Caroline & The Elevator

Caroline & The Elevator

Rated 'PG'

BY: Jana~

~~Disclaimer~~

*****~*****

--Caroline was rushing about as fast as she could, but it still wasn't fast enough for Richard...

"C'mon Caroline! We're gonna be late!" Richard snapped, fidgeting as he looked at his watch…

"You think I don't know that!" she barked back as she continued buzzing about... "Where are my keys?!" Irritation was clearly in her voice…

Richard held the keys up to alert her to the fact that he had them, shaking them so that they made a jingling sound. Caroline glared at him as she grabbed them in a huff…

"You ready NOW?!" he asked, knowing it would upset her further, but too annoyed to care…

"Yes!"

She marched out the door and pushed the elevator button, then turned to lock the door.

When the elevator arrived, Richard stepped on and called to her… "Let's go!"

She took 3 large strides, but stopped abruptly, just short of getting on… almost to the point of losing her balance. She stood staring at the elevator, almost as if in a trance… and the expression on her face had turned from hurried and flustered to worried and concerned.

"What's wrong?" Richard asked, noticing the sudden change…

"I… I don't…" she stammered, not really answering him…

"Caroline?!" He tried again to get her attention, more concerned than upset by her actions.

She looked at him, still dazed and confused… "I… I thought I felt something…"

"Felt something? Like what?"

"I don't know… it was weird. Like… I should be afraid…"

He scowled slightly, trying to understand her… "Afraid of what?"

"I'm not sure… something…" was her distant reply…

"Well, are you alright now?"

She seemed to come back from whatever far-off place she had been visiting… "Yeah… I guess so…"

"Well, then… let's go!"

A slight grin accompanied his order, and Caroline glared at him with a smirk… but all-too-quickly, her expression turned serious again…

"Do you mind if we take the stairs?"

"Why?"

She shrugged… "Humor me… I would feel better if we took the stairs…"

"Well, that's what I'm here for… to make you feel better…" Richard shot back sarcastically as he stepped off the elevator… "If it will get you down to this meeting and get me back to my mundane job, I'd shimmy down the drain pipe!"

She chuckled… "I'd pay to see that!"

"How much?"

"Hmmm... $20.00??"

Richard looked like he was considering it for a moment… "Nah… not enough…"

Caroline slapped him playfully on the arm at his declination…

He recoiled, mainly for dramatic purposes… "Don't hit!"

"Big baby!" she teased as the headed into the stairwell…

*****~*****

--Richard could easily tell that Caroline's demeanor seemed off… "You ok?"

"Yeah… why?"

"You seem… distracted…"

"When? Now?"

The confused tone in her voice proved his point, and he chuckled slightly… "Yeah, now… at the meeting…"

She sighed… "I just can't shake that feeling I had earlier…"

"That feeling of being afraid?"

"Yeah. It was so weird… so real…"

"Well, you don't feel it now do you?"

"No…"

"It was probably nothing… anxiety about the meeting maybe…"

"Or anxiety from you rushing me!" she added with a smirk…

Richard scoffed, dismissing that idea… "Oh, please…"

"You hungry?" Caroline asked, jumping from one of train of thought to the next…

He attempted to suppress a chuckle… "Yeah… I could eat…"

"What?"

"What??"

"I saw you suppress that smile! What I do? What I say?"

"Nothing! You just jumped to the next subject so fast…" he explained.

Caroline hit him and gently pushed him in response…

"Hey! No hitting OR pushing!" he griped, pushing her back. Just then they realized… they were in front of Remo's. Richard held the door open for Caroline and she smiled as she walked in, him right behind her.

--Caroline had seen a change in Richard over the past couple months. He seemed more open and he seemed to let her in a little more each day. She enjoyed the friendship that was developing between them and cherished her time with him… both on and off the clock.

--Richard loved Caroline… he had no doubts about that… but the friendship that was developing was too important to him to risk saying anything. Knowing his own track record with relationships, he was afraid he would do something to screw it up… or his love would be unrequited… and that could mean losing her as a friend. He couldn't chance that. He watched her brush the bangs from her face as she looked over the menu she had to have known by heart… they ate there so often…

"You gonna look at the menu?" she asked, bringing a distant Richard back to earth.

"I know what they have… it's the same menu I saw yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that…" he quipped…

"Yes, yes… I get your point Richard. We eat here a lot. Shut up…"

*****~*****

--"Hey! What's up?" Annie asked cheerfully as she entered Caroline's loft.

"Your legs?" Richard asked, sneering.

