Bus #FridayFictioneers

The boss had booked the bus for the staff Christmas party, however he had forgotten to check how many seats the bus had, so only ten people made it to the party.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/12/04/6-december-2019/with thanks).

Posh #FFfAW

I wiped condensation from the stopped bus’s window and peered out. A road, stretching with lawns and trees which hid the houses, was before me. We where in the fanciest part of town and I always wondered what life was like for the people in those homes.

I pressed my head to the damp, cold glass. The voices of the comedy podcast I was listening to chatting away in my headphones. My thoughts were far away, picturing posh rooms and furniture that were more Victorian and Edwardian in nature then modern.

One day, I told myself, I’d live in one of those houses.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2018/09/10/fffaw-challenge-182nd with thanks).

Potterphile #atozchallenge

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Potterphile; a person who loves the Harry Potter books and films. 

I came down to breakfast, feeling like my brain was still in bed. Sitting at the table, I pulled the box of cereal over to me, grunting a reply back to mum who had just said, ‘good morning,’ to me.

Opening the box, I poured some cornflakes into the already waiting bowl. Placing the box back again, I glanced over at my little sister. All I could see was her violent red hair over the top of a thick book.

I wonder for a moment what she was reading. She was a total bookworm and hardly had her face out of a book. I lost count of how much she had read and most of the time I only half recognised some of the titles from school.

I splashed some milk on top of the bowl and started eating. I wasn’t even hungry but the wrath of mum wasn’t worth it. I glanced up at her as she put some toast down and fussed over a few things. Mum buttered the toast and nibbled on a slice. She looked tried and frustrated. Her hair which was the same color as my sister’s, was super fizzy as if it had been electrocuted.

If I could manged the words, I’d ask her how work last night was. She’d told us things were tough at the nursing home at the moment. Most of the old people had flu and they were dropping like flies. For the past two weeks, someone had died every second or third night. There seemed to be no end in sight for it clearing up.

I couldn’t get everything out of my mouth just yet, so I shoveled in some more wet cornflakes. Then I drank some orange juice, hoping that would wake me up. I felt like a zombie with a headache who was hungover.

‘Time for school,’ mum cut in.

She hurried up from the table and began clearing away. She was eager to go to bed and get some sleep. I wished I could do the same. Instead though, my day was going to be full of boring lessons and detention for not doing my science project.

I abandoned the rest of my breakfast and went to get my things. Behind me, I heard mum telling my sister to put Harry Potter down and get her stuff. Ah, that’s what she was reading! Shaking my head, I finished off getting ready then went downstairs again.

‘Here’s you lunch,’ mum said, handing me my plastic lunch box.

She reached up and tried to flatten down my hair which was doing it’s normal just out of bed sticking up everywhere look. I had red hair too, only it was much lighter then theirs, which I was thankfully for.

‘Thanks,’ I muttered and tried to shove the box into my bag whilst attempting to avoid her hands.

‘Lily! Come on!’ mum called upstairs.

My sister appeared, school bag on her back and that huge book hugged to her chest.

‘Lunch,’ mum said and handed her a pink fabric bag with a unicorn flying over a rainbow on it.

‘Did you put the fairy cakes in?’ Lily asked.

‘No, you know the school doesn’t like unhealthy food. You can eat them when you get back. Have a good day,’ mum added.

She kissed Lily’s forehead, opened the door and pushed us both out. The door rattled shut behind us. We started walking, it was a strangely bright sunny day and it felt like spring had finally arrived. In the front gardens of neighbors, flowers were starting to grow.

Lily fell behind and I reached the bus stop first. There were a few other people waiting there; two younger girls from my high school, a postman, a man in a high visibility vest and an harassed like young mum with three kids one of whom was in a pushchair. I glanced back for Lily and saw her walking slowly over, her face buried in her book.

There was no point in telling her to put it down. She was into nearly all books but there was something about the Harry Potter ones that really made her addicted. She must have read each one a hundred times and watched the movies just as much.

