Just Like a Movie
a short story
Outside, it was pouring rain, thundering, and unseasonably cold. I should’ve known when I arrived late on Sunday that my shift at the booth would come at the worst time-slot of the week. The last person to the planning meetings always gets stuck with something. To make matters worse, our company’s booth was at the end of the hallway, secluded from the rest of the convention.
Friday evening… after everyone else had already exchanged contacts, made phone calls, and was out on the town networking with clients, here I was alone, stuck manning this unwanted booth. No one was coming in tonight to ask me about my pamphlets.
The one bright spot of this whole affair was the attractive young businesswoman at the other booth on our corner of the hallway. She had a magnetic personality, ready to attract all of the potential clients who were ostensibly waiting, any minute now, just around the corner. I couldn’t help but be drawn to her instantly. Her rosy red cheeks drew her smile out wide, and her piercing blue eyes were like an ocean I could happily drown in. When she walked, her stride was purposeful and confident. The light reflected proudly off her shiny red high-heeled shoes with every step she took — click clack, click clack. And here we were: in our miserable alcove of the hallway full of dusty old cardboard boxes —like a family that moved into a new home yet strangely never bothered to unpack.
Interrupting the persistent nothingness, outside the thunder suddenly crashed, momentarily suffocating our hallway with light. Immediately after followed the flickering of old incandescent light fixtures rocking gently back and forth from the ceiling — either from the gaping drafts of the tall windows or the actual swaying of the decades-old building in the wind.
Yet among all this, the two of us stood there, idle. Shrugging off the monotony, I knew I had to strike up a conversation with my hallway companion. But every thought that crossed my mind sounded like one of those awful attempts at a pick-up line. Saying anything at all had to be better than standing there awkwardly, I thought.
“Is it just me, or does this night have all the makings of a horror movie?” I asked. Her eyes darted over to my booth and gave me a sharp glance. I panicked and tried again. “I mean… two random people meeting late at night, in some dimly lit hallway…” What — what was I saying? I immediately hated myself for sounding so creepy. She smiled flatly for as long as is socially required, and then returned her attention to scanning the hallway for potential clients.
After a painful silence, I started laughing awkwardly. “Sorry,” I blurted out, fully aware of how uncomfortable I was being. She gave a hesitant glance. “For someone who works in customer relations, I’m surprisingly awful at striking up a conversation. It’s kind of impressive, really.” By some strange miracle, she was at least smiling now, too.
“I know exactly what you mean,” she said. “I’m good at what I do when it’s time to work, but ‘turning it on’ for customers all the time is exhausting.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But we do it for that huge paycheck!” Finally… a casual remark! Not wishing to appear to bask in my success, I turned my attention to my pamphlets, casually straightening the piles on my table as I tried my best to stop looking like I was trying my best.
She laughed. “Oh right, that paycheck! But, um, it’s kind of hard to make a killing in a deserted hallway like this,” she said with a wry smile. I looked over just in time to catch a playful glance, before she checked herself.
It was then I realized the true opportunity at hand. If I played my cards right, this night actually had all the makings of a romance movie! The rule now was to keep everything cool — but my nervous hands were repeatedly straightening the already-straight piles of pamphlets.
I risked another glance over at her and caught her glancing the same. Now her nervous hands rushed to occupy themselves with her hair as she coyly tried to hide her blushing face. She seemed to realize what she was doing, as she quickly turned away and made herself to appear busy.
I wondered to myself, “Was that a subtle invitation? At the very least, that was a good sign, right? But, of course, I couldn’t just walk over there — I mean, I didn’t want to make it completely obvious that I was hitting on her. Or, is that actually the whole point? Right — of course, I should make it clear that I’m interested… right?”
I suddenly realized how awkward I must have looked standing there gape-jawed and staring off into the distance, lost in deep debate with no one. I casually looked over my booth’s display as I walked to the front of my table. I glanced over to see if she was again looking my way (she was), and I walked over to properly introduce myself.
“Hi,” I said, with a smile.
“Hi,” she said, smiling back.
We talked about everything and nothing for a length of time I could not account for. I remember proudly noting to myself that my performance was the very definition of “turning it on for a potential client.” Words and laughter played at each other as though our conversation were a casual game of tennis, while, among the playful banter, the minute-hand on the wall counted down the time remaining for us at our posts.
She reached out her arm and touched my shoulder as she laughed. My consciousness rushed back to attention. “That is a sign!” I thought to myself. I wasn’t going to stand around and hold another debate with myself this time. I turned towards her and let my hand rest on her back, slowly tracing my fingers along her shoulder blade as I gently guided her towards me with the palm of my hand. As she moved close to me her face grew sanguine with blush, while she alternated indecisively between staring into my eyes and bashfully looking off to the side.
I lifted her chin with my left hand until her gaze locked with mine, and then slid my hand along her jaw line to the back of her neck, running my fingers through her hair as her eyes fell shut. Our faces lowered slowly towards each other until our foreheads met. And as though searching for a light switch in the dark, my lips stumbled upon hers. Then as we pulled each other closer, her warm tongue found mine. She paused just long enough for me to realize how surreal it all was… as though I was no longer in this hallway at all, but was floating up into the clouds. My lips felt her smile grow wide. She grabbed my hair with her fist as she resumed our kiss, while her other hand fumbled around on her desk behind me.
My eyes flew open as I felt a sudden piercing pain between my ribs. She clenched me closer still with her embrace. The side of my body grew hot and wet with blood as she tugged her hand back and forth, back and forth. I was now both completely lost and yet acutely aware, as the outside world grew gray and numb while the core of my being learned every twist of her knife. My jaw hung open, paralyzed with shock. My brain was screaming, “What is happening? What is happening?” but no words came out.
She plunged the blade deep into my side, piercing my lungs. I gasped horribly. My legs quivered, but she held me upright. I wheezed, coughing blood into her hair. She waited to hear one last desperate breath, and then lowered me gently to my knees. I collapsed to the floor with the handle of the knife left prominently mounted in my side. She turned and walked away as the flickering lights flashed off her shiny red high-heeled shoes — click clack, click clack. “My God,” I thought, as the lights finally went out — “it was a horror movie.”