"Sit. There's no way you can go up there with your knee like that."
I stood, holding onto the passenger door and narrowed my eyes. My attempt at flying out to catch up to him had been thwarted by a sharp pain radiating from my knee and spreading through my leg. Between the initial injury and my knee connecting with the glove box earlier, I was sure I would never walk normally again. I watched Nick throw on a black hoodie, tossing the hood up to shield his face. I knew I should let him do the dirty work. It was nice to be taken care of for a change. It was--
"You threw my knee against a glove box earlier," I shot back, my inner feminist reading her ugly head.
"Accident," he said. He turned from me and surveyed the window. I quietly closed the passenger door.
"I'm right behind you," I said. He turned back to me and all I could see were his eyes. He stared at me for a long moment before deciding against actually arguing. He started walking towards the escape, my limping along behind him. A dumpster sat to the right, open and looking more than ripe for the picking for rats, raccoons, and dead bodies.
"Why do I always fall for the headstrong ones?" I heard him mutter.
My heart jumped. As Nick pulled the ladder down, the noise of rust and lack of oil sounding like a blaring alarm announcing our presence, my heart did a somersault. He wrapped his hand around the ladder and looked back at me. The hood prevented me from seeing his face. My love of hoodies waned slightly at that moment.
"Just stay here and spot me. I don't think this thing can hold the both of us."
"Then I'll go up. I'm lighter."
"You're not going up alone."
Silence filled the air. We both knew that precious seconds were ticking away. His shoulders lowered slightly. "Just," he sighed. "Just be careful."
It was a tense few minutes. Nick made it up the ladder and onto the first level of the escape with only a few flakes of rust flying off into my face. My bum knee left me using the rest of my body to hoist me up. The rusty metal was gritty on my hands, digging into my flesh. The mom in me wondered if I had gotten an updated a tetanus shot before going to Malaysia. If I hadn't, I would certainly need one after this.
"Man, this thing is worse than I thought," he whispered, the wind carrying his voice down to me. He started to climb up towards the second landing.
The window we were aiming for was three stories up. I caught up with Nick on the second landing. He held a bar of the ladder in his hands.
"Midge, I'm serious. Stay here. This isn't safe."
I shook my head, my hair whipping around my face. "I'm going up there. This is my problem."
His hand disappeared under his hood and I was pretty sure he was tugging at his hair. "Why can't you let me call the shots?"
"Because..." I paused, a knot forming in my throat. "Because I let him do it and that didn't work out so well for me."
He sighed audibly. I was waiting for another challenge but instead he squeezed my hand quickly before turning back to the ladder. "I know what you're saying," he said.
"Just be careful."
I waited for him to get halfway up before I started up after him. The bars here were even worse than the others and there was more than one rung missing. I was sure we were doomed and I was regretting my stubbornness. I was more than a little surprised when my body met the landing.
I hadn't been aware I was making noise. Nick was already creeping up to the window. His hands wrapped around the sill and I saw him lean in. I crawled towards him, almost shrieking as I realized there was an insanely large rusted out spot on the landing. I grabbed onto the back of Nick's pants to keep from getting stuck. My heart felt like it was seconds from bursting out of my chest. Nick grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me up beside him. I blinked rapidly, trying to calm myself. When I did, I realized that we could see fairly clearly into the room through a large gap in the curtain.
The room itself was decorated in soft pink and gold. I thought it was a tacky combination, but it didn't seem to both Charlie. He was draped across the light pink couch. Nick, anticipating what was coming, covered my mouth before I could utter anything.
Charlie was wearing a gold bra and panties, sipping something out of a gold wine glass. He was smiling, running his finger along the stem of the glass. He kept glancing towards a room off to the left.
I knew I was breathing hard. Nick seemed just as anxious, his chest rising and falling more than normal. He lowered his hand and suddenly my mouth was free. I was all ready to say something, the silence getting the best of me, when a slender leg appeared in view.
The brunette nurse he had gone in with stepped into the room in a skimpy little silk robe. She was holding a similar glass.
It seemed to be playing out slowly. Nick shifted beside me and I struggled not to say anything. I bit my lip and fought the urge to turn away.
With a glass window between us, we couldn't hear the words being exchanged, but it was obviously enough to set the mood. Before I knew it, the nurse was over Charlie, their lips meeting and her hands roaming his body and his hers. Nick shifted again and I could tell that his patience was wearing out. I was about ready to declare this stakeout over when the nurse sat back, straddling my husband and took off the robe.
What I saw will forever be burned into my mind, just like the vision of my husband in women's bras and panties.
The person who I was 100% sure was a woman was a man with a very big set of fake implants. To make matters worse, it looked like Charlie was all too willing to be the female of the relationship for the evening. Bile rose in my throat like a car hitting full speed the second it left the off-ramp. I stood up and flung myself towards the railing of the fire escape. I heaved violently, so violently that I put too much of my weight on the railing. It gave way and I felt my body being propelled down.
Like something from a Spider-Man movie, I was suspended in falling position. Nick pulled me back, turning me back closer to the window. His hood had fallen away and the panic on his face was very real.
With a sickening sound of metal separating from brick and rusted iron finally disintegrating, the whole escape fell away. Flashes of my life swam before me. Macie would have to live with Charlie. Would he even give me a proper burial? Would he keep all my clothes instead of donating them?
If I was screaming, I couldn't tell. I squeezed my eyes shut bracing myself for horrific pain and then nothingness.
Instead, I landed safely on warm body, surrounded by an overwhelming stench.
I opened my eyes. My knee throbbed, but it was no worse for the wear. Nick's hands were on my ass. We had landed in the dumpster.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. We were practically nose to nose. I thought I might pass out from panic.
"Oh my God, are you okay?!" I shrieked.
"I'm fine," he gasped. His hands tightened on my butt.
"But I think I landed in your vomit."