The group left Graham’s office and walked down the bare hallway. Florescent lights flickered overhead. He looked for something interesting to point out, but could find nothing. As they entered the elevator lobby, Graham turned to the soldier who had shown Peggy Lee and Ian to his office and said, “I’ll take it from here.”
“Yes, sir.” The young soldier promptly turned and disappeared down a side hallway, leaving Graham alone with his guests.
Graham pressed the “down” button and then stood facing the doors, waiting for them to open. In the mirrored reflection, he could make out both Peggy Lee and Ian, flanking him. On Graham’s right, Ian stared straight ahead. He looked distracted, possibly daydreaming. But no, it was not daydreaming. Graham noticed the intensity of Ian’s gaze. His brow was slightly furrowed. There was something on his mind. Was he calculating? Worrying some numbers or a complicated problem?
Graham looked at Ian’s thick, hairy arms. He fit the role of a hologramographer. He was a very large guy, tall and broad. He could easily handle heavy equipment. And he seemed to be a man of few words. Perhaps he was always sizing up camera angles and lighting, cogitating on the best shots. A long, heavy ponytail ran down his back. He had a tattoo of a spider on his neck and a bearded, taut face. Graham guessed he was the giant in high school that all the coaches tried to talk into playing sports. At around 6’6’’, he towered over Graham.
On Graham’s left was the lovely Peggy Lee. She was tapping one of her feet ever-so-slightly to a rhythm only she could hear. Her head bounced almost imperceptibly with the internal beat. Graham could not hear her humming, but he could almost feel her energy pulsating against his shoulder. She was like a jack-in-the-box, waiting to be released. She filled the lobby with energy, even though they were simply standing in front of the elevator doors. Her eyes were fixed on the unlit down arrow, waiting for the light and the ding and to get going.
And then, there was Graham, standing in the middle. For the most part, he was an average-looking guy – always had been and always would be. He was medium height with a medium build . . . fit, but not muscular. He had unremarkable brown eyes, a kind, unassuming smile, and was balding. A pink hue colored his cheeks and nose, a side effect from his nightly white lightning indulgence. He had been called handsome a few times when he was younger, but mostly by his mother. He figured that didn’t really count.
Only one component of Graham’s appearance truly stood out from the ordinary. He had a subtle, but nonetheless noticeable scar that ran from the corner of his eye, over his cheek bone, and down his cheek as though a single, thick, red tear drop had stained his face. He rubbed it when he got nervous or felt boxed-in, a tic the child psychologists had said was normal – even healthy – considering its origin.
He looked hard at himself in the elevator doors for just a moment – something he generally avoided doing. His uniform was pressed and his shoes polished. He was not fastidious about his dress, but he was no slob. He looked moderately presentable, but, as he had noticed recently, faint black circles hung under his eyes. Also, he was slouching. And somewhere along the line, his forehead had developed two pronounced, horizontal wrinkles. Even though he had just turned forty, his reflection in the mirror made him feel much older.
He averted his eyes, straightened his posture, and joined Peggy Lee in staring at the unlit down arrow. He felt scrunched in. He had thought that the doors would open immediately. Now, they had been standing in silence for about a minute, awkwardly waiting.
Damn elevator. Graham’s neck flushed. His cheeks grew hot.
Peggy Lee entered first, followed by Graham and Ian.
Graham pressed floor three and momentarily stroked his red scar.