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Strangers in a Bus Stop
Usually the girl was in a hurry, she seemed to bustle around until the last possible moment. When the clock hit the last possible moment she rushed out of the apartment she shared with three other girls looking like a whirlwind as she grabbed up all her things. That day was different, though. There was no drawing that absorbed her, no TV show to suck her in; her roommates were gone for Christmas break already. She still had one last final to take before she met her family in a cabin her uncle had rented.
The girl gathered her things into a bag that she wore slung across her shoulder. She moved slowly; for once she wasn’t in a hurry. It looked like rain soon and it would be cold waiting at the bus stop. She chose her pink raincoat because she was feeling down and hoped the bright color would help to balance out her mood. Besides the pink made her hair look redder which she liked. She turned her key in the lock and navigated her way through the maze of apartment buildings to get to the bus that would take her into campus.
She got there just as a bus was letting out passengers, it was going away from campus, though, so she sat to wait for the next bus. The boy got off the bus then. He saw her sitting on the bench in her pink rain coat and smiled wide. He was happy to see her, but the girl’s heart fell. She had wanted this time to herself. At one time just hearing the boy’s name would light a smile across her face and send her eyes searching for him. She loved him. Now, the girl bit her lip and sent her eyes to look at the ground.
“Hey, baby,” he said as he sat down next to her. She had liked that once, too, but now she just wished he would say her name. The girl wasn’t sure he remembered who she was before they had fallen in love.
“Hey,” she mumbled. She looked up and into his eyes. She tried to keep her face open so that they boy could see. The girl wanted him to see so badly. She wanted him to notice that she had changed. He used to read her so easily; he always knew what she was feeling.
She had so much that she wanted to say to him. She wanted to touch his face and cup his chin in her tiny hands and run her thumbs over his stubble, his lips. She wanted to lean him to lean into her and say,
If only the girl could find the words to say that she wasn’t living the life she was meant for. She wanted her days to be full of love and ordinary moments. She had wanted to run away to Maine with him. They had planned a life together. They wanted to try out a million different places until they found the right one. They wanted to see what beauties the world had to offer. They boy had promised her quiet nights and his arms around her to keep her warm at night.
She dreamt of a brick house to fill with beautiful things and a garden where they could draw together. Together they had talked of giving parts of themselves to create a whole new person. They’d thought of the perfect names; Lyla, Alice, Reece, and Holden. Their life together would be a good one.
The girl knew this but something within her told her that it wasn’t right. It was in the way he sometimes forgot to be gentle with her and hurt her. The feeling was there in the way he didn’t mind saying goodbye; he was so confident she would always be there when he returned. He had stopped drawing, and she didn’t show him her drawings anymore. She knew that he wanted to take care of her, but she couldn’t make him understand why she needed to see the world. She loved him; she wanted to protect him. But, she didn’t want to spend her days listening to a piano song that he wanted to show off. She didn’t want to tell him “Good job” as if he was a little boy who had finished a puzzle.
He was too sensitive, she knew, for her to say these things.
He was so happy to hear her promise of “I love you”
“Forever?” He would ask.
“Forever,” she would answer. It was true, but it broke her heart every time.
She begged the boy to see this as she looked up at him on that bus stop bench. He smoothed his hand over her hair and tucked her under his arm. It used to make her feel safe but now it seemed like his way of keeping her there.
“Good to see you, Scooby,” he said using her favorite pet name.
She nodded into his shirt and leaned into his warm waist. He had used the same aftershave her grandfather had used when he was alive. The memory was so sharp that it brought tears to her eyes. The girl saw her bus coming down the street.
Drawing in a breath she drew herself away from the boy. She kissed his cheek and allows herself to lean against him and stroke his cheek.
“I’ve got to go,” she said with her jaw clenched and her forehead resting on his cheek.
“I love you,” he said tipping her face up to kiss her moth.
The bus pulled up and the girl stood to leave.
“Goodbye,” she said and hoped it was enough. She hoped that one day the boy would hear the words she never said. ‘Goodbye. I loved you; I love you. Forgive me; I have to go, I have to live. I have to leave you behind but I wish I could stay.’ Most of all she wanted to say she’d miss him and that she would always love him.
“Goodbye,” said the boy as the girl turned away. She walked on the bus and grabbed a handle as it pulled away from the stop. The boy was walking away from the stop when she turned around for a last look. The girl knew this was the last time she would see the boy. When the day was done she would no longer be a student at this school. She transferred to the university she had chosen before meeting the boy, and then turned her back on. She would draw and travel and nurse her broken heart. The girl wanted to reach out to the boy and ask him to come with her, but she knew she couldn’t.
The girl looks back on this moment often; sometimes with sadness, wonder, or hurt; but every time she knows it was right. She wants to draw it but she can’t make herself. She imagines the boy reading the note she left for him, her things already gone. She imagines his face and wonders if he is happy. She hopes that he made a good life.
She can’t draw this memory because the title would break her heart. They once were best friends; were lovers. They were brother and sister, husband and wife, the perfect playmates. But then they were only a boy and a girl. Strangers in a bus stop.