Lily came to a stop close to me, the book totally blocking out her face. Her fingers were wrapped so tightly around the thick spine that her knuckles were turning white. It must be hurting her little hands to carry something so big like that. I saw the page turn.

‘Which one’s that?’ I asked her.

‘The fifth,’ she spoke, ‘The Order Of The Phoenix.’

I pulled a face as if trying to remember which one that was. Lily had dragged mum and I to all of the movies and she must have made me watch each one a few times at home too.

‘Where you up to?’ I uttered.

Lily was quiet for a few seconds then she said, ‘they are at the starting feast.’

‘Here’s the bus. Stop reading whilst you get on,’ I added.

Lily had a habit of tripping up and down stairs and over things whilst she walked with her head in some fictional world. With a sigh and a nudge from me, she lowered the book and got on the bus behind everyone else.

The bus was packed as normal and I pushed Lily into a seat before the young mum could get one of her kids into it. I lent against the plastic panel leading up to the stairs, looming over Lily like an evil step-brother. Lily pulled up the book again and turned to her marked page.

‘What is about those books?’ I spoke loud without meaning too.

Lily glanced at me, ‘they are good,’ she replied.

‘So are many others,’ I put in.

She shot me a dirty look, ‘and what would you know? You hate books.’

The lady next to Lily throw me a disgruntled look then stare down at her Kindle again. Another woman behind her peered at me in horror before turning to the window. A few other people had raised their eyes too and I felt like Lily had just said a swear word.

‘I don’t’ I muttered.

Lily shot me a smug look then put Harry Potter between us. I pressed my lips together before turning away from her. The rest of the bus drive felt like it took forever but finally we made it to the stop outside of the high school and we got off in a crowd of people.

I had to drop Lily off at her primary school around the corner first. I took her arm, not caring that she cried out and almost drop her book.

‘We’re late!’ I snapped and broke into a jog, dragging her behind me.

‘Let go!’ Lily shouted.

She tried to wiggle free but I was too strong and was able to force her onwards. Only when we got to the gates and I pushed her inside, did I let go. She looked disheveled and grumpy.

I turned to go then remembered. I grabbed her shoulder, spinning her towards me then lowered my face to her’s and whispered, ‘wait for me in the library, okay?’

Her eyes got wide, ‘you got detention again?’ she asked then giggled.

‘Just do it,’ I growled and stalked off.

I was late to home room and the excuse of having to drop Lily off wasn’t working anymore. School was as dull as I thought it was going to be. Time seemed to have slowed too and the droning of the teacher’s voices remind me of bees buzzing in the summer heat.

At lunchtime after I had eaten, I crept off to one of my favorite hiding places; the English teachers’ stockroom. There in a back corner, hidden behind all the towering shelves filled with fiction and text books, I sat down. From the bottom shelf next to me I pulled out one of books; Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix. 

Smiling, I turned to the page I’d marked last time. I was far ahead of Lily. But I wasn’t about to tell her or anyone else that.

Spring #FridayFictioneers

Looking out of the bus window at the gloomy winter day outside, I signed deeply. I was tried of the cold, darkness and snow, a change was needed. Then my eyes caught something a a patchwork blanket of green, purple and white on a small hill. Could it be? I fixed my eyes as we passed by and yes! Early spring flowers were shooting up and defying winter! This was it; the hope I craved! Smiling, I settled back in my seat, the knowledge the spring was almost here comforting my thoughts.

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/02/21/23-february-2018/ with thanks).

The Grotto (Part 3)

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We walked back down the queue which was full of chatting children and parents. Willow hugged the present as if she was never going to let it go. I really hoped there was a unicorn inside of there. Glad that was over, I realised I needed the bathroom and a drink.

‘Hey, how’d meeting the Big Man go?’ the male elf said loudly.

I stopped and grabbed my niece’s arm as he suddenly stood before us all green and bells tinkling. There was a huge grin on his face and he was just too happy. He reminded me of the Grinch after he’d stolen everything.

‘It’s fine thanks,’ I muttered.

‘I got a present,’ Willow said proudly and showed him the box.

