(I actually don’t love this title so somebody tell me what to change it to, please.)
I just finished re-reading Fangirl – and yes I totally sobbed when it was over – and, as always, felt like writing. I wrote this the other day for a playwriting course I’m taking (ALL THE HEART-EYES EMOJIS), so I decided to convert it to short story form, especially for you guys. It was ten pages as a bare-bones script, but six as a short story, so grab some tea or hot chocolate and enjoy! (And, as always, let me know what you think. I love hearing feedback from you guys about what I write!)
“Hold the elevator!”
The young woman quickly stuck her hand out, barring the doors from closing as she scrolled through her phone. She barely looked up as a young man ran in, breathless.
“Thanks,” he said, panting.
The doors closed.
He pushed a floor button. She scrolled through her phone.
A few seconds later, the elevator jerked. Both of its occupants were set off-balance, but not enough to knock them to the ground.
The young woman cursed, wiping at a spot where her coffee had sloshed over the side of her cup and onto her blouse. “Perfect.”
“Whoa,” the young man said. He stared at the floor buttons for a moment. “I… I think the elevator’s stuck.”
“Great,” the young woman sighed, rolling her eyes.
“Huh,” the young man said. “I’ve, uh, never been in this situation.”
He pulled the strap of his messenger bag down, swinging the bag around to his back, and pushed the “call” button repeatedly. After a few moments, he pursed his lips and stepped back. “I have no idea what to do.”
“I’m assuming just push the button and wait for someone to come?”
He pushed the button one more time. Then, with a resolved look, pulled his messenger bag off and sat on the ground, his back resting against the wall of the elevator.
“Uh, what’re you doing?” the young woman asked him.
“We don’t know how long we’ll be here,” he told her, shrugging. “Might as well get comfortable.”
The young woman stared at him for a moment, then huffed and sat down in the wall adjacent to him.
“I’m Charlie,” the young man said, holding his hand out.
“Amy,” the young woman replied. She shook his hand, then quickly let go.
“Nice to meet you. Awful circumstances, but nice anyway.”
Amy shot him a terse smile before going back to her phone.
“Do you work here?” he persisted.
“Yeah, I’m Parker’s secretary,” she replied, not looking up from her phone.
“Jim Parker, CEO of Haywire Electricians.”
Charlie laughed – quick, surprised, partially out of obligation. “Wire. Electricians. Got it.”
“It was funny the first time I heard it, too,” Amy told him, still staring at her screen but raising an eyebrow.
“I bet you have to say it a thousand times a day. It must be annoying to get the same response.”
“You have no idea,” she mumbled.
Charlie pulled a thick stack of papers out of his messenger bag and started rifling through them, quickly reading through certain lines. Amy glanced up at him over her phone, then quickly looked away.
“Well, that’s good,” Charlie finally acknowledged, absentmindedly. “Good for you.”
Amy let out a short, mirthless laugh. “Hardly where I’d wanted to be by twenty-four, but that’s what life handed me.”
Charlie looked up over his papers. “Hey, when life hands you lemons…”
“Make lemonade while looking for champagne.”
Charlie’s brow furrowed, but he smiled nevertheless.
They went back to their respective tasks, halfheartedly working, both glancing up at the elevator every now and then.
“How long do you think we’ll be here?” Charlie asked.
Amy sighed and took a sip of her coffee. “I have no idea. I’ve never been stuck on an elevator before, either. Maybe ten minutes? Maybe an hour? Who knows.”
“It’s always ten hours in books,” Charlie mentioned. He flipped a page and started scanning it. “The characters start sharing ridiculous secrets with one another and it’s always cliché and stupidly pointless.”
Amy smirked. “Read a lot?”
Charlie frowned a little, peering closer at his paper. “Tons.” He looked up at her and smiled, almost embarrassed. “I’m a writer; I’ve gotta read everything.”
“Interesting,” Amy replied, her tone saying otherwise.
“I’m trying to get my novel published right now, actually.”
“And only, if it takes this long with all of them. Abbot & Chadwick – fourth floor, the reason I came – is the ninth publisher I’ve visited about it.”
