Fortified with a glass facade, the building looked daunting as it gazed down upon Aliza. Like a huge Goliath against the tiny David.

Sensing the danger, she approached the reception desk.

The receptionist was the type who was good at his job, but no longer had patience for fools with plastic smiles. In fact, anyone with a smile, not just the fools. His nose was buried behind a large tabloid.

“Good morning. I’m here to see Mr. Carlson.”

Mr. Happy looked up from his holy morning reading, rustling the paper in indignant protest. “He’s on the 18th floor. The elevators are on the left.” He jerked his chin toward the elevators before he dove back into the news.

Elevators, dearest fate, she hadn’t considered elevators. When she looked to the left, there was another glass door and…nothing.

“Ah…excuse me, there’s nothing.”

“Yes, that’s what everybody says. You’ll have to wait. It will come. Trust me.” Another half-bark and he was done; he’d reached his conversation limit for the day.

Aliza inhaled. She had to face the battle by herself.

Oh, no! Elevator. A glass prison. I will be like a bug in a jar. Did Hermione make holes in that lid?…And it’s hanging free on the outside…just don’t think about it…simple.

She pattered up to the beast, fixing the marble floor before the door swished open. Her stomach went sour. A deep breath, and she steeled herself for the horrors to come.

Pep talk: now, I can do this, I can do this.

In the movies, this always worked, but it did nothing for her; it made her heart race and hyperventilate before she got in.

Staring at the ominous glass doors, Aliza exhaled once more and turned back to the reception desk.

“Excuse me?”

Shaking the paper into a crisp barrier, Mr. Guardian answered from behind. “You have to wait, miss; I told you so.”

“Ah, yes, but are there stairs?”



“To the 18th floor?”

“Oh, I don’t mind the exercise, I have 20 minutes, I can do this…” she trailed off.

I sound like a horror movie. This is ridiculous. I should just get a grip, hold my breath, and step into that thing. I need that job.

The 18th floor would be the interview office, not the workplace, right?

“The stairs are at the back of the building, a bit further to the left after the entrance. Miss?!”

“Ah, what?”

The receptionist; she’d forgotten the receptionist.

“The stairs, miss.” Now he really had enough of her. He had already fired her. His voice was louder than before. A barking dog, baring his teeth and snarling.

This is a receptionist, just a receptionist. He has to be polite. He has to answer me. He is not master of my destiny. His answers are not a rejection. I just have to get past him. This is just like getting a dentist appointment…or making a phone call. Phone calls. I can do this…right…I am not stupid.

Brain, add sugar to the voice…syrup.

With her last breath, she forced a smile to her face.

“Oh, yeah, I’m so sorry. Thank you for your help.”

She cast yet another glance to the elevator and dashed to the stairs.

Cold grey concrete walls, a steel banister, and no need to look down. A cool draft came through the doors; apart from that, it was quiet.

After two floors, she cursed her exuberant words to the receptionist.

Exercise, heavens, when did I last exercise? I should have waited for the elevator, closed my eyes, and EXERCISED my breathing.

One more stop, then I will check the elevator.

The door to the floor read five.

13 more? 13? I will die. I don’t need this job. I’ll go downstairs and call them. Or maybe…

Gathering her courage, she opened the door to the fifth floor to meet the scrutinizing gaze of another receptionist and headed for the elevator.

“Sorry, missed the elevator,” she chirped in the direction of the reception desk and proceeded toward the door.

The glass door opened, revealing a spectacular view of the scenic city. Aliza inhaled again before she noticed the elevator was full of men. Big men.

Her breathing calmed, and a relieved smile accompanied her look into the cramped space. “No, thanks. I’ll wait for the next one.”

She turned back into the safety of the staircase.

Why did I not take comfy shoes? Where is it written that one comes in high heels and slippery nylons to a job interview? Maybe I should take them off. Yes, good idea. If I keep them on, I will have a ladder when I arrive. Right, making good impressions. Out of breath, sweaty, ruined nylons. The perfect look.

She sat on the stair, took off her high heels, and peeled the stockings off her legs.

Aliza rolled them up and stuffed them into her purse.

Elegant lace border; I am such an idiot. Next interview: flip-flops!

Barefooted, she pattered up the next floor, holding the railing tight with one hand and her shoes in the other.

Maaaaybe I should try the elevator. The logic would be that big heavy men are in that elevator and it has not fallen yet, so it probably will not fall when I enter. Dear brain, please accept the logic.

Of course, “dear brain” did no such thing, but it was a good exercise. Having bolstered her resolve, she advanced toward her adversary for a second time.

The men inside were enormous by now. The one in the front wore a grey suit and had short brown hair, a hard jaw, and he was definitely too tall.

Gosh, that guy is tall. Monstrous!

Aliza blinked as Mr. Monster smiled at her shoes.

“Come in, there is room for a small one,” he said.

Not only tall, but also gifted with a voice like gravel.

Goosebumps appeared on her arms and her belly turned in on his own accord.

She attempted another look down the glass pane. “Umm…no, thank you, sir, I’d rather walk.”

“As you wish,” said Mr. Monster as the elevator door closed.

On the eighth floor, the elevator waited for her again. The door opened, one hand was blocking the light barrier, the other inviting her in. She only shook her head and swallowed before fleeing to the staircase.

Resting against the cool wall and gulping in air in rapid motions, she calmed enough to continue her quest.

By the tenth floor, Aliza was so out of breath she didn’t even reach for the door.

There was no need to; Mr. Monster opened it, took her hand, pulled her to his side, and with one hand on her back, navigated toward her nemesis. There was no escape now.

The ground was so far below; she gasped for air. She did this twice before realizing she was standing on a steel platform and moving upward.

Everything tilted, and she leaned in the other direction to balance the fall.

A warm hand went around her wrist and put her hand on the steel railing.

“Close your eyes; it’ll be better soon.”

The world straightened itself and moved only in one direction as Aliza did what the dark murmur said and breathed.

“Count!” the voice rumbled.

One, two, three, four…

The elevator made a tingling sound and came to a halt with a little bump in the air.

“I need to get out. I’m sorry.”

Her eyes darted down to the steel platform. With heavy breaths, she held on to the railing and she pushed a foot forward without lifting it.

Oh, they wait for me to rush. I just need to reach the door and jump into the building.

“I’m sorry, just a moment.” She couldn’t push out the “please” between two fast inhales.

“We’re going to the 18th floor. You can stay with us.”

Aliza looked up and Mr. Monster with the granulated voice was so near, she could smell him.

“How far…which floor…” She sucked in too much air.

“We go right to the top. Don’t worry.”

The warm palm that had put her hand on the railing came back to her, pulling her to an equally warm body.

Then a jacket opened and wrapped around her. Everything went dark as a wave of scents washed over her: aftershave, man…coffee, worn wool-jacket, and a whiff of shower after the gym. Warm.

Broad hands spread on her back and the rough voice encouraged her to breathe and count.

The interview went as all interviews go, with the minor difference that Mr. Monster made her drink a glass of water and introduced himself as Mr. Carlson.

He personally showed her around the office, ensuring she knew which windows to avoid, before accompanying her to the door.

“I’ll expect you tomorrow first thing in the morning at 7.30 at the elevator door.”

Aliza nodded, escaping into the safety of the concrete staircase.

Two Weeks Later

The meeting was over. Ben Carlson closed his notebook and tipped speed-dial on his smartphone.

“I’m leaving, be ready in five minutes.” He received the answer with a grunt and moved to the exit.

His friends looked up and grinned. “When are you going to show her the employee elevator?”