‘Wow, that’s just great! You must have been good this year then!’ the elf said in fake shock.

‘I’ve been good! Can I have a present?’ a little boy’s voice shouted from the queue.

The elf turned and replied, ‘of course you can!’

We slipped past him and hurried away into the crowd. I’d had enough of this. Heading into the toilets, there was another queue to join but at least it wasn’t as long. I sighed and lent against the wall. Feeling tried and fed up of all these people. I shut my eyes but still the sounds came. A baby was crying loudly behind a closed door, a child was singing Jingle Bells, a young couple were having an argument and there was a constant chatter of other voices.

I felt Willow tug on my coat and I looked down at her.

‘That elf was a bit weird, wasn’t he?’ Willow asked.

‘He was just really happy, that’s all. It’s how they are, I guess…and I really needed the loo,’ I added.

‘Auntie Angel, tell me the truth, is Santa real?’

I rolled my eyes at her use of my name. God, I hated it with a passion. Like how people hate the taste of fish or the sight of a spider or the same Christmas song on repeat. And how I was meant to answer her question? I didn’t want to be the one to spoil Christmas but I hated to lie.

‘What did Santa say?’ I asked instead.

‘If I believed in him then he was real,’ Willow replied slowly.

‘Do you believe in fairies and unicorns and magic?’

‘Yes, I do! but Santa is just different…somehow.’

‘He’s more magical then the rest?’ I suggested as we become the head of the queue.

Willow shrugged and studied the colorful wrapping on the present.

After we’d been to the toilets, we went to a coffee shop, got drinks and small cakes then we walked to the bus stop. I avoided going anywhere near the Santa’s Grotto which meant we went the back way out of the shopping outlet and had to go around. Willow was quiet for the rest of the time, lost in her thoughts.

The bus was busy and I had to stand. A kind, older lady moved her shopping so Willow could have the seat next to her. I placed the bags at Willow’s feet and hung on tight. The bus driver must have been running late as he zoomed off and raced the traffic. The bus smelt like sweaty bodies, dirty water and oil. People were trying to keep to themselves with headphones, newspapers and phones whilst a few chattered about this person or that present or how they were tried of Christmas already!

‘Have you been to see Santa today? the older lady asked.

Willow nodded.

‘And that’s a present from him? You must have have been good girl then,’ she added.

Willow smiled a little and with a quick glance at me, said to the lady, ‘yes.’

‘Your sister’s so nice to take you shopping isn’t she? Did you buy a present for your mum?’

I pulled a face but held the words back in. I was too use to people guessing the relationship between us now. At least no one had called me Willow’s mum today! That’s always the worse, especially when you then work out the age difference.

‘My Auntie,’ Willow corrected, ‘she took me shopping for my family. We are best friends and she’s far more fun then my parents or baby brother.’

‘I bet she is!’ the lady said and smiled more brightly at me. ‘Are you going to save your present till Christmas day?’

‘Maybe…Do you believe in Santa?’ Willow asked.

‘Willow!’ I snapped.

‘It’s fine,’ the lady waved away, ‘yes I do believe still. It’s hard with all this technology and growing up so fast now. But Santa’s out there still, a symbol of hope and happiness for anyone who keeps believing.’

‘I like that,’ Willow said then under her breath, ‘but I’m still not any closer to the truth!’

The rest of the bus journey was normal and we got off before the lady did. We said good bye and merry Christmas then found ourselves stepping into a sleet storm. As the doors closed the bus pulled away, we hurried up the street we both lived on. My older brother’s house was first and the house I currently shared with my grandparents was close to the end of the street. Willow ran up the pathway and rang the doorbell. I had a key somewhere…

The door opened and we both rushed in.

‘It’s almost snowing!’ Willow cried to her dad.

‘It’s really meant to start tonight,’ her dad added, ‘what’s that? a present for me?’

‘No! It’s from Santa!’

‘Another one?’

Willow giggled and ran off to find her mum without taking anything but her boots off.

