By six o'clock everyone in the office had gone home but her. Again, she was late. Packing her small briefcase she glanced around to note that no one was left, but her.
She sighed, picked up her purse and walked to the elevator.
She stood there in the hall, alone, and punched the elevator button. The aloneness surrounded her. She heard the ding of the elevator button. Saw the signs of it coming up, very slowly. She tapped her foot.
All she could think about was going home to her cat and her lonely apartment to rest this weekend. Perhaps that wasn't reason enough to not offer to help her boss out, but he never seemed to appreciate how much time and labor she put into the job.
The elevator door swung open and she stepped inside. A man was in it. He wasn't an office worker, but she knew she'd seen him somewhere. He wore jeans, and t-shirt that emphasized his mass of muscles and brawn She had to assume he was probably a janitor or something of the sort. He looked as tired as she. He had short cropped hair and a slight shadow on his cheek. He was oddly handsome.
He glanced at her and smiled, but didn't say anything. His smile transformed his face into something she thought ruggedly handsome.
She smiled back, only because she was too tired to do anything else.
Then suddenly it happened.
The elevator came to a crawl and finally stopped between floors. It sort of bounced and she nearly fell the man's arms.
The man's head jerked about, then the lights went out.
"Good grief, I wonder what is wrong?" She hollered, pulling herself together.
The man was just inches away from her now when he spoke. "We're stuck between floors." He nudged her, "Excuse me, let me call the emergency number."
"Oh, of course," she moved away.
He lit his lighter and picked up the phone.
"Yeah, we're stuck between floors. How long before you can fix it?" He asked gruffly. "What?" he hollered into the phone. "Yeah, yeah. Well, don't forget us. Say, does this thing have an emergency light somewhere. Oh, yeah, I see it. Thanks."
He hung up.
He also flipped something and a dim light came on in the elevator. She saw him and looked questioningly at him. "Backup generator."
"What did they say?" She asked curiously.
"We got a blackout outside, there's a massive storm out there right now. They'll get to us when they can."
"Oh, you've got to be kidding," she cried. "Funny, I never even glanced out the window this afternoon. I just assumed the weather was fine." She shook her head and rummaged through her purse. She found her cell phone but quickly realized it wasn't getting a signal. She sighed again, this time a little louder.
He glanced at her, "Got a big date or something?"
"No, no date, just a date with my couch and my cat." She replied.
He grinned despite himself.
"You work upstairs don't you?"
"Yeah, for the insurance corporate office. I'm an insurance adjuster." She explained.
"Oh yeah, I was just in there a few minutes ago, fixing your bathroom door." He explained.
"Oh, you're the maintenance man?" She smiled wondering why she didn't recognize him. "I knew I recognized you from somewhere. I just couldn't place you."
"Yeah, I spoke to you, but you didn't hear me, I guess." He added, his eyes going up and down her now with interest.
"I'm sorry, I'm a little preoccupied today." She told him. But the way he was looking at her made her squirm a bit. She gave him a quick once over. She hoped he was a decent man. After all, they were trapped.
"Yeah, I sort of noticed." He added.
"So how long you think we'll be here?" She asked him when he dropped his gaze to the floor.
"Heaven only knows." He answered. After a moment, he stared at her. "You're pretty preoccupied most of the time, aren't you?" His tone was indulgent but the slightest bit sarcastic.
"I beg your pardon?" She firmed her lips to keep from barking at him.
"Well, I've been in your office several times this week and you didn't acknowledge I was even there. So, I'd say you are preoccupied most of the time. Wouldn't you?"
Flustered, she groped for an apology. "I'm sorry, I didn't speak. It wasn't intentional." She tried to excuse herself. "I'm not usually a rude person. I've had a very heavy workload this week and I'm exhausted if you want to know the truth. I need a vacation…" She blinked hard, and put her cell phone away.
"Yeah, I'm just the hired help, right?" He made a snarl, "That's okay most of you office people don't speak to us common workers anyway. Too snooty."
"I beg your pardon." She took exception to his remark. "That's totally uncalled for. Look, we are stuck in an elevator and no telling for how long, let's don't be biting each other's heads off. Okay?" She nearly shouted at him.
