“I can’t believe you talked me into doing this,” Aidan muttered as we slid down into our seats on the bus. It was a brand new vehicle, gleaming ruby in the clouding afternoon sunlight, and, I noticed as I passed across my five pound note, manufactured inIreland. That was, if the driver’s accent was to be trusted.
“You never know,” I whispered, clutching at his hand, “this bus might take us right back home to Oxford.” I very much doubted it, but there was no point in looking on the dark side of life
“And what about Erica?”
“She’s just there.” I pointed, subtly lifting my smallest finger. “Look, with Mai. They’re coming too.”
“You know what I mean, Meggie.”
I sighed. Even irritated, his voice had that smooth accent that I had heard warbled down the corridors so many times. A reminder. I hummed ‘Lamb of God’ under my breath.
Aidan still had his black-bead rosary. Unconsciously, he slipped his hand into his pocket and took it out, fiddling with the beads as his eyes glazed over.
“Darling, I’m exhausted. It’s been so long since…” He shrugged. “…Routine. I’m going to pray, then I’ll sleep for a bit. Will you be okay?”
“I’ll be fine.” It was an instantaneous reaction now.
So, he settled down beside me, and I turned my attention to the occupants of this new bus. There were not many (further pushing my idea that this was indeed an Irish bus): an elderly couple sat opposite me, and a youth with a gloomy fringe kicking his Vans sat up at the near the front.
Erica gave me a wave as she wandered on the bus, soon followed by a reluctant Mai; both made their way to the higher seats at the back, almost turning up the steps to the next level. I watched them with a giddy feeling, perhaps friendship, and before long, my eyes were straying over others on the bus whom I had not accounted for earlier.
It was those four strangers.
A month ago, I wouldn’t have given them a second thought, but since my mother had ‘died’, I had gained an intense paranormal radar, and the two women and two men stood out in my innate opinion. The most intriguing case was one of the women. She looked the gosling of the group, but her golden eyes, deeply eyelined, were hiding some deeper knowledge. And then I couldn’t shake the feeling that she held an illusion over herself.
Her eyes sidled over to me as she passed, but aside from curiosity, nothing more slipped into them. And then she was gone, walking down the aisle to talk to one of the other passengers, slotting herself into a row of seats two or three spaces in front of Aidan and I. I didn’t dare to turn and look. It just wasn’t…right.