Day 11. More in Common . . . by Patrick Reid

Day 11: Your character gets trapped in the elevator with someone he or she is afraid of (you decide why) . . .

Today, I thought I would post Patrick’s story as well. No I’m not cray-cray in submitting Day 11 twice. I thought his was really good and should be posted as well, so bear with me and read some more 🙂

 

More in Common by Patrick Reid

The elevator opened and their eyes met; instantly James felt the need to relive himself. Mrs. Carter stood inside with her typical cold eyes, hooked nose and her coat dripping water slowly to the elevator floor. She resembled a wet Barn Owl. Her cane stood firmly on its head as she stood firmly on her feet and for a wisp of a moment James swore she wasn’t even leaning on it. The door stayed open and as he contemplated whether or not he would join her he heard the sounds of children running down the corridor of their apartment lobby. He leapt inside the elevator instantly and pushed the 10th floor button. Somehow his fear of Mrs. Carter was immediately pushed to the back of the queue the moment he realized Nathan Creary and his goonies were closing in on him. He had thrown orange juice over the front stoop onto their heads the day before and they responded with a well-planned ambush today. Fortunately for him whoever built this complex had a fascination for mirrors and he spotted Nathan and his two friends from around corner. This bought him a head start and as he raced from his pursuers to the elevator he prayed silently, Please don’t trip, Please don’t trip. The rain had been falling terrible and James was soaked head to toe. As he ran the water dripped from his pants to the floor and each step had become more precarious than the last.  If his father were here now he would say something regarding gods, mice and men, as he had not planned to be temporarily trapped with the woman he feared most. As the door finally closed he peeked over his shoulder and once again their eyes met.

“Good evening Mr. Nestle” she offered sternly.

“Good morning…I mean evening Mrs. Carter” James stuttered.

“Ooh, so you do speak. For a moment I assumed you had lost your ability to communicate via words. I see now you’ve only lost what little manners your dear mother had impressed upon you.”

James always hated when people dragged his mother into conversations regarding his shortcomings. She had died two years prior from a rare bone disease and though he missed her sorely, the idea of her name being used as a stick to repeatedly slap him with had never gone down well.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Carter, I was running and…” James hurriedly said. She cut him off instantly.

“I have no use for apologies from the likes of you Mr. Nestle. Your words mean nothing to me as I have heard them many times before and as per the usual they are filled with lies. I shall ensure your father hears of your…activities.”

She said the last word with much disgust plainly written on her face. Since his mothers passing the tenants of Lockmore Apartments had made it their duty to “look after” James and his father. He did appreciate the smiles and short conversations, not to mention dinner at any house he felt the urge to visit. Yet among those who knew his mother lie folks like Mrs. Carter. Snitches. His actions were now under scrutiny at every moment and were always reported to his father with amazing promptness. He didn’t bother continuing the conversation. That would be a lesson in futility as his mother always said. As he turned to face the elevator doors he felt a sudden jerk and heard a loud clank coming from above. Immediately the elevator stopped. For what seemed like an eternity James stood, looking at the door with fruitless anticipation.

“This day keeps getting better,” he whispered to himself.

“What did you say?” said Mrs. Carter.

“Nothing.”

“Really now,” she said “unless you believe in Ghosts and this elevator is now being haunted, I am sure you said something. Humph, if your mother were here she would slap some sense into that thick head of yours. God only knows how your father manages the likes of you without her.”

James tuned squarely to face Mrs. Carter with his fists clenched and his cheeks glowing with bright red anger.

“Your right Mrs. Carter,” saying her name with emphasis “I did say something whilst at the same time I said nothing. I said something to myself and said absolutely nothing to you. As for what my mother would have done? I’ll have you know she never laid a hand on me. She didn’t believe in such barbaric measures of punishment but obviously some of us still live in the dark ages.”

James immediately regretted his outburst. He was quite sure she would smack him in the head with her cane or even worst; report him to his father. A knock in the head he could live with but the look in his father eyes when he received word of James’ mischiefs was too much. John Nestle had never fully recovered from the loss of his wife. An introvert while she was alive, Cathy had been his only reason for leaving the house the few times he did. He was a geek of Astronomical proportions, from Star Wars to comic books and could barely have a conversation about anything else. Yet she loved him and he loved her. It was she who did most of the raising of James: she attended school functions, helped him with homework and taught him about girls, or at least tried.  Now all he did was work and go through photo albums of the life he had before his wife became ill. When he received reports regarding James nowadays, his face dropped, his moods worsen and the already thick silence between father and son would only grow thicker.

James turned slowly away from Mrs. Carter but the last image in his head was the absolute shock on her face. At least now I wont have to pretend to like her James thought to himself. He was about to begin mentally preparing himself for the ass whopping he would receive from Nathan when Mrs. Carter spoke.

“What do you know of the Dark Ages?” she asked in a dis-alarmingly calm voice.

“Aaahhh” James replied. The question came from nowhere and was, in all probability the last thing he expected.

“Wow, are you telling me the only way to get a full sentence from you is to raise your blood?”

James turned slowly, this time though he took the time to calm himself before he answered. “The dark ages was a period of constant war in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.”

She immediately gave him a quizzical look with one eyebrow turned up then she broke out in the biggest and only smile James had ever seen on her.

“Absolutely right.” She started tapping the top of her cane. “How do you know this, young man?”

James wasn’t sure if this new approach of hers was a ploy but he had had enough of fear for this woman and would suffer the consequences of anything she threw at him.

“I read it in a book.”

“Might I ask which book?”

“Of War and Greed” James replied.

“Hmm,” she said ”and where did you get this book?”

James found the question quite peculiar. The book actually belonged to his mother and was the last of many books she read before she passed. He had begun reading a few of his mother books roughly 2 months after the funeral. It soothed him somewhat to sit in her favourite chair by the window, curled up with a book. She had done this every evening after helping James with his homework and sometimes he still felt like she was there, lost in her own little world of adventure with a smile on her face.

“It was my mother’s” he quietly replied.

“To Aubrey” Mrs. Carter said ”May the truths of the past be your guide for the future”.

Immediately James recognized the quote, it was from the same book. He had wondered who this Aubrey was but paid it not too much attention as his mother often bought used books from yard sales. “A book, like a piece of art is a part of someone’s soul, it should never be destroyed.” She had always told him.

“How do you know that quote?” James asked.

“Well firstly that book is not your mother’s, its mine. Though technically even that isn’t true. Secondly I know that quote because I wrote it.” Her head hung down to her cane and for a moment James could almost swear he saw a glimmer of sadness in her eyes. Then he remembered the quote again.

“To Aubrey. May the truths of the past be your guide for the future. Mother” it all made sense. “Aubrey is your son.” James said.

“Was.” she corrected “He died over 15 years ago in a car accident.”

“ I’m sorry.” James said. He didn’t quite know what else to say. All these years he had seen Mrs. Carter as the miserable, nosy neighbour who never had anything pleasant to say. The idea that they had so much in common shocked him deeply. There was a silence in the elevator, not the kind that preamble words, but the kind that solidified an understanding.

“Did you like the book?” she asked.

“Very much. Romans were a lot like us today, capable of great feats and great fallacy.” James replied. Mrs. Carter smiled.

“I could not have put it better myself. I was a history lecturer before I retired, I could loan you a few more books on the topic. Or you could come by and discuss anything you’d like.”

“Could I have both?” James responded with a smile.

Immediately they both broke out in laughter and the elevator jerked to a start.

The End.

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