“Wait! Hold the doors please” Grace called out, picking up her speed to catch the almost-fleeting elevator.
It was a little past midnight. Grace hadn’t seen her Granma all day and wondered if she’d gone to sleep before taking her medicine. Grace worked at the local pharmacy across the street. She decided to take an extra shift tonight even though she was beyond tired. She couldn’t wait to go up, stuff those groceries in the fridge, jump in the shower and sleep for 6 and half weeks! It’s weird how things turn out, Grace thought silently with a hint of a smile almost brightening her sad eyes. Only a couple of days ago she didn’t even know her Granma existed. Now she’s all the family she got.
A hand came out to magically pull apart the elevator’s closing doors and Grace quickly stepped in, disheveled and out of breath, grateful she wasn’t riding this old smelly elevator alone. She wasn’t claustrophobic per se; but for some reason, closed confined spaces always gave her the creeps.
“Can you press 17 please? Thanks” Grace smiled at the young woman in the black Hijab and black Abaya; who responded by condescendingly looking her up and down. Grace saw her expression turn to a wrinkled frown, like she had just sniffed bad milk or something, before finally (and apathetically) pushing the elevator button.
Grace couldn’t tell why many conservative Muslims were appalled by her appearance. Was it her long fire-truck red hair? Her tattoo? Her ripped jeans? Her toe rings? She shrugged and diverted her attention to the other passenger, a young lady whom, in contrast to Ms. Ninja over here, would probably be dubbed as a modern ‘hip’ Hijabi. High heals, skinny pants, multicolored turban showing some of her hair, lots of ruffles, accessories, make up and faux nails. A tad too much, but then again, who was she to judge?
There was an awkward moment of silence, with Grace in the center of the lift, trying to regulate her breathing, the kaleidoscopic ‘hip’ Hijabi on her left, staring at her like she belonged on the red carpet and the all black Ninja girl on the right, staring her down like she was a homeless drug addict. Could this elevator possibly be moving any slower? Grace panicked.
After a couple of floors of muted ascent, the elevator gave a sudden, violent jolt, throwing the three young women off balance. They bumped against each other gasping and screaming, until the elevator came to a complete, unexplainable halt between the 13th and 14th floor.
“What’s happening?” Grace panted. “Is this some kind of sick prank?”
“Did you ‘like’ stop the elevator?” Sarah asked the girl in black, unconsciously adjusting her multicolored ruffled shirt in the mirror.
“I’m not 8!” Fatima replied defensively. “It’s probably a maintenance problem. I dunno!” She added, trying to hide her fear to maintain her composed, mature demeanor. She tugged at the red alarm button, which lifted right out and fell on the ground.
“What is this? The 1800s? Oh my God, help! HELP” Sarah banged frantically on the elevator door.
Grace’s breath quickened rapidly. She leaned back and slowly shrunk to the floor. Sarah and Fatima tried to help but couldn’t think of much to do, since they were both terrified and shaking, too.
“You’re crowding her! Like for God’s sake, give her some room to breathe” Sarah demanded.
“I actually think it’s your perfume that’s choking her! You know you’re supposed to wear it not drink it, right?” Fatima asked sarcastically.
“At least I don’t smell like I died in an attic three months ago!” Sarah spat out.
“How dare you talk to me that way? As if I care what you think of me, Miss ‘six-feet-of-lip-gloss!’”
“Stop fighting. Stop. Just get us out of here please. Call someone!” Grace cried.
They figured banging on the door was pointless. Most people living in this building were ancient; they went to sleep at dawn, including the janitor apparently!
“My cell is gonna die any second. It’s at like 4%” Sarah tried to stay calm.
“You, what’s your name. Can you like call for help?” “It’s Fatima and no I can’t ‘like’ call for help coz I don’t have my phone with me!” “Like why would you go out this late without a phone?” “Not that it’s any of your business, but, unlike some people, I wasn’t ‘out’ partying till after midnight. I live here. My dad sent me to pick up something from the pharmacy. I didn’t think I’d need my phone in those three minutes so I left it upstairs.”
“What about you hon?” Sarah asked Grace, ignoring Fatima’s bitter, snap judgment of her. “It’s Grace”
“Hey Grace, I’m Sarah” She smiled warmly. “Where’s your cell phone?”
“I don’t even have one. My mom took it before kicking me out” Grace huddled in the corner, unable to control her tears any longer. “What are we gonna do now?” Sarah gasped.
“You still have 4% don’t you? So unless you’re saving your battery to check your ‘Instagram’ for makeup tutorials, make the DAMN call!” Fatima yelled at Sarah, who quickly speed dialed her mom’s number. No answer. Her dad’s number…. Went straight to voicemail Her sister’s number…. Turned off. Her best friend’s number… “Yes, hello! Oh yes, yes! Maryam, like oh my God, you’re never gonna believe what happened to me? Okay listen… What? Noooo! Thanks, you looked hot too. Listen…. I know, I know, like she shouldn’t have said that in front of all these people. Now listen….” Sarah face-palmed. Getting Maryam to stop talking was like trying to fit into Cinderella’s glass shoe; absolutely impossible. “Shut up Maryam. This is important. We’re stuck in the…. hello?”
“Nooooooooooo! My battery died. Oh my God, this can’t be happening.” Sarah shrieked before crumbling into a fountain of tears. Her parents wouldn’t notice she’s missing. They’re probably already asleep. Besides they weren’t expecting her home till tomorrow evening, anyway. They had no idea the sleep over at her friend Maryam’s house was postponed because her uncle got a minor heart attack and the whole family were forced to migrate to the hospital around midnight. “How are we gonna get out of here? It’s such an old, flimsy elevator. I’m scared like it won’t stand still till morning!” Sarah wailed miserably.
Grace’s sympathy towards the poor frightened girl helped her regain some of her strength. She scooched towards Sarah and wrapped her arm around her saying. “Breathe. It’s okay. We’re gonna get out of here. Don’t worry”
As if desperate to prove her wrong, the elevator dropped a couple of inches and they all screamed again at the echoing sounds of metal clasps jiggling dangerously.
Fatima twirled her black scarf around her face, and started banging her head against the elevator wall. “I knew this day would come. We’re gonna die in here. This is Allah’s revenge!”
“Fatima you’re scaring her” Grace scolded. “Don’t talk like that. Someone will come help us. Your dad sent you to get stuff from downstairs, right? He’ll get worried when you don’t show up and come looking for us soon. It’ll be okay”
“He didn’t send me anywhere. I sneaked out of the house like I do every night, and now my parents will know I’m a shameful disgrace.” Fatima screamed. “They’ll kill me dead, the same way they killed my sister….”