Pint in one hand. Clasped. Wouldn't want it to go to waste. Key card in the other. Got it ready. Mustn't look drunk.
Marjorie waited, swaying gently, no breeze but the air-conditioning.
Was the lift slow? Or was it just relative to the evening's rapid flow of drinks? Gerry, the MD, had wrapped up the sales-and-management awayday hours earlier. It was straight into the G-and-Ts, followed by the margaritas, followed by the nameless alcopops, followed by beer, wine and more beer. Food? She remembered peanuts.
Leaving the bar had been a good call. She'd had a few too many. If she didn't get back to her room she was worried the next one would be a co-worker not a drink. She'd sensed she was overflirting, practically groping her male colleagues, undressing them with her throaty laugh. Their beer goggles filling with expectation, slowly restoring her to youth. They were looking at her — to her — not just at the pretty young things — the bitches — from reception and purchasing.
Fuck. She'd dropped her key card. Bending over — more revealing than she'd meant to be, but not as easy as it used to be — she saw two buttons undone on her blouse. Did that happen earlier or just now? More revealing than she'd meant to be.
Ting. The lift door closed in front of her as she stood up. Fuck. She hadn't heard it arrive. She pressed the button. Too late. More waiting. At least she had a drink and yet another reason to have it.
Affairs as short as they were doomed. Drunken one-nighters with younger men whose regret she saw across the pillow in the morning. Or older men who couldn't believe their luck but couldn't get it up. At least tonight she'd be taking only the drink to her room.
Her marriage had limped across the finishing line twenty years after a false start. A husband whose long-running deceit had fooled her and three other women, an extended family she never knew she had. A son who drifted everywhere and committed to nothing, from his iPod shuffle to his carousel of girlfriends. A daughter whose prudishness seemed a studied response to her family, distancing herself by more than a reasonable airfare.
All gone. All done. Alone.
"Mar-jo-rie!" Jack sang her name across the foyer. "Looking good. How's it going?" He walked towards her, tie loose, shirt untucked, top two buttons undone, beer bottle in hand and a confident swagger that steered clear of a straight line. But a smile all for her.
Ting. She caught the door. They got in.
"Floor?" Jack's hands waved in front of the panel, nimble, conjuring, charming, drunken.
"Top floor, Jack." Smile. "All the way."
He pressed all the buttons, all the right buttons. The lift was slow. Jack was quick. But, at least tonight, she'd be taking only the drink to her room.
"Buttons" was published in Jawbreakers, the 2012 National Flash-Fiction Day anthology. More background here and here.