The Third Room
I knelt down on the black staircase to pick her up. The weak metal steps trembled beneath us as I helped her ascend, my arm around her waist, lifting her by the ribcage. To be quite honest I was having the worst case of second thoughts, my mind so wild it took me most of my concentration not to let her tumble down the stairwell as though I were a kid experimenting with her Barbie — mine were always into extreme sports and, eventually, they all disappeared down the laundry shoot while trying base jumping in the dark. I glanced over the railing and into the darkness looming on the ground floor, listening to the soft, short breaths of the woman I was holding onto. It was growing colder so I tightened my grip, mildly hoping that the little bodily contact would provide me with warmth.
The hallway was empty once we reached the end. I could feel my pulse echo in my ears as I pushed her over the last few steps, her half-broken heel dragging against the floor as she tiptoed next to me, the one that remained intact sounding deep into the dusky corridor in its red apparel. We must have seemed like the distorted figures of a music box, our feet dragging across the wooden floor in hushed song while we ceased to spin. I need not try and depict the emptiness that resided within us — within me — removed from the safety of our box and our music.
Once at the door I placed her by the wall, pinning her against it with one leg while fumbling around my bag for the keys. I stole a quick glance at her face as I searched through every pocket and crevice, a shy, lifeless smile curling at the corner of her mouth. I lifted her from beneath her arms once I got the door open, carrying her all the way to the table in the third room. I lay her limp figure on the plastic-covered wood, proceeding to remove her shoes while letting my eyes feast on the sight that could have, at one point, been of my possession. I dug the crumpled bills out of my pocket and straightened them out on the table before placing them next to her hand.
“I’m sorry, love,” I whispered, leaning in to place one last kiss on her forehead. “You take care now, okay?”
She wouldn’t look at me, or at least that is how I let myself think, as I knelt down beside her, resting my chin against the table while examining her. After a few minutes I got up, fixed my hair, snatched the red heels from the floor and walked out, leaving the door open for the next visitor.