"At least I have a body part that I can get 'up'!" Annie shot back, smiling triumphantly at her comeback… "What'cha doin tonight Caroline?"

Caroline continued to draw her comic strip, her gaze only briefly leaving her work to glance at Annie… "I'm going out…"

"Get out!" Annie exclaimed, amazed…

"I'm out!" Caroline announced excitedly…

"Oh, joy… it's homeroom at Duffy High School..." Richard cracked as he got up from his seat and headed for the bathroom.

Annie just waved him away… "Who you going out with? Where'ya goin?"

"I'm going out with Richard! To the opera!"

"Richard?! What are you being punished for?!"

"For whatever it's worth… I can hear you from in here…" Richard called out from inside the bathroom.

"For whatever it's worth… I couldn't care less!" Annie shot back, rolling her eyes. "Why on earth would you purposefully go out with Mr. Happy??"

"Annie!" Caroline scolded in a whispered tone, taking her by the arm and leading her into the hall. "We're really starting to become friends. We have a good time together… he's finally opening up to me…"

"Yuck! Ok, spare me the details…" Annie shuddered, then pushed the button to the elevator…

Caroline smiled at Annie's reaction… "Where are you headed to?"

"A new singles bar! Looks neat… I'll let you know if it is!" she chuckled, then stepped onto the elevator. Caroline's whole body turned cold and she went pale… the look of fear that crossed her face physically shocked Annie… "Caroline?? What's wrong?"

"Did you feel that?" Caroline asked with a far-off look in her eyes…

"Feel what?"

"You didn't feel it?"

"I didn't feel anything sweetie… are you ok?"

"I… I don't know…"

"C'mon… let's go inside…"

--Annie walked with Caroline back into the loft, both taking a seat on the couch. When Richard came out of the bathroom, he immediately realized something was wrong, questioning Caroline with nothing more than a look…

"I got that feeling again…" Caroline informed, answering his silent question…

"The 'afraid' feeling?" he asked, walking towards her…

"Yeah…"

"Ok, I'm out of the loop on this…" Annie interjected… "What's going on?"

"This isn't the first time I've had this feeling. I had it the other day too…"

"Well, what did it feel like?" Annie asked, trying to understand…

"It's kinda hard to explain… just this rush of fear…"

"Stress maybe?" Annie suggested…

"That's what Richard suggested… I don't know… I don't feel especially stressed…"

Annie slowly got up from the couch and inched towards the door… "Well, are you ok now?"

"Yeah." Caroline chuckled… "Go, go… I'm fine…"

Annie cracked a big smile and made a beeline for the elevator.

"Annie? Do me a favor?"

"Sure!"

"Take the stairs…"

"What? Why?"

"I don't know. I would feel better if you did…"

"Ok…" Annie's tone had both laughter and skepticism, but she humored her friend and headed for the stairs.

"Are you sure you're ok?" Richard asked with concern.

"Yeah… I'm sure…"

"We don't have to go tonight… if you don't want to…"

"No, I want to go! I bought a new dress and everything!"

"Ah, yes… can't let a new dress go to waste…"

"Don't mock! I have been looking forward to going and I bought a new dress for the occasion… you have a problem with that?" Caroline feigned irritation…


He shook his head… "Nope… no problem with that at all…"

"Ok, then… shut up." she snipped humorously, smiling as she headed for the stairs to her room…

"I'll be back at seven."

"K…"

*****~*****

--Richard knocked twice on the door, then let himself in…

"Caroline?" he called out to her as he headed for the kitchen. Seeing Salty perched on the kitchen counter, he took a moment to hiss at her before reaching into the fridge to grab a bottle of water…

"I'm almost ready! Be right down!" Caroline announced from upstairs.

"Yeah, right…" Richard murmured sarcastically under his breath…

"Shut up!" she retorted… not hearing his remark, but knowing there had to be one… it being Richard and all.

Richard just smiled and shook his head. He could hear her humming as she mulled about upstairs, and his mind conjured up the fantasy of racing up the stairs… taking her into his arms and kissing her… caressing her… until they tumbled into bed and made love with the intensity and passion he dreamt she was capable of… dreamt she was capable of bringing out in him. He shook the image from his mind, feeling it affecting him in ways that would be hard to explain if Caroline were to come down and see.

Seconds later she descended the stairs, pausing a moment on the steps for his opinion. He gasped as he saw her, and the sound did not escape her attention…

"You look amazing…" he whispered, unable to control the emotion in his voice.