I looked at my brother, we were so alike we could still be mistake for twins at a distance. Same brown hair and brown eyes, same slightly over weight bodies, though he looked better then I did at the moment. There was four years between us but we’d been through everything together.

‘Hi Alex,’ I said, ‘it was hard to say no to her! but at least all the present buying is done now.’

‘Thanks, Angel. She’s really attached to you,’ he replied.

‘I should go…’

He pulled me into a hug then we said our goodbyes.

To Be Continued…

Today’s Child

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I would never have noticed the unaccompanied child getting on the bus if I’d not already been distracted from reading my book.

The girl, no older then eight, was alone and judging by her school uniform and the time, she’d just come from her last lesson of the day. She was talking to the bus driver. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but to me the driver looked like a giant towering over her.

I took my headphones off and leaned in closer.

She was saying something about going to her granny’s, but she didn’t have any money. Someone had stolen it and she didn’t know what else to do. Her little face was trying hard not to crumple into tears.

The bus driver waved her on without further ado.

The girl went to the first empty seat and sat down. She took off a pink plastic backpack and placed it on her lap, her fingers wrapped around the straps. She looked out of the window and I watched her swinging legs.

Why was she traveling alone? How could her parents, her granny let her? Maybe she was older then she looks. I’ve seen twelve year olds who look like eight year olds, but she seemed so small.

Should I do something or not?

Glancing around, I saw no one else was interested in the child. The handful of people were staring at their phones or newspapers or at something else. I wanted to think that at lest someone else was concerned about the little girl. Like me though, they were debating still.

The bus had passed two more stops in this time and I noticed my street would be coming up soon. I still didn’t know what to do.

At the stop before mine, the girl climbed down off the seat and rang the bell. When the bus slowed into the bus stop, I saw an old woman standing on the pavement with a little dog. The girl got off the bus and ran to her.

Feeling thankful for that, I gathered my things and rang the bell for the next stop.

Youniverse #atozchallenge

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Youniverse; a particular person has knowledge only of him or herself, their universe consists only of them.

That geeky looking woman was on the bus again! I clutched the handle bar and glowed at her. She was taking up two seats! Her rucksack was on one and she was bent over it reading a book. She had headphones on too and her back to everyone.

I knew that signal; don’t disturbed me. But how could you be so rude on a bus this busy?

Sighing, I struggled for arm room against the people I was sandwiched in-between. I wondered if anyone else had clocked her? A glance around told me not really, everyone else seemed in their own bubbles too.

Frustration and angry waved off me. Today was the day, I told myself.

After a bus stop which no one seemed to get off but more people got on at, I weaved my way over to her.

The headphones were padded, so only touching her would get her attention. I did so; lightly tapping her with my fingers.

She looked up and around at me.

I pointed at her bag. She glanced at it and turned back to me, sliding a headphone off.

‘Can I sit down, please?’ I asked her.

She frowned and seemed to be struggling for words. She was clearly surprised I’d spoke to her and it was as if she suddenly realised she was on a bus full of people and not by herself. Thankfully, she then picked up her bag and shuffled across the seats.

I sank down, balancing on the edge. She was a large woman which was the other reason why she took up so much space. I recalled when I’d been over eighteen stone too. Now I was closer to twelve stone and much better off. So, I couldn’t judge too harshly.

She got back to reading and I had a far better bus ride. There’s nothing worse then standing on a bus in tall heels!

Rain on the Bus

Water Droplets on Clear Glass

The empty bus pulled smoothly to a stop and the doors opened. The bus driver peered out and watched the old lady getting on with the aid of the handrail.

‘Hello, Doreen!’ he said cheerfully as he recognised her, ‘terrible evening.’

‘Oh, no, Terry!’ Doreen cried with a little wave of her walking stick, ‘it’s quiet perfect!’

She pressed her pensioner’s bus pass to the ticket machine. There was a beep and some words flashed up.

‘For ducks maybe,’ Terry muttered with a glance out of his window.

The rain was coming down heavily and the wind was whipping up into a storm.

