Of course, I noticed her right away. After I had studied her as I walked behind her, I looked around and saw that others had noticed her too—particularly the men. So what was so different about her? She wasn’t a ravishing beauty but she was arresting and, of course, attractive. Small, maybe 5’3”. Well formed, slim body with subtle curves in the right places. She was brunette with almost flowing black hair. Small, delicately rounded face with high cheek bones and lightly tanned skin. She might even have been partly native from a more southern clime. “A lick of the tar brush,” my mother used to say, though the expression seems rather derogatory these days. Classic features, well… no, softer. She was dressed in a modest but fashionable suit—black trousers and a white jacket. Very fetching. But there was something else. The way she held herself—self confident but not exclusive. And the way she walked—YES! A swan gliding on the Avon River.
When she stopped for a traffic light, she was neither eager nor resigned. When the light changed, she was not the first to step off the curb but she was content to fit in with the flow. In short, not quite of this world but very comfortable in it.
At the stop light, I got close enough to her to see she was wearing no rings—in fact not much jewelry at all. Just a simple, wide gold chain around her neck. Interesting!
She was walking in the same direction that I needed to go, so again I fell in several paces behind her. Naturally I watched her. She moved deliberately but graciously… of course, that’s the word I was looking for. “Grace.” What a delight! She had grace—a rare commodity in today’s frantic pace.
I wondered where she was headed for and was not too surprised to see her turn into the Four Season’s Hotel, which was also my destination. But I was shocked into near incoherency to find that fate decreed we should enter the same elevator—with no one else. We two were alone in that confined space.
As I was standing closest to the floor buttons, I thought it would be polite to push her required floor. “What number would you like?” I asked her?
“Seventeen, please.” Her voice was deeper than I expected but a wonderfully warm contralto. I pressed 17, and 19 for me. The elevator began its majestic ascent. We stood on opposite sides of the cab and studiously avoided looking at each other. We both focused on the lit numbers as we ascended. You know, there really isn’t much else to look at in an elevator to while away the seemingly endless time as it moves. Maybe it was endless because we didn’t know what to say. At least I didn’t. Should I make some idle chat. A quip perhaps. A comment about the weather—a safe bet but hardly creative… I doubt that such thoughts troubled her. Her mind was otherwise occupied, I felt sure.
A sudden, sharp, strong jolt! The scream of raw metal against metal. A crash, like a car hitting a stone wall. The elevator cab stopped, but we two occupants carried on with momentum. We were probably one or two feet above the floor when gravity reasserted itself. We hit the floor hard and then both of us fell over. She gave a sudden yelp of pain. Then silence. The cab lights flickered out, to be replaced by a dim emergency light.
“Are you all right?” I asked with concern.
“I’m OK, I guess, but I think I may have sprained or even broken my ankle. What on earth happened?”
I crawled over to her as I answered. “Well, if this had been a bus, I would say we hit something big. As it is not a bus, then this elevator stopped suddenly on something. The doors haven’t opened, so I think we are between floors. Here. Let me take a look at your ankle.” With some difficulty, she extended her foot. I rolled up her pant leg and felt and the pressed tender spots.
“Are you a doctor?” she asked.
“Yes. A GP. Name’s Rob. Robert Chancellor.”
“I’m Ursula,” she responded. I couldn’t help but notice she gave no last name.
“I don’t think it’s broken. At least no dislocation.”
As I was checking her leg, a disembodied voice filled the cab, “Hello! This is the front desk. Is anyone in this elevator? Are you all right?”
“There are two of us, one woman and one man I think the young woman has sprained her ankle. I’m OK. The important thing is to get us out of here.”
The front desk clerk replied, with a hint of hysteria in his voice. “I phoned the 24/7 emergency number but it’s the weekend. There was no answer.”
Ursula replied in a commanding but soothing voice. “Phone the fire department!”
I looked over at her and cocked my eyebrow in approval. This was a woman to be reckoned with.
“We should put a tensor on that right away,” I remarked as I considered her injury. I took off my jacket and then my shirt. I had a small pair of scissors and my pocket knife. Using those I managed to tear off three or four long strips of cloth from the back of my shirt. She remonstrated as soon as she figured out what I was doing, but I waved her protestations aside. I used these strips to bind up her ankle. She winced but made no cry. She seemed more relaxed when I had finished the job and had settled her properly on the floor. I spoke quietly so as not to concern her. “It looks that we are going to be here some time. Can you cope?”
She gave a faint laugh. “Me cope? Look Doctor, I’ve led a very varied life. I can cope with most things except…” There was a long pause while she studied me in that dim light. “Except that I desperately need to go to the toilet.”
“And we can take care of that,” I said. “It may not improve this elevator cab but we’ll not worry about hypotheticals.”
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand on this leg. You’ll have to help me. Thankfully I been shacked up here with a doctor.”
“I am a doctor,” I admitted. “But I’m not YOUR doctor. Just think of me as a friend-in-need.”
“OK. Let’s get at it. This is urgent.”
So I helped her get her back against a corner, pull down her pants and panties, crouch and do her job. Fortunately I always carry a few Kleenexes. I helped her to dress and to sit down again on the floor. Then we had all the time in the world to examine each other a little more closely. After some small chit chat, I bit the bullet. “Are you a Princess?” I asked cautiously—if it is possible for someone to be cautious with such an outrageous question.
She was caught by surprise. Her mouth hung open for a few seconds. “How did you ever know that? I haven’t told you anything about me.”
I smiled, with a certain amount of self satisfaction. “It shows.”
“What do you mean ‘It shows?’ I’m not wearing a tiara. These clothes were not bought at Holt, Renfrew.”
