I saw her, again. Every day, riding the 45T. I normally got off at the tracks, the last stop inside the city.
Today, I was curious. She never spoke and was always alone. I couldn’t tell why. She was cute, with short black hair, blue eyes, and adorable freckles, a little on the slender side. She might have been in her early thirties, a little on the slim side.
I didn’t care. Today, I didn’t get off on my stop. The bus was almost empty at this point, just me and her. “Do you mind if I sit?”
She didn’t respond, just looked out the window.
She seemed to start, and looked around, not meeting my eyes. Only after she realized the bus was empty did she look at me. She seemed surprised to find me looking straight at her. “Are you speaking to me?”
“But … well … okay.”
I took my seat beside her, and looked out the window with her, watching the countryside. “Do you like the country?”
“It’s quieter. I’m not comfortable around a lot of people. Nobody likes to make room for me. Oh, but you’re okay. You don’t have to move.”
“How about tomorrow, before the bus leaves town, I take you to coffee? The shop won’t be crowded late in the day. They have some overstuffed chairs for us to use.”
She looked up at me, her lips upturned. “It’ll be nice to take to someone who can listen.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to that, so I just nodded. I got off at the next stop, and waited for the next bus in the opposite direction, to take me back home
The next day, as we approached the tracks, I stood by her seat. “Ready?”
She rose without a word. We walked to the door, and she paused to lean over an old woman sitting by the door, touching her cheek. “Don’t be afraid.”
She brushed past me and I followed her off the bus, glancing back at the old woman for a moment. “What was that about?”
“She has a big trip to make.” She turned, her skirt flaring as she spun, and her eyes turned up to mine. With her eyes upturned and beaming at me, I forgot all about the oddness of the previous moment. I went to the coffee shop, and we had coffee together.
She liked her coffee without sugar, and her chocolate dark and bitter. Her nose wrinkled when she laughed, and her eyes brightened every time she saw me. After a couple of days getting coffee, she started wearing a flower in her hair. It was almost a week before she let me take her on a real date, shyly agreeing to see a movie with me.
The next morning, I found her in my bed beside me. We showered together, luxuriating in both the heat of the water and the heat of each other. I made her breakfast, and it was then that she touched my cheek, and said those words to me. “Don’t be afraid.”
“You said that to someone when we met. You dodged the question then. What’s that about?”
“I told you, she had a big trip. It’s scary. You have a trip to make, too. But don’t be afraid.”
I frowned. She was beautiful, but the crazy ones often were. I stood up, wary. “Look, I don’t know what you think you … what you … think” The words weren’t coming to me. Everything was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t catch the words. I looked up, and everything was askew. I realized that it was because I was falling, just before my head struck the tile. “Stroke … nine … nine one … “
She crouched beside me, caressing my face. “Before you go … thank you. Nobody ever sees me. You’re different, somehow. It made me remember what it was like, when I was alive.” I felt her lips on my brow. “Go on ahead of me. I’ll meet you there.”
I was so dizzy the room seemed to spin around me, despite how still I lay. The room darkened more and more, and then I was gone.