by Amanda C. Davis
One floor below the penthouse, the elevator slid open. Ben, pressed against the mirrored wall like he wanted to climb it, mashed the button marked "P" before my husband got his shaking hands and drew him away.
"Come on, buddy. Time to get out."
"The penthouse is higher," said Ben. His skin was gray under the patches of his beard. "Aren't we--aren't we--"
"All the way up," I told him. I thought I'd lost that soothing tone when he reached adulthood, but it came right back. "All the way up."
Gerald supported him under one arm as they staggered down the maroon-carpeted hall. "Keep going," said Gerald. He had a bracing edge to his own parental soothe: something he'd mimicked from his own father, he told me. "One foot in front of the other. Just like Rickman's."
I'd never heard what went on at Ben's bachelor party, only that he had to be supported out of it. His father had straightened him and all six groomsmen into presentable young men in time for the wedding. That was my Gerald.
There was a window at the end of the hall. Ben lunged for it. Gerald caught him in time, and I added my weight against Ben's other shoulder. If my heart were not already broken, Ben's frothing curses at being stopped would have finished me.
Angie's mother told me how she'd cursed at the end. So much filth gushing from her little girl. But they'd managed to release her from a skyscraper in the city where she was born, taller than anything we have here, and Angie's mother promised me it was all worth it. It killed Ben to send his wife away, but her parents insisted, and he knew they were right. For some things, you have to go home.
At a door near the ice machine, I used the key we had bribed from a janitor to get us into a storage room with a service elevator. Ben lit up at the sight of it. There wasn't space to go three side-by-side, so I caught Ben from the front, helped him in. His eyes turned irresistibly to the fluorescent panels of the elevator-car ceiling. Gerald squeezed in behind us.
"Roof," groaned Ben. Then, unexpectedly: "Angie."