The Late Bus

It was a Tuesday night, my least favorite night of the week, I was once more waiting for the last bus home. Every Tuesday it was the same; the weekly meeting would make me half an hour late so I’d be on a later train meaning I would miss my usual bus by mere minutes. So there I was standing alone at the bus stop opposite the train station. The silence rang out in the deserted station only being disturbed by the occasional train cutting the air in a race to its destination. I was not used to seeing anyone around at this time of night, most people were at home having finished their dinner, watching TV and winding down from their hectic day. But on this particular Tuesday night as I waited for the late bus the calm and silence was broken by the sound of high heels crushing the ground beneath them. When I turned to see what was happening I saw her shadow emerge from under the orange glow of the streetlights. It was a woman in a long brown coat and high heels. She was stampeding her way from Platform One to the bus stop opposite me. Her hair was a fiery red colour it looked frazzled and worn, an afterthought of someone who had no time for vanity. The woman was on her mobile and seemed to be screaming at someone on the other end of the line, she was angry, someone with authority perhaps, a business woman who had left the office but not her work. Before I had the chance to examine this curious character in further detail a
taxi arrived and in a flash she was gone. I returned to my solitude and thought no more of the woman that night.

It was a week later that I saw the woman again. I did not recognise her at first, but her chaotic hair gave her away. She did not look as strong as the previous week- perhaps because she was not shouting into her phone- she looked tired and as she stood at the bus stop the orange light of the streetlight above her highlighted the wrinkles and lines on her face. I found myself feeling sorry for her as I noticed the sadness in her eyes, usually hidden by her tough exterior. She hadn’t seen me, her mind was far away and only the blinding lights of the taxi broke her gaze.

The next Tuesday I found myself waiting for the woman almost looking forward to seeing her, she had become a distraction from my hectic day and long wait for the bus. There had been something in her eyes that last Tuesday night, a look of despair perhaps, that made me want to know her story; she was like a jigsaw puzzle I had to finish.
And there she was just as I expected, she was talking on her mobile and seemed to be back to the strong business woman I saw on the first night. She stopped under her usual streetlamp at the bus stop and she let her body collapse against it as she fought her final battle of the day- I couldn’t help but listen in:
“…if he thinks I’m going to back down that easily he can think again. I suffered all those years and I’m damn well getting what’s owed to me…yes I know…yes…mmhm…well he always did, didn’t he? Anyway with the team I’ve put together it’ll be over by the end of the year, he won’t make a fool of me again…yes thanks for your call darling, we’ll have lunch soon…okay, bye.”
That is what her mouth was saying but her face told another story. I could see her desperately trying to hold it together for her friend but behind the tough talk and sarcasm the woman looked broken. She was clearly exhausted and whoever “he” was affected her more than she wanted to believe. When she spoke of him she often glanced at her hand perhaps thinking of the wedding ring that used to live their or perhaps it was just a nervous habit. As her taxi approached she forced her body forward and tried to fix her hair. She glanced once more at her hand before putting on a fake smile for the taxi driver and entering the vehicle. Watching the car drive away that night I wondered how long the woman would be able to keep up her act and hoped I would see her again.

It had been two weeks since I had seen the woman; last week I had a 21st birthday party straight after work so I didn’t make it home. Part of me felt like I had let the woman down, it seemed as if she did not have many people in her life- probably due to being a workaholic- and those people who were in her life seemed not to care too much like the “friend” on the phone who would maybe meet for lunch soon. Even if I was a complete stranger and she didn’t know I existed, I still cared and I found myself wanting her to find a happy ending to her sad tale. And as the cold breeze tore through me that Tuesday night I looked forward to finding out what I had missed, and wondered how close I was to finishing her puzzle.
I waited. I waited and it got colder and the sky opened and the rain poured. I waited and the train drew in, no-one got off. I waited and the silence became deafening. I waited and my bus came. The woman was nowhere to be seen.

Over the next week I thought often of the woman, had I missed her happy ending? Had something terrible happened to her? Had she finally had enough of the act she put on? Would I ever finish her story? I looked forward to Tuesday night for a change and hoped that I would see the woman, hear her heels pierce the ground beneath her, see her hair ignite the shadows, see the fire in her eyes return. I was not disappointed.
I stood alone at the bus stop, as the train drew into the station my anticipation became unbearable. Silence…Yes! The familiar sound of her black high heels echoed around the deserted station. As a figure emerged from the shadows I tried to squint and make sure it was her. It was but it wasn’t. I couldn‘t quite believe my eyes, she was completely transformed. Her usually tangled and wild hair neatly framed her face, it was cut differently and dyed a dark brown to suit her skin tone. Underneath her worn brown coat was not her usual crumpled blouse and ill-fitting skirt- she was wearing a long figure hugging dress, red with a floral print. Most importantly was her eyes, the lost and longing look was gone, the fire was back, she was smiling and it wasn’t an act. She did not go to the bus stop as usual instead she ran to the car park where a car was waiting, had it been there all this time? Before she reached the vehicle a man jumped out to greet her, when they embraced I noticed the most important change: the light bounced off of the wedding ring that had been firmly reinstated on her finger.
“I‘m so proud of you.” I heard the man say.
“I should have done it years ago, I‘m glad to see the back of that place.” She replied joyfully.
They quickly bundled into the car and were gone. Although I did not have all the pieces of her puzzle I had seen her happy ending. That was all that mattered.
The next morning I quit my job. It was time to think of my story and how I wanted it to end.

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