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The Waiting Room

By @CharlieWrites


It was 3:56, read the digital clock in its blaring red lights.

Tick, tick, tick.

Shaughnessy Grace shifted in her seat, her thighs making a small noise as they unstuck from the plastic bottom. Conscious of her legs in the quiet room, she tugged down her midi shorts, wishing she’d worn her baggy jeans.

“Ness?” Her mom sat beside her, tapping on her phone. Her mom could’ve been in a Pixar movie, with her voluptuous curves and messy bob cut.

Ness looked at her mom.

“I’m gonna go take a call out in the hall. Hang tight, sweetie,” Her mom brushed her wrist as she left, the door closing behind her.

And again, it was quiet. Quiet but for the tick, tick, tick of the clock.

Man sitting across from her, one chair to the left, let out a sigh as he checked his watch again.

Ness looked up at the clock.

It was 3:56.

His ankle was resting on his knee, his business shirt stretching across his potbelly stomach. His hairline was disappearing, the silver along the edges and deep forehead grooves a clear sign of his stress. A briefcase rested against his chair, tucked behind the leg supporting the ankle.

He checked his watch.

“Ness? Is that your name?”

The woman sitting in her row, in the corner of the small room, leaned over the arm of her plastic chair. Her toddler sat in the chair on the adjacent wall, flipping through a picture book.

Ness was a bit startled, but she nodded.

“I couldn’t help but notice your eyes earlier- they’re beautiful,” The woman smiled.

Nessa frowned slightly, then stopped, remembering the man in front of her, who was now also staring at her.

Her eyes were ordinary eyes. Brown, almost black, with little bags and trimmed eyebrows.

“Thank you,” she smiled back, then dropped her gaze to her shorts again.

The woman leaned back into her chair, looking around.

Tick, tick, tick.

The room was dim, an amber glow from a single lamp in the corner the only thing providing light. The man was two seats away from the lamp. So was the boy. Nessa was the farthest.

The boy swung his legs back and forth, as if searching for the floor, his tempo just slightly ahead of the ticking.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

The man sighed and checked his watch again.

Nessa looked at the woman, who now had her head leaning back on the beige wall behind her, eyes closed. She’d been so nice and smiley, but looking at her, Nessa saw somebody who was… tired. She wore sweatpants and a large jacket over a baggy t-shirt, dark circles under her eyes and deep cheekbones. Her hair had a couple gray streaks playing through the brown locks. The boy beside her was blonde, and wore a t-shirt for Seaside Baptist Elementary.

“What are you reading?” The man spoke suddenly, startling Nessa.

The boy looked up, bright green eyes to match his mothers penetrating the old man.

“I’m reading a story,” he began, tasting each word in his month before it left, “about a kid who made one second last forever.”

Tick, tick, tick.

“Oh? What does he do?”


“Oh. What does she do?”

“Well,” he tilts his head as if to remember, “She does lots of things- she goes to the park, she eats free ice cream, she blows up balloons, and swings in a swing. She even kicked her bully at school.”

“That sounds like fun,” The old man sighed contentedly, massaging his silvery hair with his wrinkled fingers.

The boy shook his head.

“It was for a while, but she was lonely. She would stare at people for hours. People halfway through their conversations, people jumping into a pool, people jumping from rung to rung on the playgrounds. She’d stare at her mom, who was at work, and her dad, who sat at home, looking at a receipt. She’d look at her brother, who it took her forever to find. She would even stare at her bully, talking to him for hours. She read all kinds of books and went to all sorts of places, though she couldn’t fly a plane or drive a car very far, not usually.

She never got to fall in love, but she spoke with and hugged and loved everyone she met, everyone she knew. And she grew old. And eventually, she died, staring up at the sky, in a park surrounded by people.”

Nessa looked at the boy. It was heavy stuff for a kid. His knee bounced and jumped nervously, as if he was trying to hammer a ditch in the ugly green carpet. She met his eyes, which stared out at her from under his blond bangs, boring into her soul. She looked away.

“Ahhh…” The man sighed, leaning back into his chair as if to think. He checks his watch again, adjusts once or twice, then falls asleep, his frail body dwarfed by his suit, one made for someone much younger.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

Nessa stared at her fingernails, picking at a piece here and there, wondering when her mother was coming back.

“There he goes,” The boy said sadly. Nessa frowned, looking at him, the way his book hung limply from his hands, hands that connected to strong arms, arms that connected eventually to a face with bright green eyes, eyes that were staring at the old man.

It looked like the old man hadn’t moved in years. His skin was gray, with little purple veins Nessa hadn’t noticed before, his silver hair clinging to his head.

He was dead, or so Nessa thought. She looked at the boy to see if he had come to the same conclusion. He was staring right at her.


He kept staring, not surprised that she knew his name.

“Are we alone?”

She looked at his mom, who’d been so kind, so tired, and saw that she was also dead. She didn’t bother to look at the door- she knew she wouldn’t find it.

Noah nodded.

She looked back down at her lap, at herstupid nails, her stupid jeans, the stupid floor, knots in the hardwood staring right back at her.


She looked back at him. He was alone, his mother gone from his side. His hair fell in his eyes, but she could still see them.

“It’s glad to have you back,” He gave her a half smile.

She nodded, offering a quick smile. She’d known this man all her life. She’d fought demons in her dreams with him, ran through playgrounds and club houses and labs and kingdoms, mazes and fields, and schools and rivers, all of it by his side. Nobody knew her like he did, and nobody knew him like she.

Looking at the clock, she saw that it was 3:56.

Tick, Tick, Tick.

The man was gone. It was just them, Noah and Ness. There was never anything else, never anything at all.

She leaned back, her head pressing into the blue wall behind her, closing her eyes.

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick….

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