A Falling Man, Part 1

Author: Mel Brownlee /

PREFACE




Robbie.
10:04am





I didn't have a lot of options, that was the one thing I was sure of. Among the things I was not sure of was whether or not Helen had turned the news off, I begged her to but I knew better than anyone how stubborn she is and at a time like this, anything constructive I said would just fall on deaf ears. I also was not sure of what was going on in my head, why I was hanging out of a window on the 100th floor looking down at the chaos erupting below me. There was a good possibility that between the time the plane hit us and now, my legs dangling from a window so high up I may as well have not been on the same planet as the people on the ground, that I had gone completely stark raving mad. And that was okay with me, I had always wanted to go that way - cheering myself on and laughing off the improbable doom that lay in wait for me. It was the best way to leave the world, it may not be the most dignified, but it was the most ignorant and that was all I could ask for.

The wind was strong and smoke was blowing around everywhere. There were papers flying out of the building, floating in the air and I realised all the work I had done every day of my life that was so important to be me meant absolutely nothing now and it never really did. All those hours wasted in front of a computer, in meetings, in paperwork were all for nothing as it all gushed out of the tower and disappeared forever.

I laughed, quite loudly, and couldn't stop laughing until I felt a tugged on my arm.

I turned around, it was Josh Isaacs, he was trying to pull me back in.

"No Josh." I pulled my arm out of his grip.

"Mate, c'mon, you don't have to do this, I'm sure there is another way." He begged me, but we both knew he was wrong.

"Another way to die?" I replied calmly.

"No, another way out, you can't just let it end like this."

"Josh, I hate to be a downer but there is no way out. And I have always wanted to fly." I looked below me, to say it was a long way down was an understatement.

"Rob, seriously, don't do this mate." He held out his hand.

"Do you think you'll see your wife again Josh?" I asked randomly.

He almost said yes, but then he stopped in his tracks and I could see the hopelessness in his eyes. "No."

"What is there to live for then?" I asked simply.

"Because it's more time to live, Rob. Whether it be a couple of minutes or a couple of hours. It's more time to enjoy this world and everything it has given us. Don't you want just a little bit more time to be alive in the same world as Helen?"

I stared at Josh, I had known him and worked with him for years and I had never even heard him talk so deeply or appear so emotional. I wanted to stay alive just for him, but it wasn't enough.

"Your Maggie is a very lucky woman." I smiled.

"Not for much longer." He said tearfully.

"Hey, I think you should spare me the inspirational speeches and save them for yourself."

Josh half smiled and held out his hand, but this time it wasn't to pull me back in.

I grabbed his hand and shook it, "It's been nice man."

He let go and walked off into the smoke. That would be the last time I ever saw him, I knew he wouldn't make it out but deep down I told myself he would, that there would be some happiness at the end of the day.

I looked at my watch - Rolex - what a complete rip off.




10:10 I unstrapped my watch and let it slip out of my hand, falling to the world below. I only brought it and kept it because of the name, at the end of the day a watch is a watch and that name never got me anywhere and certainly wasn't going to get me out of the mess I was in now.

I couldn't see the ground for the life of me, the smoke consumed everything and anything, thankfully.

This was it. Time to fly.




ONE.

Helen.




Tuesday September 11th, 2011.
6:00am.




Damn alarm, it wasn't even for me and yet it still managed to wake me up every morning, at the same time, in the same way. That stupid tuneless melody, it was starting to become the bane of my life. But unfortunately for me, it was either put up with the alarm every damned day or suffer sleeping alone. Where ever Robbie slept there would always be an alarm to get him up for work and one day I would accept it, but not today. Today I just wanted to sleep through to 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock or any ridiculous time in the afternoon, without being disturbed once.

The alarm was still going, when was he going to wake up and switch it off?

I kicked him in the leg, "Turn it off." I groaned.

He gingerly got out of bed and hit the alarm aggressively to make it stop.

"You know, I'm starting to warm to the idea of having the bed to myself all the time." I stated.

"Oh ha ha. Sorry love, not going to happen." He threw himself on me and tangled me with his legs.

"God you're on oath. Get off me and go to work."

"That's a bit mean." He whispered in my ear.

"You know what they say, treat 'em mean keep 'em keen." I giggled.

"Doesn't work I'm afraid!"

"Exhibit A." I gestured to him being all over me.

"Ah yes," he slowly backed away and slithered out of the bed, "I see what has happened here, you have tricked me with your ways again."

