Riding on the bus that day, coming home from college, the young man sat near the back of the bus, crowded in on all sides with people. He couldn’t wait to get to Fallowfield, where he wouldn’t be getting off, but most people would be.
She waited at the station that day long after school had finished. She’d been out with other friends and was just coming home, though she needed to make a stop at the mall first, requiring her to take the other bus that took that route. The station was a bit crowded, though she wouldn’t be there long.
The bus pulled into Fallowfield station, and just like he expected, most of the riders disembarked. This gave him a chance to move into a better seat closer to the back, though there was only one on the right side free, instead of on the left side, where he preferred. He sat down as other people from Fallowfield got on.
Glimpsing the boarders, he got a huge surprise. A girl he’d known in high school, one level below him, was getting on. He looked at her for a split second before quickly staring forward. He felt quite happy at that moment, as he’d started to like her towards the end of the last school year.
She got on the bus at the rear, where it was less crowded, and looking straight ahead she got a huge surprise; a guy she’d known in high school last year, a guy she actually liked, was sitting there. She’d watched him from afar, wishing he’d notice her, though she had the idea that he liked her friend instead. He didn’t look at her, just stared ahead, though she was quite happy all of a sudden. She passed him and sat on the parallel seats against the windows, keeping an eye on him. He didn’t look around at her or, or around at all.
He kept forward, not daring to look around at the back of the bus. What if she saw him looking at her? It was a silly thought, because he got the impression that she was watching him. He could barely see her in his peripheral vision, though he could tell her face was turned in his direction.
He’d noticed that she seemed to like him back when they were both in school. He knew she would watch him while he was interested in her friend. She had an intensity that he’d noticed whenever she was near.
Eventually he realized that she was actually quite nice. She had a fair face in his opinion, with a softness that he admired. She also had a thing with dressing in very bright, flamboyant colors that also got him. She was just a nice, fair person to him.
Smiling to himself, he kept his eyes up on the front.
For a second she thought he was getting off when he got up after someone stood at the doors, ready to depart. Her sense of brightness suddenly took a drop.
But he’d simply crossed the aisle to sit in the seat that was vacated by the person after he’d gotten off, sitting directly south of her, in the left seat. He still hadn’t given any indication that he knew she was there, which worried her because she really hoped he knew. She was sure he knew who she was.
When the bus pulled into Strandherd Station, he half-expected for her to get off there. He was surprised that she’d stayed on this long. If she got off, he was going to get off as well. The station wasn’t far from where he lived, and if it meant he could spend half a second longer in her presence, he would do it. He had worried at first, when she’d gotten on, that she wouldn’t have noticed him, but he pleasantly knew the she did know he was there. He could feel her gaze on him.
The bus pulled out of the station without her getting off. He felt better. He was only getting off at Greenbank and Strandherd for the short walk home, and he felt better getting off first.
She could tell that he was getting ready to get off the bus when they drove down Strandherd out of the station. She wondered if she could get off there as well. It was only just outside the mall, not that much farther a walk.
The bus slowed down and sat in the left turning lane. He stood up and waited behind someone at the door. Thinking quickly, she got up.
He looked toward the front again, then straight ahead at the doors he stood in front of. Noticing a hand, he slightly glanced to his right and saw that her hand was just a few inches above his on the pole, and that she was standing virtually right over him. She looked intense, almost, and - was he mistaken, or did she also kind of look hungry and even longing? He felt a rush of what made his eyebrows rise. There was a sort of energy going on between them, with their closeness to each other. Again, he did not look at her.
After what seemed to be an eternity and several sudden stops, the bus made the left turn and came to a stop.
She was right on him, practically. She felt a need for closeness, for this never usually happened. It was a big coincidence for that guy to be on the same bus as her, especially when they came from different schools. This was a very rare thing to happen and she didn’t expect it to happen again anytime soon, so this was it. She noticed his eyebrows shoot up when he seemed to notice her proximity to him, though she wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing. He hadn’t seemed to notice her the entire time, which made her question if he actually liked her or not. So she took his expression as a bad thing and sat down again, in the same seat he’d gotten out of. She really didn’t think he’d seemed interested. It wasn’t a nice thought and she slowly felt darker and less happy.
He got off and walked toward the intersection. When he was far enough away he glanced back. She wasn’t there. He wondered if she actually got off at all. Maybe she was but then decided against it. Maybe she wanted to be close to him one last time before he got off.
One thing was for certain, though. He never took any notice of her during the entire ride. It was as if she didn’t exist. He felt a bit pathetic. If he was so worried that she didn’t notice him, wasn’t she worried likewise? She took notice of him; he didn’t. And if she had the same anxiety, then it was made true with his failure to even glance at her. He felt bad. His happiness faded away. He would not have such a coincidence as this happen again. He wondered if he would ever see her again. Would she think that he didn’t care about her being on the bus now? Would she think he didn’t like her at all, and realize she was wasting her time and back off? It looked that way. Which just made him feel less happy.
The sky was grey with rain coming. As he walked away down the path toward his backyard, he thought of how she must have felt what it was like to be ignored as if she didn’t exist.