After reading Nancy and Jeanne’s posts this week I was feeling like quite the slacker and felt compelled to buckle down and finish writing something. Here then, better late than never, is the short story I started based on the story prompt from a few weeks ago.
Stuck With You
“What do you mean it’s stuck?”
The teenaged attendant who had been manning the front desk at Lakeville’s new Escape Room Adventure when we first arrived said something on the other side of the massive oaken door that sounded like ‘the lock is jammed.’ He seemed panicked, so I made sure my response was calm and sure. Yelling, no matter how tempting, would not be helpful.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Okay, Brian, do you know where the emergency exit is for this room?”
“I don’t know. I just started working here today.” His voice wavered on the last word. Great, trapped in a room with a girl I just met with no one but a scared teenager for help. I turned to look at Emma who was standing a few feet behind me. Make that a pretty girl I just met. That took the pressure off and made the situation seem much more appealing.
“Not a problem Brian,” I said as I focused back on the problem at hand. “Why don’t you go check in the office and see if you can find the emergency exit instructions . . . and maybe some tools, in case you need to pry the door open.”
As I heard Brian head off I turned to look at Emma again. She seemed to be doing her best to remain calm, but she was a bit pale and her big blue eyes were scanning the room as if a door would magically appear. “If I was MacGyver I’d be able to get us out of here with a paperclip and stick of chewing gum,” I joked.
She laughed a little at that.
“Too bad I don’t carry gum or paperclips but ’m sure we won’t be stuck in here long,” I continued. “These places have to have alternate ways out, in case of emergency or accidents.”
“Right.” She nodded her head as if trying to convince herself. “Sorry. I just don’t like being trapped.”
“Traumatic incident in your past?”
“Something like that.” She didn’t say anything else so I let the subject drop. “Well, at least we’re not trapped in the dark.” That earned me a glare, but at least she wasn’t looking so pale any longer.
There was a crash outside of the room and Emma jumped, startled by the sound. “Hello?” I called out, but there was no response. God knows what Brian was doing, but there wasn’t much I could do about that now. This wasn’t quite the way I had expected the afternoon to go, but I figured I might as well make the best of it. “So, my sister said you were a writer looking for some story inspiration when she suggested we try out this new Escape Room together.”
“Yes, I’m a romance writer.”
She looked a little defiant when she said it, like she was used to being mocked or something. I went for humor instead. “So if this was a story you were writing, would we be naked by now?”
There was a light tinge of pink on her cheeks as she muttered, “I don’t write that kind of romance.” At my raised a brow she added in a clearer voice, “I write romantic mysteries.”
“Like Agatha Christie meets Danielle Steele?”
That garnered a chuckle. “More like Nancy Drew meets Jennifer Crusie.”
“So, someone should be dead by now?”
She looked me over. “Possibly you.”
I clutched my chest. “Ouch. That hurts.”
“Sorry.” She looked contrite. “You couldn’t be expected to know this would happen when you asked me to try out this new Room Escape Adventure.”
“It could be part of my clever plan.” I wiggled my eyebrows and flashed my best crooked smile, the one my old girlfriend Rebecca used to find irresistibly endearing, right before she started to find it incredibly annoying instead. Emma did not appear to be impressed, but she also didn’t seem to be panicked any longer so, progress. My stomach let out a loud rumble just as I was beginning to wish we’d had lunch before the Escape Room, rather than planning it for later.
Apparently taking pity on me, Emma reached into the outside pocket of her purse. “Want half of my emergency oatmeal cookie.”
“You carry an emergency oatmeal cookie?”
She shrugged. “You never know when you might wind up hungry when accidentally trapped somewhere.” She broke the cookie in half and handed me a piece.
I took a bite and chewed. It might have been the hunger talking, but I was pretty sure it was the best cookie I’d ever had. “Is that bourbon I taste, and maybe a hint of lemon?” I asked as I tried to make my remaining bite of cookie last.
She nodded as she swallowed her own cookie. “I soaked the raisins in bourbon before mixing them in, then added a splash of lemon juice to brighten the flavor.”
“Wow, a writer and a clever baker; what a treasure you are.” I had no idea what ‘brightening the flavor’ meant, but the cookie was great. “I don’t suppose you carry two emergency cookies?”
She laughed and leaned back against the wall, relaxed for the first time since we’d realized we were stuck. “Sorry, no.”
We bantered back and forth about potential stories we could be staring in if this was a horror, science fiction, drama, or my favorite, film noir novel. We had just about exhausted all of the genres we could think of when Brian finally came back.
“There aren’t any tools and I can’t find the emergency exit,” he said. “I’ve been trying to call the manger, but he’s not answering. I don’t know what else to do.”
“Not a problem,” I said. “Just call 911 and the emergency personnel can get us out.” I’d have called them myself long before, but the rooms here had no cell coverage as a way to make sure the customers didn’t try to cheat when trying to solve the puzzles.
“911? Are you sure?” Brian seemed reluctant but, having no better idea, he eventually went off to make the call.
Before long we heard the tell-tale sound of approaching sirens, followed by the creak and crunch of metal as someone used a prybar to get the recalcitrant door off its hinges. Two and a half hours after we had solved the final mystery room puzzle we were finally outside, blinking in the bright afternoon sun.
“Emma, is that you?” A gangly dark-haired firefighter with a surprised look on his face walked toward us.
“Hello, Frank,” Emma said flatly, not looking at all thrilled to see him as he approached.
“I never would have expected to see you in a place like this,” Frank said, oblivious to her lack of interest. “Finally get tired of spending all of your time with those ridiculous stories of yours?”
As Emma’s posture stiffened, I resisted the urge to deck him. He had, after all, helped rescue us. Instead I turned to her, ignoring Frank completely. “Hey, I’m trying out a new hot air balloon company tomorrow,” I said. “Want to get stuck with me a couple hundred feet above the ground?”
“Absolutely!” She flashed a smile that lit up her entire face. “I’ll make sure to bring extra cookies.”