“Oh, it’s not your jewelry. It’s not your clothes. It’s how you wear them, how you PRESENT yourself. How you walk. I’ve been trying to figure you out ever since I saw you on the street. What was it that was so different about you? What made you stand out in a crowd of pedestrians? I came to the conclusion it was your grace. Who has grace these days. Hardly anyone. Except royalty. With all their faults, their failings, their peccadilloes, their mistakes, mostly they still retain grace. I have no idea whether it is breeding or training, but I think it is unmistakable. Most certainly you have grace, even while letting a stranger help you undress and dress. So are you a princess?”
I was getting used to the dim lighting. She was glowing ever so slightly from my comments. “Well, yes. I am a Princess—by birth. Princess in a little Russian regency that no longer exists. So I am a Princess without a principality.” She looked at me mischievously, “Do you happen to have a spare one hanging around?”
“Spare what?”
“Principality. Preferably one lacking a Princess.”
“Not my line,” I said rather lamely. “And I’m not sure that the world cares whether YOU have something over which to rule or not. Particularly here in Canada. I suspect you unconsciously create subjects wherever you go. Even in stuck elevator cabs.”
“Stuck and stinking elevator cabs, you might say. How long do you think we are here for?… Do you have a cell phone? I forgot mine. I should tell a few people not to worry if I don’t show up.”
I passed my phone to her. “Be my guest.” She busied herself for the next few minutes. I tried not to listen but I was impressed with her equanimity and organization. More grace, I guess.
The cab intercom broke into my musings. “Hello. I have the fire department and an elevator technician here. They are going to rescue you as soon as they can. I understand that first they have to ensure that the cab is firmly locked in the present position so that added weight or movement won’t jar it loose.” Not a pleasant thought. We must be up maybe 15 floors. That would be a significant drop. I don’t know whether the same thoughts went through Ursula’s mind. She didn’t change her expression. “So the first sounds you hear will be underneath the cab. But when we finally pull you out it will likely be through the ceiling. Is there anything that you need right away?”
I looked over at Ursula and shook my head. She replied, “We’re alright for the moment but we would really benefit from release.”
The front desk spoke again. “Thank you ma’am. We’ll keep you informed as we go along.”
This was followed but much scraping and banging beneath the floor. It must have occurred in both our minds, that maybe the banging would loosen the blockage that kept our cab where it was. I was troubled but Ursula still showed no sign or emotion. She turned to me. “Dr. We’re going to be here for several hours at least. What topics should we cover in our conversation?”
I laughed at her organizational needs coming to the fore. Just like her cell phone calls to her active list. “Well, let’s start off by how we address one another. You call me ‘Dr.’ I am ‘Dr.’ to my patients. Actually I am ‘Bob’ to my friends. I was hoping we could be friends. Then we come up to what I should call you. In light of our intimate enclosure, ‘Your Highness’ sounds a little pretentious. But it’s your call.”
She laughed outright. The sound did us both a lot of good. “Dear Bob, you’re rather precious. I like you. You come to the point. You call a spade a spade, as they say in your country. I haven’t ever been called ‘Your Highness.’ The closest was something similar in Russian and I don’t even remember what that was. So I think we should follow your well considered suggestion.” She was gently mocking him. She continued, “We’ll be friends. We’ll be ‘Bob’ and ‘Ursula.’ At least until we are released.”
The two of us sat on the floor leaning against two opposite walls and exploring each other verbally. We made some interesting discoveries. A mutual interest in music. Ursula played the piano and I the violin. We suggested duets that we might cooperate on some time. We exchanged views on favourite composers and their works. And then naturally, the conversation drifted to families. She was not married. Neither was I. There were no children on either side. And so the afternoon sped on.
A sound from above stopped us mid sentence. A tile was lifted and a head appeared; a young man’s head with dust in his hair, poked through the hole. “Good afternoon,” he said. “Anything I can do for you?” We laughed with relief.
Then there was the task of lowering a ladder into the cab and eventually assisting Ursula with her one good leg, up the ladder to the top of the cab. From there it was a short further climb to an open elevator door—the 10th floor as it turned out. I followed. In a few moments we were breathing in freedom in deep gasps. The hotel management had even produced both a wheelchair and cane for her. After trying her ankle, which she said was much improved, she chose the cane. We examined each other in the light of day and spontaneously laughed. Her white jacket was no longer white and her hair was something else. Me? I must have made quite a sight with my jacket over my bare chest—no shirt, you’ll remember.
The hotel manager welcomed us and apologized profusely. Once he had decided that we were most unlikely to sue the corporation, he suggested a full dinner “on the house” that night or any other time of our choosing.
I looked at Ursula. She said, “Let’s make it tonight. It will be wonderfully relaxing and help us to ground our feet again. But I have to go home first and change.”
“What time is it,” I mused out loud as I looked a my wrist watch. “Oh it’s still early afternoon. I like to get that ankle x-rayed—purely a precaution. Then we’ll bind it up properly. And I think I could probably do with a fresh shirt—or indeed any shirt.”
Our bevy of rescuers was quietly dispersing. I turned to Ursula and whispered, “I’m not very up in my royal protocol. Is it all right for a commoner to ask a princess for a date?” She paused and fingered her chin, then smiled wickedly. “For this once, it will be OK.” Then she paused in thought, “You know you said before you were a doctor, but not MY doctor. What did you mean by that?
“Well,” I replied, “it’s like this. You can either have me as a doctor or as a date, but not both.”
“Oh. I’ve already tested your doctoring skills. Pretty effective! You even gave me the shirt off your back! Now let me consider your dating skills.” She leaned forward unexpectedly and kissed me full on the mouth. She sat back and reflected for a moment. “I’d think I’d rather have the date.” Then we walked, or rather hobbled away, arm in arm, on the way to a change of clothing, the x-ray technician—and just possibly on our way to much, much more than that.

