You wonder if she’s married. She talks in first person. Always I, never we. Singular. No ring. Like you. You’ve never spoken to her, of course, just heard snippets of conversation from two rows ahead.
You think you love her – you’ve seen her every morning for the past three years. Evenings too sometimes. Strokes of luck that have you both finishing at the same time. You don’t know where she works as she turns left as she gets off the bus, you right. You’ve thought about turning left, following her, but that would be creepy and you don’t want to do anything that would put her off. Not that you’ve done anything to encourage her.
She knows you exist but not how much of an existence it is: work, sleep, little ‘play’ in between.
She’s always smiling, chatting to fellow passengers… on the phone. Never to you. But then you don’t let her get that close. Closeness is something you struggle with. Have done since…
You don’t like to think of back then. You’d rather it be a blank canvas on which to paint happy thoughts, fondly-remembered places, warm embraces.
She’s late this morning. You only remember her being late twice before – other than being on holiday. But then she didn’t turn up at all. You’d known she was going away – Mrs Davis had told you. Because the two ladies talk. A lot. Just day-to-day stuff, nothing too personal, more mother : daughter conversations.
Then you notice Mrs Davis is crying. You’ve never seen her cry before and you’ve known her longer than Beth. Just the thought of her name makes you smile but then you see Mrs Davis look at you and she bursts into tears.
You leave your seat and sit in the empty one beside her – Beth’s seat. You’ll keep it warm until she arrives. There are still plenty of people getting on so she has time.
You want to put your arm around her. Mrs Davis. Tell her it can’t be that bad and you’re still debating when she takes your hands in hers and starts speaking, between sobs.
You wonder if her tears are because of Mr Davis but you don’t think he’s ever done something to warrant something like this. She doesn’t say any more and you wonder if she’s waiting for you to speak but she lets go of your hand and picks up a paper from her lap. She unfolds it, revealing the front page. You recognise the photograph. The smile.
You feel sick as you read the text. ‘Local secretary, Beth Robinson, killed in freak accident.’
The bus lurches and starts its journey. To the town centre. To the bus stop where you’ll be getting off. Turning right, as you make your way to the bank.
You wonder if she’s married.
She’s always smiling, chatting to fellow passengers… like Mrs Davis, two rows ahead.
You don’t know where she, Beth, works as she turns left off the bus.
You notice Mrs Davis crying so you sit in the empty seat beside her – Beth’s – keep it warm until she arrives.
“Oh, Tim,” Mrs Davis sobs and shows you a newspaper. You recognise the smile.
You feel sick. The bus lurches and starts its journey. To the town centre. To the bus stop where you’ll be getting off. Turning right, as you head to the bank.
Photography courtesy of morguefile.com.
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