The wind beat against an unseen assailant. The rain was pouring. The noise water made as it smashed relentlessly on the asphalt muffled all other sounds. Heaven’s tears fell like a curtain masking everything in a dark gray backdrop. Lucy Heartfilia knew it was going to be chilly but she was certainly underdressed for the biting cold, even in her trenchcoat. So there she stood; warming herself with one hand while the other struggled to keep the umbrella erect.
The wind blew. The rain poured.
Yesterday’s weather forecast predicted cloudy skies but dry weather. Lucy, thinking it was the perfect time to go about her business, took the opportunity to head out. However, it was like the universe was conspiring against her. Firstly, the rain. It was falling so heavily she didn’t think it would let up until another hour or so. She looked at the sky and it was the darkest night she has ever seen. Second, of all the bus stops in the entire city, the one she was at seemed to be the only one in shambles. There was no longer a roof; just bits and pieces of plastic attached to the metal beams overhead. With no shelter, Lucy’s poor umbrella had taken the full onslaught of the shower, but her boots and the hemline of her black coat just below her knees had been soaking in cold water for a while now. Third, the bus was late—very late. It was the first time Lucy had to wait for public transport that long. For whatever reason, the screen behind Lucy had been reading ‘ARRIVING IN: 11 minutes’ for the past half hour. The only logical explanation for it would be flooding in the lower parts of the bus route where water levels usually reached knee-high on storms such as the one then. Lastly, it was such an eerie night that Lucy didn’t feel all that safe especially when just a few yards behind her was a cemetery. Although she didn’t believe ghosts were inherently malevolent, they might not be as kind if they were woken up by the torrent of the water on their graves. She shivered at the thought, and with one hand adjusted her beanie cap to cover more of her ears. Then, she wrapped her free arm around herself, handbag and all, as a futile attempt for additional warmth.
From then, she let her mind wander to the not-so-distant future where she laid out plans indefinitely. Her heart ached at the thought, yet at the same time her stomach knotted with an unfamiliar feeling of freedom. Like the way the floodgates above released its waters, her heart would be opening itself up to new possibilities and prospects. Scary, but at the same time liberating.
A movement not too far from Lucy made her slowly gaze left. A figure in a dark gray hooded jacket was approaching the stop. The person—a man, Lucy figured—did not at all mind the rain that was beating on his body. It must have felt like a thousand icy needles even with that thick jacket on but he was either too numb or too preoccupied to care. He trudged on sulkily, all the while keeping his gaze at the ground. His hands were shoved on his jacket pockets but as he got closer, Lucy could see that they were shivering: both of the cold and some raw emotion, probably anger.
When he finally got to the bus stop, Lucy watched as the man looked up, realized there was no roof, and mutter aloud an impressive string of curse words. Thank goodness for the loudness of the rain, or Lucy would have had to hear all of those. She stood still and averted her gaze to leave the man alone. In spite of this, she could see from the very corner of her eye that the man just dropped on his bottom on the ground and sat there, quiet. The blonde woman looked at the board: it still read ′ARRIVING IN: 11 minutes′ ten minutes later.
A ringing cut through the applause of the rain. It startled Lucy and her head snapped to the direction it was coming from. Apparently, it was the stranger’s phone. He lazily took out one cold hand from his pocket and looked at the phone screen. He scoffed and, without warning, threw the phone into the black abyss in front of them with surprising strength. It continued to ring from a distance, until the caller finally gave up. Lucy looked at the last flickering of the screen before the light disappeared and it was dark ahead again. The blonde pursed her lips, switching her gaze back and forth between the road she knew was there but couldn’t see and the man beside her. He must have had a rough day. Although Lucy was glad she was no longer alone, she felt sorry for him and wanted to at least give him some consolation for whatever he was going through.
In the spirit of benevolence, Lucy approached him cautiously and then cleared her throat. “Excuse me, uhm...! It’s pouring, so...! Do you want to share my umbrella?”
She was practically yelling, what with the rain still hammering on every surface. The man jerked at this and looked up at Lucy. He had a tired but beautiful face, dark eyes and black hair, a scar on his forehead. The stranger looked at Lucy like he’d only realized then that she was there, and shyly looked away. He tried to wipe his face with his wet hands but was having little success in the endeavor. It occurred to Lucy that he probably wanted to be left alone.