A slight blush crossed her cheeks at the compliment… "Thank you…" She walked the rest of the way down the stairs to her coat, it hanging on the hook by the door.

Richard approached her and helped her with her coat, then opened the door for her…

"So gentlemanly…" she stated as a show of appreciation, then walked out the door.

Now it was Richard's turn to blush. He felt the rush to his face and lingered a moment longer then necessary at the door with his back turned, trying to hide his embarrassment. When he turned around Caroline was staring at the elevator looking perplexed.

"What's wrong?"

Her eyes never left the elevator… "That feeling again…"

"You're kidding!"

"No… I'm not…"

"Have you noticed?" he asked… "It happens at the elevator..."

That idea hadn't occurred to her before… "You're right! Why?"

"Good question."

The elevator doors opened and they both just stood staring at it…

He nudged her softly… "Stairs?"

"Yeah."

*****~*****

-- The evening was perfect… so much so that Caroline completely forgot about the strange rush of fear that had been plaguing her as of late…

"Thank you Richard…"

"For what?"

"For this wonderful evening…" Caroline purred as she leaned against him… wrapping her arm around his… resting her head on his shoulder.

Richard felt the ability to breathe leave him, and he fought the urge to pull his arm away… "It was a wonderful evening… wasn't it?" His voice sounded just slightly off from normal.

"Ya'know…" Caroline started… "At the risk of crossing a line here… the last couple months… I think we've been getting closer…"

"Crossing a line?"

"Yeah… you know… cause you don't like talking about emotional stuff…"

He nodded… "Oh… yeah…"

"I've really enjoyed our time together lately…"

"Me too…" he admitted, looking at the ground as he walked.

She could tell the conversation was making him uncomfortable, so she changed the subject… "Beautiful evening, huh?"

*****~*****

--When they arrived at Caroline's apartment building, she had that same flash of fear as she tried to get on the elevator. Shaken, they took the stairs to her loft…

"I just don't get it…" she complained… "I've never had that happen before. I think you're right though… it only seems to hit me when I'm about to get on the elevator…"

Annie's door was open and she poked her head out at the sound of Caroline's voice… "What hits you when you get on the elevator?"

Caroline startled at Annie's voice… "Hey! I thought you were going to the singles bar?"

Richard rolled his eyes and started fidgeting.

"Yeah… I did… BORING!"

Caroline chuckled… "Oh… sorry…"

"So, what's up with the elevator?"

"Oh, I don't know… seems like every time I go to get on, I get this rush of fear…"

"Huh! Like earlier?"

"Yeah. Weird, huh?"

Annie nodded… "Totally…"

"Look, Caroline…" Richard interjected… "I'm gonna get going…"

"Ah, what's the matter Richie…" Annie antagonized… "Am I ruining your date?"

"It wasn't a date Annie…" Caroline corrected carefully.

"I'm leaving…" He sighed, spinning around and pushing the elevator button…

"What… no good night kiss?" Annie teased, making kissing noises.

"Richard… don't go…" Caroline pleaded, slapping Annie on the arm to get her to stop teasing.

"It's ok… I just need to get going…"

"Oh… ok…" Caroline couldn't stop the disappointed tone in her voice…

Richard smiled to assure her, hugging her, momentarily forgetting Annie was there. Annie started making kissing sounds again and Richard glared at her as he released Caroline from his embrace. She fought to suppress a smile and turned away, knowing she would burst out laughing if she didn't.

"Night." Richard said softly as he got onto the elevator…

"Richard?" Caroline called out…

"Yeah?"

"Stairs?" she asked sheepishly.

Richard smiled as he walked out of the elevator, then headed for the stairs. He glared again at Annie as he passed her and she shot him an evil grin.

Annie loved playing with his head. "So… what's this elevator thing about?" she asked as they entered Caroline's loft.

"I don't know…"

"Maybe it's something like a premonition…"

"A premonition?"

"Yeah. Like… your subconscious knows something's going to happen, so it's trying to tell you…"

"I don't know…" Caroline muttered skeptically… "Hey!" she changed the subject… "Could you stop messing with Richard please!"

Annie pouted dramatically… "But it's fun!"

"Well, you're gonna scare him away again… I'm just starting to make some headway with him!"

"Fine… fine!" Annie agreed to her friend's request… "You're no fun…"

*****~*****

--"Hey! I want to talk to you!" Richard exclaimed as he ran to catch the elevator… Annie looked unamused. "What was all that last night?"

"All what?" she asked, feigning innocence. Richard glared at her and imitated the kissing sounds she had made the night before. Annie laughed, irritating Richard.

