Emmaline’s Story – On the Inside
You Can’t Get There From Here
I postponed our meeting until after I’d met with Helen. It seemed an eternity until goon and B left for break and I was edgy. They suspected me of everything. I knew that. I also knew I was entirely guilty but they had it coming.
B and goon headed for the elevator just outside the front door. I presumed it went to a lunch room or eatery of some sort among other floors and places.
Helen must have been anxious too. When I entered the bathroom, she was already there. I pulled myself up on the ledge by the sink and she sat next to me.
“Ready,” I asked extending my finger.
Helen looked ecstatic and admitted, “I’m happy to finally feel like I’m a part of things. I’m officially one of you.”
My heart ached, “Oh, Helen,” I said, “You have always been one of us. Honest, I never meant to make you feel otherwise. We can’t do anything significant without you. If I asked to move you to our room, goon would see to it that you were moved further away.”
“No,” she confided, “You didn’t make me feel alienated, I just don’t get to share with you guys much since I’m not in your room. I’ve just been an insecure goof.”
“Hold on a sec,” I said, “You’re no goof and that’s my friend you’re putting down. It’s perfectly fine to feel insecure. No one here is exactly on solid ground,” I said, rolling my eyes at the absurdity, “Hell, that’s why we’re all here. I’m sorry, Helen.”
“It’s okay. It’s not your fault and besides,” she said, “tonight we rock the place!”
“Absolutely,” I laughed, and reached to hug her.
I extracted the makeshift tools from my hospital sock, explaining, “I collected utensils from meals and found a nice-sized rock to sharpen some and flatten others, “and these,” I said, holding out some pieces that were sturdier, “I melted together with a lighter I found buried by the fence.”
Helen took them from me turning them over to inspect them. “What, exactly, do you want me to do,” she inquired.
“If you can, I want you to rewire the elevator,” I smirked, “and I want it floating from floor to floor and bouncing around, stopping randomly but not on ground or at the break room. Can you do that?”
Helen didn’t answer right away and I could almost see the gears turning.
“Will these work,” I asked, eyeing the utensils.
“I think,” She said uncertainly, “I hope so. Let me try,” she replied more brightly.
“That’s all I ask,” I giggled wickedly.
“Oh, you are evil! Can you imagine how pissed goon will be?”
“Exactly,” I said, grinning mischievously, “but this also has to do with frustration and helplessness,” I explained.
I pulled the list from my elastic waistband and my other list; the list of what to say to Danica fell out. “Whoops!”
I fumbled grabbing the folded paper to stuff it back in my waistband, and then pulled a pencil from my sock.
“What’s that,” Helen asked.
“Later,” I said hurriedly, “No time right now.”
I made a mental note to shred the useless list into confetti and flush it, or eat it if I had to. Then I looked over my shoulder to check the door, “Meet ya back here at four,” I said hurriedly.
“Okay,” she agreed, sliding silently from our perch.
I took the utensils from her and stuffed them into her sock. We made the usual bathroom noises and, having arrived ahead of me, she left first. Returning to my room, I heard B and goon enter just as I clicked the door closed.
The girls were already forming a circle when I motioned frantically, jumped into bed and hauled the covers up. They followed suit and we waited in silence. Return rounds came and went.
Later I took a chance, tiptoed to Danica and touched her finger. She turned to face me and I leaned down explaining, “Tonight could take a while. If you want to talk later, get some rest now if you can.”
“Sounds good to me, sis,” she replied, stretching.
“You sure,” I asked, “There’s always tomorrow night.”
“Let’s try for tonight,” she said, “If I fall asleep, we will make tomorrow a given,” She smiled up at me.
“Great. That’ll work,” I told her.
“What are you and Helen going to do,” she inquired with a grin.
“Oh no,” I said in a hushed tone, “You’ll have to wait and see this time,” I chuckled, tiptoeing back to bed.