Maybe I should have given him space to vent, she thought, but then reconsidered. Lucy no longer tried to get his approval. She just kept her umbrella between the two of them despite his efforts to push her away, close enough to him to give him room under the shelter but far enough not to invade his close personal space.
They stayed like that until the rain decided to pick up. The first lightning struck, the thunder clapped, and the storm ensemble was reaching its climax. A strong gust of wind blew their direction and Lucy had to try her hardest to hold onto her umbrella. An even heavier rain fell and even with her small roof, Lucy could feel drops splashing on her face and on her chest. And the man? She looked down and he looked even more frustrated, hands threatening to tear the hood off his jacket. If she could hear him over the noise, Lucy was sure he was uttering profanity after profanity.
She knelt down to him and shouted, “I really think you should come under the umbrella!”
He looked up at her, annoyed, and yelled, ”What?!”
Lucy just gestured for him to stand and share with her, knowing that shouting was futile. The man hesitantly stood and wrapped both his hands around himself under the cover separating him from the full extent of the angry rain.
After that was a pregnant pause that was louder than the sound of water crashing on the ground. From a distance, the forgotten cellphone could be seen lighting up again, flashing as if to catch their attention. Lucy wondered if her companion noticed and looked at him, only to see that he was staring fixedly at the puddles on the ground.
“Uhm,” Lucy said in a much louder voice than necessary, “your phone is—!”
"What?” he yelled.
“Your phone!” she shouted, a knuckle close to her ear with the pinky and thumb sticking out. She hoped he would get the picture.
The stranger looked ahead and saw the flickering but then chose to ignore it. “Yeah, leave it!” he answered in the same volume as Lucy’s.
“I said ’leave it’. And leave me alone!” he shouted angrily. Lucy figured he wasn’t the kind who enjoyed talking to strangers.
The blonde didn’t even need to think of a reply. Her own tactless mouth just rambled aloud, “I would but we’re kind of sharing an umbrella!”
With the end of her retort, the rain quickly abated. The noisy torrent turned into much gentler droplets. The beating wind became a gentle but cool breeze. The deep midnight blue blanket was lifted, and suddenly it was not so dark. It was either because of this or Lucy’s direct remark that the stranger’s mood became lighter. He quickly glanced sideways at the blonde and then cleared his throat.
“Is the bus coming soon?”
Lucy first looked at her strange companion and then at the board. ’ARRIVING IN: 11 minutes’. “I don’t know,” she answered, “but it’s about an hour late now.”
“Damn... it must been flooding downhill,” he commented.
“Must be,” Lucy agreed.
An involuntary shiver from her companion caught Lucy’s attention. She remembered only then that he was soaking from head to toe in bone-chilling rain, and the wind was doing nothing except make it even worse for him. Seeing that he was in dire need of anything that could dry him, she took a thick wad of paper towels from her bag and handed it to him. “You need to dry off even a little or you’ll get sick.”
He looked at Lucy, the paper towels, and back again at Lucy before taking the sheets from her hands. He muttered an unintelligible ‘thanks’ before proceeding to take off his drenched jacket and wiping himself all over. It did little as the white shirt beneath was soaked, but it made his condition a bit more tolerable at the very least.
Not long after, the rain was lightened to a shower and the wind blew a warmer breeze. Still the bus was nowhere to be seen. Cold, drenched, and tired, both Lucy and her yet-to-be-named companion were desperately thinking about walking downhill, if not for the slippery slope and the huge chance that the water below had risen at least above the ankles. Compared to that, the broken down bus stop seemed the better choice; so they stayed. Lucy looked back at the board behind them that was surprisingly still functional. A small weight on her heart was lifted when she saw that instead of ‘11 minutes’, it now read ‘10 minutes’. She sighed, relieved. One minute less was one minute progress.
Apparently, the stranger didn’t share her sentiments. The man coughed and said, “Where is that damned bus?”
“Do you think we should walk to the next stop, after all?”
He scratched his head. “No. I told you, walking on this steep a slope is too dangerous... especially after a heavy rain. I almost slipped a few times coming up here, myself.”
