The Waiting Room
by Slawka G. Scarso
Peter counted one hundred and twenty-one steps from the entrance to the director’s office. A couple less on sunny days when he was so happy he skipped his way. Those days, custodians would suck through their teeth, then gently clap their hands to set a slower rhythm. But he never paid attention.
Sometimes he lost count, like today. He walked down the long white corridor. On each side, motivational posters invited the young guests to use their full potential, to make the right choice, be kind.
When he arrived, Sarah was already in the waiting room. He sat on the bench, next to her.
Soon their feet dangled in unison: right-right, left-left. They played like that for a while. Then
“Have you made up your mind?” she asked, looking at the folder on his lap. A folder like her
own, except for their names.
“You?” he asked.
She nodded too.
“So, what is it going to be?” Sarah asked. She was curious. She was always curious.
“You go first.”
“I’m going to be a nurse,” she grinned.
“I can see you as one. You’re caring enough.”
“Thanks,” he thought he saw her blush. “How about you?” she asked.
“A farmer? How come?” she looked surprised.
He shrugged. He didn’t really know, but somehow, since he came up with the idea, it made
sense. Perfect sense. Like it was meant to be.
The director’s door opened. The assistant appeared and called a girl sitting opposite.
“Are you scared?” Peter asked once the door closed.
Sarah nodded briefly.
“My parents… Will they be nice? Will they be kind? Will they support me?” she almost
Twins, two boys, entered the waiting room.
“What’s the business with twins? Do they go together?” asked Sarah lifting her chin in their
direction, ever so slightly. “They can’t be separated, can they? They would feel like
“Go ask them,” he dared her. But she shied away.
The director’s assistant came out again, without the girl. This time she called Peter.
“I’ll miss you,” Sarah whispered.
“Who knows, we might meet on the other side,” Peter said. He winked at her, but only briefly and turned so that she could not see how scared he was too.
He walked slowly, following the assistant, and then something strange happened. As soon as he crossed the door, and he was in front of the director, he felt okay. He was no longer
“So, what is it going to be, Peter?” asked the director.
“Farmer, I’ll be a farmer.”
“Well, well, that’s an interesting choice,” she said.
He sat at the desk, opposite her, and saw there was an agreement printed out. It already had his name on it, and his future profession too. Of course, she already knew. She always
pretended to be surprised, but she knew everything. Every time.
“Now, let’s go through all the details, once again, shall we? Just to make sure you’ve
understood it all.”
She told him they would respect his decision, he would be whatever he wanted to be. Of
course, some things he could not decide himself. “Or it would ruin the surprise,” she laughed.
He thought it didn’t sound very funny, but he didn’t say. “The choice you made, the free
choice you made, well, it comes as a package, you understand that, don’t you Peter?”
“Good. Because there will be times when you’ll think this isn’t fair. Things won’t be always
easy. But it will be your choice all along. It’s important that you understand it now, because
you won’t remember it later.”
He nodded again.
She got up, gently moved the chair back under the desk. With her left hand, she pointed at a door at the back. He had never noticed it.
“This way,” she said. She hugged him, before opening the door. “I’ll see you in a while,
Peter. And remember, whatever happens, everything is going to be fine.”
She opened the door. He walked in and before he could realise it, the door closed and
everything around him turned black. He could see nothing. He stood, petrified. Then a feeble
light appeared in the distance. He walked hesitantly in that direction, until the light became
slightly closer, slightly stronger.
Then there was an earthquake, or a force sucking him away, pushing him ahead.
And then he was out, screaming his guts, crying out loud as a strangely familiar woman held
him close to her chest.
Slawka G. Scarso has published several books on wine and works as a copywriter and translator. Her short fiction has been longlisted in the Bath Flash Fiction Award and has appeared in Mslexia, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Constellate and Streetcake Magazine. She lives between Rome and Geneva with her husband and her Labrador, Tessa. https://twitter.com/nanopausa