"I told you… I don't have feelings for Caroline other than friendship!"

"I know you did…" she chirped, placating him…

"Stay out of it Annie!" he barked, immediately adjusting his demeanor as the elevator door opened.

Annie and Richard just stared open-mouthed at what they saw… Caroline's apartment door was open, and she was sitting on the floor in the entrance way to her… staring at the elevator.

"Caroline?" Annie asked, perplexed by her friend's actions.

"Caroline… what are you doing?" Richard asked as he stepped off the elevator, approaching her…

"I think I have it figured out…" Caroline announced as she got up from the floor and walked into her apartment. Annie and Richard followed. "I think I keep getting these feelings of fear from the elevator cause I think it's broken…"

"Broken?" Richard and Annie asked, almost in unison…

"Yeah…" Caroline nodded… "Like Annie said last night… it's like a premonition…"

"So, now you think you're psychic?" Richard asked skeptically.

"I don't know… I just have this feeling that something's going to happen."

"Caroline… you're not psychic…" Richard dismissed the idea as he headed for the kitchen. Seeing that there was no coffee made, he started making some…

"Well, what now?" Annie asked, trying to sound supportive…

"I think I should ask Mr. Tedescu to look at it…"

"Caroline… this is the man that took two weeks to fix your shower…" Annie reminded… "He's not going to do anything about it…"

"Well, I have to try… someone could get hurt!"

*****~*****

--Richard stood with his arms crossed, obviously annoyed by being there…

"Mr. Tedescu… I really think you should at least look at the elevator…" Caroline insisted.

"Elevator is fine! No problem with elevator!" the Romanian-born superintendent claimed in a thick accent.

"Can't you please just look at it?" she pleaded.

"Oh, for God's sake… will you please just look at the elevator for her!" Richard barked.

Mr. Tedescu just looked at him for a moment… "Up-tight cat hater… right?"

Richard rolled his eyes and started to walk away, but Caroline grabbed his arm, stopping him.

"Please Mr. Tedescu… please?" Caroline pleaded again.

Mr. Tedescu shook his head and sighed… "If I have time…" he said sharply, then went back into his apartment and shut the door soundly.

"Let's go Caroline…" Richard said as he started to walk away… Caroline followed silently.

*****~*****

--Richard was in a deep sleep when the phone rang… scaring him awake.

"This had better be important!" Richard barked into the phone…

"I'm sorry Richard… I'm sorry to wake you…" the hysterical voice on the other end of the phone apologized…

"Caroline?"

"Yeah… I had a dream… a nightmare…"

"What about?" he asked sleepily as he rubbed his eyes.

"The elevator… Annie was killed… in the dream…" she choked out through her tears.

He could tell she was scared and upset… "I'm on my way…" he said as he grabbed his clothes.

"Richard?"

"Yeah?"

"Take the stairs?"

"Yeah… I will…"

*****~*****

--Richard entered Caroline's apartment. Not seeing any sign of her, he called out… "Caroline?"

"Upstairs…" she called back.

Richard hesitated ever so briefly before walking up the stairs to her bedroom. She was sitting on the bed, a pile of used kleenex on the floor, and more on the bed with her. Richard grabbed a book off the nightstand and pushed the tissues off the bed, then sat down next to her. Caroline leaned her head onto Richard's shoulder and he put his arm around her in response…

"It was just a dream Caroline… Annie is fine…"

"I know… it was just so… real…"

"Yeah…" Richard didn't know what to do… or what to say. Having a friend like Caroline was uncharted territory for him.

"Thanks for coming…"

"No problem…"

*****~*****

--"Ok, so, Annie pushed the button… then what?" Richard asked as Caroline recounted the dream…

"And the elevator just wasn't there. The door opened, but the elevator wasn't there…"

"So, she stepped out into nothing?"

Caroline nodded, tears falling.

He held her tighter, trying to comfort her… "Caroline… I know it was scary… I know it seemed very real… but it was just a dream."

"But what if it's more?"

Richard sighed… "Not the psychic thing again…" he shook his head… "Caroline, you're not psychic…"

"I know I'm not… but maybe it's like a premonition… you don't necessarily have to be psychic to have premonitions."

"Caroline… you're just going to make yourself sick thinking like that…"

"Too late." She sighed… "Will you stay tonight?"

"Stay? Here? Why?" his voice edged nervousness…

"I don't feel like being alone."

