Daniel and Sylvia (Part 2)

      The bank of six elevators lined the hallway just outside the entrance to Baroque’s. Three to the left, three to the right, like two teams faced off to play some mechanical blinking game. The panels on the last door to the left were beginning to shut and he dashed forward hoping he would make it in time. 

     As he threw his arm out to keep the doors from shutting all the way, a flurry of thoughts spun inside his head. He thought of how cliché he felt, running after the girl like in every chick-flick he'd been coerced into watching. When those predictive scenes came on he would wonder if it was really possible for two people to experience a love so strong they would actually run like a maniac down a city street. Now, he realized, he was one of those lovestruck fools.

     Even with all the thoughts and questions he had spinning in his head, the one he needed answered first was: What was she doing in his town?!

     When Sylvia left him five years ago she was living in a little town outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico, or so she told him. Now, he didn’t know what to believe.
     Daniel had been vacationing on Isla de Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico’s coast, when he saw Sylvia for the very first time. He had purposefully rented a single villa for three weeks after his first full year at his new job. His boss had promoted him six months earlier to Senior Sales Associate and for the first time in his life made a six-figure income. He had achieved these goals without taking a single day off or even vacation time. When his year was up and his boss handed him his latest bonus check, Daniel hesitantly said he wanted to take a few weeks off to reboot so he could have an even better next year. Daniel had moved up pretty fast in the company in a short time yet wasn’t sure Craig would let him take the time off. He had a reputation of being difficult to work for but Daniel never had any problems with him. He was hoping this wasn’t going to be the first.
     Craig was an ex college football player but the 30 years since hadn’t been kind to his body. He hulked in at over 300 pounds on his 6 foot frame and always had a disheveled look about him.
     His boss seemed to give it some thought then offered his massive hand to Daniel and said he could have his three weeks off if he waited two weeks to take them; a fair compromise. Even though Daniel knew where he wanted to go, he still had some planning to do so was willing to oblige. Allowing Craig’s hand to swallow his, he replied, “Deal.”
     The elevator doors clapped against his arm and immediately sprung back open. He straightened himself and noticed his heart was racing even faster than before as the doors unveiled the sea of faces before him. His eyes pinballed from face to face trying to find Sylvia; certainly this was the elevator she had gotten on! The car was packed and the last face his eyes landed on was hers. She was standing stoic as a statue in the back corner behind a couple he remembered from the restaurant. The way she was staring at the digital floor indicator, he could tell she knew he was getting on. Besides the couple from the restaurant there was a group of three 20-somethings standing in the middle of the car which forced him to take the front corner crosswise from Sylvia.
     The doors closed and he felt the car begin to descend. Not being able to turn towards Sylvia or even elbow his way towards her, he took the time to examine the floor buttons with hope of figuring out where she was heading. He noticed the “L” button wasn’t lit which meant she was staying in the hotel. Why was she here? Who was the guy she was with? Is he going to follow once the check is paid?
     They stopped at the 11thfloor and the 20-somethings exited. Noticing there was another couple waiting to get on he quickly took a step backward and stood along the back wall of the car with the couple from the restaurant between them. Sylvia was still feigning interest in the digital readout but he noticed a quick flash of her eyes his way as the other couple entered. The doors closed and Daniel turned enough to the right to give himself a chance to look at Sylvia without coming across as trespassing to the couple between.

     He knew before this last couple got on there were only two more buttons lit up: the 4th floor and the 3rd floor. Unless someone else got on, he had a chance to catch his breath and try to get his bearings. He forced himself to look at her face, the face he spent many mornings in the last five years wishing he was still waking up next to; while at the same time hoping he’d never see again. A face he once cradled in his hands and felt the flush of heat in her cheeks when he first told her he was falling in love with her. Did she even remember that moment?

     The couple between them was giggling over something they just whispered to each other and it drew Sylvia’s attention toward them. Standing this close to her again and not being able to hold her was becoming difficult. He was surprised not only by his body’s reaction but his heart’s as well. For years after not being able to find her, he forced himself to start hating her. It was a defense mechanism, he knew, but it was a way of getting over the pain, a way of moving on and trying to forget her, a way of convincing himself how foolish he was to fall so quickly for someone he barely knew. It seems he was right to have hardened his heart. She claimed she lived in Puerto Rico yet here she was in Cleveland, Ohio standing in an elevator with him. She had once cried against his chest and begged him never to leave her then vanished into thin air, leaving him with only the scent of her on the pillow next to him. If he is able to get her to talk to him, how is he going to believe anything she says?

     Then he thought of their times together: their intimate talks into the wee hours, their walks along the beach, and even the way their hands fit so perfectly together. The memory of how her body would sigh against his every time he held her tight began dusting itself off in his mind and he knew he had to stop. His hands were sweating and trembling the slightest bit. In all the scenarios he had played out about this moment in his mind, he never thought he would be as nervous as he found himself now.

     Daniel felt the car come to a stop and heard the slide of its panels. The couple between them stumbled forward to exit, completely oblivious to the barrier they had been providing. Before the other couple was able to occupy the vacancy, Daniel took a couple steps closer and backed himself against the wall next to Sylvia. As the doors began to close, they both stared at the red number 4 on the panel in front of them. The next floor was hers and he had every intention of following her off.

     Daniel could feel the warmth of her standing next to him. He wondered if he was just imagining it or if it was real. Out of the corner of his eye he tried to gage her, figure out what she may be thinking. He noticed she was breathing heavy and doing everything she could to keep from looking at him. The number changed to, “3” and as the elevator car settled to a stop he took a chance. Daniel reached his hand, brushed its palm against Sylvia’s and slowly began weaving their fingers. Sylvia’s hand was damp as well but in that moment the last 5 years never happened.

     The doors slid open and Sylvia gripped his hand even harder. She stepped forward without looking at Daniel and led him off the car, directing them past the other elevators before turning down a hallway lined with hotel doors and picking up the pace with each step.

     “Sylvia, where are we going?” he asked, hoping to break the silence.

     They ran past a few more doors before she slowed and let go of his hand. Pulling her purse in front of her she stopped at room 311. Sylvia removed a room key from her purse and slowly raised her eyes to Daniel. Those deep brown eyes of hers always were able to make him melt but he had to keep his head straight. They were both breathing heavy and he tried to make sense of everything while keeping himself from wrapping his arms around her.

     “What’s going on?” he pleaded.

     Her eyes welled with tears and desperation crossed her face. The need to hold her became more intense and he stole a look over her shoulder to see in anyone was coming. When he looked back at her she took his hand and gently placed the room key in it. Sylvia didn’t move and for the first time in five years he felt he held the answer to every question he had for her in the palm of his hand.

     Looking back up at her then down to the lock he knew his answers waited for him on the other side the door. Now that he finally had his chance, he had a sick feeling he didn’t want to know what those answers were. 

(Continued tomorrow...)

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