High Chaparral (Flash Fiction)
I tried not to make eye contact but I knew as soon as I entered the lift. It was her. The infamous first girlfriend from way back when people used to call me pizza face for fun. She glanced at me in the full length mirrors of the doors. I looked away and acted as though I didn’t recognise her.
I begged for someone else to get in. Anyone will do, I thought, at this point even the flirtatious old-age pensioner they hired as a receptionist. Don’t make me to talk to . . . oh shit, what’s her name? Annabelle, Anne, Áine . . .?
The metal doors clanged shut and with them, any hope I had to flee the scene. This is when I started to sweat. It would look odd to press the open doors button now, wouldn’t it? Probably, and what would I say anyway; oh, sorry, forgot my briefcase in the office? This isn’t the fifties, Charley.
It was impossible not to make eye contact but I did my best by whipping out my phone and checking random news websites. Even Brexit was a welcome reprieve from the dire situation I found myself in.
‘Hi Charles,’ she said at last. ‘How are you?’
I looked up and shrugged.
‘Eh, you know, alright, I guess.’
‘You work here, in Revenue?’
No, I thought, I’m here for the fascinating architecture and electrifying personalities.
‘I sure do,’ I said.
Shouldn’t we be at the ground floor by now? I asked myself. As the thought passed through my mind, the lift came to a shuddering standstill, the lights went out and a red blinker flooded the metal coffin.
‘Crap,’ I said, glancing at my watch, ‘they said they were doing work on the lifts right about now. Completely slipped my mind.’
‘Oh yeah,’ what’s-her-face said. ‘Fuck.’
‘We should probably use the SOS phone,’ she said, pointing at the wall.
‘That’s the system they’re repairing.’
‘Oh yeah, right.’
A dead silence followed. I racked my brain for topics I could discuss with the girl I dumped because, and I quote, “I never found you attractive in the first place.” You can imagine how that went down. I’ll give you a clue, it ends in –ite.
That’s three years ago, I told myself, she probably doesn’t even remember.
‘So, have you dated anyone nice since you dumped me for not being attractive enough for a movie star like yourself?’
‘It’s okay, Charles, I don’t hold grudges,’ she said with a sadistic smile, ‘even against pricks like you.’
‘I’ve dated loads of nice guys since then. Guys who didn’t tell me I looked like a horse.’
‘Now, in my defence, you did ask me which animal I thought you most resembled.’
She put her hands on her hips.
‘You were meant to say something cute like a kitten or a koala, anything but a horse!’
‘I didn’t say your whole body was like a horse.’
‘Well, I should hope not, do I look like I have a tail to you?’
Yeah, I thought, a big ol’ forked one.
‘You’re always trying to cause a fight, aren’t you?’ I asked.
‘No I’m not. Only with you.’
Stick the earphones in, drown the mean lady out with some nice Schubert. Schubert doesn’t judge.
‘Well, nice talking to you.’
‘Don’t you dare reach for your earphones, I know your game. You and your ridiculous classical music.’
‘Now, I would never.’
She looked me up and down.
‘You don’t even remember my name, do you?’
‘That is highly insulting. We dated for four months, of course I remember.’
Christine, it’s got to be Christine. Oh shit, wait, no, Christine was the one who resembled an annoyed giraffe.
‘Go on then, let’s hear it, what’s my name?’
Choose a letter by God, it’s bound to be one of them. Unfortunately for me, the first letter which came to mind was ‘h’.
She stuck me across the face with all the kick of a mighty filly, a thought I naturally kept to myself.
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