"You let yourself be tricked, love."

He rolled his eyes and pulled some pants on, slipped into a shirt and finished his ensemble with a grey jumper.

"Done."

"Ha! Oh to be a man." I sighed.

"It is a blessing, I feel for you and all that slap you have to put on your face."

"Have to?" I raised an eyebrow. "Are you suggesting that I have to put make up on because I need it?"

"Of course n - " he paused and looked deep in thought, "hold the phone, you're doing it again, you have managed to trick me twice in the space of a minute!"

"I repeat, you let yourself be tricked."

"Blah blah blah." He pulled a funny face and threw the bed sheet over my head.

He leaned across the bed, inches away from my face. "I'm off, kiss?"

"Hmm," I pretended to contemplate the offer but we both knew a kiss was on the cards. I puckered up, rather enthusiastically - Robbie's kisses made the early mornings a lot easier to handle - and he gently pressed his lips against mine. Even before he brushed his teeth or washed, he still smelt and tasted like vanilla, it was intoxicating.

"Do you have to go work? I'm sure you would rather stay here with me..." I said suggestively.

He grinned cheekily, "Nah, I'd rather go to work."

I gasped and hit him on the arm as hard as I could, which in reality was not very hard. "Get out of here then!"

"Ha ha, love you." He winked.

I couldn't help but blush, even after two years together he still gave me butterflies, he still made me feel like a love struck teenager.

"Likewise." And I winked back. I flopped back into the bed and snuggled my face into the pillow as he left for work. Finally, a bit of peace and quiet.




TWO.

Robbie.




6:47am.





Early starts were not my thing. They never had been and they never would be. But for some reason I found myself up at the same ungodly time every single day so I could get a head start in the office. It wasn't ideal by any means, but considering those early mornings got me so far ahead with my work I always got home a lot earlier than most. So in a way I couldn't complain, but I was knackered and stressed so I would complain until I was blue in the face. It was my prerogative.

When I got to work, it didn't surprise me that the place was already swarming with early birds like myself, waddling around like zombies with their coffees and newspapers. Their thoughts were written all over their faces. Or maybe it was just because I was unfortunately feeling the exact same way - groggy, grumpy and just generally pissed off with the world. I tried to wear a smile but the motivation just wasn't there and it didn't seem like anyone else would pay me the same courtesy, so what the hell, stuff 'em. I would be well shot of them when 3 o'clock rolled round.

I heard fast paced footsteps coming up behind me and prayed that whoever it was was late for an important meeting and not after a chat with me.

"Robert! Robert!" Bloody brilliant. I turned around to see Allan Howell rushing over to me, juggling a mountain of paper work and a tall Starbucks cup. The coffee was going everywhere, splashing onto the floor causing Allan to slip and slide on his way over to me.

"Robert," he caught his breath and I cringed at the sweat dripping down his face, "Hi Robert."

"Al, please, call me Rob." Allan looked shocked to his very core, as if shortening someones name was like blaspheming in the Vatican. "It's not going to kill you."

"Right, right, sorry Rob." Oh good heavens. Why did the nutty ones always want to talk to me? I was a magnet for them.

"What's up Allan?" I asked impatiently. By the rate Allan was stammering about I would be so far behind in my work that I may as well have set up camp at my desk for the night.

"I wanted to ask if you could look at some claims for me, it w-w-won't take long, I swear it."

"Mate, I would, but I have a pile of work to get through. Can't you ask Peter? I know for a fact his work load is shrinking by the minute."

Allan looked confused. "He is going on holiday this weekend," I explained, "we all get a bit slack when our well-deserved break is on the horizon."

"Oh he is off on vacation? Sorry Robert," good grief, "still trying to adjust to your English w-w-words...holiday, ha ha."

I stared at him blankly, not knowing whether to walk away from this loon or laugh in his face. "Okay, well, I'm off now Al. Sorry I can't help, hope you manage to track down Peter, poor bastard."

Allan tried to ramble something else but I was already running for dear life into the lifts. Oh no sorry, the escalators.

It was a long journey up to the 100th floor, in fact it was so long I probably could have had a quick nap on the way up there. Everyone else seemed to have a little time for the old shut eye whilst they stood and waited to arrive at their floors.

