On her way to the city, she mused about her growing excitement, meeting him finally. The day appeared to her brighter and sunnier, holding the promise for a greater future within its general sparkle. Would these outer appearances herald a milestone in her life?
She laughed inside, but then stopped herself for a moment. She wanted to control her sudden emotional welling. As she pressed the button on the vertical chromium plated rail, requesting the driver to stop at the next station, she looked up into the dusky eyes of a stranger staring at her. She escaped the bus and the staring stranger and hurried on through the cool subway passage, to change bus-lines at Marble Arch.
The bus to Bloomsbury stopped behind two other buses. She hurried back waving her arm to the driver. As soon as she stepped onto the bus, she showed her ticket to the driver and squeezed passed passengers, taking the narrow stairs to the upper deck. The view from above offered an extended horizon, raising her expectation of the meeting ahead. The sweeping ride above the pavement and the overview across Oxford Street added sensations of flying, when the bus moved in sudden spurts. She spotted the only free seat.
“Is this seat free?” she said, slowing down the words. The Japanese woman gave her a curious look, turning to stare out the window.
“Yes,” a man behind her said, “my wife understand no English.”
Odd, she thought, he sits behind her, wonder why
Panoramic views along one of the busiest streets of London engulfed her into colourful perspectives. The bus glided on without efforts of straining, in a slow motion in midst of a grid-locked traffic. She gazed at Fraser’s, advertisements of fashion and the somber sign of a language school, until the bus accelerated, moving faster, closing gaps in the traffic: The big-eyed child looking down at her from a giant billboard, announcing endless successful performances of Les Miserables at the Palace, crowned its entrance. She daydreamed. From rags to riches, she thought. Finally the bus moved along with a reasonable speed, merging into the continuous stream of traffic.
Something hard hit her shoulder.
“Watch it! She cried-out. The foreign-looking man with a tanned face below a baseball cap rushed to an empty seat across the aisle from her, pushing the charcoal rucksack, released from his shoulders, below his seat. She turned to see him bending down, labouring with an effort. At that moment the loud voices of people outside, gathering for another political demonstration, distracted most of the passengers. She observed the face of the foreign young man with the baseball cap with the dark, frightened eyes, hurrying down the steps, looking at her. He had a cell phone in his hand that looked like hers. Taking her bag from the floor, she noted that her phone was missing. “Stop,” she cried out “you stole my phone.” She jumped from her seat, with a bad welling inside her stomach, spreading to her esophagus, choking her.
Then the terrible blast: The flash of lightning followed by a horrifying bang a split second later, debris flew into all directions, a rain of glass and shards of sharp metal. The mangled top of the double-decker bus tumbled through the air, landing on overturned cars in the center of the road, twenty meters away. People falling, ripped apart, bloodied hands and faces, and the injured thrown to safety from the skeleton of the smoldering bus, and many burnt to death. Sirens started blaring. Nobody from the upper deck of the bus survived and many bystanders and demonstrators lay in heaps on the floor. Debris and body parts lay strewn around the roads and the pavements. The litter of glass shards covered the whole area in the vicinity, mingled with pools of blood. The windows of the nearby shops sucked out by the wave of explosion, landed on the red metal heap. Immediately the scent of burned rubber filled the air and cries and moaning of the shocked and injured cut into the aftermath.
Police whistles blew, as emergency units arrived at the scene, men cordoning the area off. Fire engines arrived at the same time, demanding specific access, blasting extinguishing foam upon the fires, and the black smoke. It smelled of petrol, burned plastic and diesel. Acrid smoke choked the people gathering around the cordoned off area and the exit points of the first aid helpers, who brought the bodies into the ambulances. Everything happened fast, events rushing one on top of the other. The police pushed curious bystanders behind the established tape barriers. Then a group of forensic experts moved in speedily to secure evidence.
He waited for her in the cool paved hall of the British Museum, slick in his movements and dressed in an immaculate tight charcoal top and chinos. He looked up the glazed cupola as he heard a distant bang. Was she in time for the fated bus?
He paced up and down the circular central core. As he passed around for the seventh time, his mobile phone rang.
“Mom’s arrived back home,” the voice said with a distinct French accent. “Merci,” he said and paused. He stroked his oiled black hair at his temple and cut the connection.