Aidan didn't expect to see Laura running into the elevator after him. She mumbled an apathetic thanks and leaned against the far corner. She crossed her arms and said nothing, lips pursed as the doors shut and the lift descended. She obviously wasn't coming after him.
A guttural grinding noise echoed in the shaft around them. Aidan looked up to the ceiling, for all the good that would do, just as the elevator lurched and came to a sudden halt.
"You've gotta be kidding," Laura muttered under her breath. She pushed past him and thumbed the Emergency Call. It rang four times before an operator answered.
Aidan zoned out while they talked. The night was catching up with him, despite the shower and a fresh shirt, and if they were really stuck, there wasn't going to be anything they could do about it. Laura wasn't rude, but it was clear she had an assertive streak. He could respect that. But he still felt sorry for the guy. When he caught the words "a couple of hours", he withered inside and slid down the back wall of the elevator.
She rolled her eyes, glancing at him before sitting down too, as far as she could get from him in this small space. The way she sighed and rubbed her temples made him uneasy, and suddenly too aware of the situation waiting for him back home.
"This is just great." Her voice cracked a little.
"It could be worse." Aidan cringed at his flimsy response, but he was keen for the distraction.
"Thanks, Mr. Brightside," she snapped. "Sorry. I'm sure you were just making conversation, but this is a pretty crap situation."
"Are you this much of a downer at parties too? Oh wait..." He shouldn't have said that. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he recoiled from them.
For a moment, it looked like she was going to give him another serve, but she just laughed. It was a barbed laugh, but a laugh all the same. "You're no picnic yourself."
"Yeah, guess not." He fidgeted with the umbrella. "So...what was the deal upstairs? Did you used to have an eating disorder or something?"
Laura scowled at him. "Are you serious?"
"I'm sorry. I don't know what I can and can't say now. I didn't know you'd take what I said that way and I want to understand why. I mean it."
She studied him for what felt like a full minute before her expression softened. She picked at the end of a thread near the seam of her boots.
"I've never had an eating disorder. It's just not a good thing to say to girls— to women. We're already under a lot of pressure to look a certain way, act a certain way. It's just...you just don't say stuff like that to a woman you don't know, all right? Guys do that kind of thing all the time and it's not cool. You don't know what people have been through."
He nodded. Laura gathered her hair over one shoulder and combed her fingers through it. It reminded him too much of things he wanted to forget and his toes twitched inside his shoes.
"Hey," he ventured, still rolling the umbrella in his hands, "sorry about before. You're right, I shouldn't have said that. It wasn't even that good a joke anyway. And, um, sorry for giving you stick at the wedding too."
She eyed him suspiciously. Boy, what a story she must have to be this suspicious of an apology. Aidan didn't push it. In the end, it wasn't up to him whether she accepted it or not.
But she smiled. "Apology accepted. Maybe you're not that big an arse after all."
"No, I can assure you I am, but I usually make people wait a few months before telling them."
She laughed again. He decided he liked the sound of it.
"So what's your story then?" she asked. "Wait, let me guess. You're some hot shot investment banker who was looking to pick up at a friend of a friend's wedding, but when no one talked to you, you thought having a tanty would be a way to get attention?"
"Ouch! You really go for the jugular, don't you?"
"Am I wrong?"
"Yes, you are so wrong. But you don't need to hear my story. It's pretty pathetic."
Now it was his turn to sigh. He set the umbrella to one side. "All right, but you're not allowed to judge me."