The front door clicked shut and B’s voice became a drone and then silence ensued. I cracked our door and checked the front desk. They were gone.
I looked back down the hall as Helen cracked her door and I motioned for her to come. She got a running start and skidded in her socks across the slick floor. I smiled happily, knowing we were both terribly pleased she would finally be included.
“Before we do this,” I cautioned, “I cannot tell you how important it is that if you get as much as a feeling that someone might be coming; that we could get caught, or any uneasy feeling, I want you to drop what you’re doing and haul ass for the nearest hiding place, even if it’s an uncomfortable night sharing my cement slab.”
Helen’s face was absolute seriousness until she descended into a fit of the giggles. “I know,” she chortled, “The beds are conducive to doing penance or something, anything but sleep!”
I laughed with her until we reached the front doors. We both stopped and held our collective breath. I pushed and she pulled. We turned to each other and switched sides doing it again.
“Damn it all,” I hissed.
“Wait a sec,” Helen said, moving to reach toward the top on tiptoe.
“What are you looking for,” I asked.
“There should be,” she stopped mid-sentence and felt around higher than she could see. A moment later, I heard a loud click and spring. Then she finished, beaming proudly, “an emergency fire button!”
“Way to go, elevator gal!”
I pushed the door open with one hand and patted her on the back with the other. We scrambled for the elevator knowing time was getting short.
Helen hopped in and I followed. She pushed a button and the doors closed. She managed to remove the faceplate without too much trouble and, while watching her replace one wire with another, I was fascinated by how much she seemed to know innately.
No doubt about it, the girl is spectacularly smart, I thought while watching intently.
Helen pushed the faceplate back on explaining that she had rigged the elevator to stop at the break room once and never again. To me, that was code for, ‘The elevator will pick up B and goon to take them on a ridiculous ride until they get frustrated, and feel helpless enough, to exit on some other floor and walk.’ It was precisely what I wanted.
Helen had bought us precious minutes. Just as I was wondering if we should hide under the stairs for the night, she gave us just enough time to run for it. I made it to my room and watched as Helen shut her door just in time. Heaving a relieved sigh, I leapt into bed and listened.
B was voicing her frustration, “Wasn’t that weird,” she asked goon.
“No more weird than the other things the mice have been up to lately,” was Na’s disgruntled reply.
When the cats are away, the mice will play! I laughed to myself.
“Maybe it was just a fluke,” B said.
“Yea and I’m a monkey’s uncle,” goon returned.
Yep! I thought so!
Again, goon rounded on us immediately but found nothing she could pin on us. She left with an infuriated warning to me, “I’m watching you, missy! One step out of line, just one!”
Goon closed the door and I smirked silently, I don’t know Missy but I reckon she’d best watch her step!
We waited until B and goon’s voices were a soft buzz at the front desk before we moved into our circle. Danica was nearly ready to burst, “What the heck did you guys do,” she asked, peering at me with astonished eyes.
“Not me,” I said, “Helen! She’s a genius!”
Marie and Danica looked at each other and then Marie said, “I thought she fixed elevators?”
“Yeesss,” I drew the word out in a smug, self-satisfied voice.
“You didn’t! You couldn’t have possibly,” Danica began.
I cut her off, “No. I can’t, but Helen can!”
I wanted to make a big deal for Helen. I hadn’t realized just how left out she had been feeling, and tonight was an amazing coup d’état. I was so proud of her and wanted the girls to fuss over her.
Again, they looked at each other and Danica turned to me hissing, “Spill!”
It was my turn to combat a fit of hilarity, “Okay! Okay, here it is,” I took a moment to collect myself and explained what I’d asked Helen to attempt. All of us, even I, was stupefied that she pulled it off. “If this were the working world, Helen is Executive Management, and I was one step away from flipping burgers and asking ‘Would you like fries with that?’”
I explained how she had found the emergency lock and gave Danica and Marie enough of the story, omitting details, to know they would pry Helen for details.