“You’ve visited nine publishers?” Amy asked, finally seeming to be interested.
“So far,” Charlie sighed, lining up the edges of his papers. “I’m so afraid I’m gonna have to put it on the back burner while I start my next one.”
“Can’t you submit a manuscript online or through the mail or something?” Amy asked, confused and a little annoyed at his apparent stupidity.
“Oh, yeah – I’ve done that, too. Definitely. I was just hoping a personal visit would give me a better chance.” He pursed his lips and glared at his stack of papers. “Obviously it hasn’t.”
Amy watched him for a moment, her face softening. “Hey, nine publishers isn’t bad. I heard J.K. Rowling got turned down by twelve publishers before somebody finally agreed to publish Harry Potter.”
“Really?” Charlie asked, looking up, his face hopeful.
“You’re almost there.” She watched him for another moment, then quickly added, “And, hey, if this one doesn’t work out, I know a friend of a friend who works at Grimaldi House. No promises, but I might be able to pull a few strings and get him to look at it for you.”
Charlie’s face lit up and he inhaled sharply. “Could you?” he asked, traces of a smile on his lips. “That’d be fantastic!”
“No promises, remember?”
“Got it. Thank you – thank you so much.” He started rifling through his bag again, finally pulling out a receipt and a pen. He wrote down his information, then handed it to Amy with a smile. She traded it for a business card.
Charlie looked at the card for a moment, then put it in a small zippered pocked in his messenger bag, saying to Amy with a grin, “I really appreciate this.”
“You’re welcome,” she replied, seeming to mean it. She went back to her phone, then looked back up at him, faltered, and then said, “Let me know what happens today. I mean, if you want to. You don’t have to. If you don’t want to.”
Charlie smiled at Amy, softly, as if his entire impression of her – all ten minutes that he’d known her – had changed in that instant. “No, I will. I definitely will. Thank you.”
Charlie went back to his papers, but Amy continued looking at him.
“What’s your book about?” she finally asked.
“It’s a young adult novel about a kinda dark subject: The main character’s friend commits suicide and the main character has to figure out how to move on and keep living,” he rattled off, not looking up from his paper, as if he’d said it a million times before.
Amy’s jaw went slack and her lips parted. Her eyes glazed over a little and she didn’t say anything for a minute. When she eventually did, it was hushed and reluctant. “Really. That’s, um, interesting. Does she… or he… move on?”
Charlie looked up at her with a sly grin, not noticing how her countenance had changed. “Spoilers, but yes. She gets really depressed and hits a really low point, but finds hope through another friend.”
Amy looked relieved. “Good.”
Charlie smiled and looked back down at his stack of papers – which, now Amy realized, was obviously his manuscript. It was massive. “Yeah,” he replied.
“So… why suicide?” Amy asked after a moment. “Couldn’t you have picked a happier subject? The world’s pretty dark as it is, so I doubt it needs more dark material… right?”
Charlie leaned back against the wall, intertwining his fingers together behind his head, thinking for a moment before he replied. “Well. Yeah… Fair point. But I feel like people learn more through the hard things than happy things. Right?”
Amy nodded, so Charlie went on.
“I mean, you never hear about how someone learned about the value of time and how to spend it wisely after they get engaged, right? Not that it hasn’t happened, though. It’s just, nine times out of ten, it’s the hard stuff that teaches us lessons. Sucks, but it’s true. Plus, I’ve got a personal connection with it, so….”
“Oh.” Amy frowned, taken aback. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. It’s been a while, so I’m okay with talking about it. Finally.” He put his hands together in his lap, staring at his thumbs as he rubbed them together. “It was my mom.”
Amy barely contained a gasp. Her shoulders fell. “I’m so sorry. That.. that must have been really hard.”
Charlie didn’t reply for a moment. He raised his eyebrows and took a deep breath before admitting, “It was. Harder than anyone ever thinks. And I want to show people that, if I can,” he quietly added, shrugging with one shoulder.
“Show them what?”