“Oh... where did you come from?” she asked casually.
The raven-head took his time answering. “The restaurant just below the hill.”
He answered in such a somber manner that Lucy could only stare. Something—something unpleasant—must have happened in that restaurant that made him this hostile. She could still remember the enormous amount of anger he had when he hurled his phone at his invisible enemy.
“Did... something happen?” was what she unknowingly blurted out while she was thinking.
“I just... you just look like something happened and—” A pause. Before she could stop herself, she blurted out again, “It’s just that... that was one expensive smartphone you pitched back there.”
He eyed her dangerously, then looked away. “And you are one chatty stranger.”
Lucy jolted. “That’s right, how rude of me. I haven’t introduced myself. You can call me ‘Lucy’.”
“And you can call me... maybe...” he answered.
“Nice to meet you, ‘Maybe’,” she replied, expertly ignoring his rudeness. “So, are you with anyone?”
“‘Lucy’,” she reminded, but he didn’t seem to hear or be in the mood to care.
“Man, do your friends have to endure this when you’re around them?”
“Do your friends endure this when you’re around them?” she repeated back at him.
When Maybe didn’t reply, the blonde realized that she was trudging on dangerous territory. With the mention of the word ‘friends’, his jaw clenched and his eyes were filled with anger and despair. It wasn’t hard for Lucy to connect the dots then: something must have happened with Maybe and his friends at the restaurant downhill. They must have fought so bad Maybe walked out into the rain to cool down. Lucy would have rolled her eyes at the unnecessary drama if she had not done similar things in the past.
“I’m…sorry...” Lucy said in a broken sentence. “Do you want to talk about it?”
He glared at her.
“I’m just saying... it was just an idea.” She looked away but still feeling the glare her companion was giving her. “Did you know that talking about a problem reduces its emotional weight by at least half?”
Maybe scoffed and sarcastically said, “Well, you seem to have a lot to say about things.”
“Oh, well...” Lucy started. “I’m a writer so yeah. I do think I have some things to say.”
Maybe gave her a patronizing look.
“Alright,” he challenged. “There’s this girl I really like. I’ve liked her for a really long time—since we were in elementary, in fact. I finally got the courage to tell her how I felt after our high school graduation and who knew she would tell me the feelings were mutual?” Maybe’s voice was slowly rising now, like he was forcing the words out from the pit of his stomach. Like they were something vile he had to cough up. “You’d think it romantic, wouldn’t you? ’Cause that’s what romance novels usually go with.
“Well, it’s not.” Lucy felt her lips purse at the emphasis of this line. “She went abroad and stayed there for a long time. I was silently hoping that she would remember our exchange so I held on... held on like the fool I was. And you know what happened?”
Lucy was about to say ‘no’ but Maybe could not be stopped in his rant. “She got back a few months ago. Never told me. Then I receive a text from our common friends saying she’s inviting us to a party. Of course, I came. Because that’s what people like me do. We hold on to the hope that time respects promises and people remember, but they don’t. Time is a bitch and people forget.
“The party? It was to celebrate her engagement. With one of our common friends. And what about me? All I get is an ‘I missed you’ and a hug. So what do I do? I leave. Because that was it. That was game over. The end.”
His voice was strong and loud now. Lucy didn’t know if he was talking to her or to an unknown listener but there was an accusation in his voice: why couldn’t that have been me? Why couldn’t that have been us? Why did I wait so long for nothing? And for how long am I going to feel like this?
“I’m sorry,” was all she could say. “I can’t tell you I understand because I don’t… and I know you don’t want to hear this,” Lucy started (”Damn right,” he mumbled), “but many are the victims of love who don’t think they did anything wrong. Often when love gets us hurt we fail to own up to the reasons that led to the pain. It’s always somebody else’s fault. But the truth is, the blame game is just another way of washing hands. When you take responsibility for your actions, you realize there were things you could have done better.”
Lucy looked up and smiled longingly at a distant star that peeked behind the thick rain clouds. “And sometimes, the enemy is time. You either start early or run out of it. Either way, you’re not happy. And then later you realize, maybe she wasn’t the one.”