“Holy cow,” Marie whispered her amazement, “If I ever have to be in a fight, I want you two on my side!”
“Likewise,” Danica laughed.
“Deal,” I said with a smile.
The following morning, breakfast was perfect for once.
“For how long,” Marie asked Helen, “The elevator is just bouncing around all over the place?”
“Kind of,” she smirked, “I rigged it to pick them up at the break room and then bounce around, stopping on any floor except the break room or ground.”
“So they bounced around until they had to exit on another floor and take the stairs,” Danica asked, her eyes filled with exuberance.
“Yep,” I chimed in with the intent of war games, “and it will continue to until they feel aggravated, frustrated, and helpless enough to call the repairman, or woman,” I smiled at Helen, and then turned away from the desk overlooking the long table, laughing and holding my stomach.
Helen seemed to walk taller after that. She was also more talkative and I was pleased that circumstances conspired to bring us closer. It was a happy day for us.
Under cover of night, I took out my list and crossed off frustration, aggravation, and helplessness. The girls leaned in to see what I was doing.
“The big picture is,” I whispered holding up the list, “war games have a point.”
“Damn,” Marie giggled, “We’re good!”
“Damn straight,” I laughed softly.
“What’s next,” Danica inquired.
“Bed,” I said, stifling a yawn.
“No, I mean for goon and B!”
“Ummm, rest,” I dodged, avoiding the question for now, “Okay, off to bed. Even warring women need sleep.”
With that, we repaired to our beds. Danica and I moved our pillows back to the lower end and looped pinkies. We lay there in silence until I could hear Marie’s breathing deepen, and then I asked Danica, “Where did I leave off?”
“No good deed went unpunished and your unavailable brother,” she sighed.
I smiled to myself.
We both just want to be each other’s family and be happy, I thought, why can’t anything ever just be easy?
I decided to take her advice and just start anywhere, “I think, besides marrying at a young age, the folks couldn’t deal with losing their sacrificial lamb. I mean let’s face it; I was the one they could count on beating down on a constant basis. I don’t know, maybe that helped them feel better about their miserable lives. Then they had the audacity to ask me why I had such low self-esteem.”
“Good grief, Em’, when the mailman delivers, does your address just say ‘Hell,’” she asked, sympathizing with me.
“Pretty much, yea,” I said, with absolutely sincerity.
“It’s been pretty repetitive for most of my life. It’s like an avalanche; nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and impossible to stop.”
“This happened every day,” she asked.
“Yes. It was more heaped on top of more, and more, and more. I couldn’t take one more word. I swear to God, Danica, I’d rather die, so I did the math and that was the best answer for everybody in my world.”
“Wow, so they finally broke you,” she said, pondering my circumstances, “Ever since you can remember?”
“For as long as I’ve been alive,” I admitted. This is not to imply that I actually lived. I died steadily, little by little, every day. I just wanted, no needed, to put myself out of their misery and mine.”
“Holy hell, Em’! You can’t go back there! You’re not insane but they sure are.”
“I know,” I said, breaking down for the first time, “I don’t know what to do,” I admitted with tears stinging my eyes.
Danica held my hand tightly and offered, “I don’t know how yet, but we’re going to be fine. We’ll figure it out together.”
She sat for a moment, gripping my pinky tightly, each of us lost in our own thoughts, until she murmured, “We’re a real pair. You’re the sacrificial lamb tied to the whipping post and I’m the invisible daughter.”
“Exactly,” I agreed, sobbing and trying to haul myself together again. We should think about getting an apartment together,” she said, glancing toward the door.
We both moved our pillows back and Danica tucked me in like a child. I wiped my tears and whispered my thanks as she left me with words to ponder. We had almost opposite lives. How the hell did we wind up in the same place?
Posted with special thanks to a cousin who did this in college, due to water balloon wars, and paid harshly for it. You rock, cuz!