Thursday, December 7, 2017

On the Way to the Snow Ball, chapter one by Brenda Whiteside

Chapter One
Pulling this off would take a Christmas miracle.
With an excited tremor, Nicholas punched the lobby button on the elevator keyboard. Twenty-four floors, then through the glass doors, and into a cab to arrive at the Snow Ball. As the doors glided toward each other, making his grand entrance into the ball flitted away when a small, manicured hand thrust through the sliver of an opening and bounced the doors apart.
He retreated to the back of the cube as the teenaged girl hopped onto the elevator. Ignore her. She wouldn’t know him or where he was going and couldn’t hinder his mission.
Rocking a moment on the balls of her feet clad in shiny, black heels, she smiled—one of those brief, close-mouthed polite smiles as the hallway disappeared and she shifted, turning away from him. A subtle hum indicated they were moving. 
Twenty-four, Twenty-three.
A distant screech of scraping metal nearly drowned out the whisper of the ebony-haired girl. “What was that?” 
He gripped the railing on the back wall with one hand while adjusting his white fur trimmed, red hat with his other. The old elevator always groaned. Glints of light from the track around the top edges of the elevator played across the back of her hair, a reflection moving like the wave a crowd does at a football game. Hmm, how long had it been since he’d been to a ball game?
Another creak, and she jumped. “Why have we stopped?” She darted a glance in his direction. “Hey, what happened to the lights?”
The darkness was blacker than a moonless night at the North Pole.
His heart thumped against his ribs. Small spaces didn’t bother him. He lived in a small space with small people. But an elevator malfunction would disrupt his plan. Patience.
She shuffled her feet. “It’s so quiet.”
“Don’t worry.” The young one needed reassuring. “Someone will fix it.” He leaned his hips against the railing that ran along the walls, the cold metal chilling his bottom through his red dress slacks. The dark was so thick, so silent, if he’d not seen the girl before the lights went out, he’d think he was alone. Except for her annoying, spicy scent. The smell made his nose itch.
A distant growl of metal echoed from far below them. A gasp from his unseen companion bounced around the blackness.
“Don’t panic. How are we doing?”
“Fine, if getting stuck in a dark elevator with a stranger is your idea of fun.” Her caustic tone could indicate fear.
“The darkness doesn’t change anything, so there’s no need for alarm.” He knew how to handle unforeseen situations. “No reason to get excited.”
“This is hardly exciting, and I’m not afraid of the dark.”
“Of course you aren’t, child.”
“Child? Listen, mister…”
“Just stay calm!” So much needing his reassurance. Teenagers could be so difficult.
“All right, all right.” The blackness didn’t mute her huff.
He imagined her arms crossed, and her eyes glaring. Typical teen. He ran a finger between his neck and the collar of his shirt. The dark grew stuffy. He should’ve been on his way, out the building. He needed a Christmas miracle, and what he got instead was an obstacle.
“But what do you think is going on?” Her voice, now quietly needy, slithered between his thoughts.
“It’s probably a power problem.”
“Oh, really?”
Her sarcasm wasn’t quiet. He could ignore it.
 “We should call for help,” she suggested. “I left my cell in my purse in the office. Do you have yours?”
“No.” Cell phones, email, and electronic voices. He shuddered. Why would he want to be reached wherever he went? All messages are delivered to the workshop. That was their job. He only checked them – twice.
“Hey, wait!” Her sudden outburst made him straighten up from his resting-place on the railing. “The telephone! All elevators have telephones. It must be on this side by the buttons.” Her scuffling noises shattered the dark.
“Stop. You might touch something you shouldn’t.” He took a few steps in the direction of the sounds of her movements and was startled when he bumped into her. “Excuse me, but please don’t touch anything.”
“I’m looking for the phone.”
“Tell me what you find before you actually do anything.” Only inches from her, the pitch-black took on her irritating scent. His nose twitched, and he took a breath through his mouth. The darkness grew warmer. He loosened his tie.
“I feel a metal door. This has to be it. Too bad I don’t read Braille.”
“Here, let me see.” He reached out, amazed when his hand found the small oblong metal door as she opened it.
“I can do it!” An elbow knocked his hand away. “I’m perfectly capable of speaking on a telephone.”
“Of course, you’re capable.” How could he deal with such childishness? Yet, his lot in life was exactly that. But the younger ones were so much easier to contain, to appease, to please before they grew into double-digit ages.
“Hello, hello. There’s no sound. No dial tone or anything. Hello!” This time she screamed.
He wiped the dampness from his forehead. Excitement, overzealous joy he could handle, not panic. “Now, will you let me have it?”
A hard thump hit his chest as she relinquished the phone. In his ear, there was silence, dead silence. With his other hand, he ran fingers around the perimeter of the box and along the back. Cold metal. His nails snagged on six screws. Nothing else. He’d never used an elevator phone. Never given any thought as to how they operated. Maybe it was there for looks only, giving a false sense of security to the occupants, like the pretend cameras or plastic phones he delivered. Or maybe an alarm to catch you for touching something you shouldn’t. His hand jerked back. He fumbled, setting the receiver back on its cradle.
“It might set off an alarm when you pick it up. Just wait.” Nothing. How long should he wait? There was a crackle overhead. The Carpenters harmonized, Away in a Manger. At least something was fixed.
“This is progress, right?” Her voice sounded hopeful.
Setting his finger aside of his nose, he raised his gaze upward, but only black met him. He wondered if a panel in the ceiling could be slid away.
“Hmm…yes, progress.” He’d nearly forgotten about her with his musings.
Overhead the lights flickered, went out, then shined and held. Although dim, his relief flashed bright.
Her dark brown eyes widened as she scanned their surroundings as if searching for what? More people? She bit her dark red lower lip, which clashed with her neon orange dress. He didn’t like orange, a poor imitation of red.
“Well!” She tilted her chin in his direction. “Music. Lights. Now where’s the camera? Since when doesn’t an elevator have a security camera?”
He surveyed every corner. She was right. After two years, or was it four years, going in and out of this building, he had never noticed there weren’t cameras in the elevators. They must be hidden. No good watching people if they knew you were watching.
She walked around the compartment, corner to corner. “It may be my imagination, but I think this contraption is broken.” Sarcasm again.
“Well, it certainly isn’t moving.” He tried to match her wit.
“Do you think it could fall?”
“It isn’t even moving.”
“But, do you think, if I were to move around too much, it would fall?”
His abilities might be taxed in dealing with her. His skills had been limited to reaffirming belief—fireside chats with children—not survival techniques with teenagers. Where was his Christmas miracle? “No, of course not.”
“How do you know?”
He gave her his most authoritative expression. He hoped. Jolly wouldn’t work in this instance. “It’s easy to get upset in such situations.”
The girl cocked her head to one side. “Do I look like I’m upset?”
He stroked his close-cropped beard, still unhappy about having to cut it. He stared at a sassy smile on a pale face dusted with freckles. He opened his mouth to answer when the elevator gave a jolt. Knocked off balance, he stumbled and caught himself on the metal railing.
The girl gasped, but kept her balance, throwing her hands to her chest. He saw the time on her watch. Damn. They’d miss him at the Snow Ball, and they’d come looking. The elevator creaked, the lights flickered and the dark enveloped them again.
“They must be trying to fix it.” She sounded hopeful.
He stood perfectly still, listening for noise beyond their breathing, but the only sound was Barry Manilow crooning overhead.
“Kill. The. Elevator. Music.” Each word rose in pitch until she was screeching. “Why play music if the stupid thing isn’t moving?”
He understood her irritation. Jingle Bells should not be crooned.
Again, the lights blinked and this time stayed on, dimmer than before. His eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness. Agitation wrinkled her forehead.
Despite their situation, joy should fill their lives, not needless negative moodiness. His plans could fall through, but he should be jolly. He swallowed, ill-equipped to deal with her age group, but he’d give it a shot. “Does the music upset you?”
“It makes me manic!” She threw her hands in the air.