“You’re suggesting that what I felt for her was fake?”
“No, no, not fake,” she assured. “Only... ill-timed. Everybody is perfectly capable of genuine love, but the object of that love is often hard to find. So we end up loving the wrong person at the right time, or the right person at the wrong time.
“You say that time is a bitch... but she’s not. She is a friend. Everything has its season and for you, maybe it just wasn’t the right time...”
Maybe remained silent for a while as he looked on absentmindedly. He stared at the road where the bus was expected to appear and said, “The right time... is pretty late.
“Like the damned bus... Heck, I probably have better chances of getting the girl than catching public transport at this rate.” Maybe leaned on the board. He kept his eyes fixed on the ground, in deep thought. The conversation felt like it was over; Lucy knew all too well what the change in the topic meant. She watched the road that was still dark ahead.
The wind blew. The rain poured. But in a much gentler way that before.
“But you know,” she said after a short while, “even late buses arrive.”
There was a honk that made Maybe look left. Bright yellow light crept slowly but surely up the slope. The sound of a machine heaving as it made the uphill drive could be heard along with the almost-forgotten pitter-patter of raindrops. The roof of a shiny, white vehicle came into view. Next, the windshield. Not long after, the bus pulled over right in front of the two and the door opened to welcome them to a new shelter.
“Evening, folks. Sorry for the wait. There was flooding ’round Block 303,” explained the driver.
Lucy only smiled and took out her card. She tapped once on the scanner and when it informed her that her transaction was logged, she looked back at her companion. “Coming, mister Maybe?”
If someone were to ask him how he felt, Gray would honestly not know what to say. How exactly should he feel? He was angry, heartbroken, rained on, and then interrogated and lectured. What’s more, he was reminded of the overpriced phone he threw out of frustration. So the question remains: how should he feel?
For the earlier part of the evening, angry. ‘The woman’—he had decided to call the her that—had so delicately led him on, making him think that the feeling between them was mutual. Then she just went and crushed his jaded heart by inviting him to her ‘dinner’ which, he was never told, was an engagement party. So what can he say after holding on for so long, given a delusion of a happy ending, and then thrown into the fire that was betrayal? Where is the sensitivity?
So he was walking in the rain. He didn’t know why he did, but he did. Stupid idea, in retrospect. For more than an hour now, he had been drenched in ice cold water with no source of heat but his already wet jacket and his own arms uselessly wrapped around him.
The latter part of the evening was then spent in an awkward and annoying conversation with a complete psycho of a stranger who preferred to call him ‘Maybe’. If Gray knew her kindness would escalate to nicknames, he should have told her to call him Conrad or Englebert... or Benedict. The said stranger was kind of a meddling lady who seemed to think she had the solution to his problems, giving him unsolicited advice. He didn’t know she would seriously give him her ten cents on the topic. What was her name again? Macy or something similar?
He eyed her: black beanie cap, black trenchcoat, black boots, black bag and umbrella. Either she was mourning or she really likes black. Gray preferred to think the latter. The only thing that deviated from the stranger’s color scheme was her bright blond hair. It was like the sun ground up into dust and sprinkled on her head. She wasn’t much to look at, probable an eight. So imagine his surprise when she decided, “Oh, here’s what’s going on with you and this is what you should do.”
It irked Gray.
It annoyed him to hell and back.
And yet what she said actually struck a chord. Gray played it in his mind. What was it that she said? Even late buses arrive.
“Just in case you’re wondering: no, I won’t burst into flames if you stare at me long enough.”
Her words were so sudden that Gray almost jumped. He didn’t know he had been staring. He immediately averted his gaze and looked at the glass window.
Outside the moving bus was darkness. It was still raining lightly so the clouds covered the moon and stars that were splattered up on the sky. Save for the few lights they passed by down the hill, everything was pitch black.
From the glass he could see both their reflections as they stood awkwardly, an arm’s length away from each other. Gray couldn’t help but watch the blonde’s face. Brown eyes stared into the black abyss outside, in deep thought. Lips pursed in a straight line. After all that talk, she looked like she had a lot on her mind herself.
“Has your bus arrived?” he thought. Or at least he thought he thought. The lady turned to look at him, surprised, at the sudden question he unconsciously said out loud.