He almost laughed, "Well, at least I got a rise out of you. That's more than I usually get."
He sat down on the floor. Then looked up at her.
"You might as well get as comfortable as you can, lady, we're going to be stuck a while."
"How long?" Her eyes widened.
"I don't know, but they got a lot of other problems more important to tend to right now. So, don't look for them to come flying in here to rescue us. There's only so many back up lights in the building. Some people will be trapped in total darkness."
She slid down the wall of the elevator to the floor. And a tear lodged in her eye. "I just wanted to go home and get some much-needed rest…" She complained. "Nothing ever works out that way, though does it?"
"No ma'am, it doesn't." He sighed almost as heavily.
She looked at him. "You're tired too?"
He made a strange sound in his throat. "Yeah lady, I'm tired. I been on my feet all day, going up and down this freaking elevator to almost every office in the building fixing one little thing after another and I’m beat." He griped.
She almost chuckled, "I guess we both have reason to gripe then." She admitted.
He glanced at her and grinned suddenly. His grin lent him an appeal she hadn't expected. After all, he looked rough with the shadow on his cheek. His hair was close cut, giving him even a rougher appearance. And now that she looked, he was quite good looking, clean, and magnificently built. No one in her office was built like him.
"I'm sorry, maybe we should start all over. I’m Megan Cartwright." She extended her hand.
He took it after wiping his hands on his pants. "Joe Poole."
"Joe." She nodded. "Wish there was a water fountain, restroom and restaurant in here."
"Hungry?" He asked.
"Yeah, a little. I didn't have a chance to eat lunch today. You might know."
"You were busy, huh?" He stared at her. "I gotta a candy bar in here, want it?"
"Oh, I couldn't take your food. I mean, you may get hungry before they get us out of here."
"Okay, we'll share it," he said. He took the Hershey bar out of his shirt pocket. He broke it into squares and offered her some.
She stared at it a minute and then she reached for a piece. "I love Hershey's." She smiled.
"Me too. Guess we have something in common after all." He smiled.
His teeth were so white, she was amazed. Who would have thought a maintenance man would have white teeth? Or be built like an Adonis?
"Do you have a cat?" She asked out of the blue.
"A cat? No, I got a bird, been trying to teach it to talk. It's one of those cockatiel's."
"Oh yes, those are very pretty. So have you taught him to talk yet?" She asked out of boredom.
"No, not yet, but he can whistle. You know that tune from the Andy Griffith show?"
She laughed. "Your joking…"
"No, I'm not," he laughed. "I taught him to whistle."
"I guess you are better than me, I can't teach my cat to do anything but come eat." She put the chocolate in her mouth and savored it.
"So, how long have you worked here?" She asked.
"Seven years. Took this job right after I got out of the service. This is my day time job. I got a night time job too, three days a week."
"Oh, what kind of job?"
"I'm a courier."
"Really. That's quite a contrast isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is."
"Well, I gotta hand it to you, you are industrious." She complimented him.
She bent her knee and took her shoes off.
"Better?" He asked.
"Yeah, much." She smiled, as she rubbed her foot. "I've wanted to chuck these shoes all day."
"Want some more candy?" He asked.
"No, if I eat too much I'll be thirsty and there's no water in here." She told him. "Surely they won't keep us waiting too long. I mean, there's no bathroom in here either."
"That's a thought, maybe they should install a water fountain and bathroom in here. For when this kind of thing happens. I figure they'll get around to us sometime around midnight." He told her.
"You are kidding?" She shook her head. "That long?"
"Well, they got a lot of work to do before they worry about elevators. But they'll be around." He promised her.
"I hope you are right." She wailed.
He leaned against the back wall and stared at her. "So, why don't you tell me about yourself. I mean I know you have a cat, and you are tired and you work for that Hitler of a boss upstairs, but what else is there?"
"How'd you know my boss is a Hitler?"
"Word gets around."
She shrugged. "Well, let's see. I was married a few years ago, it went sour. Now I'm divorced."
"How long ago were you divorced?" He asked.
"Five years ago."