Terry closed the bus’s door to contain some heat. Then he waited for Doreen to shuffle off and sit down at the back, like she always did. Checking she was settled, he started up the bus and smoothly drove off.

Doreen smiled and watched the rain hitting the window next to her. She turned up her hearing aids and listen to the rain splashing and the wind howling. Under her, the bus’s engine rumbled away and waves of gentle heat brushed her.

She took off her big pink flowers decorated hat which she always wore on her rainy evening bus rides and set it to dry out next to her. Doreen placed her small red handbag flat next to it, then took off her bright pink rain mac. She was wearing a huge, fluffy green jumper that she had knitted herself.

Turning back to the window, Doreen relaxed into the ride.

There’s nothing, she thought, quite like a drive in the rain to make you fall asleep. 

Bus Jam

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I slide the sleeve of my black jacket up and checked my watch for the countless time then looked down the road. The huddle of people who were at the bus stop with me turned to look too. I caught a glimmer of exception on some faces but that quickly faded when they saw that there was still no bus.

Trying not to grind my teeth, I stepped back into the crowd which was a mixture of school children, parents, older adults and workers but I was the only man dressed in a business suit.

‘There should have been two buses by now!’ an angry tubby woman shouted.

‘Three,’ an older man corrected, ‘the eighty-five hasn’t turned up yet.’

‘Mummy, I’m going to be late for school!’ a small girl in a grey skirt and blue uniform jumper cried out.

I looked over. The mother, an African woman with a towering head scarf on, lengthy brown coat and a long, very brightly coloured pattern skirt looked tried. She was half leaning on the double buggy which had months old twin boys almost stacked on top of each other. Behind her, six more children-four girls and two boys, wearing the same school uniform, played on the grass.

The little girl tugged her mother’s coat. The woman muttered and sent her to play with the other children.

Someone tutted at my elbow and I turned back to see a supermarket worker scrolling through his phone.

I checked my watch again. Time hadn’t moved. I grounded my teeth together, caught myself and stopped.

Looking up I saw cars lining the road. Their drivers tapping the wheel or dropping their hands out of sight. One woman was even putting on lipstick. Then the traffic began moving again, the lights further ahead had changed colour.

‘Look a bus!’ a high school girl cried.

Everyone twisted their heads to look and there just peeking around the corner was the front of the bus.

People flew into a flurry. Pushing each other, getting out their purses, money, bus passes. The children raced back from the grass, pressing against their mother and the pram. Someone dropped their phone, but the sound of it hitting the pavement was lost in the babble of voices and mixture of movement.

The traffic crawled to a stop. The crowd sighed like a deflating balloon and became still again.

‘Which one is it?’ the old man asked.

‘I think it’s a seventeen,’ the same girl answered.

‘Pah! Not the one I want!’ he grumbled.

It wasn’t the one I wanted either but it would get me into the city centre of Manchester. I checked my watch again and the hands had crept around. With a sinking feeling, I realised no matter what I was going to be late to my new job again. I needed a car! Or maybe a motorbike? Perhaps, a bicycle would be better? At least my mother wouldn’t have to worry about me as much with one of those.

The traffic moved on and finally the bus pulled up. Everyone charged up as the doors opened. People getting off and on mixed together then broke free of each other. I squeezed on, waving my pass then I saw the bus was totally full.

There was nowhere for me to go as there was a blockade of people before me. I tried to look over them to see if there was any seats, but there appeared not to be. The way to the stairs was also blocked, a mother had her three children pressed into the stairwell.

‘I’m sorry but you won’t get that pram on here,’ the bus driver shouted.

I turned, my hands slipping over the cold blue metal handrail. The African family were trying to get on. The mother was rocking the buggy back, causing the front wheels to lift and her sea of children were all ready on and huddling against the other passengers.

‘Hey, excuse me! No room! Stop!’ the bus driver shouted loudly.

The woman looked up, balancing the front wheels of the pram on the floor of the bus.

‘You’ll have to get the next bus. I’m sorry.’