She gave a sad smile and continued to look outside the window. “Yeah, I guess... But it left without me.”
Oh. So she has a story as well.
“So... you were broken up with?” he asked.
Psycho lady laughed. “No, nothing dramatic like that. He...” she paused as if to ready herself to say it, “...he died a month ago. Leukemia.”
Gray could only lick his lips. What was not dramatic about that?
"No, don’t say it,” she said before Gray could finish. It was as if she knew what he was going to say; as if she got tired of hearing it from everyone else who heard her tale. “You’ll make it sound tragic. Death is the ultimate destiny, after all. It saved him from his suffering so I’m glad he’s in a better place now. At least, I know he isn’t in pain.”
He cleared his throat once he was able to wrap his head around her story. Although he was actually waiting for her to say it was only a joke.
“So you... the cemetery by the bus stop?”
She nodded. “It’s been exactly a month today. I came to pay my respects.”
That explains all that black. The more he saw of her, the more Gray thought that it didn’t suit her. Mourning clothes and sadness hid the brilliance of her golden hair and hazel eyes.
“So I guess he was ‘the one’?”
Psycho lady smiled. “He could have been... or maybe he wasn’t. Who can really tell?”
“Who can indeed?” he echoed.
The bus halted in front of the first stop at the foot of the hill. That stop was always crowded despite its distance from the city, owing to the subdivisions that were there. As the door opened, people walked into the bus and out of the rain and Psycho lady walked to the seat near the back row of the bus. Gray followed suit. The blonde sat down and offered him the seat beside her, but he politely refused because his clothes were damp and he didn’t want to soil the leather. So Gray stood close to her, not even knowing why. There was a strange comfort that he found in the company of a complete stranger.
“So,” he started. She turned from looking out of the window to staring up at him, “where’s your stop?”
“Uhm,” she said as if trying to prolong the revelation, “it’s... the first one at the foot of the hill.”
Gray gave her a questioning look. “Why didn’t you get off?”
She took a deep breath, chest rising and falling, and said, “I can’t go for a longer ride?”
“Well, I guess you can... I mean... it’s a free country.”
“Where’s your stop?” she asked.
“Oh, I don’t live here. I live four train stations away,” he explained. “I would have brought my car but I wasn’t thinking when I decided to come.”
“I see... You were excited at the text,” she said impliedly. “Your story is very interesting, just so you know.”
“I would like to not recall it, thanks,” he said bitterly. The wound was too fresh, after all. Gray, then, cast a sideways glance at his companion who was back to staring outside the window again, as if trying to memorize the details of the place. “So what’s your story?”
“Mine?” she asked, amused, but not breaking her longing gaze at the city they slowly passed by. “It’s... nothing special.”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” he said, sarcastically. “I know tons of people whose lovers died of leukemia. Sure...”
She gave a curt laugh, albeit a sad one. “Well,” she started as she continued to stare outside the window, “I write stories... not professionally, but more like a freelancer. I would send them to publishing companies at random and wait for a reply, but you know how it is with these things. Everything is so cut-throat.
“One day, I...” she laughed at a memory she must have played in her head, “I missed a letter when I typed the e-mail address and accidentally sent my story to a total stranger. It was nothing new for me... I usually mess up when I type so... anyway...”
“I got a reply from one of the accidental receivers and... he was a guy who claimed to really like what I wrote. Without even knowing who he was, I e-mailed back excitedly. We’re all suckers for the smallest of appreciation, after all. That was when we started becoming online friends.”
She turned her head to Gray’s direction but didn’t look at him. “I think it was around after three months of being online penpals that we decided to meet up. And we got together six months after that. Another six months later, we were engaged; and in half that time, he was in remission for leukemia.” She turned her face away and sniffled, chuckling slightly to cover the whimper that she almost let out.
She wiped her face—tears, Gray thought—and lay her head on the window. She stared outside again. “I never left his side while he was in the hospital. I made sure to be there when he woke up, and be the last person he sees before he sleeps. It was like that every day until... I arrived and I was too late. He was gone. I guess, he couldn’t wait for me to come anymore.”
