of red Toms shoes that she’d painted with a cherry blossom design and slipped them on. She pulled herself up, gathered Richard’s jacket and handed it back to him.
“Thank you,” she said.
He got up, towering over her as he took his jacket. “Did I say anything to upset you?”
Just then, the elevator moaned and groaned, the emergency light flickered before the bright lights went back on. The elevator shuddered briefly and Richard brought a hand out to steady her as it began to move down, the numbers counting down on the panel in front of them. Together they stood before it, as if suddenly struck mute.
Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
“Thank you,” Emmanuelle said again as the doors opened and she slipped out, walking as quickly as she could through the lobby, past the guests and the visitors and finally out onto the sidewalk where she took a big gulp of air, pushing it out through her mouth.
Manhattan at eleven at night was still as busy as ever for the night was still young. A crisp breeze blew through her hair and she shut her eyes, feeling the coolness of it caress her. It had been hot and stuffy inside that elevator, she thought, and the cool air felt good against her skin.
Emmanuelle needed to take a walk. She needed to think. And feel. It had been so long since she’d felt that way, the way she did inside that elevator, and it scared her though it also excited her. Definitely beat sitting at home with the cat and a tub of ice cream.
What Richard had said in the elevator had hit her hard for it was true. Her heart was fragile. It always had been. What had she been thinking, assuming that she’d be daring enough to see the very same man who had hurt her years earlier?
“I’m sorry I said something to upset you back there.”
Emmanuelle turned to look at Richard, his jacket back on, now a bit wrinkled where she’d sat on it.
“What you said back there was the truth and there’s nothing to apologize for, Richard. I needed hear it,” she said. “Although what I really need now is some dinner, so I need to get going.”
She turned away and began walking.
“Would you mind if I joined you?” He asked. “Or would you rather be alone?”
Emmanuelle stopped. She heard his footsteps following behind her. She turned to face him again, a cynical smile on her lips. “You’d rather have some cheap hole-in-the-wall New York dinner than one from in there?” She gestured towards the hotel behind him. “You’d actually take a pass on that?”
Richard smiled. “As a matter of fact, I would,” he replied.
Emmanuelle wanted to ask him but why? but she stopped herself before the words could come out of her lips. Instead, she raised her arm and hailed a cab just like a local would and as the cab screeched to a halt in front of her, Richard opened the door for her, watched her slip in before climbing in after her.
As he settled on the seat next to her, Emmanuelle gave the driver the address to the hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant where they could have the best noodles Manhattan had to offer. She knew its owner well, having been a regular for years and had been quite upset when a cable food channel featured it as the best place for noodles in the whole of Manhattan but the owner always made time for her, even when his little hole-in-the-wall noodle shop was filled to the rafters even at this time of the night.
Richard watched her as she leaned back against the seat, a smile on his lips. She could see his eyes twinkling as he looked at her, before turning his attention to the view out the window.
My heart may be fragile, she wanted to tell him as she caught him glancing at her again and together they chuckled. But it’s not that fragile.
But the tender moment between them was lost too soon for suddenly Emmanuelle cursed and began rummaging through her purse again, panic on her face.
“Oh, shit,” she muttered under her breath and Richard sat upright, a concerned look on his face. “My can of Mace. I left it on the railing.”
“Do you think we should go back?” He asked and for a moment Emmanuelle considered his suggestion but her stomach reminded her that there were other things more important than a misplaced can of Mace.
“Oh, never mind,” Emmanuelle muttered under breath as she leaned back against the seat and Richard followed suit. “It’s probably too old to be effective anyway,” she said as the cab worked its way through the Manhattan traffic, losing itself amidst a sea of other yellow cabs just like it.
Inside the elevator though, it was a different story.
For someone did step inside it from the eighteenth floor wondering whatever happened to his booty call, that timid young woman he’d wooed, conquered and dropped so many years ago. And feeling the need to fix an errant cowlick at the top of his head before presenting himself at the bar in search of a consolation prize, he picked up the black can on the railing, uncapped it, and pressed the nozzle.
Oops! I was supposed to write a SCENE. Not a damn story! Oh well…Hope you enjoyed it at least.