Please come back tomorrow for chapter two!


Leah St. James said...

Very intriguing, Brenda! Questions. Questions. Is she really a teen, or is that just his perception from an advanced (immortal?) age? And is he really you-know-who? And why does he need a miracle? You've hooked me!

Brenda whiteside said...

Oh good Leah. I might say, nothing is as it seems...or is it?

Christine DePetrillo said...

My favorite line: All messages are delivered to the workshop. That was their job. He only checked them – twice. Great!

Brenda whiteside said...

LOL Thanks, Christine.

Rolynn Anderson said...

I liked "Jingle Bells should not be crooned." Gas fireplaces, cranky elevators...old Nick has a right to be grumbling...obstacles instead of miracles...yes! Well done, Brenda!

Jannine Gallant said...

My favorite... "He lived in a small space with small people." Perfect. He's either Santa or the Wizard of Oz. LOL Great opening, and your portrayal of the girl is excellent.

Alicia Dean said...

How fun!! I'm definitely hooked. SO many questions. Clever and humorous opening. Great job!!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Her voice, now quietly needy, slithered between his thoughts. Love that line. Doesn’t get more intrusive than that. Great beginning, Brenda. Simply great.

Barbara Edwards said...

Absolutely loved this first chapter! Will be back tomorrow.

Vonnie Davis said...

What a great first chapter! I love all the different directions this opening line is taking.

Brenda whiteside said...

I like hearing your favorite lines! Thanks, Rolynn and Jannine. And Alicia and Margo. Thank you Margo and Vonnie. And yes, this line has sent us all over the place.