When I used to take a bus to work, there was a young girl who talked to herself each morning. She always seemed happy. This was my attempt to try and develop a character from watching her. Another writer friend and I meet periodically at a café, spy someone or someones and then do a free write using that person or persons as a base. It is amazing how often we pick up a similar theme in these exercises.
"Mon amour," Hélène called as she saw him get on the bus at Crêts-des-Morillons. She held her cheek for his kiss and felt his lips brush hers. She laughed in what she hoped he'd find a throaty, sexy sound.
She had left the window seat free, because he liked it even more than she did. Before he sat, she caressed the orange plaid plush, hot from the sun despite the early fall chill. Self-consciously, she smoothed her wrinkled beige cotton dress that her mother had bought on sale at H&M the week before. "I'm glad you like my new dress," she said to him.
The bus stopped at the Intercontinental Hotel.
"I thought of you last night," she whispered.
At the next stop, Palais des Nations, people poured on, heading home at the end of the day. They chatted in all languages. She only understood French, but liked listening to the babble.
A Japanese woman and an English woman sat behind Hélène and her lover. Across the aisle was a black woman with her hair corn-rowed and fastened with hundreds of beads, which tinkled when they hit one another. She'd seen the woman on the bus several times before.
"Merci, mon amour." She shivered when he whispered how beautiful she'd look with her hair in braids and beads. She decided not to tell him that her mother would never let her braid her hair like that. She'd already asked.
"Varembé." The computer voice, mimicking a soft-spoken woman, announced the next stop. The bus was full. A woman, holding onto the strap, glared at Hélène, but she ignored her and moved to shield her lover from the woman. She felt angry because the woman probably thought he should give up his seat. That woman had no way of knowing how precious the few minutes they shared were.
"I have to change at the train station," she said. He was always so understanding of her limitations.
"You want to take me to a movie? The one about talking dogs? The one starring John Travolta?" Hélène thought John Travolta was almost as sexy as her lover, but she wouldn't say that to him. She didn't want to hurt his feelings. "I saw him in the movie with the talking babies," she said. She remembered laughing and laughing when the baby talked. She laughed again just thinking of it, and felt the warmth of his smile flood over her.
She felt his hand caress her back and she touched her fingers first to her lips then his. "Dinner? Tonight? I can't," she said. Feeling sad at what she would miss, she pictured the table lit with a candle she would borrow from her dining room sideboard. As he stood in line she could watch his back, his beautiful back. She could just hear the crisp lettuce in the Big Mac crunch. She licks salt of imaginary French fries from his lips.
"Gare du Cornavin," the computer voice said. The crowd shuffled around making room for those getting off at the train station. People standing sank into vacant seats. The woman who'd glared at her took a spot two rows away.
Hélène gathered her sweater and backpack. "I must go, mon amour. Tomorrow?" Someone had already pushed the red button to open the doors. Hélène swept out with the crowd. On the sidewalk she turned and blew juicy kisses to him. She waved until the bus was out of sight.
On the bus, the Japanese woman turned to the English woman and said, "That's so sad.”
The English woman shrugged. "I see her every afternoon. She always takes the same place and says almost the same things to that empty seat." Picking up her Tribune de Genève, she started to read.