The Warmth of Strangers

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Martha stared at the blank screen in front of her in confusion. It hadn't been blank when she pushed her card into the slot but now the machine was dead. She resisted the urge to thump it and looked around for someone to help. The lobby of the bank seemed to be darker than it was when she walked in and was empty except for a man being less reserved than her and thumping one of the other machines.

He turned and caught her eye. "I put my PIN in and the screen went blank," he shrugged helplessly.

"Yeah ... me too," she sighed remembering that it was after closing time so there'd be no staff around and she'd have to return the following day to get her card back.

She turned towards the door. The man had moved and was pushing ineffectively against it. "Problem?"

"It's locked!" He exclaimed crossly.

Martha tried pushing the green button next to the door that was supposed to unlock it and pulled gently on the door.

"I already tried that," he snapped.

"Sorry ..." Martha mumbled and stepped to the side to peer out of the window. It was getting dark outside but strangely there were no street lights on. Suddenly realisation dawned. "Power cut."

"What?" The man was still snappy.

"I think there's been a power cut. I thought it seemed a bit dark in here. That door is electronically activated so I reckon we'll be stuck here until the power comes back on."

"Well that's just bloody great! I'm supposed to be somewhere important!"

Martha wasn't exactly happy herself and this man was irritating her. "There's no need to take it out on me ... I wasn't exactly planning on spending my evening with nothing but cash machines and Mr Obnoxious for company."

The man didn't reply straight away except to sigh loudly. He had his back to her and she watched as he clenched and unclenched his fists several times, the tension in his shoulders visible through his jacket. Eventually he turned around and had the grace to look a bit sheepish.

"I'm sorry ... really sorry. I was already stressed and this has just pushed me over the edge. I'm not usually obnoxious I promise."

Martha smiled. "Apology accepted."

He smiled back gratefully and held out his hand. "I'm Adam."

"Martha." She slipped her hand into his large one. He had a firm handshake and feeling his warmth envelop her fingers she realised her hands were rather cold.

Pulling her coat tighter around herself she made her way to the corner of the lobby furthest from the door and sat down on the floor leaning against the wall. "If we're going to be stuck here for a while we might as well sit down."

"Mind if I join you?" Adam gestured to the space next to her.

"Feel free. I thought it might be best to stay away from the door ... it's not very warm in here, winter's really setting in."

He didn't reply but sat down and pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket. "Oh for God's sake," he huffed.

Martha looked at him quizzically.

"Sorry ... again ... no signal so we can't even let anyone know we're trapped."

Martha fumbled in her bag for her own phone and glanced at the screen. "Same here."

Adam didn't reply and they sat in silence for a while. Martha wondered how long they'd be incarcerated for and tried in vain to think of something interesting to say to the stranger beside her, silently hoping he was right about not really being obnoxious. He still seemed a little agitated, quietly sighing to himself and hugging his knees to his chest. Despite his agitation he didn't look especially obnoxious in fact he looked quite normal, good-looking even. Martha shook her head slightly in self-admonishment, in her experience looks had nothing to do with personality.

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