Gray let out a breath he was holding. Suddenly his childhood crush seemed like a very trivial matter compared to Lucy’s story that he was embarrassed at how he lashed out at her before. The lady, like him, was in pain. But it wasn’t a sad kind of pain. She handled it with grace and welcomed it like a friend.
He, on the other hand, handled with the grace of a one-legged ostrich. Gray became angry, and for a short while, miserable. He ranted and blamed. He pointed fingers and he acted childishly. What he wouldn’t give to be able to handle his pain like this stranger beside him, whose wisdom seemed to surpass her age. She couldn’t have been older than twenty five.
“Scoot over,” Gray said when the bus stopped again. People were pushing now and the bus got more crowded. The blonde hesitated a bit but then moved to give Gray and his wet clothes space.
“So... that’s my story,” she said with a sigh.
“It was tragic,” he said. “I don’t even know how you’re still here.”
She laughed. “Me neither. But... that’s why I decided to move.”
“Yeah...” she said, looking at Gray for the first time since she sat at the back row. “I’ll be leaving this town for a little while. You know, see places. Maybe even write a few stories. Who knows?”
“You’re running away?” he asked.
“No, no. Far from it. This is me moving on.” The lady said this with as much conviction as she could, breathing out a confident breath. “I always told him I wanted to see the world. I’ve lived in the same house since I was born and I’ve memorized every movement and every heartbeat of every day so I figured traveling would be something new for me. But when I found out he was sick, I said I wouldn’t leave. Not without him.
“But it’s ironic, don’t you think? I waited for him but my bus couldn’t wait for me; it left without me. So here I am... starting over.”
Gray asked as the bus stopped again. “You’re not scared?”
“I am pissing my pants,” she replied. “But I’ve decided this is the best thing for me to do right now.”
“Man, you are one tough lady,” he said. “He was a lucky guy. And I’m pretty sure that whichever bus you take from now would be just as fortunate to have such a level-headed woman like you.”
“Thank you,” she said. “That is about the nicest thing a stranger has said to me after he lashed out at me.”
Gray fought back a snigger. “I apologize for before. I was just… angry. And I probably still am. But taking it out on you was immature and, frankly, very unmanly.”
“Apology accepted.” She smiled at him and went back to staring outside the window. Then, as if remembering something, asked, “Hey, what about you?”
“What about me?” Without even noticing it, the bus had stopped twice as they were talking and is now making its way back to the first one by the hill.
“I mean... that stop we just left was the train station. Shouldn’t you have gotten down there?”
Gray let out a pained expression. ”Shit.”
The blonde laughed. “Well, you can get off at the next one and make the last train, I think.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Gray now checked his watch for the time, regretting why he ever discarded his phone.
The two were silent after that. They were one of the few left in the bus now and they enjoyed the silence it afforded them. The rain had completely let up and the clouds had moved far from the sky. They passed by the restaurant that Gray had come from earlier that evening, the blonde noting that there was a party still going on at that hour. When Gray confirmed that it was the same party he had just left, she commented, “Well, they’re missing this party we’re having right here.” Gray laughed. She laughed, too, and they joked about how Gray was before the bus arrived. They laughed some more and continued doing so as they made the uphill climb to the bus stop in front of the cemetery. They continued to chat, small talk this time, and didn’t notice where they were until the bus stopped at the foot of the hill where Gray’s yet-to-be-named companion was to get off.
Both of them stood up, tapped their cards on the scanner, and got off the warm bus and into the cool of the night. It was quiet there, the sound of the busy city dull in their ears. Crickets were singing and toads accompanied them.
“Well, this is me,” the blonde said, gesturing to the road that sloped upward to the top of the hill where the houses were. “Are you gonna wait for the bus here?”
Gray shook his head. “No... I think I’m going to walk. I need to clear my head,” he said, shrugging. “Who knows, I might decide to drop by the engagement party and congratulate the couple.”
“You’re not gonna punch anybody, are you?” she joked with a toothy grin.
“I hope not,” he replied. “Ah, I just remembered I need to find my phone. I hope it’s not too broken.”
That made the blonde laugh.
“When are you moving?” he asked.
“Uhm, in two days,” she said. “I still have to finish up a few things and then I’m good to go.”
