On the Way Out
They'd made a point of leaving the office separately, but her elevator had been held up so long that she reached the lobby only a step ahead of him. His shoes had almost silent soles, and Leda pretended not to know he was in her blind spot as she began to cross all that empty space.
The couple from her elevator walked off in the opposite direction, arm in arm and hand in hand, entwined in a guilty secret that wasn't so secret and didn't seem to cause them much guilt. When the woman had planted herself between the elevator doors, her open jacket revealing a hickey and an imperfectly buttoned blouse, Leda hadn't minded the delay. Anything to distract herself from her new promotion, from the reason she'd stayed so late.
She'd never realized what sick-making tints these were. Steel beams the red of a hemorrhage. Glass walls the blue of a pilot light as seen by a head seriously thinking about sticking itself in the oven. A floor the viscous yellow of flypaper, or cowardice.
Only when the elevator began to beep a warning had the woman's partner stumbled in behind her. Swatting away his hands and objections, she soon had his zipper fixed. Leda, meanwhile, had talked to them about the weather. Anything to take her mind off the sneaking around, the desk so hastily cleared, the family portrait she had turned face down.
She risked one disorienting glance back. The numbers for the elevator banks, she could almost swear, were backwards. Unbelievable but appropriate. Everything was backwards. She and her accomplice should be moving in that direction, not this one. (And she should be waking up any time now. The feeling of being in a bad dream was outweighed only by a nightmarish sense that she wasn't.) They were going the wrong way. They had to turn back and make it right, had to go back up there and undo what they had done.
She should do it -- pull him back into the evil little room they used for exit interviews. No one ever had to find out. They could remove the boxes, unpack the shoes and personalized coffee mugs and baby pictures.
Or she would wake up. And in the bright light of a morning on which she did not have to lay anyone off, Leda would see that the colors of the building where she worked were lovelier than the clearest skies, the freshest cherries, and the sweetest honey.