"Oh. Yeah… ok… I'll stay…"

*****~*****

--"Hey… there you are…" Caroline announced as she walked down the stairs… "I kinda thought maybe you left."

"Nope… just making coffee." Richard replied, pointing at the coffeemaker…

"Smells good…"

"Want some?"

"Yeah… thanks…"

"What a night!" Annie announced as she bounced through the door…

"Good date?" Caroline asked…

"GREAT date!"

"Great date, huh? You got dinner first then I take it…" Richard quipped, sipping his coffee.

"Shut up Ri-- Wait a minute… what are you doing here so early?"

"He stayed with me last night…"

"Whoa! Get out!"

"It's not what you think…" Richard snapped, stopping Annie from her assumptions…

"He came over to keep me company… I had a nightmare…"

"Uh-huh… sure…" Annie teased, her tone mocking…

Richard shot her a disgusted look… "Leave it to you to drag this into the gutter. You're reprehensible…"

"Ooo… that's a 10¢ word! You know what they say… men who use big words are compensating for small…"

"Annie!" Caroline shouted, stopping her from finishing her sentence…

Annie just smiled and headed for the door… "Ok… I'm outta here…"

"Annie… wait…" Caroline called out to her, walking briskly to catch up with her in the hall… "Look, can you not use the elevator today… I have a bad feeling about it…"

"Sure…" Annie agreed, hugging her friend… "I'll be by later… k?"

"K… thanks…"

--"Did you tell her about the dream?" Richard asked as Caroline walked back into the loft…

"No, I didn't want to scare her… but I told her not to use the elevator…"

"Since when does she ever listen?"

"Oh, hush!" she snipped jokingly… "So, you feel like getting some work done?"

"Sure… but do you feel up to it?"

"Yeah… why wouldn't I?"

"Well, cause… of the whole elevator dream…" he reminded…

"Yeah… but I still have a deadline…"

"Right…"

"I can't just stop working cause I have a nightmare…"

"Right…"

"I mean… it's not like I can do anything about it…"

"Right…"

"Do you know how to say anything but 'right'?"

He smiled… "Yep…"

"Ugh! I just… I can't get this fear out of my head…"

"I know…"

"What am I gonna do?"

"I don't know…"

"You're a big help…" she snipped, slightly irritated…

"Well, what do you want me to do?"

"I don't know…"

"Look, let's just get to work…" he suggested… "Maybe you'll feel better if you get some work done."

She scoffed… "You sound like my dad…"

"How so?"

"When I would get sick when I was younger… he used to tell me 'Pudd… take a shower and go to school, you'll feel better'!"

"Pudd?" he asked with a smirk…

"It's a nickname… shut up…"

"And did it work?"

"No!"

"So, telling you to go take a shower and get some work done wouldn't be a good thing?"

"Uh… no…" she replied emphatically…

"Ok… so noted…"

*****~*****

--"Ummm… Caroline? Are you alright?" Richard asked, his attention leaving his work…

"Yeah… why?"

"Cause in this panel… Caroline is plunging to her death…"

"Oh… sorry. I guess I'm just… preoccupied…" Caroline took the panel away from Richard and crumpled it up.

"No! Really?" he feigned surprise, his tone dripping with sarcasm…

"I just can't shake this feeling…"

"I know…"

"It's starting to affect my work! And my life!" She put her face in her hands, frustrated.

Richard hated to see her so distraught… "Ok, Caroline… c'mon… let's get out of here…"

"What? And go where?"

"Well, what about we go eat… then maybe go to the movies…"

"The movies? Really?" she asked with surprise…

"Mmm-hmm."

"Wow! You hate going to the movies!"

"I know, but you like going… so, we'll go."

"You know, you constantly amaze me." She noticed Richard blush and smiled… "Is that blushing I see?"

"No…" he replied quickly, walking towards the elevator. He pushed the button, then remembered… "Sorry… force of habit. Stairs?"

"Yeah…"

*****~*****

--"I love that movie…" Caroline sniffled as she and Richard walked out of the movie theater.

"Why are you crying?" he asked quizzically…

"It's just such a wonderful analogy for the battle between good and evil…"

"well, but, the 'good guys' won!"

"I know, I know. Don't you just love that movie?"

"Oh, yeah. Nothing like a romp through space with bad actors and a walking fur coat…" he quipped.

"Hey! Harrison Ford is not a bad actor!"

"If you say so…"

"Do you enjoy mocking me?"

"Yeah, actually…" he teased.

Caroline leaned against him for the purpose of nudging him, then hooked her arm around his… "I could tell."