“I see,” Gray said. “Well, good luck.”
“I’ll need it,” she said and the blonde let out another laugh which Gray was quick to share. When they were done, she noted, “You’ll find someone.”
“Yeah, I know... someday,” Gray said. “I’ll be holding to what you said. ‘Even late buses arrive’.”
She smiled. “When you find her, all of this is going to make sense.” He nodded hopefully at the ground. “Good night, Maybe,” she said. Then, he heard the sound of footsteps on the gravel and watched the lady’s back make her uphill climb.
Gray pursed his lips, turned, and made his way back to the bus stop in front of the cemetery.
Lucy rose early and got her things ready for a long journey. How long it will take her, she didn’t know; but some things, she thought, didn’t need a detailed plan—only a destination. So she was going to do this. The thought both excited and frightened her. It was a beautiful feeling to be doing something new. She was moving forward knowing that when she came back to this city—this place—everything would be different. She would be different.
Once she was finished packing, she got herself ready, bid goodbye to her family, and made her way down to the bus stop.
ARRIVING IN: 11 minutes, read the sign in the bus stop. Lucy couldn’t help but smile as she recalled the events a few nights back. How strange to have shared that moment with someone she didn’t know and yet have such an impact on her life. But I guess that’s the beauty of a stranger, she thought.
Lucy waited. And as she did, the weather started to turn sour. The clouds were thickening and moving towards their city, threatening to release a heavy downpour of rain that early in the morning. Lucy sighed and drummed her fingers on the handle of her suitcase. At least this bus stop has a roof. She smiled to herself.
Five minutes later, the sky darkened and the rain started to pour mercilessly on the ground. Although the onslaught was not as heavy as the one when she met Maybe (where could he be now?), it nevertheless splattered drops on Lucy’s hair, on her face, and on her luggage. ARRIVING IN: 2 minutes. Lucy sighed, relieved.
Just then, Lucy heard the sound of an engine from the sharp curve. Lucy checked the sign again, ARRIVING IN: 2 minutes. That couldn’t have been the bus, or else the board would have been kept up to date. It was also very rare for private cars to pass by since the hill was far from the heart of the city. So Lucy peered her gaze at the blind curve. The rain was not as heavy and so she could see, though blurred, the shapes and colors that lay beyond.
A black car was coming slowly, as if it was looking for something, out of the hidden side of the curve. For some reason, Lucy’s heart raced in expectation. Of what? She didn’t know.
ARRIVING IN: 1 minute.
The car stopped right in front of Lucy and the driver opened the door. A huge black umbrella emerged first, opened, and then out came a man in a gray hood. The driver ran quickly to Lucy’s side under the roof of the bus stop and donned a face Lucy was sure she was never going to see again.
"Maybe!” she exclaimed in surprise.
“The bus late?” he asked.
“No, it—” but Lucy didn’t finish, ”What are you doing here?"
“Ah, well... I thought about what you said. And I figured I could also use a change of scenery.”
“Your journey,” Maybe started, “do you think it has room for another person?”
Lucy smiled and nodded. “Yeah. Of course. It’s a free country.”
There was a feeling that started to bubble from Lucy’s stomach. It was a gentle kind of warmth that she welcomed especially in the rain. She didn’t know how long, but she and Maybe may have been staring eye-to-eye at each other for a while when she finally noticed.
Maybe grinned, and then opened the passenger seat for her. “Get in.”
“This isn’t kidnapping, is it?” she asked.
“Not if it’s voluntarily accepted,” he joked.
Lucy got in the next second while Maybe stuffed her luggage in the trunk of his car. When they were both settled in, Maybe breathed out nervously, drummed his fingers on his legs, and cleared his throat.
“I’m... Gray, by the way,” he said, holding out his hand to Lucy.
She took it and shook it gladly, “Lucy.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.”
The two giggled, having shared so much already before even being introduced.
ARRIVING IN: 1 minute
“Well, the bus is late again,” Gray commented.
Lucy glanced at the board, then at Gray, and said, “No, I think it arrived just in time.”
Outside, the wind blew. The rain poured. And finally, just as the black car drove away from the stop at the foot of the hill, the bus arrived.