Up at the crack of dawn again, stumbling to the loo and plop down on the toilet. I don’t dare piss standing up in the morning or Lori will get all tetchy. The sound bothers her, she says, and heaven forbid there is a chance I might leave the toilet seat up.
A quick shower, shaving under the hot water to save time. Then it is in to my straight jacket, excuse me, I mean my suit. I grab a cup of tea on the way out the door and walk past the bus stop as I always do on my way to the train. The station is just two blocks away and it really is the most convenient way to get into London if you live in the suburbs the way we do.
As I pass the bus stop, I notice a very attractive blonde lady, a half smile on her face as if she is enjoying the morning. She is sitting at the stop, one leg draped over the other and kicking a little, her dainty foot swinging too and fro. Her hands are folded on top of her knee, one of the sleeves on her cardigan a bit frayed.
Not sure why I notice her, exactly, just that she seems familiar. She goes right out of my head when I hit the crowd at the train platform. So much shoving when we are all going the same direction. It is not like shoving ahead gets the train there any earlier!
Work is ... work. I’m a banker, of sorts. I work in the investment portion of a large bank as a researcher for one of the brokers. I have my licenses too, but you have to pay your dues to move up to a trading desk and take on clients. I get that, and I have only been out of university for a year and a half. Still, seems kind of odd to see some of my fellows promoted already when they have been here a scant few months. Must be a bit of the old boys network, I suppose. Not that I would know much about it, mind you, I paid my own way to university.
After a ten hour day handing over my research results to the brokers upstairs, I am back on the train again for the trip home. When I finally drag in the door, Lori is already there, of course. She has her law degree and is interning with a local barrister. She works banker’s hours and I work for a banker. Go figure.
She wants to go out. Her mates at work, and a couple of girlfriends from school, want to get together for a few drinks and I am expected to come and be personable. I do, though I cannot for the life of me imagine why I agreed to this. The people she works with are prats. Her college friends are a bunch of catty bitches that she hates, or so her comments after each get together would have me believe.
We finally get home just before midnight and she is as tight as a tick. I get her undressed and in to bed, then I get a shower, wanting to get the smoke off me and knowing I will not have time in the morning.
The next day it is the same thing all over again, except I am absolutely knackered before I even start the day. The pretty blonde is at the bus stop again. This time she is sipping hot tea from a travel mug and watching the birds fly by. I can see the steam from her cup rising lazily in the still morning air.
By the end of the day I am dragging and it feels like the walk back from the train station is about five kilometers instead of a couple of blocks. I get home and Lori informs that she had invited people for supper. Bollocks to that, I am not having it, not tonight. I feel like hell and in no mood to entertain.
When I tell her that, and that I must have caught something at work, she accuses me of not being supportive of her and, in a fit of pique, she packs a bag and walks out, saying she needs to reevaluate her decisions in life. What the bloody hell that all means is beyond me, other than she has just walked out!
Whatever, I am off to bed.
I wake, feeling as though I have been mugged and left in the gutter. My head is pounding and my stomach feels like it will turn inside out any moment. There is no way I am making it through ten hours in the basement of the bank building today, so I call in and tell the answering service that I am ill.
When I wake up again, I have been sweating a lot and my sheets are soaked. I smell like hell and every joint in my body feels as if it is swollen and painful. It takes about all I have to get up and take a shower, then change my sheets. A quick bowl of some chicken broth from the cupboard and I am asleep again.
The clock shows six thirty when I wake the third time, but with the curtains pulled tight, I have no idea if it is morning or evening. I fumble about a bit and find my phone. Bloody hell, I have been sick for three days! Three days without calling in to work? I will be lucky if I even have a job!
Strangely enough, there have been no calls. No voicemails. Not from work, not from Lori, not from any of my mates. Oh wait, Lori ran them all off, hadn’t she?
I am feeling much better though, and a shower has me feeling human. The sheets will need changing again though. Breakfast is out of the question, not a bit of food in the house unless I want some pasta noodles without anything to put on them for breakfast.
I get myself organized, grab the sheets since the shops are next to the launderette, and put a jacket on against the morning chill. A cup of tea in one hand, a large rolling trolley full of dirty laundry being pulled by the other, and I step out to greet the new day.
As I pass the bus stop, my eye is drawn to the pretty blonde who is there again. She is always there when I come out! Today she is wearing a cute little knit cap with a cloth flower sewn to the front. It is a whimsical thing, something a small girl would wear. It should look silly on her, but instead it is cute, giving her a playful air. I notice the bus arrive but she doesn’t get on, she just watches as other do.
As it pulls away, I have to stop for it to pass, and I see her get up and leave, walking down a side road.
Once my laundry is done and folded, I have shopped and added a pair of bags full of eggs and milk, bread, sausages, beans and some sliced meat for sandwiches to the pile. With all of that precariously perched on top of my trolley, I made my way home. As I pass the bus stop, I remember the girl and smile a bit.
I am feeling better the next morning and am seriously considering going in to work, but a rumble in my bowels has me calling in again, just in case. I cannot imagine a more horrible event than having to actually sit in a train lavatory. I have to hold my breath just to piss in one if I just cannot wait of a morning.
I make myself some tea and stand at the front window, looking out. I never realized that I could see the bus stop from here, though it takes me a bit to realize that it never mattered. Of course I could see it, there across the street and just half a block down, but I had never bothered to look because I didn’t take the bus, did I?
The blond was there. Today her cap was a rusty color, it suited her, making her blonde hair seem ... Blonder? Brighter, that was it, brighter. She was wearing a colorful vest and a long, thick sweater today. She was also wearing a long skirt and it took me a bit to remember the last time I saw anyone wearing a skirt, other than those whisps of material girls wore to clubs. Those weren’t skirts, not really, they were invitations.