Charlie looked her in the eye. “That suicide always kills more than one person. It sucks that – so often – the space a person fills isn’t really felt ’til they’re gone – and when they’re gone, they’re gone, and people can’t tell them how much they miss them or stop it from happening or…”
Amy averted her eyes. She swallowed before replying. “I’m sorry, Charlie.”
For a moment, total silence fell.
Charlie continued rubbing his thumbs together.
Amy massaged her temples.
The only sounds were the occasional buzz of Amy’s phone, which she ignored, and the soft murmur of the people in the building, which they both listened to.
Charlie cleared his throat. “I once heard someone say that you should always tell people how important they are to you,” he softly said. “Not because they may be gone tomorrow, but because it’s worth saying.” He took a breath before continuing. “Well, my mom was gone before I thought she would be, and I didn’t say I loved her enough.”
Amy didn’t say anything; she just watched him.
“It took me years to figure out why my mom killed herself… and then it took me even longer to figure out how to move on.” He stopped, looked Amy square in the eye, and gave her a bittersweet smile. “Anyway, I figured that since I’ve finally felt happy again after so many years of thinking I never would, I’d better share whatever small insights I can.”
Amy listened, but didn’t nod or smile. She simply said, “I’m sure your book is wonderful. And I know it’ll help a lot of people.”
“I hope so – I mean it’d better,” Charlie replied, laughing a little. “God knows I’ve spent years trying to get it into their hands.”
Now Amy smiled, almost as if she’d been resisting it.
Charlie smiled back, then took a deep breath, stretching. “Anyway. Sorry about that. I didn’t intend for the conversation to take such a depressing turn.”
“It’s okay,” Amy told him. “I asked.”
“You did,” Charlie replied, his eyes twinkling.
They went back to their respective tasks after a moment, yet neither were interested in what they were doing anymore. Amy sipped her lukewarm coffee, staring at her phone but not doing anything. Charlie read the same paragraph three times before looking around the elevator.
“Your company’s on the top floor?” Charlie quickly asked, as if it’d just occurred to him as he looked at the floor buttons they’d pressed. “You must have the best view of the city from your desk.”
“The CEO has the best view,” she sighed, putting down her phone. “My desk is right outside of his room. In a boring, windowless hallway.”
“That’s too bad.” Charlie tapped his manuscript, staring at the floor. “Maybe you’ll have that room someday, though – right?”
“I don’t think so…”
Charlie looked up at her, his brow furrowed. “Why not?”
Amy sighed. “Honestly? I hate my job. I hate filtering complaints and hearing everybody laugh about our stupid company name – which, by the way, Jim came up with when he was drunk.” Her grip on her coffee cup tightened as she went on. “I hate sitting at a desk all day and getting home to an empty apartment. I hate the dull monotony, I hate the routine, and I hate the fact that nothing changes and that nothing ever will change. And I hate not being able to do what I want with my own freaking life.”
Charlie didn’t reply for a moment, finally saying in a consoling tone, “I’m sorry, Amy.”
Amy shook her head, looking away. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have vented like that. I’m just so… so…” She didn’t finish, merely shaking her head again.
“I just vented on you,” Charlie reminded her with a soft laugh, “so I think it’s okay. Now we’re even.”
Amy turned to him, the corner of her mouth tugging up a little. “Okay.”
Charlie cocked his head, watched her for a moment, then said, “So what do you want to do?”
“The age-old question: If you had unlimited time and unlimited resources, what would you do?”
“I want to climb Mount Everest,” Amy replied, not hesitating a second. A hopeful look appeared over her face as she spoke her dreams into existence. “I want to see Niagara Falls. I want to go to London and Edinburgh and Paris and Rome and Venice and… I want to see the world, Charlie.” She stopped, frowning. “And all I’m seeing is my desk. Every day.”
“Then quit,” Charlie casually said, shrugging.
Amy’s shoulders dropped. She stared at the floor again. “I can’t. I need the money.”
“Do you have any savings? Can’t you leave for a while, see stuff, come back, earn money, repeat?”
Amy shook her head, still avoiding his gaze. “I used it all to pay off my student loans. I probably only have a few thousand dollars saved – and I’m going to need a new car pretty soon.”
