She opened her zebra striped backpack and shook the contents onto the floor. She gave the backpack one more good shake. It plopped to the floor.
She thought she had forgotten it. After stuffing the other miscellany back into the pack, she grabbed the last item with her right hand and slipped into the big patchwork pocket she had sewn into the left side lining of her coat. She glanced quickly around as she stood up and jerked forward as the bus began moving.
Good. No one noticed.
She probably should have waited until she was at the back of the bus in her seat. But her stomach churned but when she remembered a turquoise flash of color as she walked out her front door of the flat. Her heart was beating, fast. It beat faster and faster at the thought of the forgotten item left on the side table and she sitting there in the middle of everyone without it. Deep down she knew they would want it, even though they probably didn’t realize it. She couldn’t let them down. So she stopped in the middle of the aisle as she walked toward her seat on the bus and dumped everything out.
I love living in the city. No one pays attention to you. Weirdos do strange things all the time and no one wants to get involved.
So no one saw what she hid inside her coat. No one glanced up. Everyone’s nose was in a phone or tablet or Kindle. There was even one person with a newspaper, an actual newspaper, in front of his face. She decided to sit across from him. With that amount of coverage, he’d never see what she was going to do next.
She laughed but quickly covered her mouth so she wouldn’t be heard. There was no reaction. Nothing stirred from behind the newspaper.
Good. He didn’t hear me.
It was an odd sight. As she looked closer at her seatmate, she noticed the newspaper was upside down. As a matter of fact, it was a bit yellowed and crinkly and the front of it had a headline about the fire from two years ago.
Yep. That’s a two year old newspaper. What’s that all about?
It was his left hand she noticed next. His fingers were long and slender. There were no rings or no signs of any ring ever being on the fingers. His hands were wrinkled but his nails were immaculate. They were buffed shiny and filed to perfection. There were perfect little slivers of moon at each tip. But as she looked closer the slivers weren’t all the same size. A crescent started with the littlest fingernail and they grew larger with each finger. She couldn’t see his thumb, but she was almost positive it would be a full moon. She glanced to the right hand. It was gloved.
Back to the other hand she marveled at the grace of his hand. It seemed kind and wise. It was a beautiful hand.
Wow. I bet he never bites his nails.
She looked at hers. There was a hangnail she missed earlier in the day. She bit it off.
Pure white stiff cuffs ringed his wrists. They were spotless and crisp. They were a little large, but she remembered her grandfather’s shirts. He had long arms and need special shirts tailored to his length. And they always seemed to make their way out from under his jacket sleeves. Her eyes continued up his arm. A dark suit started where the cuff met the sleeve and worked its way up and behind the newspaper. She traced back down. A sparkle caught her eyes.
Yep. He has cufflinks. Wow.
They were gold with large sparkly red stones.
Could those be real rubies?
Her eyes looked up above the newspaper and saw only the top of his hat, a man’s hat. A business man’s hat like her grandfather’s. It was dark black, rounded on top with a thin black ribbon running around it. She couldn’t quite see the rim, but it had to be a bowler. It bobbled as if the hat was reading the paper and reacting to upside down news that was two years old.
I better get to work. We’re getting close.
They were sitting in the back, the last seats. Her back was blocked by the plexiglass wall covered with transit information. The man and his newspaper would cover the rest.
Quiet now, Claire. Don’t let anyone see.
Outside the window transformer lines clicked by. They were getting close.
Claire reached inside her coat and pulled out the item that would make all the difference. She carefully bent her head down. She glanced down the aisle and could see the tunnel looming. She didn’t like the dark and was sure the others in the bus would appreciate what she was about to do for them.
Her fingers knew exactly what to do. They slid the neon wig into place and with a push of a hidden button in the seam near her ear it began to glow an electric blue just at the perfect time. The bus faded into the tunnel and with rush hour traffic clogging the roads, the entire back of the bus would be lit up for the next ten minutes.
The man with the beautiful hand and bowler hat didn’t move the paper. But in the neon light Claire could now see two glowy eyes looking at her from holes that had been carefully sculpted in the two-year-old yellow newspaper at exactly the perfect spot. They could not be seen in regular light, but in her neon glow she could see that the man with the beautiful hand and bowler hat could see everything that was going on.
She adjusted the wig.
Claire stared at the holes and tugged on it once more.
Another slight tug avoided frustration on the part of the man with the beautiful hand and bowler hat.
No one noticed Claire’s neon glow from the back of the bus.
No one notice the man with the beautiful hand and bowler hat.
And that’s what happens in the city.
Thursday Afternoon Writers met this afternoon. Tonight we each added words to our prompts and each of us wrote with a unique set of words and opening lines.