Kami stared out the window overlooking the park and sighed.
Another hazy day in the city. I just want to get outside and go for a walk. When will this rain ever quit? Twenty-three straight days of rain. I want to go meet up with the crew at Timber’s and I would rather ride my bike than take the subway. Jackie will probably be there. I should text her and tell her to bring my jacket, that would at least help protect my clothes from the drizzle. If I don’t get some exercise soon, I’m going to explode. If I were still back home in Pensacola, it wouldn’t be so rainy, but then I’d have to deal with humidity six months out of the year anyway. Well, maybe it would rain, but it wouldn’t be so dreary.
She sighed again and put on a sweatshirt, then she texted her friend as she left and locked her apartment. She walked down the hallway and pushed the elevator button. As she stood there waiting, the red-lit exit sign at the end of the hallway caught her eye. I could take the stairs. It’s only 15 floors and it would be good exercise.
Making the decision, she started down. By the second set of steps she began to feel woozy and sick. What did my ballet teacher say? Pick a point on the wall and stare at that to help against the nausea.
When she had descended eight flights, waves of nausea overcame her. She had to stop. She sat on the bottom step, leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. She heard one of the doors open and slam. Her eyes shot open. Her heart skipped a beat and her stomach jumped. She slowly stood up and looked up but saw nothing. She looked down and saw a man wearing a knit cap and hoodie jogging up the steps.
Kami panicked. She first looked one way, and then another. Her mind froze, and so did her body. The steps grew louder. Her stomach heaved.
Kami bent and emptied the contents of her stomach onto the platform. The steps stopped. She heard a muttered, “Oh, gross,” and retreating steps. She swiped at her mouth and breathed a sigh of relief as she sat back down on the stairs, pulling out her phone. She texted her friend. I’m not coming.
Kami caught a whiff of the vomit and her stomach heaved again. She picked herself up off the step, opened the door and cautiously peered around it before entering the carpeted hallway.
She walked toward the elevator and pushed the button, scanning from side to side as slowly as possible because her head was pounding. She wanted to make sure no one had seen her enter. Nobody needs to know that I vomitted in the stairway.
Ding! The elevator doors opened. There stood the man in the hoodie and knit cap. Kami’s vision darkened.
When she awoke, she was staring at a dirty hall wall and her head was groggy. She shook it, then clutched at her stomach again.
“You’d better sit still for a bit. You took a nasty fall,” said a velvety voice.
Kami turned to look into the darkest brown eyes she had ever seen. She could not find her voice so she nodded as she continued to stare.
The man squatted on his heels and shifted his weight from one to the other, fidgeting his hands. He looked around. “Well, I, uh…”
Kami put up a hand and waved him away. “It’s ok… I’ll be fine.”
She nodded. He stood up, looked at her doubtfully and pressed the elevator button. She tried to get up. He grabbed her elbow to steady her, looking skeptical as she stood.
Ding. They both entered the elevator.
“What floor?” the man asked.
Oh, crap! Should I tell him? Is he a murderer? Kami’s stomach lurched again and she grabbed at it. “Fifteen.”
He looked at her funny. “That’s my floor too.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “Really? I’ve never seen you up there.”
“I work nights over at the Marriott. I’m night manager there, so I sleep mostly during the day.”
“I stay up late to paint.”
“Walls?” he asked.
She laughed. “No, I paint landscapes.” Ding. The elevator doors popped open and they both stepped out. “I’m Kami.” She held out her hand.
He just looked at it. “Um, I think I’ll pass on shaking. I saw you in the stairwell; I don’t want to catch anything.”
Kami’s face burned.
“I’m Ben. I’ll see you around.” He turned and walked to the opposite end of the hallway, opened a door and entered.
Watching him the whole time, she suddenly realized she was no longer nauseous. Dang anxiety got me again! She shuffled slowly back to her apartment and laid down to take a nap.