The woman said something under her breath that sounded like it was in a different language. She slowly reversed the pram and yelled at her children in English, ‘get off! Come over here! Tilly, come!’

The children, like tumbling puppies got off the bus and clustered around her. The little girl who really wanted to go to school burst into tears. Two of the boys started fighting and the other girls walked back to the grass again.

The doors of the bus closed and we left the family and a few other people behind us.

I clung to the handrail, though there was no need really, the press of bodies against mine was enough to keep me stable. I shut my eyes tried hard not to think about who’s fingers had just brushed my hip and who’s elbow had bumped into my bag.

Taking deep breaths, I thought about over things, like what I was going to say to my supervisor, what I might grab for lunch today, if I’d get the guts to talk to that pretty blonde a few desks away from me.

First though, I had to get through this.

Mind Lost

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The bell on the bus rang and with a few glances in his mirrors, the bus driver pulled up smoothly at the next stop.

I looked down the aisle and saw an elderly gentleman wearing a large brown hat and in a long, light brown coat getting to his feet with the aid of a wooden walking stick. He tottered to the hissing opening doors and looked out.

‘Wrong stop,’ he announced and hobbled back to his seat.

The bus driver with a loud sigh, closed the doors, indicted and pulled off.

The old man sit down again and looked out of the window, watching the rows of houses and small patches of green grass go by.

I returned to my open book, cursing my broken headphones as I felt the first pings of my anxiety starting up. Public transport always triggered it, even if I had taken the same journey hundreds of times. There was no stopping that strange wiggly worms sensation in my stomach and the loss of concentration on my book.

The bell rang again. The bus driver slowed and pulled over, easing the bus to a stop and opening the doors.

The same old man got up and walked over. He looked out then said loudly, ‘this isn’t my stop! This isn’t where I’m going!’

‘It’s all right. Just sit down again then,’ the driver said calmly.

Over the top of my book, I watched the elderly gentleman shuffling back to his seat again. He sat down heavily and started muttering to himself.

The engine rumbled, the indicted clicked and we were off again.

Sneakily checking out the other passengers, I saw that none of them were bothered by the elderly man’s mistakes. They all seemed to be in worlds of their own. There was a business man typing away on a small laptop, another man was reading the free newspaper and a third older man was on his phone. Of the four woman, not counting myself, one was reading a library book which I couldn’t see the cover of, two were sat at the back, heads together talking softly and the fourth woman was dozing off with a sleeping baby in her arms.

I turned my eyes back to my book and tried to get into the romantic story of an angel falling in love with a human he was banished from being with. Your typical young adult supernatural mush but I loved it. However, my mind couldn’t focus and I began to picture what would happen if the bus was suddenly to crash.

It was a reoccurring image brought on by the anxiety. I was caught up in it for a few moments, wondering what everyone would do if we became trip in the turned over bus. There’d be smoke, screaming, blood. People would die – the driver, maybe the old man and baby. Maybe even me…

I shook the thoughts away and placed down my book. My fingers still inside the closing pages. Oh, how I wished for my music! The loud beating and fast lyrics of heavy metal noise that I could fade into and forget about everything.

The bell ring and this time the man with the laptop got up. He hardly waited for the bus to stop and the doors to open, before he leaped to the pavement and hurried away.

The elderly man seemed not to have noticed the bus stopping. He was looking out of the window. He was still muttering, but I could not make out what he was saying.

The bus driver lingered for a few minutes, perhaps waiting for the old man to get off or maybe for a big enough gap in the traffic.

I looked through the open doors, feeling the cold winter breeze on my face and trying to relax. We were next to the old Jewish cemetery. The curling gates at the top of the driveway were locked but the smaller side one was half open. I could just make out the tops of the headstones. New apartments flanked both sides of the cemetery, looking out of place and making me recall an argument about the developers wanting to move the headstones and bodies to another location.

The bus doors hissed shut and with the engine sounding grumpy, the driver cut through the traffic and drove us on.

I saw the old man reach for the bell button and touch it. He got up and went to the doors as the bus pulled up only a little bit down the road. The doors opened and I really hoped, though it was so mean of me, that he was getting off this time.

