by Sally Jenkins
I pressed the lift button labelled ‘GF’ and dropped my fixed smile. That awful 50th birthday presentation had totally exhausted my cheeriness.
“This will get you a man, Julie,” young Susie had said, handing me the gift-wrapped parcel in front of all our colleagues. “Even Adam might succumb!”
Everyone had roared with laughter at this remark, including Adam. I wanted to die with embarrassment. Were my feelings for him so obvious and so amusing? Being only three months into this new job I couldn’t tell whether people were laughing with me or at me. It also didn’t help that I hadn’t yet started dating again since my divorce – but I had got around to fancying people.
Things got even worse when I tore open the present and showed my naivety about the contents. Susie had then gleefully demonstrated how they should be used.
“I’m not taking my top off to show you properly,” she’d said. “But I never go out without some extra padding and support up top.”
Another roar of laughter had filled the room.
Now a black leather shoe appeared between the closing lift doors, forcing them to slide open again. The foot turned into Adam.
I couldn’t look at him after that terrible birthday scene. Thankfully, he was busy texting on his mobile phone.
Adam and I were about the same age. He reminded me of a mature film star, with his craggy, lived-in face, muscular build and a healthy tan. I knew that he was divorced like me.
A sudden thud threw us both off balance. I clutched at the metal rail running around the wall.
“We’ve stopped.” Adam stated the obvious.
“It’ll only be for a second.” I crossed my fingers.
The seconds turned into a minute. The minute turned into five.
“Where’s the emergency button?” Adam moved over to the control panel next to me.
His closeness made me tingle. It was a feeling I wasn’t used to and I had to step away. Adam prodded a red button illustrated with a telephone. Nothing happened.
“We’ll just have to sit it out.” He lowered himself to the floor and closed his eyes.
I was relieved he wanted to doze. What’s the protocol for a middle-aged woman who’s been out of the dating scene for years but now finds herself trapped in a lift with a man she fancies?
Then he opened his eyes and smiled.
“It’s getting warm,” he said.
He was right. I was hot and thirsty.
“You don’t look too good.” Adam sounded concerned. “I saw you put a bottle of water in your bag earlier. I’ll get it for you.”
The bag was between us on the floor, nearer to Adam.
“No! Let me!” I snatched the bag, scared that wretched present would fall out. I’d stuffed it away as soon as possible but it hardly fitted in the bag with everything else I carried around.
As I reached inside, the torn gift-wrapping spewed out anyway, discarding its contents.
Adam started to retrieve the bits and pieces. His fingers caressed the ‘oval bust boosters’, which resembled chicken rather than human breasts. He stared at the roll of tape and lingered over the fully illustrated instruction leaflet entitled “Boob Enhancement Kit.”
I tried to make myself invisible.
“Do women really tape themselves up with all this extra padding?” he asked.
I shrugged knowing this was the end of any chance I had with Adam.
“You don’t need enhancing – you look great as you are.” He got full marks for politeness.
“Thanks,” I managed.
“On my 50th last year, they bought me a potion to ‘enlarge my manhood’.” He used his hands as inverted commas around the phrase. “All I could do was laugh – Susie means none of it personally.”
I smiled as I imagined how well Adam would’ve reacted to his presentation. Taking a swig of water, I wondered if I’d blown this afternoon and the terrible present out of proportion. I had to admit that Susie had looked hilarious as she held the bra inserts over her blouse and paraded around the office earlier that afternoon.
Perhaps it hadn’t been personal at all. Maybe the divorce had sapped more of my confidence than I’d thought.
“Me and you should think up something really gruesome for Susie’s 30th next month. Do you fancy…” Adam stopped mid-sentence as we felt another thud.
The lift was moving again. In a moment the doors would open and whatever Adam was about to say would be lost forever.
But wasn’t 50 the new 40? Didn’t that mean I got another chance at life beginning? I needed to grab some confidence before it ran away again.
“Do I fancy what?” I asked and banged my hand against the button labelled ‘Emergency Stop’ – we needed to finish our conversation.
Adam grinned and winked at me as the lift thudded to a halt again.
Sally shares: “This story was inspired by my male co-workers reaction to finding a Boob Enhancement Kit in a shopping catalogue they were leafing through. They found it hilarious and I realised that giving the Kit publicly as a gift could make a highly embarrassing situation.”