Here we have Sally-Anne Wilinson’s short story based on your title; ‘The Last Two People Left on the Nightbus.’
Tis another great effort by Ms Wilkinson and please show her your support and share her story and spread her words.
THE LAST TWO PEOPLE LEFT ON THE NIGHT BUS
by Sally-Anne Wilkinson
Bill sighed as change overflowed the coin holder, landing in his lap and around his feet. It was always the same. Him getting the short straw.
Checking his wing mirror, he moved off.
He hated this shift. Martin couldn’t do it because he was away at a wedding. Bollocks. Everyone knew it was the derby match night. And Chris… Well, he was a bone-idle buggar. Always using his wife’s job as an excuse to skive. It wasn’t on. Bill took on more than his fair share of the nights. It kept him out of the house, he supposed, but he was sick of it.
‘Aaron, you bastard!’ There was a shriek of laughter, followed by the sounds of a tussle. Bill kept his eyes on the road.
Pissheads, the lot of them. Falling over, singing – if that’s what you called it.
A sourness filled the air. A rank concoction of sweat, alcohol and cigarettes. The lads were scruffy, and the girls, tarted up in tight dresses, needed to diet. No way was Ellie dressing like that when she grew up.
Drawing up to the last city stop, Bill let on a young couple. The bloke, wiry arms coated in tattoos, had a blond Mohican. The girl, hair cropped and bleached, wore a short skirt, and stumbled in heels. Her bare arms were mottled with faded purple and yellow markings. Throwing their money into the coin holder, the pair ignored the dispensing tickets. Bill didn’t call them back.
As the bus trawled back onto the empty road, the air-brakes shot out a sharp exhalation. Holding in a yawn, Bill rubbed his eyes. The world seemed unreal in the early hours. What with that rabble behind, and everything ghostly outside. His skin felt stretched and scratchy, and his senses were shot. His eyes squinted against the blue-white flicker of the internal lights; ears battered from the screeches down the bus.
Glancing in his rear-view mirror, he saw the couple located two seats back, separated from the melee at the rear of the bus. The girl peered into the black void of the window. Her partner, his face squashed against hers, prodded his finger menacingly into her face. Bill couldn’t hear his words, but the white fragility of the girl’s shoulders reminded him of a child.
Christ, he hated his job. He’d pack it in now if it wasn’t for Ellie. The lads were grown, and he and Jackie didn’t have anything to talk about anymore. They’d given up going out for meals years ago. It was awful, filling silences with questions, then not being interested in the answers. He hadn’t realised how boring she was. Even sex was shit. Both of them went through the motions. Sometimes months passed without either of them bothering. He thought she let him because he didn’t pester her too much. She felt obligated.
He’d not expected anymore kids, and when she told him, he couldn’t take it in. He remembered when the lads were little. Jackie spent every minute fussing over them. He sat on the sofa, watching crappy TV, thinking there must be more to life, but not sure what it was. Then, when Ellie came along, it was different. He took one look at her tiny mouth and nose, and everything made sense. Even now, it was all for her.
If there was one good thing about this shift, it was going home to look at her sleeping face, peeping over the duvet. Her delicate breaths. He loved to straighten the covers over her legs, chilled from the early morning air. Daft sod always kicked her duvet off at the bottom. Then, he’d kiss her cheek, smell her hair, before closing the door and heading to bed. Thankfully, Jackie was always asleep, her back facing him.
Driving stealthily through the suburbs, the bus dropped off passengers onto the main road that fed the estates. It was hours before the sun rose, but a glimmer on the horizon hinted that Bill should be in bed.
‘G’night, mate,’ the departing figures slurred. Bill regarded their shadowy outlines in his mirror before he set off. Lurching, caterwauling, they were oblivious that the rest of the world slept.
As the bus moved on, Bill inhaled deeply. He’d be back at the depot soon.
A noise caught his attention, and he glanced into the rear-view mirror. The blond couple. He’d forgotten about them. The girl stood up, her boyfriend gripping her wrist.
‘Let go,’ she pleaded.
‘Listen, you slag.’ Veering up towards her, his nose almost touched hers. ‘You think I’m blind?’
‘I didn’t do nothing… Just talking.’
‘Will you sit down, you two?’ Bill called from his cabin.
‘Keep your fucking nose out.’
The bloke turned back to his girlfriend, grabbing her hair. Her head wrenched back, and her neck bulged like a dam about to burst. She whimpered.
Oh Christ, Bill thought.
He stopped the bus, his throat tight. As he walked hesitantly towards the pair, the boyfriend’s arms reminded him of next door’s Staffie.
‘Look mate, I don’t want any bother.’
‘Let her go. It’ll all be forgotten in the morning.’
The lad released the girl, and Bill’s body relaxed. He didn’t need this. It was bad enough in the day, but at least there were other people around then.
A swift movement, and then a force struck Bill’s abdomen. Wheezing, he slumped forward.
‘Oh fuck, Mike,’ said the girl. Without another word, they darted down the aisle; ricocheted off the seats; yanked the emergency handle to open the doors.
As he watched them blunder into the night, Bill felt wetness on his hands. They were as red as the coat Ellie got for her fifth birthday.
His legs buckled, and he landed on his knees. But there was no pain.
Through the windscreen he saw the couple running away. He watched until they were devoured by the darkness.
Until he was left with nothing but the flickering lights and the empty street.