‘Is this Courtly Way? No, it’s not,’ the old man began rambling, ‘I don’t know those trees there. Driver? Where are we going? You’ve taken the wrong route again! I want to go home!’

‘It’s okay,’ the driver said calmly, ‘I’ll take you home. Just go and sit down.’

The old man huffed and began hobbling back to his seat.

The bus moved off again. A car horn blaring from beside us as a car sped passed and jumped the changing traffic lights.

How could the bus driver be so calm? I wondered, surely he’s getting annoyed with all of this now?

‘Hello, Annie!’ the old man cried.

I looked and saw he was staring at me.

‘Why didn’t you tell me you were getting this bus?’ he asked.

‘I’m not Annie,’ I replied, ‘I don’t think we know each other.’

‘Of course, you’re Annie! I’d know you anywhere!’

‘No. You’ve made a mistake. My name is Eleanor.’

‘What are you taking about? We’ve been married fifty odd years, Annie!’ the old man shouted.

I shook my head, sinking back into the hard seat as my anxiety rose. My book began to tremble in my hands and my breaths started catching in my throat. Those stomach worms wiggled more, causing a dull pain to start up. Terrible thoughts came to me. The bus crashing, people dying, blood, fire, the scent of smoke, the smell of death, the whiff of leaking fumes, my book laying upwards with it’s open pages crushed against the roof as the bus land upside down.

‘Annie! Annie! What’s wrong!’ the old man was shouting, ‘Driver stop! My wife has been taken ill!’

For the first time, the bus driver slammed his brakes on at a stop. Passengers were thrown about and my head knocked into the wall of the driver’s cabin. I felt fuzzy and my ears were ringing. I shut my eyes and counted backwards as around me complaining voices rose and the baby started crying.

‘Are you alright, love? Do you want to get off?’ a new voice was asking me.

I opened my eyes and saw the bus driver looking at me.

‘He thinks I’m his wife,’ I muttered.

‘What?’ the driver asked, glancing at the old man who was hanging onto the newspaper tray.

‘He says I’m his wife,’ I repeated louder.

‘Oh. He says that to all the young pretty girls. He’s harmless,’ the bus driver added.

‘My wife?’ the old man suddenly said, ‘where is my wife?’

‘Come on now, Bert,’ the bus driver said politely, ‘sit here and be quiet now. We’re almost home.’

‘Home? Ah yes, that’s where we are going. My wife should be there. She’ll have tea on the table and wondering what’s taking so long. Get on with it, driver,’ the old man snapped and rudely waved the driver away.

The urge to question what was going on here grew but as the driver passed me I couldn’t say anything.

The bus started again and a few stops later, we slowed down and pulled up. The doors opened and the driver got out of his cabin. He walked past me and to the old man.

‘Bert, you’re home now, time to get off,’ the driver said softly.

‘Ah yes. Thank you,’ Bert replied.

The driver helped him up then off the bus. I looked out the window and saw the sign for an old people’s home in the front garden of a large building. At the bus stop, a woman dressed in dark blue trousers and a uniform looking top greeted the bus driver and Bert. I watched her link arms with Bert and take him towards the house. They were talking but I couldn’t hear the words.

The driver got back on and headed for his seat.

‘Is he okay?’ I asked.

The driver looked at me and nodded, ‘he has dementia. Some days he’s okay, other days he believes we’re in a past year and the worse days are when he forgets who he is. It’s a horrible thing and I should know! My dad had it and I had to watch him slowly forget me, everyone else and himself.’

I just nodded, not sure what to say to that.

‘Are you all right? He really didn’t mean you any harm,’ the bus driver added.

‘I’m fine…I suffer from anxiety attacks. It had nothing to do with him,’ I explained.

‘I see. You okay, now though?’ he said

I nodded, thanked him and he climbed into the driver’s cabin.

The bus started again, the seat vibrating underneath me and the voices of the disgruntled passengers muttering. My mind was far away though, reflecting on the bus driver’s words.