It had been a busy day. She swung herself on to the bus, and flashed her electronic ticket. She caught herself in the drivers mirror, and gave the work-weary woman that looked back a tired smile. He ran her fingers through her brown hair trying to pull it’s unruly strands into something resembling a smile. Her brown looked back at her, and she gave her reflection a resigned shrug.
She let her rucksack lead her down the bus, and she took a seat on the hard fake leather seat. A man in the row opposite gave her a warm, and friendly smile. His blue eyes seemed to seek out hers, and his smile widened. He tilted his head at her, and then gave her a small nod. Despite herself, she smiled back, and let her tousled hair fall over her face. She felt her blush begin somewhere in her chest, and she knew it would spread inexorably towards her face. She turned away, and looked out of the window. She put her headphones in, and tried to loose herself in the music. In the ghost-like reflection she could see him. He watched her for a moment, then pulled out a book and began reading.
Despite herself, she kept watching him. There was something about his chiselled jaw, and his relaxed features that attracted her. He wore a loose shirt and jeans, which highlighted his strong torso. He wore his physical strength without a thought, relaxing easily into chair. She let her eyes run down his toned arms to the book he was reading. A dark cover, a seeming academic book. She imagined how she would strike up a conversation with him. In her mind, a brave, more confident version of her casually invited him to join her at the coffee shop just near her stop. Nothing frightening, nothing too extreme, just coffee. She watched his hands as they turned the pages. There it was, the mark that showed that her fantasies would be just that, fantasies. A small band of silver encased his ring finger. Her reflection smiled sadly back at her, as she leaned back in her seat.
The movement caught his eye, and he turned to her. A fleeting, reflex movement. Their eyes caught one another again and he smiled at her. A smile that was designed to be non-threatening, and warm. It worked, and she smiled back, cursing her traitorous body that wanted to know if the welcome in the smile would reach as far as his arms.
He slide a finger into the book, and let it’s pages close around it, nestling his place. He gently folded his arms in his lap, and quirked an eyebrow at her, his soft brown eyes threatening to drown her.
“Hi” she said, falteringly.
He said something back, but she couldn’t hear him. She blushed at her own stupidity and took out her headphones, and said, politely, “Sorry…”
“I said hello back. You okay?” he said.
“I..” She paused. For a moment he had cast some sort of spell on her, and she was about to tell him all about the business of the hospital, how manic it had been, how with illness she had worked for nearly 18 hours straight and all she wanted was a shower to wash off the stench of blood and disinfectant. In that same moment, her treacherous mind showed her not alone in that welcoming, warm shower, but being enveloped in his arms, as he gently pulled her back towards him under the falling warm water, gently kissing her neck. The kisses in her mind sent an electric jolt through her body. It had been so long since anyone had touched her, and her mind was desperately trying to make it happen with this mysterious stranger.
“I..?” He said, curiously. A soft, amused smile played over his lips. He was looking at her with a look that said that she was, suddenly, the only thing in the world that he was interested in. A look full of compassion, and concern.
“Sorry. It’s been a long day. I work at the hospital, and it’s just been non-stop.”
“Doctor?” he asked. She was momentarily taken aback. She was already preparing a sentence that explained that she was a doctor that worked in A&E. She found that people often guessed nurse or orderly, and when she said Doctor, they assumed peadeatrics, or gynocology.
“That’s a hard job you do. With very little thanks. You should treat yourself, get yourself a bottle of wine, some chocolate and run yourself a nice, hot, bubble bath.”
There was something about the way he said hot. A subtle inflection that sent her heart racing. It was all in her mind. He was being the perfect gentleman, which meant, for her, that there was something wrong. Any moment now he would say something that would shatter her illusion. How he always wanted to play doctors and nurses or something equally sleezy.
“Here.” he said, handing her a folded note. “Have some you time, on me.” He slid a £20 note into her surprised hand, and by the time she had looked up from her shock, he was sliding out of the bus door. He smiled at her through the dirty glass as the bus pulled away.
Her walk home had left her fondling the crumpled note. Her first thought was that he had written his mobile number on the inside. Part of her would have hated him if he had, and part of her longed to be able to find out more about him. The note, despite her checking several times, only had a single mark on it from an anti-counterfeit pen. She determined that she would take it to the corner shop and by essentials with it. Yet as she shopped, she felt that she had somehow betrayed the strangers generosity by not using it as he had asked. At first, she chose a cheap bottle of wine, not used to having money that shouldn’t really be used on other things like food. Yet only spending half the money he gave her still didn’t feel right.She could see his warm smile, which in her mind’s eye kept willing her to actually treat herself. She grabbed a more expensive bottle of wine, a nice box of chocolates, and some luxury bubble bath, well, at least as luxury as you can get at a corner store. As the checkout rang up her bill, it still didn’t hit £20. She grabbed some batteries to round it out.
Her apartment had been described by the lying estate agent as bijou. It was about the size of a shoebox, if those shoes belonged to a child.