Agnieta stops, her legs tired, her arms feeling heavy. The service lift broke down yesterday, but under no circumstances is she allowed to use the guest lift. She has been told a hundred times, it’s been one of the ground rules of the world ever since people started hiring each other. Her only option is the concrete staircase, where you need to press your back against the cold wall to let someone pass.
‘If they don’t fix it today, we’ll all stay at home tomorrow,’ Mary had said.
The reception looks deserted and Agnieta slips through the closing doors, a pile of neatly folded sheets in her arms. As the cabin begins to move, she sees her reflection in the polished brass, like lipstick smudged by passionate kissing. Muffled saxophone notes drift from invisible speakers.
Mary has been planning to conquer a rich man in his room for ages, and return to the hotel as a guest with a giant diamond ring on her finger, mean and bossy to staff. Agnieta thinks this is a bad idea. Just imagine, she would have to constantly listen to this kind of music. Then try and get in the mood for that man of yours.
Slouched against the wall, she shifts some of the weight of the pile from her forearms to her chest. Another hour and she’ll need to pick up her young son, a wild animal who wants to be like his father and regards his mother as a rival.
The lift stops on the first floor, where the conference rooms are. Hiding her face behind the pile, Agnieta presses her back into the corner that’s furthest away from the landing. Soft footsteps on the carpet, the smell of many spritzes of Davidoff. After a small shock, the lift continues its ascent. She feels the sheets getting damp under her hands. The rooms weren’t booked for today, he must be one of the managers.
She furtively looks in the mirror to her side. He looks back at her. Fine features, dimples in his smile, casual clothes. He hasn’t pressed a button yet.
‘May I carry that pile for you till you reach your floor?’
She knows how they look at her, her uniform carrying the weight of their fantasies. The white apron over the blue dress clouding their gaze. The other day someone pressed a note into her hand with his room number scribbled on it. And the measurements of his girlfriend. Once there was a naked man behind the bathroom door peeping at her, his seed gushing through the crack the moment she discovered him. Together with a colleague of hers she now checks the entire room before she begins.
Politely shaking her head, she lowers her gaze, as she has been taught.
Suddenly, the lift squeaks and comes to a standstill. Somewhere near the ninth floor. Agnieta thinks of the ring on her index finger, the sharp edges that might come in handy, a thin pain slowly ascending through the muscles in her arms. That’s my punishment, she thinks. The one time I take the comfortable lift, I’m caught out. She tries to pray to Mary, the other one.
Then there’s an increase of light, and his face appears from behind the pile. Gently taking the sheets, he carefully puts them on the floor.
‘I think we’re stuck. Shouldn’t we ring someone?’
‘I’m not allowed to be here, but you don’t need to worry. They’ll come and find you.’
They both stare at the floor for a while, his foot briefly tapping to the rhythm of the music. Agnieta smells another scent underneath the Davidoff. It’s vaguely familiar, but she can’t place it.
When she looks up, she sees tears rolling down his cheeks, his lashes stuck together in clumps, resembling halved sunflowers. As she has apparently no idea what’s going on in his mind, she suddenly relaxes. She spontaneously takes a sheet off the pile and using one of its cotton corners, carefully dabs his face. She notices a few grey hairs in the black of his eyebrows. The music fades away and so do the digital numbers on the display. Shortly afterwards, the lights die. The only light that’s left comes through the air vent in the ceiling.
She stands close to him. The smell becomes more penetrating, not necessarily all that pleasant. He keeps on crying, her attention allowing him to breathe more deeply. Making a concentrated effort Agnieta tries to absorb all his tears, like she used to trace raindrops on the window as a child.
When the sunflowers raise themselves up, she kisses him on the mouth. Just like that. And he kisses her back. There’s no time to ask Mary for mercy. The young man carefully pulls the sheet down, but she doesn’t want to let go: if the sheet is dropped in between the two of them, everything will be lost. He pulls a little harder. Stubbornly, she moves down with the sheet, and then they’re both on the floor. On the sheet, on the soft carpet.
Panting too now, she pulls down her tights. His hands slide over her breasts, tug on the bun in her hair. Swinging her leg, she moves onto his lap, riding his jeans. But she doesn’t feel anything underneath her, there’s nothing hard growing there. The man sucks her nipple and for a minute all her thoughts dissolve, his fingers softly touching her labia, but before he reaches her clitoris, she moves his hand. Not yet. He first.
His chest is smooth, kisses on his shoulders, but she can’t continue kissing him any further down, it’s too narrow in here. With one move she opens the buttons on his jeans. She’s good at that. The man freezes.
Slowly she strokes his inner thighs. ‘Shhh,’ she whispers, ‘don’t be afraid.’ She’s not sure what she’s touching: something moist, but definitely no dick. It’s too dark to see. The man slowly takes courage and begins to suck her nipple again, this time the other one. She regards this as consent and rides. Within seconds, she climaxes, breathing a slow sigh. Then the LED lights and the music come back on. Before the ceiling light returns, he has closed his fly. ‘Which floor?’ Agnieta asks.
‘Seventeen.’ The office floor. Her expression hardens.
‘Don’t worry,’ he says. ‘I’ll have the video recording removed. You’ve found the right man for that.’