Lobby Patience: Ben
“Sarah Lee?” The voice over the loudspeaker called. I groaned and let my head fall back against my seat cushion, probably loud enough that I did deserve the dirty look a pregnant woman gave me.
I’d been sitting in this stupid office for far longer than I had meant to, leaving my imagination as my worst enemy now. Were they okay? Had they gotten to the rendezvous? Even now, were they being hunted?
After two more names, “Benjamin Chince,” was called out, and I startled hard enough that I nearly toppled out of my chair. I followed the official looking officer through the padlocked door, through a metal detector, and allowed them to put a brace on my arm before the officer escorted me through another door that looked like it was some kind of reinforced metal. He left me on the other side of that, then went back to the waiting room.
I snorted in disgust, thinking all of this a bit overkill, but made my way to the only door left. Finding it locked as well, I knocked and found the door opening to a petite woman who was already frowning up at me. This wasn’t going to be good. I started scratching at the silver now imbedded into my skin no matter how temporarily while I waited for her to make the first move.
After appraising me with brown eyes under thick glasses for a few moments more, she silently opened the door the rest of the way and allowed me inside, gesturing impatiently to the only chair available this side of the desk.
I heard the door click shut behind me, and felt a shiver trail up my spin but waited patiently until she came back around, sat in her chair, and began rummaging through papers. I tried to distract myself, but noted absently there was nothing in this office to do so. No pictures around the dun walls, not even a name tag on her desk. The prolonged silence had my mind spinning back, just to a few hours ago, remembering all over again- “Species?” her sharp voice cut me off.
“Uh,” I started, “I already filled out that paper up front. Several of them,” I said as polite as possible, knowing full well paperwork could get misplaced.
She gave me a cold, severe look that I really didn’t think I deserved, then said in a long-suffering voice, as if scolding an idiotic toddler, “I am confirming it. Species?”
“Spectacled bear, or I prefer Andean bear, you know sounds more-” I responded cordially, her attitude genuinely starting to annoy me. It took a moment to remind myself why I was doing this, but she’d already cut me off without care.
“Full name?” ‘They just called my name to bring me in here,’ my mind snarked, but I held that back and repeated it anyways.
“Reason for registering?” She wasn’t even looking at me anymore, but instead boring holes into the paper.
“I need the income,” I lied the most basic reason for anyone doing anything. Here she finally did look up, and gave me a piercing glare that said quite plainly what she thought of that.
“Benjamin, I am supposed to commend you on your decision to allow the government to track your movements and locate you housing in exchange for compensation, but when suspicious circumstances arrive I am also obligated to find details of your motives. You have a complementary job, and have registered no dependents.” She said all of this in clipped tones, turning back to her paperwork before she continued so she wasn’t having to look at me again as she finished, “so, what is your reason for registering?”
Despite the chilly office, a trickle of sweat made its way down my neck, and I resisted the temptation to wipe it away. ‘They didn’t know’ my mind tried to offer comfort this time, ‘there’s no way they could.’ Hesitating far longer than I should have, I blurted out, “I’m just, sick of hiding is all. Need a change of space.”
Her eyes narrowed. I felt the sudden need to lean away from her, and couldn’t help but wipe my palm on my knee as she stated, “Are you aware there was an attack this morning? That a Bear helped two criminals maul our officers of the law, and then escaped?”
I forcefully released the tension from my shoulders, looking genuinely confused I told her in as openly a voice as I could muster. Calling back on my years of practice I said in a gentle, soothing voice, “Mam, I woke up and came straight here, haven’t even seen the news yet. I had no idea such a travesty occurred.”
She pursed her lips, but finally seemed convinced as she dug around in a drawer of her desk, came back up and stamped something across the bottom of the page. “You are approved Benjamin, the government will send your new address and your first check to the registered PO box within the week.”
Grinning like a fool, I stood up and offered my hand as I gushed, “Thank you so much mam, I-”
I cut myself off as she simply placed the paper in my hand and said, “Give that to the officer at the door, and he will escort you out of the building.”
She got up, walked past me and unlocked the door, giving me an unneeded gesture out of her office.
The door slammed shut behind me, causing a shiver to run up my spine. The only relief I got as I left that office was the bracer they grudgingly removed.
This wasn’t the first time I’d be uprooting my life, but this time certainly made me feel more vulnerable than the last, ironically enough. Now I was forcing myself to run back there, with no guarantee of how my arrival would be taken. Then their scared faces crossed my mind all over again, and I dug my keys out of my pocket with absolute resolution to my now shadowed future.
My car drove smoothly through town, and I did my best not to constantly glance in the mirror, still I couldn’t help but stiffen up every time I passed a marked car.
‘Get it together Ben,’ I mentally scolded, taking an entrance onto the highway. I liked driving, though most of my kind didn’t, but the long trek to our meeting place was definitely the worst part of this ordeal so far. It left me too much time to think, to turn over every last detail of what I was fixing to do and what I’d just done. I nearly had a heart attack when a cruiser came up on me, then mercifully passed with lights blaring.
I couldn’t help a dark chuckle as I thought, ‘A perfect day to chase.’