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Bus Stop

Katie Ineich, 2010

        I walked to the familiar bus stop, my heavy shoes sloshing in the puddles as I hurried along the sidewalk. I looked ahead and strained my eyes to see if she was there already—she usually was. I made out the top of her red head and I smiled. I squeezed my eyes shut for half a second as I remembered what I had planned to say, and I slipped my hand into my coat pocket to make sure the small velvet box was still there. Penny and I had been meeting at this bus stop since the beginning of the summer. We both got on the bus at Ferguson and Peavy, and we always took it past the Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway, where Ferguson became Centerville. From the moment of our first conversation, I had known that one day she would share my name.

        It had been raining that day too—not your pleasant, light drizzle, but a heavy, north Texas summer storm. I was carrying a large black umbrella, but it did me little good because the rain was coming fast at a slanted angle. I was soaked from the waist down and my arms and face kept getting sprayed. I neared my bus stop, and I immediately saw her brilliant ginger hair, soaked in spite of her attempts to shield her curls from the teeming rain. Her stuffed tote bag was slung over her shoulder along with her purse. She held her khaki trench coat up over her head, but rain trickled down her temples and into her ears. She periodically shifted her weight in what looked like an effort to save her shoes, which were an odd but lovely shade of blue. As I arrived at the bus stop, I went and stood next to her, immediately proffering my umbrella.

        “Excuse me, miss, would you share my umbrella?”

        She looked up at me, startled. She wore no make-up. Her grey-blue eyes were framed with light brown eyelashes and her nose and cheeks were smattered with freckles. Her mouth opened slightly in surprise, and I noticed that even her lips had some freckles on them.

        “I’m sorry?” she asked, sounding slightly confused.

        “My umbrella,” I repeated stupidly. I indicated the black thing that I was already holding over her head. “You just… it’s…” I sighed. “You look a bit damp.” I finished lamely.

        “Oh!” She brightened a little, slipped her trench coat down around her shoulders, and moved closer to me so that she stood beneath my umbrella. She smelled wonderful—clean and crisp like apples. “Thank you so much, I’m Penny, by the way.” She held her hand awkwardly toward me so that she kept it sheltered by the umbrella. I took her hand and told her my name. “Your umbrella makes me think of London,” she said dreamily, looking at the black parachute above her.

        “Oh, have you been to London?”

        “Very briefly, with a friend, when I was in college. We were studying in Ireland, and we went to England and Scotland for our mid-semester break.” She wasn’t looking at me anymore, but past me.

        “Well, that’s exciting. I’ve been to Europe, but I didn’t make it to the UK.”

        “No? Where did you go?” Her eyes refocused on my face.

        “I actually was stationed in Germany for a few years, and so I got to see a lot of the country. I also got to Austria, France and Belgium.”

        “Wow, those are all places I haven’t made it yet. What branch of the armed forces were you in?”

        “I was in the Army for five years. I went to school on an ROTC scholarship.”

        “That’s impressive. What did you major in?”

        “English—”

        “No way!” She cut me off quickly. “I was an English major too!” Her sudden enthusiasm made me smile, and I could have sworn her eyes turned a bit brighter as she grew more animated. “This is so exciting! I feel like recently, everyone I meet majored in something business related…or nursing…” I nodded silently. “Well,” she continued, “You’re not in the Army anymore, are you? What do you do now?”

        My neck felt warm. People rarely showed this much interest in me, and women even more rarely were this interested. I hesitated. “I actually own an Italian restaurant several blocks from here. What about you, what do you do?” I asked her quickly before she could ask me something more about myself.

        “Oh, I’m a teacher,” she smiled broadly. “I teach sixth grade at Mark Twain.” She clutched her tote bag closer to her chest.

        “So I gather you enjoy teaching then?” I asked.

        “I love it. I had amazing English teachers growing up, and I always knew I wanted to teach English myself. But wait, what about you? You studied English, but you own a restaurant now? Not that that’s not wonderful but…”

        This was a question I dreaded. I looked at the ground and watched a puddle grow by our feet. “Yeah, I had always wanted to be an English professor, and maybe write. But when I left the military, I got placed in an office job for a while, and through some connections, I ended up managing and eventually owning my restaurant. I actually like the business and the people I meet; it’s just not what I’d had planned for myself.”

        “Well, that sounds pretty great actually,” she smiled warmly. “And I mean, I know it sounds cliché, but things don’t always work out the way we plan.”

        Before I could answer her, the bus pulled up to our stop and we turned to board. We climbed the steps slowly as I held the umbrella over her until the last possible moment. Once she darted inside, I shook the rain from my umbrella and closed it as I backed into the bus.

        “Sorry,” I apologized to the few people waiting to board.

        Penny had taken a seat on one of the long benches along the windows, for handicapped passengers, and I went and sat next to her. We talked until the bus reached her stop. We talked about our families, our favorite books, our jobs and our goals. I kept wondering when she was going to get bored and stop talking to me, but that moment didn’t come. We did arrive at her stop too quickly. She stood with unbelievable grace, considering the lurching bus, gathered her bag and purse and walked to the door.

        “Maybe I’ll see you again,” she smiled at me over her shoulder.

        “I hope so,” I said quietly. I waved to her back, and the doors quickly swung closed.


 
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All Information Copywright by Chimes Publication, Saint Mary's College 2010