When Justin first met Alice, he knew he was trapped.
He wasn’t only trapped by the elevator they were in, which was stuck between the second and third floors of the hotel. He was trapped by the most fascinating girl he’d ever met.
Her looks weren’t particularly fascinating, though she was pretty. Her hair was brown, wavy and shoulder length; she was average height and average weight; and though she was dressed a bit strangely- with layers of skirts and a profusion of glittering crystal jewelry- it was nothing terribly uncommon. It was the expression in her dark eyes, and the unsettling way she stared baldly at him before offering a frank, open smile, that grabbed his attention.
When the elevator stopped, he’d groaned in frustration, but the girl merely laughed and said, “at last! I can press this big, shiny red button! That is, if you don’t want to…”
“Oh no, go ahead and ring the alarm,” Justin said, before attempting to pry the door open manually.
Soon, a loud buzzing filled the tiny space, and afterward, a static-y voice could be heard over the intercom.
“Hi!” the girl said. “We’re stuck between the second and third floors. Hurry, please. My companion can’t seem to get the doors open.”
The intercom buzzed again. “Uh… you’re stuck?”
“Yes, between the second and third floors,” the girl repeated patiently.
There was a long silence, and then the intercom sounded again. “Ok- hold tight. I’ll send someone up there.”
“That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence,” Justin grumbled.
“You aren’t claustrophobic, are you? We have plenty of ventilation,” the girl said, gesturing to the air vent overhead. “We should be fine, unless you need to use the restroom.”
“I’m fine,” Justin said. “I just don’t have time for this.”
“Ah- then I guess we’ll just have to make idle chit-chat, to make the time pass- either that or just stare at our phones for a while. I’m Alice, by the way,” she said, extending her hand.
“I’m Justin,” Justin replied, taking the offered hand. “It’s nice to meet you, even if the circumstances are lousy.”
Alice laughed again, the sound punctuated by the tinkling of her profuse jewelry. “It’s nice to meet you too; I don’t even mind the circumstances. Now- Justin- I suppose that I should ask what you do for a living, following social conventions. Some people don’t like discussing work, though.”
“I don’t mind. I actually like my work, even though it can be more boring than it sounds. I’m an aerospace engineer.”
“Really?” Alice raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“Yeah- I work for NASA.”
Just then, the elevator doors opened just a crack. A bright blue eye peered through the crack, under the bill of a blue hat.
“Hey guys, I’m just about to get this door open. Hold on.”
“Take your time,” Alice said breezily, before turning back to Justin. “I’m a huge fan of the space program. Too bad Nasa keeps losing funding.”
“You’re telling me. I’m sick of seeing the most exciting projects getting scrapped. We have some great projects going on right now, though, so I’m not complaining too loudly.”
There was an ear-shattering creak, then, and the doors opened all the way, revealing the floor below.
“Give me your hand,” the maintenance man said to Alice. “I’ll help you down.”
“Thanks,” Alice said, sitting down and swinging her legs over the ledge. “Don’t look up my skirt.”
“Or course not, Miss,” the man replied, helping Alice down while Justin scrambled out on his own. “Elevators 2 and three still work- they’re just down the hall.”
“Alright, thanks again,” Alice said before turning to Justin. “I guess I’ll see you around. I was really glad to meet you.”
Alice paused a moment, looking at Justin almost expectantly, but Justin’s brain seemed to freeze at this moment.
Alice turned to walk away.
Justin kicked himself awake. She’s leaving, you idiot, he thought to himself.
“Wait-“ Justin said out loud. “Would you like to get some coffee? There’s a Starbucks just across the street.”
“I’m sorry- I’m actually late for a conference.” Alice laughed. “But here- take my card. Let’s keep in touch.”
Justin took the shiny, black and gold card, but he barely glanced at it as Alice turned to walk away again- her crystal jewelry tinkling as she walked.