WriteInvite.co.uk - Short Story Competitions


The Boy On The Bus

by Alison Wassell

The 8th Jun 2013 WriteOnSite Winning Entry

She recognizes him as soon as he steps onto the bus, waving a crumpled ticket at the driver, who calls him back, tells him the ticket is out of date. He swears as he digs into his pocket for the fare. He is as good looking as ever, although his features have hardened. He looks like his mother now.

Kate opens her handbag and rummages inside it, head bowed, as he passes. She does a quick calculation in her head. He must be eighteen now. The girl with him is heavily pregnant and vaguely familiar. They slide into the seat behind Kate. She takes deep breaths, the way she's been shown, but she can't stop the vertigo. She places both hands on the seat in front of her, closes her eyes, waits for the journey to be over.

'Did you ever have her?' he asks the girl. She says she didn't. She had Mrs Rylands in reception. The boy tells her she was lucky.

'Evil old witch' he says. His knees dig into Kate's back. She has placed the girl now. Kelly Fisher. She can't be more than fifteen. The breathing is almost under control now. She is less dizzy. She feels his eyes on the back of her head, observing her thinning hair.

She remembers his first day at school, and how she had to peel him from his mother, who was more concerned about the damage he was doing to her leather jacket than anything else. Eventually, it was Kate that he clung to. She remembers the not quite clean smell of him, and the velcro feel of his closely shaven head.

'Why is she not in work?' says Kelly Fisher. She is chewing gum as she speaks. The boy snorts. He heard she was sacked, he says. Kate glances at his reflection, in the window. He points his finger at his head, and makes a circular motion. The vertigo worsens. The bus grinds to a halt, stuck in traffic.

He wrote her a note once, an incomprehensible scrawl, but he knew what it said. 'I love you Miss Evans. I wish you was my mum.' He pointed as he 'read'. She still has that note, in her special box.

She watches his reflection take out a phone and photograph the back of her balding head.

'That's going on Facebook' he tells Kelly Fisher. She giggles obligingly.

They have almost reached her stop. She turns, and forces her face into a smile. How lovely it is to see him, she says. She turns to Kelly. He was such a sweet little boy, she says. She lowers her voice to a confidential whisper. Kelly leans in, to hear what she is saying. He never did have very good control of his bladder. Kate lost count of how many pairs of underpants she had to lend him. He was particularly fond of a pair of Superman ones. He never did bring those back.

Snot sprays from Kelly's nose as she fails to control her amusement. The bus pulls up at Kate's stop and, feeling surprisingly steady, she stands up. She will burn that note, when she gets home. The boy is dead to her now, as they all are.

Copyright © 2008 - 2013 Rob Richardson. All Rights Reserved.