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It Happened One Day
By Aidan Niles

    The dark silk of his suit jacket settled on his shoulders. Staring at the lattice gate in front of him, Samuel shifted his weight back and forth. Swaddled in the embrace of metal and creaking machinery, he waited for the signature buzz that meant a passenger was coming to ride the elevator. He straightened his lapels and stood a little taller. It was almost ten to six. She would be coming soon. She always came to visit just before six on Tuesdays and Fridays. He smiled. He could almost smell her here. Even after she left the elevator, the scent of her lavender perfume served as a gentle reminder of her presence.

    Right on cue, he opened the gate. She smiled and waved to him.

    "Hello, Samuel."

    "Are you coming to see your sister?" He asked. Their conversations always started the same way.

    She looked at him through her lashes. "Yes. Today I brought her some sugar biscuits. Would you like one? I think they're still warm."

    "You know I'd love one of your biscuits. I'm a weak man when it comes to your fine food, Ms. Evans."

    She laughed. "How many times have I told you to call me Julia?"

    "I'm not sure a man of my station should be calling you by your first name."

    Her face fell slightly. "How many of my biscuits and cookies have you eaten over the years?"

    "Too many, I suppose." Samuel looked down at his stomach. He remained fit and trim despite his age. Yet he was no longer the man he was in his youth.

    "A biscuit here and there hasn't hurt your figure a bit."

    "Is that a new dress you are wearing?"

    "I just bought it last week. I know I shouldn't have. At my age, I don't need any more fancy clothes, but they looked so pretty, and I couldn't resist. I suppose that makes me shallow."

    "It makes you look lovely."

    Julia blushed. "I'm glad you think so."

    Samuel looked down at his shoes and then at the panel of buttons on the wall. He looked everywhere but at her. "Let me get the elevator moving for you. I...wouldn't want you to be late."

    The elevator began to move, and Samuel stood in silence next to Julia. He wanted to say many things to her, but the words wouldn't come. He had never been good with words. Small talk in an elevator he could do. But in the presence of a beautiful woman that he wanted to see beyond the confines of the luxurious metal box, words eluded him. Once again, this was all the time they had together...until Friday evening when the clock would reach ten to six. As they approached her floor, he gently eased off the lever, and the elevator groaned, coming to a smooth stop.

    "Enjoy your visit," he said.

    She smiled and exited the elevator; her shoulders slumped slightly. She looked back at him. "Thank you, Samuel."

    Samuel watched her disappear down the hall and couldn't help but feel he was missing something important today. He went to close the gate, but something stopped him. Maybe it had been the look on her face or the sad set of her shoulders. But he was unable to close the gate and take the elevator back to the ground floor without checking on her first. He moved to follow her when the familiar drone of the buzzer drew him back into his box. With a sigh, he shut the gate and held the lever down as he went to retrieve his next passenger.


    "Hey, Samuel, can you give me a hand with these?" Arty from floor four asked from behind the large stack of parcels that blocked his face.

    "Of course! What do you have there?"

    "The grandkids are coming to visit tomorrow. I think I got a little over-excited at the toy store."

    "It's the privilege of being a grandfather."

    "How are your grandkids doing?" Arty asked, leaning around the boxes.

    "Getting bigger every day. I talk to them on the phone, but I really wish they lived closer."

    Samuel reached over and took the top three boxes off of Arty's stack. Carrying them into the elevator, he set them on the velvet-padded bench against the back wall.

    "Thanks," Arty said. He lowered himself down onto the bench. "Did she come today?"

    "Yeah. She brought sugar biscuits this time."

    "I'm telling you, you need to ask that woman out."

    "It wouldn't be appropriate. I'm the elevator operator."

    "You're still a man, Sam, and she's still a woman."

    Samuel pulled the lever and absently pressed a button. "It would be awkward."

    "All I'm saying is that we don't have that many good years left in front of us."

    "Thanks, Arty. Really makes a man feel good to know he's on a clock."

    "We're all on the clock, my friend. Why do you think I spoil grandkids? I want them to remember me as the coolest grandpa ever."

    "Good to know you can put a price tag on love."

    "$150 dollars, but worth every penny. Love isn't priceless. Just expensive."

    Samuel shook his head. "Aristotle, you ain't. Looks like we're here."

    Arty stood and began loading the boxes and bags into his arms. "Give me a hand with these, would ya?"

    Samuel put the elevator on pause and reached to grab the other two bags. One of them tipped, and out fell a small box. "You bought a wishing well?"

    "Yeah. Not sure why. It was only five bucks. I figured I'd put it away and give it to someone when the time was right. I like to keep a few gifts in handy. Never want to miss an opportunity."

    Samuel dropped the box back on top and proceeded to follow Arty to his door.

    "Thanks for the help."

    "No problem," Samuel turned to head back to the elevator.

    "Wait. I forgot your tip. Catch!" Arty tossed him the small box with the wishing well. "I think this is meant for you."

    "Funny, Arty. I'm a little old to be believing in wishes."

    "Yeah, well, take it anyway."

    "Thanks." Samuel waved goodbye and headed back to his elevator. Sitting on the bench, Samuel waited for his next passenger. The little wishing well box sat next to him. What had Arty been thinking? A wishing well. He picked up the box and looked at the tiny colorful well through the cellophane window. It was charming, like Julia. She was charming too. Without giving himself too much time to think, he pulled a small notepad and pen from his jacket pocket and scribbled a quick note. Then he pushed the elevator button.

This was probably a mistake, yet he couldn't seem to stop his feet from walking down the hall. All he had to do was leave the box and the note by the door. He hadn't signed his name. He wasn't sure he wanted her to know who the gift was from, but he was sure that he wanted her to have it.

    And then he saw her. She was sitting in the chair under the large gilded mirror at the end of the hall, reading a book. Her basket of biscuits rested beside her on the floor.

    "Julia?" Samuel said.

    She looked up with wide eyes.

    "I thought you were visiting Mabel," Samuel said. Then he remembered. Mabel wasn't here this week. She had gone to visit her daughter.

    Julia turned the same shade as the geraniums that bloomed in the window boxes during the spring.

Glancing down at the box in his hand, he wondered if perhaps the little well had already done its job. Nah. He hadn't even opened the box yet. "I thought you should have this. It reminded me of you. Cheerful and all." He held it out to her.

    "Aren't you sweet. Thank you. A wishing well." She closed her eyes and bent her head.

    "I think you need to open the box for it to work," he said, feeling a bit awkward. Every time she was near, he felt like a complete dunce. And sounded like one too.

    She opened her eyes and smiled at him through her lashes.

    He wiggled his thumb over his shoulder. "I've got to get back to the elevator. Don't want to keep everyone waiting."

    She slid over on the bench. "Perhaps you might have time for another cookie?"

    He glanced back at the elevator. "I guess I've got a minute." The door was open, and he would be able to hear the buzzer from here. He sat down next to her and took the cookie she offered. "Mabel is lucky. You make the best cookies."

    "Mabel doesn't eat cookies, you silly man. I make them for you. Every week I make them for you. And every week, I hoped you would notice."

    Samuel looked down at the box with the wishing well and then at Julia. Not wanting to miss his opportunity, he reached down and covered her hand with his. "I'm noticing," he said.

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