Richard tensed up at her touch, and she noticed his reaction… "Are you cold or something? You want to go get a cup of coffee?"

"No, I'm fine. Coffee does sound good though…"

"Maybe we should just go back to the apartment and have coffee…" she suggested… "I would love to just kick off these shoes and get comfy… ya'know?"

"Sure… we could do that…"

*****~*****

--"Ok… I get that… but what I don't get is, if they can do all this stuff with their minds… like move stuff or whatever… why not just blow up the space station that way? With their minds…" Richard asked as they entered Caroline's apartment building.

"Cause, that power is only so strong… and it was a big space station…" Caroline explained… "Is this where the story loses credibility for you?"

"Caroline… the story lost it's credibility the minute the yellow writing on the screen said 'Long time ago in a galaxy far away…'!"

"Do you pick apart every movie you see?" she asked, then stopped cold.

Richard looked at her expression for a second, then looked in the direction she was looking in. The elevator.

"Again?" he asked, knowing immediately that the weird feeling had returned…

"Yeah… real bad this time…"

"Ok… we'll take the stairs. C'mon…" Richard said calmly, walking her towards the stairs.

"I just don't get why this keeps happening!"

"I don't either…"

"And it's only this elevator! I was at the department store couple days ago… took the elevator… no problem!" she exclaimed, frustration in her voice.

They came around the corner on her floor and they walked towards her loft…

"Hey Caroline! I was just on my way out… wanna go to see the re-release of Star Wars tomorrow?" Annie asked cheerfully as she waited for the elevator.

"Actually… we just got ba--" Caroline stopped cold. The elevator bell 'dinged', signaling it had arrived and Annie took a step towards it… "ANNIE!" Caroline shouted, running towards her. She grabbed her arm and physically pulled her away from the elevator…

"Caroline! What are you doing??" Annie asked, shocked and confused…

"I'm sorry… I just…" Caroline stammered, trying to find the words to explain, then they both looked back at the elevator. The doors were open, but the elevator was not there… just a dark hole leading to the elevator shaft.

"Oh my God Caroline! I could have been killed!" Annie gasped, feeling weak-kneed.

Richard walked over and looked into the elevator shaft… "Like in the dream…" he pointed out…

"What?"

"Caroline had a dream about this…" he answered Annie's question, then they both looked over at Caroline…

"I didn't tell you cause I didn't want to freak you out. Or have you think I was nuts…"

"Some of us already think that…" Richard quipped… Caroline ignored him…

"So, better that I plunge to my death rather than have me think you're nuts?? Are you NUTS??"

"This coming from the head squirrel…" Richard muttered… Caroline and Annie both glared at him…

"I told you not to use the elevator!" Caroline defended herself…

"Since when do I ever listen?? If you had said 'Annie, if you use the elevator you might die. I had a dream…' you bet I would've listened!"

"I'm sorry Annie…" Caroline apologized, tears forming in her eyes…

"Oh, sweetie, I'm sorry. I'm just really shaken here. It's not every day you come within inches of death…"

"Yeah…" Caroline sighed, still shaking… "You wanna come in for coffee?"

"Yeah… sure…" Annie accepted the invite, too flustered to go where she had been headed.

"Where were you going anyway?" Caroline asked as they entered the loft…

"A date… but it was last minute… and I was only going out with him cause I was bored. I can blow him off. He's a bad kisser anyway…"

"Leave it to you to judge your dates based on that…" Richard ridiculed.

"Why don't you go home!" Annie barked, annoyed with Richard's presence.

"Annie!" Caroline scolded…

"It's alright Caroline… I should get going. You have your time with Annie and I'll see ya tomorrow…"

"You sure?"

"Yeah… I'm sure."

"Ok… thanks for tonight…"

Richard nodded… "No problem…" he pseudo-waved as he walked out the door.

-- In a way he was glad to be off the hook. He loved spending time with Caroline, but the thought of them alone… after the connection they'd made on the way home… he just wasn't so sure he wouldn't slip and say something. He pushed the elevator button, deep in thought…

*I guess Caroline was right about the elevator. Maybe she is psychic…* he thought. But if she was… that would mean she could possibly know about his feelings for her. That thought was unnerving…

*Nah… that's impossible.* he tried to convince himself… *Caroline is not psychic!*

Just then the elevator arrived with a 'ding'. The doors opened, but he didn't get on… he just stood there… staring… "Stairs…" he muttered to himself, then headed for the stairwell…

*She's not psychic…* he reminded himself… *I could just use the exercise…*

THE END