Charlie was silent for a moment, then offered, “What about backpacking?”
“What?” Amy asked, finally looking at him again.
“Backpacking. You could save tons of money. Ever seen Gilmore Girls?”
Amy’s entire face brightened. “Yes! I used to love that show!”
“It’s my guilty pleasure,” Charlie told her in a hushed, conspiratorial tone. “You can’t tell anybody, okay?”
Amy chuckled. “I won’t.”
“I always wanted to watch episodes of Rory and Lorelai backpacking across Europe – you know, between seasons three and four? I don’t think the budget was big enough, though.”
“I wanted to see that, too!”
Amy and Charlie smiled at each other.
After a moment, a bemused expression came over Charlie’s face. “Do you believe in fate?” he asked.
“You think we’re in a Hallmark film, too?” she replied, giggling a little.
Charlie laughed. Amy watched.
After a second, Amy licked her lips, took a breath, and said, “I… I lied to you.”
“When?” Charlie asked, tilting his head.
“Haywire is on the fifth floor.”
Charlie’s brow furrowed and the smile faded from his face. He glanced at the floor buttons, then back to Amy. “Then… why were you going to the top floor?”
“I was going to jump.”
Charlie stared at her, his expression half pained, half shocked.
“Jump?” he whispered.
“From the roof.”
His face paled. “What?!”
“I can’t do this anymore,” Amy told him, covering her face with her hands.
“No,” Charlie firmly said. He leaned forward and pulled her hands away, looking her straight in the eye as he said, “You can. I know you can.”
“I can’t,” she halfheartedly protested. Tears started to well in her eyes.
Charlie shook his head and inched forward. “Remember what I said earlier, about my mom? We couldn’t tell her how much we missed her after she killed herself. Imagine all the people in your life who won’t be able to tell you that if you do this.”
“There’s nobody like that for me!” Amy angrily objected, sobbing. “You don’t understand. I have no friends. I’m so pathetic – I’ve been in this city for two years and I still haven’t made any friends.”
“Well, now you have one,” Charlie told her, not hesitating for a moment. “You hear me? Even if you’re right and there’s nobody there for you, you’ve got me. Okay?”
Amy sputtered and bowed her head, unable to speak. Charlie just watched her, stroking her hands with his thumbs. He opened his mouth to speak several times, but closed it before saying anything.
After a while, Amy looked up, tears still streaming down her cheeks. Charlie let go of one of her hands and she rubbed the tears away. “Charlie, I-”
“Fire department!” a voice interrupted, shouting from what seemed like far away. “We’re here and we’re going to get you out. Are you okay?”
Charlie leaned back and yelled, “Yeah, we’re fine!”
“Okay, good. The elevator’s stuck between floors so we’re going to pry the door open and then let you know what you need to do. We’re going to get you out of there – just stay calm, okay?”
“Got it!” Charlie replied. Then, he leaned forward again, looking at Amy with sympathetic eyes. “Are you okay?”
“I…” Her voice faltered, so she cleared her throat before starting again. “I think so. I will be. I hope.”
Charlie nodded, looking down at her hand in his. He swallowed and blinked back tears of his own. He turned his attention back to Amy after a moment. “I’m not going to leave you until you’re through this, okay? Let’s go get lunch or coffee or something.”
“But my job…” Amy weakly protested.
“Call in sick,” Charlie suggested.
Amy reluctantly smiled a little, then looked up at him. “What about your manuscript?”
“This is more important.”
A sob escaped. Amy bit her lip and lunged forward, wrapping her arms around Charlie. “Thank you,” she whispered, crying.
Charlie smiled, hugged her back, and sniffed. “I’m glad I got stuck in this elevator with you today, Amy.”
A moment later, they broke apart, both slightly embarrassed but glad. Amy found a tissue in her purse and blew her nose. Charlie pretended not to need one.
“I never answered your question,” Amy told him just as they started to hear the firemen prying the door open.
“Oh?” Charlie said, shoving his manuscript into his messenger bag.
“I do believe in fate. At least, now I do.”
Charlie smiled at her.
“I do, too.”