The weather matches her mood. Miserable with no sign of improvement. Lizzie stands with her face pressed up against the window and gazes into the distance. The dark clouds are so heavy they sink into the swirling grey seawater and a thin layer of mist looks like it’s been smeared across the horizon.
Her mum would call it filthy weather. Lizzie can’t disagree. The torrential downpour has given way to incessant drizzle and her eyes follow the raindrops as they trickle down the glass.
From her vantage point on the fourteenth floor, she watches the people on the quayside below as they weave between puddles and dodge errant umbrellas. A lone sailboat pitches from side to side as it slices through the churning water.
Lizzie jumps as a text message breaks the silence. It’s from her mum: “Good luck. Your dad and I are thinking about you. Are you sure…”
She can’t face reading anymore. Switching off her phone, she tucks it back inside her pocket.
Lizzie hears the tinkling of porcelain cups and sees movement reflected in the window. As she turns round, she watches Naomi kick the meeting room door shut behind her as she balances a tray of drinks in her hands.
“They’ll be up in a minute. Miranda has just buzzed from reception,” she said, pinching a jammy dodger from the plate of biscuits. “Are shou alls shet?”
Lizzie arches an eyebrow.
“Sorry,” said Naomi, swallowing and leaning across the table to grab a chocolate digestive. “I skipped breakfast and I’m starving! I asked if you were all set?”
Lizzie shrugs her shoulders and leans against the window ledge. Is she? She catches sight of her reflection in the glass and flinches when she finds herself looking into her own eyes. She tucks her hair behind her ears and turns away. She hasn’t seen him in over a month. It’s the first Christmas she’s spent without him. Just a couple of texts. ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Have a Happy New Year’.
Happy New Year? Sure.
“They’re here,” said Naomi, slipping into her jacket and giving Lizzie’s arm a gentle squeeze.
Lizzie positions herself at the far corner of the mahogany table facing the door.
Smoothing out the wrinkles on her trousers, she’d hoped her favorite dark grey interview suit would bring her luck and make her feel confident. But instead, she feels as drab and lackluster as the January skies.
The lift doors start to open, and Lizzie breathes in and out slowly, trying to ignore how sick she feels. Then he’s there. Rory Locke. Her soon to be ex-husband.
He laughs as he shakes the raindrops from his dark curls and holding out his arm, he lets the woman exit the lift ahead of him. He skips a couple of steps in front of her so he can hold the meeting room door open for her.
Always the gentleman. Bastard. Lizzie narrows her eyes and stands up as he walks in behind his lawyer.
“Lizzie,” he said, giving her a curt nod as he places his briefcase at the opposite end of the table from her.
She sits down quite rigid in her seat and looks at him from underneath her eyelashes. He looks just the same. No, not quite the same. He looks fine. Clearly this divorce isn’t troubling him at all.
As he leans over to whisper something in his lawyer’s ear, she notices he’s wearing the cufflinks she bought him in Greece. She’d spent several weeks island hopping with her friends until she realized how much she missed him and caught an earlier plane home. How dare he wear those.
His lawyer throws her head back and laughs before touching him on his forearm. Lizzie feels the anger swirl in her chest, and it takes every ounce of self-control not to launch herself across the table.
She squeezes her eyes shut and tries to remember the techniques she’s been using to stay calm in stressful situations. Her mind draws a blank. All she wants to do is flip the table and storm out.
Lizzie breathes out slowly. Feeling Naomi nudge her shoulder, she snaps her eyes open and gives her a crooked smile. She’s so relieved her friend agreed to act as her lawyer. It feels good to have someone she trusts in her corner.
“Shall we get down to business?” said his lawyer. Lizzie didn’t catch her name when she introduced herself earlier, and she isn’t about to ask now. It’s bound to be on the stack of legal documents she’s going to have to sign soon enough.
She only half-listens as she hears phrases like division of assets and separate bank accounts. She looks at Rory who is nodding in agreement and jotting down notes in his file. Is this what their relationship has come to? Just an inventory of goods to be carved up and redistributed? The words on Naomi’s laptop blur as Lizzie blinks back tears.
“… There are no children involved,” said his lawyer, looking round the table and smiling. “So that makes everything so much easier and quicker.”
Lizzie stiffens. The pain in her chest is making it hard to breathe, let alone talk. “That’s correct. No children. We’re all good there,” she said icily.
She glares at Rory. His cheeks redden and he fiddles with his pen, not quite able to meet her gaze.
His lawyer misses the exchange and continues to click through the forms on her laptop: “So we should be able to submit the paperwork to the court within the next few days meaning the divorce should be finalized before the summer.”
