Maisie was crazy about Marcus. Marcus didn’t care much for Maisie. And as Marcus lay on the floor in front of Maisie, gasping his last breath, Maisie couldn’t help but think how dreadfully inconvenient this all was. There was no ignoring him now, which unfortunately had been part one of her plan. A plan she’d decided on just hours before.
What happened between Maisie and Marcus began about eight months previous. Maisie had felt an affinity with Marcus from the moment they had met. He was the dark, strong, silent type. Meaning that he barely talked to her. She’d convinced herself he was shy and she should do what all modern women are meant to do, put herself out there, make the first move. Which was difficult.
Maisie and Marcus worked on the opposite ends of an advertising company. They were in the same office but whereas Maisie worked the business angle, Marcus worked on the creative side as a graphic designer. He was the handsome, dark, quiet, creative type. A distant Darcy like figure. It went without saying that he was catnip to most of the women in the office, and a few of the men too.
But Maisie and Marcus had eventually gotten close, not friendly outside of the office close, but closer than he’d let most people. In the end a lack of patience had got the better of Maisie and in one night, out of drunken, ill-conceived confidence, she had tried her luck. What was it they said again about never drinking and texting? His response had been sharp and perfunctory. He was sorry if she’d gotten the wrong idea, he was sure he hadn’t done anything to make her think they would be more than work colleagues.
It was a nasty blow. Maisie felt angry with him, annoyed with herself. But more than anything she felt humiliated. She could work alongside him, she was a grown-up now, and had done stupider things than this. But she couldn’t look him in the eye. The months went on, and on. Eventually she came around to thinking about him again, but she could never quite make her mind up about Marcus. She always dithering back and forth between the gentleman in her mind’s eye; the moral, kind bloke of the office, and the cold, distant character she saw up close.
In the end she was forced into a decision. A group of them had been sent on a business trip. Marcus had been kind and attentive and surprisingly sweet to Maisie; going out of his way to make her feel wanted and at ease. It was more than she expected, and again she relented on her perception of him. Maybe he wasn’t so bad? Maybe she had just scared him off? Maybe they could start again? But then maybe Maisie should have stopped herself with just thinking these thoughts. Because what happened next was kind of unpleasant.
It was the last night of their business trip and Maisie had been feeling drunk and stupid, again. Marcus had walked her to the lift in the hotel lobby. What did he think? Her? Him? Doing something together? Marcus had leaned against the wall, he’d looked down at the floor, he’d let out a little sigh. Maisie heart hit her stomach as she braced for the fall. He looked back up, she saw the face, the pinched up ‘I’ve smelled something bad’ face. She tried to steel herself but he smacked her down with aplomb that any WWE wrestler would be proud of.
“Maisie. I thought you understood. I thought we’d talked about this… I’m sorry but I want this to be professional”. ‘Ouch’, Maisie had thought. She may have said something like “that’s okay, I completely understand”, but to be honest she wasn’t entirely sure. The whole moment was a jumble of confused thoughts. Later, she seethed. She felt patronised and talked down. She felt everything all over again. She felt stupid. She theorised about what she should do next, something she could do to win out, to feel powerful again. But anything she imagined she knew would just lead to a greater humiliation. In the end the only plan she could think of, was just to ignore him. It was too little too late, but it was time to save face.
The next morning she had strode out of the lift and there he was. His eyes had darted away from her, and her body had deflated, losing what little confidence she had left. She had sullenly taken her place behind him in the queue to check-out. It was then it had happened. Their colleague, Sam, had turned to offer them cough sweets as they were waiting. Marcus had taken one, then, a moment later Maisie had watched as his body tensed. Sam moved swiftly to grab Marcus’ falling body. Marcus was choking, and Maisie was annoyed. Now she had to help him? For fuck’s sake!
