“Why?” Sarah groaned quietly, “why am I running late, Lord?” 

She pushed her right foot into her black low heel shoe and quickly stood up from the stool she was sitting on at the front door of her two-bedroom apartment. She grabbed the bunch of keys hanging on the door and hurriedly opened the door.

She sped down the brown, worn-out carpeted hallway to the closing, cream elevator.

She ran for a few seconds and slipped through the door seconds before it closed.

“Hi,” she said, glancing at the two people in the elevator.

She saw her thirteen-year-old neighbour, Jerome, who lived with his Mom and younger sister on the floor above her, and behind him was a guy who looked to be in his early twenties. Sarah does not remember seeing him before.   

She listened for their response, but nothing came. She glanced at Jerome and saw him looking down at his black and red high-top sneakers. He was wearing a red and white polo shirt and blue shorts. A black backpack was on his back.

“No school today?” she asked him.

Jerome shook his head but remained silent as he continued to look down at his feet.

The elevator was going to the ground floor.

“Are you okay?” Sarah asked, looking directly at him.

“Look, lady, get a clue and mind your own business,” the older guy said.

Sarah immediately stepped to her left, clutched her black shoulder bag closer to her body, and looked at the guy. He was dressed as she was, that is, as if he was going for a job interview. 

His light blue long sleeve shirt is tucked into long black pants, and he was also wearing black shoes. Sarah was in a black skirt and a black and white polka dot short-sleeve shirt. Her long hair was touching the nape of her neck.

The stranger stared at her, and before she could say anything, the elevator sounded, and the door opened. They were on the ground floor. A few seconds passed, and no one stepped out of it.

Sarah stepped forward and held the door, but still, no one moved.

“Lady, aren’t you getting out?” the guy said, “My nephew and I don’t need you to hold the door for us.”

Sarah glanced at Jerome, and for the first time, she saw the expression she’d read about but had never seen. Yes, his face was a mask of fear.

“Oh, no,” she groaned, placing her hand on her forehead, “I have to go back up. I can’t believe this.”

She removed her hand from the door, and just as the door was about to close, a voice called out, “Hold the door!”

She did, and a familiar face ran into the elevator. He lived on the fifth floor.  

How do I know this? I do, need to stop minding other people’s business, Sarah thought.

“Thanks,” the new guy said.

“No problem,” she said and stepped over to stand in front of Jerome. 

The door closed, and silence followed.  

The elevator travelled upwards and stopped on the fifth floor that the new guy had pressed.

The door opened, and Sarah grabbed Jerome’s hand and pulled him out of the elevator.  

“Run!” she commanded, pulling him in the direction of the stairway and the second elevator in the building.

They ran.

The second elevator opened as they approached it, and Sarah, still holding Jerome’s hand, pulled him into it and quickly pressed the number for her floor.  

“Close, close, close, close,” Sarah murmured.

The door finally did, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Nevertheless, they did not speak until they were locked in her apartment.

“Are you okay, Jerome?” Sarah asked, “is that guy your uncle?”

“No,” he replied, shaking his head vigorously, “I don’t know who he is.”

“I’ll call the cops,” she said.

“No, no,” Jerome said, almost yelling, “I’m okay now. You don’t need to call them.” 

“But I have to because I don’t want him to do this to you or any other child.”

“Yes,” Jerome said, pacing in the brown carpeted area, “but can’t you tell the apartment manager, or something, instead of the cops?”

“I can,” Sarah said slowly, stepping out of her shoes, “but reporting it to the cops would be even better.”

“Please,” he pleaded, “no cops.”

Sarah studied his small circular face, which was now filled with anxiety. 

“Okay, okay,” she breathed out, “you can take off your shoes and come into the living room with me. What happened there just now?”

He sat down on the stool at the door and began untying his laces. 

“Do you want some juice?” she asked, turning into the kitchen.

“Yes, please.”

A few minutes later, Sarah and Jerome sat in the living room, drinking from juice boxes.

“I am now in high school,” Jerome said after swallowing some juice, “and I can come home for lunch, but my Mom always gives me lunch, so I don’t have to come home.”

“But you forgot your lunch today?”

“No,” he said, smiling, “I am still getting used to high school, and today, when the bell rang for lunch, I saw a lot of kids going through the door, and I got tied up, thinking it was time to go home.”  

“So, you came home?” Sarah said, nodding with understanding.

“I was almost home when I realized what happened, so I decided to come home to eat.

“Okay,” Sarah said, sipping through her straw. 

“Then, when I was in front of the complex, this guy came running up to me, asking if I know Alex, who lives here. I don’t know an Alex, and I told him so.”

Sarah nodded, and her hair bounced. 

“He walked with me to the door, and I told him I could not let him into the building because I would get into trouble.”

“Good boy. That’s true.”

Jerome nodded and then filled his mouth with juice. 

“I ate and was returning to school when I saw him in the hallway, but he was by himself. I don’t know how he got into the building. So, I pretended not to see him and went for the elevator.”

Sarah placed her empty juice box on the rectangular glass table in the middle of the room.

“But he saw me and asked if my parents or I, can give him some water to drink because he was really trusty.”

Sarah frowned.

“But I told him I am going to school right now, and I didn’t want to be late. He said okay but followed me into the elevator and placed his hands on my shoulders.” 

Sarah’s frown deepened.

“I tried to shake them off, but he squeezed my shoulders until I winched in pain. Then, when the elevator door opened and you stepped in, he removed his hands.”

“This guy is a danger,” Sarah said, jumping out of the chair.

She glanced at the flowered diamond-shaped clock on the cream-painted wall.

“You definitely can’t go to school now,” she said.

Jerome followed her eyes, “I still have ten more minutes to get there, and if I run all the way, I can make it there on time.”

Jerome was out of the chair too.

“Really? You still want to go to school after what just happened?”

“If you walk with me out of the building, then I can run from there,” he replied.

Sarah studies him for a few seconds.

“Are you sure?”

Jerome nodded.

“Okay,” she said, “but you have to stay close to me, and if we see him, we have to start making a lot of noise so that anyone at home can come out and help.”

“Okay, deal,” Jerome said.

He walked to the front door, put on his shoes, and heaved his backpack onto his back. 

Sarah followed him and peeped through the peephole before slowly opening the door and surveying the area. The stranger was not in the hallway. They made it to the elevator, then out of the building, and Sarah watched as Jerome, true to his word, began running.

She watched him until he was out of sight, and just as she was about to turn around and return to her apartment, her cell phone rang.

The screen displayed the name of the company she had the job interview with within the next forty-four minutes.

Sarah groaned.

She answered the call, and after a few seconds of back and forth talking, the caller said, “I am so sorry for doing this at the last minute, but it was unavoidable. The interview we have with you today has to be rescheduled.”

“Really?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, I am so sorry about this, but will you be able to come in tomorrow at ten instead?”

“Yes, sure,” Sarah replied.

The conversation lasted a few more seconds, and Sarah whispered, “Thank you, Lord,” after the call ended.

She returned to the building and headed for the on-site manager’s office.

The End

A. M. Linton is a wife and mother of two. She is also the author of Torn Between Love, Religion and Responsibility, A Little on Puberty for Boys and A little on Symptoms Associated with Menopause. A few of her short stories were also published in The Barbados Advocate Newspaper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *