First published in 2016, Bunbury Magazine Issue 14
The bench at the bus stop was wet. I couldn’t have asked for anything else to complete the morning. It was another late start, another broken alarm clock, and another cup of tea that I had gulped down. I left the burnt toast untouched.
I muttered through the check-list of my day. The check-list that made my head throb and my stomach clench. Check emails, mid-morning presentation, 5pm deadline. Work, work, work.
I pulled my coat on, grabbed the keys, and slammed the door shut. Something was missing. I looked down. My feet were sodden.
I flung the door open again, shoved my shoes on, and finally stormed outside to brave raindrops that greeted me like tiny bullets.
A thick, dark grey canvassed the sky. Street lights and car head lamps shone on the slippery pavement as rain shattered down. I passed by several people with umbrellas and attempted to play a game to lighten the morning: how many umbrellas could I catch a shield under without appearing odd. No one at the office had to know I played this silly game.
Traffic stood still. I could almost hear the grumble of drivers rising up into the damp air. I trudged on with water seeping through my soles and tried to ignore the squelch, squelch, squelch. A little boy slipped as he pushed past me, late for school. He regained his balance before I could assist and sprinted down the wet road once more.
The bus shelter’s roof was leaking. Drip, drop, drip. The water splashed on to the bench and created a little puddle on its dented metal surface. I sighed and leaned against the glass panel in the corner of the shelter, farthest away from the leakage.
“Had to be wet,” I muttered, shivering in my sodden shoes.
And then, the red. There are a lot of red things in London: buses, post boxes, and telephone booths. None of those were on the street that swelled with traffic, even the cars were all slippery blues, greens and blacks. From the misty horizon of the road, a small red figure bobbed up and down, a tiny ball of energy. The rain abated. The red ball came closer to me.
A little girl in a red puffer jacket and shiny red welly boots strode up to the bus stop as if it belonged to her. Her mother trailed behind, a petite woman with a scarf wrapped beneath her hood. She had strong eyebrows like her daughter’s. The little girl splashed into several puddles and cried out in happiness.
“You been waiting long?” asked her mother.
“About five minutes,” I replied.
She nodded and looked down the road at the long queue of stand-still traffic that rumbled in both directions.
“Good thing the rain’s let up.”
“Not for long I suppose,” I said and she nodded again.
The little girl made a large splash in the road off the pavement and started jabbering to herself with excited enthusiasm. She ran circles around her mother before running up and down the length of the bus stop and stopped to climb on to the wet bench. Her round face poked through the furry hood and she started to bounce up and down, singing a song.
Her song echoed in my ears, an echo of sticky fingers with caramel chocolate, grazed knees from climbing trees, and rolling in soft grass underneath a summer sun. Giggles. Abandoned moments I had pushed to the edges of my mind. A mind that was clogged with work, work, work.
Her mother looked at her silver watch and sighed.
“I think we’ll walk today,” she said and grabbed both her daughter’s hands to swing her off the seat.
The girl squealed in delight and ran away from the bus stop. They left me in the dreary road, draining all the colour from the street till it submerged once more into murky blues, greens and blacks.
The girl’s wellies left smudged dirt prints on the bench. I edged towards it. The seat was still wet. The chime of her little song rattled in my head, pushing away the thoughts of ‘emails, presentations, deadlines’. The song pushed me. I pulled my coat down as far as I could to cover my bum, and took the plunge.
I sat on the wet bench and a rather large squelch followed. My coat was too short to protect me and soon the water had seeped through to my clothes.
A sliver of childlike ecstasy tickled inside me, reaching my face in a small smile.
The edges of a red bus crept around the corner. I hummed a silly, childish song to myself, no longer shivering in my sodden shoes.
Still, I thought, there better be a seat for me.