As Marcus fell to the floor a member of the hotel staff ran over, manoeuvres were made and an instant later Marcus was sucking in the air. It was a pretty impressive demonstration of first aid training, but Maisie wasn’t paying attention. Instead she found herself crouching beside Marcus, staring at him as he lay panting on the floor. To her right she was dimly aware of Sam thanking the staff member. But she could only stare, lost in thought, considering what her response should be. She had nothing.
Sam crouched down next to her “okay, we’re going to move him back to his room, an ambulance is on the way to check him out”. “No… No… I’m fine”, Marcus protested between breaths. Sam stepped over Marcus and took him by the arm. As Maisie moved to take the other arm Marcus lunged forward. His nose met her head, and they both fell back with a yelp. Hotel staff ran forward with tissue for Marcus’s bleeding nose, while Maisie was left to squirm on the floor. As she pulled herself up on to her knees she caught Marcus’s eye. Was that a scowl? Was he scowling at her?
Maisie was left in the hotel room with Marcus. Luckily Marcus had fallen asleep, or maybe he’d just passed out. Maisie couldn’t quiet bring herself to worry. Yet she sat in a chair by the bed, feeling like she should at least stand guard. But as her head cleared she became very aware that she was simply watching Marcus sleep. It felt strange and unpleasant and… ‘oh Jesus, he has a hard-on’. Maisie jumped out of the seat and went to hover over by the window. She was very uncomfortable, her head hurt, and to top it off now she had to think about Marcus’s penis.
Maisie leaned against the window sill for a few minutes. Then Marcus woke up with a start. He got up and staggered toward the bathroom, leaving the door open. Maisie heard the toilet seat going down, then a fart. A huge vacuous fart, one full of air, and other noises, and ‘oh god, this was gross’. And it was gross, and disgusting, but also mildly funny. Maisie smirked.
Marcus re-entered the room moments later and startled when he saw her. “Oh, hey. Sorry, didn’t realise you were in here”. Maisie threw up her hands gently, as though to say ‘well, I’m here. Ta-da!’. Marcus put his finger into his mouth and Maisie grimaced as she recalled she didn’t hear him washing his hands. Marcus spoke as he picked at something. “I think that cough sweet got lodged on my tooth or something, this crown is…”. Marcus yelped and the colour drained from his face. Maisie’s reactions finally kicked in and she jumped over the bed to his side. She put her arm around him as his legs went from underneath him, but instead of collapsing completely he weakened then righted himself. Then he threw up.
He threw up on the floor, but in the direction Maisie, unhelpfully hitting every single protruding part of her body; her shoulder, her left breast, her knee, and all down her bare calf. Her body froze as Marcus’s legs went from under him and he slumped to the floor. ‘Well’ she thought as she looked down at herself, and considered the last vestiges of her affection for the man; ‘this ought to do it’.
A few hours later Maisie was sitting on the train, pondering Marcus’s propensity for passing out, ‘like a woman in a period novel’, she thought. She thought about his broken nose, broken tooth, and his tantamount to near death experience, and she smiled to herself ever so slightly. Maybe this was karma. But as Maisie further considered her delighted response to his pain, the guilt started to seep in. Yes, Marcus had treated her coldly, but he wasn’t a cruel man. Did he really deserve all of this?
Maisie heard Marcus’ words ringing in her ears. The patronising way he’d brushed her off. How stupid she had felt. And, if you think about it, it wasn’t like Maisie was actually responsible for all that had happened that morning. So really she shouldn’t feel too bad about enjoying his humiliation. And as Maisie’s hand brushed against the drying residue of Marcus’ vomit still clinging to her knee, if she ever felt guilty, there was always this. If Marcus had got his just desserts for being cold-hearted, then maybe she’d had hers as well, hers was just less painful and smelled more like chicken tikka masala.
I wrote this for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge was to write a 1000 word short story in 48 hours. In my particular heat I had to write a comedy that included a hotel lobby and a cough drop. I’ve never written a comedy before but did surprisingly well in this particular heat. That being said there was something I didn’t quite like about the characters so I’ve done quite a bit of editing on this to even things up.