Why didn’t more women wear skirts these days? They were very feminine, very fetching, really. It seems like women, those that wanted to be taken seriously, wore business suits with pants. Women who wanted to attract a mate or, and this was really sad, or who had given up, both wore stretchy pants. On the former, it was usually attractive and on the latter, was an eyesore. Odd that.
I finished my tea just as the bus arrived but didn’t get up. No, I sat and watched with interest as the bus picked up passengers and left again, leaving the pretty blonde all alone. With a smile she stood, straightened the creases from her skirt, and walked off again. I wondered why she even came to the but stop if she wasn’t going to ride, and where she went after.
Maybe she was a bit daft, like those blokes that hang around train stations snapping pictures of trains day in and day out. Perhaps her obsession was with buses.
The next day was Friday and I rationalized that if I hadn’t been in all week anyway, another day wouldn’t hurt. I called in and had to leave a message, even though it was during working hours. Nothing for me though, no recriminations or instructions, it was as if they didn’t really give a fig whether I showed up or not or maybe hadn’t even noticed my absence.
Still no word from Lori and when I tried to phone her, her mobile said it was disconnected. Curiouser and curiouser.
I guess I wasn’t all that surprised to find, when I checked, that all of her belongings were gone. She must have come in while I was sick and out of my head, emptied her belongings into her car, and left me here to die for all she cared.
If I was being honest, I didn’t really care that she was gone. She had been around for as long as she had because I couldn’t be arsed to tell her to piss off, not worth the effort or the argument.
I was up at dawn, with my tea and this time a muffin, sitting in front of the window by six thirty. When I looked, she was already there! The blonde beauty must have arrived at daybreak to have beaten me!
Today she was dressed in a skirt again, a heavy, loden colored one the same hue as that deep green moss that grows on the walls along the lane. Her sweater was an auburn color, not quite red and not quite orange, but it suited her skirt and made a nice contrast. Today she had her tea in a travel mug again, but she also had a muffin like the one that sat cooling on the plate in front of me. It was a bit like we were having breakfast together.
After she watched the bus depart without her and she walked off, down that same side road, I gave it big sigh and got on with what needed doing today. The house needed a good cleaning and there were some things I had been meaning to leave in the poor box down to the church. If I was not going to go to work, I could at least get some work done at home.
All day long, my thoughts returned to the pretty blonde. Why was she there each morning? Why did she never take the bus? Why did she always seem so happy? Where did she live? What did she do during the day? Was she, and did I even dare to think it, single? I had no business even contemplating such a thing, not with the hours I worked each week, but the thought stuck around like a bad song, echoing in my head all day long.
Saturday I was up earlier than usual, it not being a work day, but she was not there at the stop. I felt a sense of crushing disappointment all out of proportion to the actual event, and chastised myself for letting this get to me. I didn’t even know the girl!
All day long I was restless. I would wander around the house, pick up a novel I had been trying to read for months and then put it down again later, not having finished even a single page. I went out to lunch, walking down into the village center to the pub. I found myself studying the faces around me, watching everyone without realizing I was searching. It wasn’t until I was on my way home after lunch and a pint that I figured it out.
I saw a head of blonde hair ahead of me and my heart quickened. I found myself walking more quickly but, as I drew nearer, I saw that this person was shorter, slimmer and, when I drew abreast of her, much younger than my mysterious woman.
There it was. You saw it, right? My woman. She was not my woman. She was nothing to me and didn’t even know I was alive. I had spent all day looking for her without even realizing that it was what I was doing! I was obsessed.
Sunday was hellish. I felt like my skin was the wrong size and I could not get comfortable. It was so bad that I didn’t even call in for Monday, I just didn’t go. I was up, showered, dressed in a nice pair of slacks, an oxford shirt and my favorite leather jacket. My tea in had, I walked out the door and took a spot where I could watch.
She was there, of course. She was there every week day. I found myself disappointed that she was wearing trousers today. Still, they did highlight her nice long legs and, when the bus had gone and she stood, they outlined her shapely rear as well.
When she left, I followed, making sure to stay back so I wouldn’t be spotted and worry her. I had to know more, you understand. I had to!
She walked for about a quarter mile, turning again onto an even smaller lane and then into a short drive. The drive wasn’t paved, it was simply a pair of tracks through grass still damp with the morning dew.
No more than thirty feet up the drive was a small cottage. A tiny cottage, actually, seeming barely larger than a decent sized utility shed. It was well appointed though, freshly painted and everything tidy. She had window boxes with bright flowers in them and a small, postage-stamp sized garden with neat little rows. Each of the rows had a small stake with a tiny picture of what was planted there, the shoots that were peeking through the rich soil all looking pretty much the same to me.
I watched her open the door and throw open her shutters, opening her windows as well as if she was airing the place out. She appeared at the door again, her heavy sweater gone and a short sleeve blouse topped by a warm vest in its place. She had changed into a pair older bluejeans. I could see where they had been patched and mended a few times, but they were in good nick. She had a pair of well worn but comfortable looking work boots on her feet as well and I watched as she walked to her little garden and knelt down to start weeding.
It was strangely relaxing, watching her work. There was something pastoral about the scene, something intrinsically domestic that gave him an atavistic thrill. Here was a woman who wasn’t afraid to work, to get her hands dirty to provide for the table. I expected to find that she had her man out hunting and gathering, bringing home the meat while she provided the rest of their diet. Somehow though, I knew that she was single.