All I could think about was the evening I had planned. Well, actually, there was no plan. Plans made everything fall apart, spontaneity with a bit of organisation was the way to go. Tonight was definitely the night. I would take Helen out to central park with a picnic ready to go and at some point in the evening I would ask her to marry me. I wasn't sure when I would ask, or how I would ask but I would ask, and that was all that mattered. God, I hoped she said yes, what if she didn't? What if I proposed in the middle of the most famous park in the world, poured my entire heart out to the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and she said no? I couldn't see myself recovering from that, it was too brutal. But she wasn't going to say no. I had to keep telling myself that otherwise I would never work up the courage to ask her. And that wouldn't benefit anyone, except from my nerves.

When I got to my floor, it was packed. I wanted to scream. What the hell was everyone doing here so early? They were all as sad as I. I wanted to yell at them all to clear off, I needed peace and quiet not a million stock brokers and claims adjusters scurrying round like mad men. I was tempted to turn back around into the lift and get the hell out of there but then I thought about the immense trouble I would get in with my boss and it just wasn't worth it. I valued my head too much.

"Rob!" Speak of the devil. Russell Tatum, my boss, not the boss, strolled over to me with all the confidence in the world. He was probably the one person in this building I would never ask to call me Rob. But he already did and I didn't really have the guts or the ranking to request that he call me Robert.

"Russell, how's it going?" I asked, trying to avoid sounding like I was groaning.

"Great now you're here."

Oh perfect, what did he want now? Did no one care that I had a mountain of my own work to do and wasn't anyone’s P/A?

"Why is that?"

"Because, I have a meeting with some soul sucking stock brokers at 10 and I need a few bodies in there to help with some insurance matters. You up for it Johanssen?" Now he was calling me by my surname, as if we were mates! Christ help me.

I couldn't refuse him, helping him out would impress him and support my cause to work my way up in this company. So what if it was a bit of brown nosing, it wouldn't hurt anyone - apart from my pride - and it may even be interesting.

"Sure, of course."

"Great!" He whacked me on the arm enthusiastically, "I'll email you over the details." He started walking off and then turned around, "See you at 10!" He pointed to me and winked. How embarrassing.

“I bet you loved every second of that.” Josh Isaacs casually put his arm around my shoulder and laughed at his own joke.

“Am I that transparent?”

“Only a little bit. I wouldn’t worry if I were you.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because it’s highly entertaining for the rest of us!” He laughed again, a typical blokes laugh – loud and roaring.

“Who needs friends…”

“So, tonight’s the night, huh mate? Tonight is the night.” He winked.

“Josh, I will ask one thing of you today and one thing only…do not at any point mention tonight, I feel sick to the stomach about it.”

“I would too if I had to get married all over again, it’s a mistake.”

“Not because of that moron, because I am nervous she will say no.” Sometimes I couldn’t believe this guy, he was a complete jerk, but what I really couldn’t believe is why I spent my time with him and actually enjoyed myself. I could tell there was more to him than the persona he wore, so I just settled with the side of him that I knew and waited patiently for the real him to come out. It would one day, I would bet my life on it.

“Why would she say no? You might not be the best looking guy in the world but you’re one of the nicest…that I know, anyways.”

“Gee, thanks Josh, thanks a bunch.” I said sarcastically. He really was a total mug, and I loved it.

“But seriously man, there is no way Helen will say no and if she does then is she really worth it?”

I must have looked a little stunned because I sure was shocked by what he has just said, it was almost intelligent. “Wow, deep.”

“I’m being serious, Rob.”

“I gathered that, Josh.”

He knew I was pissing around with him, “I’m just saying man, she won’t say no.”

“Thanks Josh, but if she does I’m crying on your shoulder.”

“Ha! I don’t even offer my wife a shoulder to cry on!”

“Josh, your whole ass hole act is getting very dated, we can all see through it you know.”

Josh rolled his eyes, he knew I was right but like any respectable man with a large ego, he wasn’t about to admit it.

“I wonder what Maggie would say if she heard you talking like this.”

He tried to look like he couldn’t give a stuff about what Maggie thought, “She wouldn’t say anything, because she doesn’t wear the pants.”

“You do know I have seen you around Maggie? Numerous amounts of times and there is no way in hell that you wear the pants, you practically live under the thumb.”

He wasn’t happy by this, I could tell when he was insulted because his lips became a hard line and his face was dead serious.

“Mate, I just say it how I see it.” I shrugged.

He stormed off dramatically and I burst out laughing, he would be back and as arrogant as ever.

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