Lizzie sits quite still and stares into space. The summer. It sounds more like a far-off land than a different season. It feels so desolate and bleak today that she can’t imagine the weather being warm again. Or if she’ll ever be happy again.
She stumbles out of her seat when she realizes that everyone is already standing up. Rory shakes hands with his lawyer and turns to speak to Naomi.
Lizzie can’t stand it. She gathers up her belongings and grabs her bag that’s hooked over the back of the chair. “Thanks everyone. Catch you later” she calls as she bolts through the door. She hesitates as she reaches the lobby. She hates lifts. If she hadn’t been wearing such stupid high heels, she would have taken the stairs, all fourteen floors of them.
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Rory reaching for the door handle. That settles it. She pushes the button and offers up a silent prayer when the doors ping open immediately.
She steps inside and as she looks back towards the meeting room, she catches Naomi pointing to her mobile phone and mouthing ‘I’ll ring you later’.
She slumps back against the rail and sighs with relief. But just as the metal shutters start to slide closed, a briefcase is jammed into the gap and the lift doors are wrenched open. Rory steps inside.
“You could have waited for the next one,” said Lizzie, scowling and pressing herself into the corner furthest away from the doors.
He glares back at her: “You’re not the only one who wants to get out of here.”
As the lift descends, she watches the floors click by. She can’t bear to even look at him. If only she’d taken the stairs.
Just as they approach the tenth floor, there’s an ominous clunking noise followed by the sound of grinding metal. The lift shudders to a halt. Lizzie freezes and glowers at Rory.
“Don’t look at me. It’s not my fault,” he said. “It’s not like I’d want this to happen.”
“Well press the emergency button,” she snaps. “You’re standing right by it.”
Rory shrugs and pushes it. After several seconds of nothing but static and crackling, a bored female voice asks, “what’s up?”
“Our lift has just stopped. We’re stuck between the tenth and ninth floors,” said Rory.
“Which lift?” asks the voice.
Lizzie pushes Rory out of the way: “What do you mean which lift? How many lifts have you got that are broken? He’s just told you that we’re stuck between the ninth and tenth floors.”
“I meant are you on the north or south side of the building?” asks the operator calmly.
“The south side,” growls Lizzie.
“Okay doke,” said the woman brightly. “I’m just paging the engineer now. Stay where you are, it shouldn’t be long!”
“It had better not be,” muttered Lizzie once the call was disconnected. “What?” she snaps at Rory.
He shakes his head and continues tapping out something on his phone. “Just calm down okay. It could be worse.”
Lizzie narrows her eyes and is just about to tell him where he can stick being calm, when the lights flicker, and the lift is plunged into darkness.
“Oh brilliant. Well done! This is your fault for saying that it could be worse,” said Lizzie slapping the wall. “Well now it is. All we need now is a fire. I’ve seen the films. Honestly, it would be just my luck.”
Rory doesn’t say a word, but she hears him sigh in the darkness. Lizzie closes her eyes and slides down the wall to sit on the floor. She presses her face up against the cool metal. It’s probably not hygienic, she thinks, but she’s past caring.
She sees Rory’s phone light up and watches his fingers fly over the screen. She’s just about to ask him who he’s messaging, when she’s interrupted by a hissing noise and a different voice comes over the speaker.
“Hi folks. This is Gary, your engineer. I’m just running a complete diagnostic test on the system now. Shouldn’t take long and we’ll have you out of there ASAP.”
“I hope so Gary. I’ve always hated lifts and now I’m trapped in here with my ex-husband…”
“We’re still married, so technically I’m not your ex… Yet,” snaps Rory.
Lizzie isn’t sure if she hears Gary gulp, but there’s a long pause before he says that he’ll get back to them.
She stretches her legs out and arches her back. The lift floor isn’t comfortable. She stares into the gloom and realizes that Rory isn’t standing up anymore either. He’s squashed himself into the far corner of the lift away from her.
Opposing corners. Lizzie bites her lip. Is this what it’s come to. She’d always thought their relationship could withstand anything. That he’d always be on her side, but now? There’s so much she wants to say to him, but she doesn’t know where to start.
Rory’s phone screen lights up again.
“You’re very popular,” she said, clenching her jaw. “Sorting out your social calendar?”
“It’s mum. She wants to know how you are. Her and dad send their love.”
Lizzie feels her eyes prickle and she rests her head in her hands. What a mess. How did they even get to this point? She never used to be like this. So snappy and unreasonable, but now she doesn’t think she can stop. She chews her lip and feels relieved when Gary’s voice cuts across her thoughts, breaking the silence.
