Stella had stopped on the corner of a crossroads, her phone pressed into her cheek. “I can find my own way, no, I don’t need help, I just wanted someone else to know where I was, you know, precautions and all. Honest, just covering my back, being responsible, a cautious daughter. I will, I will, yes, I’ll send a text once I get back. Yeah, love you too, bye Mum.”
She felt her mascara run as the light rain made her eyes water. > It’s good that it’s too dark for anyone to see me. What a state I must look, < She thought as she rubbed at her eyes with a screwed up piece of used tissue found in the pocket of her pale pink faux fur jacket. A half-laugh left her as she stuffed her phone in her silver clutch bag and click-clacked her way to a bus shelter she could see illuminated by one flickering bulb in the distance. At least she would be dry. Even she knew, standing on a street corner dressed in pink fluff and sequins at way past midnight was not the most sensible thing to be doing.
Sella had a smashing night, dancing at the club. It was great just her and her bestie, gyrating and giggling like when they were kids at the school disco. Until her fellah came. Jenny twitched and became shy, almost childlike. “Stell, this is my Gavin.” Stella frowned, stuttered, then had to shout to be heard over the music. “Jen, I thought it was just us. I am crashing with you in your bedsit. At least that was the plan?” Stella loved planning and needed to know what she would be doing next. When and how was the minimum, the basic stuff. “Gav missed me.” She said, lifting her arms as if doing some sun salutation or worshipping a sky-bound deity. Jen was promptly gathered up for a session of face sucking, right there on the dance floor. Stella was mad. A studio pad was not a place she wanted to be. Not if the demonstration in front of her was a prelude to the main event. So Stella left the club. That was how she ended up on a wet night in town, in the early hours of the morning, alone. … Dressed like a Christmas tree.
Stella tried to read the timetable, it was not helped by the flickering light. It seemed there was a bus. The night bus, but it gave no destination or times. She shivered as she tugged off her jacket and shook some of the rain from the fur, then pulled it back on. Fastening it firmly around her against the wind. A taxi passed with its light off > probably finished for the night she thought < All she could do is sit and wait for the night bus and take it from there.
A rowdy bunch, of mostly blokes, poured out of a building. They were staggering, jeering, pushing and shoving each other. Some stumbled into the road and were getting closer. “Ello darling on yer lonesome then.” A wolf whistle and shouts got louder the closer they came. “cor, I could, yeah, c’mon shows us what you’re selling.” shouted another. Stella pretended to call the police and spoke loudly down the mouthpiece. “Yes, a bunch of louts officer come right away!” A bloke at the back of the group shoved them along. He nervously checked behind as they passed. Soon they were out of sight, but she could still hear them in the distance. Usually, Stella was confident and strong. That night, she was decidedly uncomfortable and felt vulnerable. Tugging her skirt down, Stella pressed her bum into the rickety wooden bench. She twitched at each sound. The passing street cat startled her everything felt like a threat. The hiss of air from the buses brakes made her jump only then did she realise the night bus had arrived.
Stella hadn’t heard or seen it coming. Cautiously she approached the doors they unfolded with a whoosh. “Hello, can you tell me where you’re going, where you stop, please?” She put one sparkly foot inside the bus. looked up and down the aisle. “This is my last stop tonight, but as you can see, she’s empty. Where are you wanting to go?” Tom, was written on his name badge, had friendly eyes and a soft voice. “I um, … Stapleton, about six miles from here.” She flinched as her teeth nipped the inside of her lip. “No problem, I know it well, Stapleton it is. Make yourself comfortable I will have you home in no time.” She fumbled in her bag for her season ticket, swiped it on the pad and took a seat.
Now, if you were to meet Stella today, she would tell you, there seemed all but a minute between the whooshing of air as the doors closed to leave that bus stop and the hissing of brakes as he stopped and called, ” last stop, please disembark.” His bus pulled up right outside her door. Though she never told him where she lived. Stella would say that when she inquired, the council told her, the night bus was a pilot project supposedly run by volunteers in the 1970s. After only a month, it folded. The scheme was never funded and didn’t catch on. She would tell you that in the library archives, after investigating, she found that the bus shelter had long been taken down and replaced with a bus stop sign more than a decade past.
“The above vignette is in response to Esme’s monthly picture prompt #3, the link to join in or read other responses is in the link under the picture of the bus. I hope you enjoy reading them. Have you ever travelled alone and been scared or uncomfortable please let me know, leave a comment in the box I love to chat?”