14 Responses to “Ursula”

  1. Libby Buchanan says:

    Do I have to finish it???? Great! love Libby


  3. Jim O'Brian says:

    I do like stories with admirable characters. How do you come up with your
    plots? Libby suggests a finish…. that’s it isnt it. Perfect.

  4. Lynn cochrane says:

    Hi Lyman, Great story. Could be ripe for a sequel.

  5. Jack Long says:

    Great story. I loved it.

  6. I was rather disappointed to read that the protagonist was not Lyman himself – but, then, you’ve had your own royal love, haven’t you, my friend?

  7. John Crossley says:

    I love a love story–even one unfinished

  8. Fran Deacon says:

    Lyman…Dear Lyman:
    What an anticipatory tease you are!
    A sequel would be delightful and could
    be entitled Ursula + Bob.

  9. Silvana Ness says:

    A nice, soft touch, Lyman: a charming, contemporary vignette which could remain self-contained. One may indeed surmise that some such chance encounters could have a happy ending.

  10. Lorna Kelly says:

    Another lovely story to leave a smile on my face.

  11. Rose says:

    AWWWW!! What a gentleman and romantic. You bring out the best Lyman.


  12. Eva L. says:

    The Hotel does not appear to be very generous. If required (we don’t know)
    will there be a charge for the room at night?

  13. Eva L. says:

    Considering what the occupants of the elevator had to go through,the Hotel management
    does not appear to be very generous. If required(we don’t know) will they be charged for a room for the night?

  14. Gloria Maxx says:

    What a treat!

    Reading this story, it was so easy to imagine the mischievous glint in the eye of the author as he wove together the illusive yet compelling intricacies of chemistry.

    Just one question,please. Were all elevators operational at this establishment?

    Or just, the ‘one’ … ?

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