This time it was me looking down at the bus stop, counting ants on the floor. God, if I caught her eye I felt I’d die of shame. After getting on the bus, I leaned my elbow on the window and took a swift glance at her. At just that moment, she raised the paper in her hand, waved it at me and smiled…”
by sharon edwards
She’s been around for ages, I know that, but it took me a while to spot her. I used to feel her watching as I walked out of the house in the mornings and it made my shoulders twitch so bad I had to rearrange my coat. Once or twice she stood next to me at the bus stop, looking but never speaking. I could feel her breath on my skin, like a cool breeze in summer awakening me from a dream. I waited for weeks for her to say something. I mean, why follow me around if she wasn’t going to make contact. I remember one day I turned back as I reached the bus stop to see who was making the clacking sound behind me. Just for a second I’m sure our eyes met and I tried to smile, to let her know I knew who she was and it was okay, and that she could talk to me. She just scraped the heel of her shoe on the floor and straightened her skirt with her hands, ten times each side. Looking down at the ground, she edged past me and went to lean on the bus shelter, all the while gazing down at the curb as if it held all the answers she ever needed. Strange thing was, she never got on the bus. Walked away as soon as everyone got on. I couldn’t help but look out of the window as we drove away, and once I swear I saw her mouth my name.
After a while, I started looking out for her and felt down if she wasn’t there. I wanted to just turn round and come back. If I didn’t catch a glance, I may as well stay home. She was the best thing I had. Something to look forward to. A reason to get dressed in the morning.
So I decided. I was going to catch her eye and speak to her. I made sure I had my best coat on, the one with no frayed sleeves or holes in the pockets. I even washed my hair. Sure enough, they started. Clacks behind me as I walked down the street, except they started sooner. She was right behind me even before I left the driveway, yet I didn’t see her as I left the flat.
I took the chance and stopped, right there in the middle of the pavement. Pretended to drop my purse. She careered straight into me. It wouldn’t have happened if she held her head up when she walked instead of looking at the points of her shoes.
‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered and would have walked on by if I hadn’t replied.
‘Don’t worry. It was my fault. I should’ve kept hold of my purse.’
The corners of her mouth moved, not so far that I could call it a smile but a reaction anyway. At last. Maybe now she wouldn’t feel as if she had to hide in the shadows anymore.
The next day I caught her eyes as she passed by my flat in the evening. I was turning into the drive when I heard it. That rhythmical sound she made as her shoes hit the ground. I went to speak but she stared at me, fixing her gaze just above my head. I waved my hand in front of her face. Nothing. After what felt like forever, she shook her head and moved away. Didn’t look back as I watched her go. Freaked out as I was, I didn’t move until I’d seen her turn the corner. That was the first time I saw her at night, but after that, she came every night.
I could see her standing outside, always looking down, yet I felt her eyes on me. It was then I got the idea to give her my number. My way of thinking was that if she was too shy to talk to me face to face, maybe she’d do it over the phone. I was fed up of the chase. I wanted her all to myself. I searched all over the flat for a pen that wasn’t bitten down to the ballpoint. Paper that didn’t have a million things half written on it with scratchy ink.
I wrote my number in my best handwriting. Took my time. Every number perfectly formed, no smudges or ink blots. I put the paper on the shelf near the door so I could pick it up on my way out.
As I left the drive next day, she was leaning against the wall. Heart drumming in my ears, I slipped the paper in her pockets and rushed off, wiping my hands on my scarf. Footsteps quickened behind me til they marched in time to my heart beat. I had to rub my ears to steady the noise. This time it was me looking down at the bus stop, counting ants on the floor. God, if I caught her eye I felt I’d die of shame. After getting on the bus, I leaned my elbow on the window and took a swift glance at her. At just that moment, she raised the paper in her hand, waved it at me and smiled. ’Thanks’ she said to the air as we drove off.
I heard the phone ringing as soon as I put the key in the lock. I knew it was her without even thinking about it. My soul mate at last. Steps creaked as I ran up them, missing one then another. Had to get up to the flat before she rang off. Closer I came to the door, the louder it seemed to get. I tripped over the rug as I rushed to the phone but steadied myself on the table as I pulled the receiver to my ear.
Breathing at first. Quiet. Sultry sounding. When she spoke I felt calm in her tones.
I had no idea what she was talking about, yet at that moment I knew I should never have given her my phone number. Knew it because she had me. I had to hear her voice again.
‘I’m sorry? What?’ I just about scraped the words out as I stared at the window, mesmerised.
‘Jump. You know you want to.’
My shoulders twitched again, as I felt the need to look out of the window. It was getting hot.
‘Jump. I’m there for you.’
I heard the soothing tones of her voice as I saw the ground below through the open window. God it looked so cool and I felt so hot as listened to her.
As I did, she caught me, and we landed together on the ground.
(illustration: dee sunshine)
Sharon Edwards has been writing for a few years now and has had a few bits and bobs published here and there. She writes for enjoyment and anything else is a bonus.