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In the Waiting Room
“What are you in for, kid?” She sat down next to him with a confident plop. Some strands of purple and black hair fell in her face, but she blew them away impatiently. “Hello? Oh, just let me see your file.” She plucked the folder out of his hands that were strained white with tension.
She read his name and wrinkled her nose. “I think I prefer ‘kid’.” He smirked.
“Pretty bad, huh?”
“Eh, I’ve heard worse. But never mind that.” He groaned inwardly at the failed subject change. She chatted away idly. He nodded and pretended to listen.
“You know you look just like my ex-boyfriend?” She asked him, her voice pitched just over the low buzz of speech in the room.
“The one you threw the phone at?” An old woman interrupted, her neck craned so that she could see them over the head of the people between them.
“No,” she laughed. “The one who came through here a while back. You remember him?”
“Yeah, I thought I’d be out of here before they even looked at his file.” She laughed that annoying cackle again.
“I know! Can you believe they passed him right through? Dunno which way he went though…” She shook her head. “Anyway, you look just like him, except not really, you know?” He shook his head. “Never mind then.” She went back to perusing his file.
He let his gaze wander around the room, over the heads of the multitude of people. There was no cohesiveness to the crowd, no majority race or language. He saw the old woman grinning her crooked-teeth grin. And he noticed a sleeping woman beside them. She hadn’t moved in all the time that he’d been awake, and he couldn’t see her face.
“Wait, why are all of these blank, all the recent stuff?” She asked, her fingers running over the unanswered questions.
“Can’t remember much,” he shrugged. Her eyes lit with a knowledge and a sadness.
“Don’t worry. They’ll remind you, in vivid detail.”
“Who? And how would you know?” he questioned, genuinely curious for once. She ignored his first question.
“I’ve done it before, a few times.” She gave the sad smile. “But you’re a shoo in.” He looked at her incredulously.
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“I can tell. You aren’t that hard to read. Besides, you learn a lot about judging people around here.” She didn’t really seem to be talking to him at the moment. Her thoughts reflected on something that he had no hope of understanding. She handed his file back. He closed his eyes, leaned his head back against the cold wall, and they lapsed into silence. Then she suddenly tensed. “They just called your name, kid.” He got up, taking the file with him, and started to walk forward. He paused.
“No. This is a solo moment. Fly little bird.” She grinned. Her eyes focused behind him, to where the door glowed with a brilliant light. Her expression shifted a bit. “That’s the first time today,” she said to herself. Then she looked back at him.
“Go on, kid. I’m not welcome where you’re headed. This is all you.” He turned and noticed the glow for the first time. “See? Told you that you were a shoo in.” Her face held a smile, but there was an underlying sorrow in her tone. She stood up and hugged him. It was one of those perfect, awkward moments. “Bye, kid. I won’t be seeing you.”
“Wait, why?” Something was compelling him toward the door. He felt time rush urgently ahead.
“You’re in, kid. You’re in.” The light was eclipsing the room. He couldn’t really see her face, couldn’t tell if she was crying or not, though her voice certainly sounded weak.
“What about you.”
“I’ll be fine. You just worry about yourself. Not that you need to. You’ll be living it up where you’re headed.”
“And you? What will you be doing?”
“I’ll just be sitting here.” He knew she wore that smile again, the one that held secrets and sorrow and too many years to count. “But at least you’re in, kid. I can rest easy for a while.”