A hand at the end of a fully tattooed arm grasped one of the elevator’s doors to stop it closing. Nasha Stowe had already selected her floor, and now shuffled over to the side railing to make more than enough room for the second rider. Once the doors pinged all the way back open, jingling footfalls marked the man’s entrance. Her eyes fixed on her feet now, Nasha braved only a momentary glance over at the chain-adorned motorcycle boots Tattoos was wearing.
As the elevator began to take Nasha to her floor, she became aware that she was pressing her hip uncomfortably into the hand rail and backed off just far enough. The ding of arrival set her feet in motion towards the pair of doors, which opened too slowly. Hurriedly making a departure while still keeping close to the side, Nasha tried to pretend that she hadn’t tagged the disappearing elevator door hard with her shoulder and kept walking.
At her apartment door now, Nasha threw a quick look over her shoulder. Her long blonde hair swirled about her face and her fur-lined hood fell part way off her head as she checked to make sure Tattoos hadn’t somehow developed the ability to stalk on cat’s feet before she tried her key in the door. The hall was empty.
Over the next few months, Nasha found herself sharing the elevator with Tattoos a handful more times. Occasionally she had stopped the elevator’s progress with repeated pressings of the hallway button only to find Tattoos riding inside. A few times she had to make a break for the closing doors and found him already inside, too. And, once or twice more, she had quickly shuffled to the extreme side of the elevator when she saw the colorful wrist and forearm slide between the nearly closed doors. She knew from the times that Tattoos had been first in the elevator that he lived two floors above her; a safe buffer she felt, considering the number of other twenty-something year old girls that must live between his level and hers.
The most recent of their unfortunate run-ins came about a week before Christmas. Nasha’s arms were full carrying a large package her parents had sent from back home. Toting the cumbersome brown parcel while her purse from slipping down her arm was enough, but racing for the elevator while trying to figure out a way to see around the giant box made a trifecta of challenges.
“No” she exclaimed when she saw the brown metal doors start to move. And as if she had yelled Open Sesame the doors dinged back open, and, stepping inside, Nasha let out a sigh of relief.
Straining under the weight of the package, Nasha had to boost the slipping box back up with her knee. When the elevator’s bell sounded off she glanced overhead to see what floor they were on and, to her surprise, it was hers. Stepping quickly off Nasha noticed that she was the only one exiting here. Glancing to her side, she caught a glimpse of the person who had held the elevator for her. Dressed in a black pea coat and matching scarf was a guy about her age with the cutest pair of dimples and inviting blue eyes peeking out from long straight brown hair. He was smiling, and so she shyly matched his smile as she padded down the hall. By the time she got to her door, the pleasantry had worn off and she became duly aware of how alone she was for the holidays.
Nasha woke up shivering. Pulling her sheet and blankets over her head did nothing to fight the bitter cold that crept deeper and deeper inside her bed. Shivering, she scuffed over to her radiator and found it ice cold. Blinking confusedly, she went to turn on the nearby lamp to inspect the problem, but alas it failed to give any light. Throwing open the heavy curtains from the picture window above the radiator Nasha saw an intense swirling snowstorm. The streets, sidewalks and roofs below her all looked exactly the same: pure white. The snow had obviously killed power and so she intended to walk to the super’s office. After she got dressed, of course.
Bundled up like an Eskimo in what seemed like half of her wardrobe, Nasha slid on her boots and opened her door. She pressed the elevator’s down button and even though no lights illuminated the face, it took her a moment to put two and two together.
“Stairs” she said, annoyed.
As she opened the door to the ground floor lobby she heard all manner of voices engaged in lively conversation. Stepping onto the stiffly treated carpet Nasha felt a wave of warmth blast her exposed face. Before her there were about a half-dozen other residents gathered around in single layers of clothes talking and laughing, and nodding along to stories. A few of them had coffee cups in their hands; she wondered how they got it.
Walking over to a plump, middle aged woman she had seen around the building, Nasha asked quietly, “What’s going on? I was just going to talk to the super…”
“That’s what we all thought of doing, dear” the woman replied. “And lo and behold we all found out that there’s back up heat down here.”
Nasha found a stack of folding chairs and brought one to a far corner to unfold it. The heat still reached her in the crook of the lobby, but the small talk she found uncomfortable did not. And this is how I’ll spend Christmas she lamented. Alone while everyone else is together and having fun.
The door from the stairwell swung open and a middle aged man in sweats stepped out and exhaled loudly in receipt of the heat. He walked over in his slippers to the largest congregation and dove into the conversations.
A half hour later, the door had opened a half dozen more times. Some of the residents had carried on as usual, quickly exiting the lobby for the snow globe world outside while others mingled and got warm. A few complained, some reveled, but most were accepting of the situation. Nasha felt somewhere in between.
The door swung open again and she half-heartedly peered around to see who it was. Sucking in her bottom lip as she realized it was Pea coat, Nasha felt a tickle in her stomach. He had on thick snow boots with the cuffs of ripped blue jeans pulled over. He took a quick survey around the room and just as he finished his sweep his eyes landed on Nasha. She bit her bottom lip harder and caught herself as she began to divert her gaze and forced it back upward.
He smiled and she matched his smile. There were those dimples, again. Pea coat lightly tapped one of the other residents on the shoulder and asked something about the power. While he nodded along to an answer, Nasha forced herself out of her chair and she walked on newborn fawn’s stumbling legs to just out of arm’s lengths of Pea coat.
“Alright, thanks man” Pea coat said to conclude his conversation. He turned and stopped in surprise at Nasha standing so near to him.
“Hello” he said lightly, his dimples deepening with a lip smile.
“Hi” Nasha replied shyly.
“Having a good holiday?” Pea coat’s hands were thrust deeply into his pockets. Were they still cold?
“Yeah” Nasha answered half heartedly.
“First year away from family?”
“Ah. I figured with the size of that box you were carrying a few days ago.”
“Yeah.” Another half-hearted answer tinged with shyness.
Pea coat brought his right hand out of his pocket and extended it to her.
“I’m James” he answered.
A hand at the end of the woolen coat reached out and Nasha saw the beginnings of extensive tattooing.
Taking his hand and feeling its immense warmth, she glanced into his deep blue eyes.
“Nasha,” she revealed, smiling.