“Hi folks. I’m sorry about this, but someone has added an extra safety mechanism to the network. The command ‘reset your password’ keeps flashing up but I didn’t know the lift system was even password protected. I’m going to have to call head office and ask for advice.”
Lizzie shuts her eyes and shakes her head. “Are we ever going to get out of here?”
She hears Rory shuffle across the floor to sit next to her. He clicks open his briefcase and there’s a rustle of papers and crinkling of foil.
“Do you want a sandwich?” he asks. “Tuna and mayonnaise. Pretty good. Mum made them for me. I think she’s trying to feed me up.”
Lizzie smiles. “I miss your mum.”
“She misses you too,” said Rory. He pauses and coughs. “I miss you. I still don’t understand why it all went so wrong.”
“You know what went wrong. I couldn’t have kids. End of story.”
Rory exhales sharply: “It wasn’t end of story for me. I promised to love you in sickness and in health and I meant it. Or didn’t our wedding vows mean anything to you?”
“Of course they meant something! But then everything changed. I changed!”
“What? Because the doctors said you couldn’t have children? We could have…”
“No!” shouts Lizzie. “No.” Her breathing is ragged: “You have no idea what it’s like. No idea how much it hurts when people ask you when you’re going to have kids. And they tell you to hurry up and get pregnant as you’re not getting any younger…”
“It’s nobody else’s business.”
“But everyone makes it their business,” she said, banging her fist on the floor and spitting out the words. “And you’re told over and over again that you can’t be as tired as they are because you don’t have children and how lucky you are that you can just go out for dinner and don’t have to worry about babysitters.”
She cuts him off: “And I just have to smile and laugh and pretend that it doesn’t hurt. Or worse yet, when I tell them that I can’t have kids, I have to endure their looks of pity. But you know what, I can see relief on their faces too. Relief that it hasn’t happened to them. It’s just so bloody unfair…”
She breaks off, gasping as the tears roll down her cheeks. Rory pushes a handkerchief into her hand, and she dabs at her face.
“So, I didn’t think it was fair that you were stuck with me. I know how much you wanted kids.”
“I did want children. I do want children, but we could have adopted or fostered. You just shut down and didn’t want to talk about it. You acted like I was to blame. Do you know how cruel you could be?”
“I wasn’t cruel,” she retorts. But she feels her cheeks burn when the little voice in her head says: “You were. You wanted him to hurt as much as you did.”
“You pushed me away. I thought moving back home would give you the space you needed and then you’d realize how much you missed me,” whispers Rory. “But that clearly didn’t work.”
“I thought you’d given up on me. Not that I blamed you, but…”
“I should have stayed. I just didn’t know how to make it better. My mum was right. I shouldn’t have left. I should’ve kept trying. I’m sorry,” he said.
She hears the catch in his voice: “I’m sorry too.”
“Okay folks. Gary again. We’re nearly there! Head office is resetting the system remotely. Should be less that five minutes. Hold tight and stay where you are!”
Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Stay where we are? What a stupid thing to say. Where are we going to go?”
Rory chuckles and bumps her shoulder, before reaching down and taking hold of her hand. “It’s not too late to try again.”
“We’ve already started to get divorced.”
“So! We can stop the process and try again.”
“I don’t know. I mean, what if it doesn’t work out?
“At least we’ll have tried.”
“Why would you even want to when I’ve been so awful.”
“I’ve never stopped loving you. Or thinking about you. I miss you.” He pauses and she can feel him smiling in the darkness. “And I miss the way you sing along to the radio and use the spatula as a microphone when you’re cooking. And I miss the way you look when I’ve forgotten to put sugar in your coffee…”
Lizzie lets herself be pulled into a hug and she feels tears roll down her cheeks as she presses up against his chest.
“We never seemed able to find a neutral place to talk,” he said. “I guess this was it.”
Lizzie blinks as the lights suddenly flash back on and the lift starts to move. Rory jumps up and brushes the dirt from his trousers before reaching down and holding out his hand.
As the doors open, Lizzie looks through the large windows at the entrance to the lobby. The rain has stopped, and she can see rays of sunlight reflected in the puddles outside.
Just as they’re about to leave, Gary’s voice comes over the speaker: “Thanks for your patience, guys. Sorry about that. You’ll never guess what the password was? Time out. Weird huh? Anyway, I’ve reset it, so if you ever get stuck again, I’ve changed it to start over.”
Lizzie smiles as Rory puts his arm around her shoulder and together, they step out into the sunshine.
About the Creator
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