A dark felt hat covered the jagged scar on his crown; long sleeves covered the art inked into his skin. Dressed this way he was simply Mr. March, the English teacher. Funny how just a few pieces of well-placed cloth can change completely who you are, or rather, who people believe you to be. And once they believe, well, that’s all it takes.
People don’t like to be wrong. It’s why they don’t look too closely at things…just the surface…and even then they only half-see most of the time, drawing conclusions, making judgments, moving on. It’s easiest to hide in plain sight, giving people what they want — hints of what they expect. To be predictable is to be invisible.
Sarah was good at being invisible. Her long curls pulled straight and tied into a knot at the top of her head, a sweatshirt concealing her large, round breasts, adding bulk to her narrow waist. Don’t look at me, she screamed silently at the top of her lungs. And no one did.
The bus pulled into the terminal and rolled to a slow stop. A loud hiss announced its arrival as the doors opened and passengers began to trickle out, the sound of them echoing against the concrete and glass of the station making the space feel momentarily alive. The crowd pulsed through the terminal before dissipating into solitary figures as the passengers went their separate ways. Jim’s eye followed Sara for a moment, caught on the bright pink bag trailing behind her, one wheel wobbling slightly and squealing as it rolled past. He wondered what it contained and imagined it to be something completely unexpected, although he didn’t know what that might be. He looked down to make a note on the small spiral pad resting on his knee and when he returned his attention to the station, she was gone.
Another bus arrived and he scanned the travelers, searching for tiny interesting choices that suggested there might be more beneath the surface. There was a young mother with a boy of about 6, he guessed. She looked tired and worn, as if life had chewed her up and spit her back out, but there was a happiness surrounding her son, you could tell by the way he walked, his head held high and his eyes wide as he took in the enormity of the space around him, giggling as his voice echoed back at him. Jim made a note but moved on, looking for more. An old woman, her hair bright white, each strand carefully placed, walked toward him. As she passed, he noticed the band on her finger and figured her for a widow…no husband of her generation would have allowed his wife to travel alone. Still, he kept searching, hoping a story would roll in on the next bus and step out to greet him, secrets spilling out around its edges just waiting for him to twist and turn into an irresistible tale. He felt dry and stale, his imagination grasping desperately at straws in search of fresh inspiration.
He wasn’t simply Mr. March, English teacher, was he? Not really. But as more time passed without his muse, that’s exactly who he feared he was becoming. He missed the way the words danced for him, in his head and down through his fingers and out onto the page…stretching out into long, lengthy journeys of the imagination. With her, his words evoked deep sadness and joyous pleasure, dark mystery and subtle anticipation that grew to thrilling heights before revealing satisfying resolutions.
Removing his hat, his fingers touched the scar and he remembered her. Her laugh was infectious, her adventurous spirit strong and enticing. It was she who had suggested they go for a ride that day. “Faster,” she shouted in his ear over the rumble of the bike as they sped along the open road, her arms wrapped tightly around his chest. “Faster!” Full throttle he felt the excitement surge through her as she let go and reached her arms out to her sides, feeling the wind as if she were flying. Moments later she was… the bike hit a slick patch from the earlier rain and he laid it down hard, skidding across the unforgiving asphalt. They told him he was lucky to be alive, although when he woke to find her gone he wasn’t so sure. He longed for her passion, the spark behind her eyes that set him free and challenged him and filled him with ideas both enticing and terrifying. Life without her felt barren and devoid of purpose and he struggled to regain his identity.
The station was buzzing again, another bus arriving and new passengers queuing up to board. A young woman in an emerald green dress breezed by, drawing his attention. She was looking at him and, unlike most strangers, she smiled when their eyes met and held his gaze. Her playful stare penetrated him and he felt uncomfortable yet faintly aroused at the same time. He watched her approach the ticket booth and found himself slightly disappointed as the man behind the counter handed her two tickets, instead of just one, and he watched and waited for her companion to join her as she waited in the queue by the bus. Impatient, she kicked off one of her thong sandals and rubbed her bare foot against the back of her calf. Twirling a strand of hair loosely around her fingers, she glanced back to see if he was still looking at her. He looked away, embarrassed, and didn’t see her leave the line or cross the station coming toward him. She sat beside him, close, and leaned in. She smelled of flowers with a hint of spice and when he turned to see her there, her green eyes reached deep inside him and he felt a familiar stirring. She reached up with long, graceful fingers and gently traced his scar, lingering along the length of it as if reading its jagged edges. Thoughts flooded his mind…ideas of all the things he’d do with her..but there were more… like strange voices with much to tell him, they were loud and demanding as they pulsed and danced inside his head. The last of the passengers boarded the waiting bus and she jumped up from her seat and ran toward it as its engine turned over and started up. When she made the stairs she turned, and with a devilish grin held up her two tickets… “Coming?”
© Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015.
**This story inspired the creation of more art. Take a look. But first…
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