"You must have married pretty young."
She nodded, "Too young. I'm afraid I was ill prepared. I couldn't cook, couldn't do a lot of things. After five years of reflection, I have to admit I was just as at fault as he."
"Did you leave him, or he leave you?" He asked out of curiosity.
"He left me."
"Aw…a pretty lady like you. The devil!" He smiled.
"What about you, you married and got three kids or what?" She asked on a lighter note.
"None of the above. Never been married. Almost, once. But I didn't make enough money to keep her in diamonds and furs."
"Now that's sad."
"No actually, it was her influence that had me finding a second job. And since then, I've managed to save quite a bit of the money I've earned. With no expenses hardly."
"That's great." She stared at him. "But why don't you have expenses, everyone has expenses. Or are you talking about credit card debt."
He made a face then looked at her. "I live with my mother." He stared now to watch her reaction to that statement. He knew instinctively what she might think.
"Oh?" Her head fell back and she nodded as though she understood him better now.
"There's no Oh to it. My mother is an invalid and can't take care of herself. Well, not fully anyway. So when I'm home, I help out. It's her house, I do pay the utilities and groceries for her. She owns the house. So we both get off pretty light."
She stared at him now. A man that takes care of his mother. She didn't think those kind of men existed any longer. She kept staring.
"What's wrong. I got something on backwards, wrong side out or what?"
"Nothing like that, I just didn't think men like you existed anymore."
"Men like me?"
"A man that helps his mother, it's rather noble."
The lights blinked, then went out.
She sat there for a second, then she called out to him. "Joe, are you there?"
He laughed, "Where would I go?"
"Good question. It's awfully dark in here."
"Yeah, come back here and lean against the wall, get close to me, so you don’t get scared. I won't hurt you. We need to take a nap or something. This could be a long night. And the more we're awake, the more we'll want all the comforts of home, like a bathroom. I can put up with no food for a while, but no bathroom I have to concentrate on not thinking about it."
"Oh yes, I guess you are right." She slid back and as she did so she put her hand on his.
He grabbed it and held it. "Just relax. At least you aren't stuck in here alone."
"That would be insane, wouldn't it?" She leaned her head against the hard cold steel of the wall. "I'm so tired." She murmured. "I'm actually a little claustrophobics but I'm just too tired I guess to react."
"Me too, tell you what, let's sort of cuddle up to each other and try to get some rest. If we stay awake we'll just worry about how hungry, tired and thirsty we are. Come here," he encouraged her.
A little bashful, she moved toward the sound of his voice.
"That's a girl. Now, you lean on my shoulder and I'll lean on yours and we'll hold hands, so you know I'm here for you, okay."
"Your terribly kind." She murmured.
"I'm as tired as you honey, and it is going to be a long night." He told her.
"I guess you are right. There is certainly not much we can do about it, is there." she moved to lay her head on his shoulder. He laid his against hers and in no time they went to sleep. Despite it all, it was comforting knowing he was there.
But toward the middle of the night they shifted and suddenly he was cuddling her in his arms, and they were curled together on the floor, wrapped in each other's arms.
When she finally woke up she had no idea what time it was. She hadn't worn a watch in years, and she wasn't sure where her purse was now. But she realized that she was resting in his arms and as she moved herself, she came in contact with his chin and he woke up too.
Her lips accidentally brushed his cheek.
The dim light told her she was in his arms, and she tried to move away, but his arms tightened around her.
"W-what, what's going on," He woke up.
She raised her head and suddenly they were staring at each other. One arm was curled around her waist and the other held him up at an angle from the floor. Still when they looked at each other everything seemed to blot out.
In one lithe movement, his lips were on hers, soft and warm and inviting. As for another brief moment, she totally forgot who she was with and why she was here. She just responded in kind to the inviting kiss he gave her.
When they pulled apart it was as though someone woke them.
"Sorry," he murmured at her ear. "It was just an instinctive reaction to a beautiful woman."
She stared into his face. "Yeah, I guess we both lost our bearings there." She seemed scattered.
"Sure was nice though. Haven't had that kind of good morning in a long time." He chuckled.
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