The oak door swung open and a disheveled woman bound in, tripping a little on the flat threshold. She scanned the room, like she was trying to figure out what to do.
When she saw something at the high wooden service desk, she straightened up and sashayed with a slight limp to the counter and pulled a number out of the red dispenser. Though it took her three tries to tear it off, she seemed pleased when she finally freed the slip of numbered paper.
She turned to the room, searching for a place to sit, and her eyes settled on an open spot between someone and the armrest at the end of an old church pew bench. It seemed there might be enough room, if the others would scoot down and sit a little closer.
“Would you mind?” she asked sincerely. “My feet are killing me.” She wore five inch heels that matched her clingy white sequin dress. Her disheveled platinum hair was almost the same color.
The people on the bench shifted to the left, closing the few inches between them to make room. She wiggled her voluptuous hips into the narrow space on the maple seat.
“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do,” she told the one next to her. “I just got here. Do you know what we’re supposed to do?”
The one next to her nodded. “They showed us a video. In a few minutes, we’ll get our assignments.”
“Ah.” She attempted to smooth her hair. Her makeup was smeared beneath one eye.
“I can’t wait to get my assignment,” the one next to her continued. “I want to see where I’m going, who I’m going to be. There’s so much ahead. I’ve always wanted to travel.”
She turned abruptly. “What do you mean? Who you’re going to be? I know who I am. The man at the gate said I was to get processed for my final destination.”
“Hmm, I wonder…. Can I see your papers?”
She held them out.
“You’re in the wrong room. Sorry. You want the third floor. This is New Assignments. You want Completed Assignments.”
“Oh dear.” She got up quickly, looked at her number tab, scrunched it into a small ball and flung it on the bench and left, limping a little on the way.
The one who’d been next to her was called to the counter.
“Do you have your papers?” the man at the counter asked, impatiently waving them forward with his hand.
She held them out.
He pounded his stamp on them in three places. Then he handed her another paper. “That’s where you go. They’re nearly ready for you. We’re a little behind. Step over into the booth quickly and hold on.”
She stepped into the booth, and transferred into the body.
The doctor held up the baby. “It’s a girl. She’s a big one. At least 8 pounds.”
She let out a loud cry, clearing her lungs and taking her first breath of air.
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