The public bus was cramped. Claire stood behind a college age girl and in front of a big man with a colourful tie. It was stuffy and the air smelt of a multitude of different perfumes and deodorants mixed with sweat and the faint smell of bubble gum. She clung to the bright yellow bar is if it were a lifeline.
The bus stopped a moment later with a bounce. The girl in front of Claire wavered slightly, but Claire took little notice. Her stop was soon. Rain blurred the huge windows of the bus and a young man sat staring out at the wavy buildings of the city. Claire was captured for a moment by the stranger’s finely boned face, dark hair and far away look. She didn’t recognize him right away, without makeup, but when he glanced for briefly her direction, not at her, she started slightly. It was the actor Dylan. And he was probably headed the same place she was. The buss vibrated under her hand and Dylan looked back out the window.
Then the girl in front of Claire wobbled and began to collapse. Claire automatically grabbed the stranger with her free hand, trying to prevent the girl from falling and hitting her head. She must have passed out. Did she have a silver bracelet? A medical condition? No, Claire didn’t see any bracelets. The girl was still falling, slipping out of Claire’s grasp, her limp arms waving awkwardly at her side. Panic swirled in Claire’s chest.
“Help.” she said. No one noticed. “Help! I can’t hold her,” she said more loudly. Dylan looked up and took in the situation in a glance.
A moment later he was helping Claire lower the unconscious girl into the seat he had vacated. The bus stopped with a jerk and Claire lost her balance, beginning to fall back onto the big man with the tie. Dylan caught her wrist and she grabbed a bar. “Thanks,” she said, then, “does anybody have some water?”
There was a lot of movement as a people got on and off. Not many people had noticed the girl faint. Claire was too busy to remember that this was her stop. An old woman in the seat next to Dylan’s was looking in her purse for something. The girl was still unconscious, slouched over like a puppet with its strings cut. Claire gripped the girl’s arm to hold her upright.
The old lady produced a chocolate chip granola bar, but no water. Dylan accepted the food with a thank you, and waited to give it to the girl when she awoke.
Just then Claire noticed that a man all in black with chains swinging across the front of his pants was staring at her, no, at Dylan. His look made her shiver slightly, even though it was quite warm.
“I’ve got some tea.” Her eyes moved to the owner of the voice and came to rest on a middle aged man holding out a steaming Starbucks cup. “Just got it, but she probably needs it more than me.”
Claire grinned nervously, “thanks.” It was nice when people were helpful.
The girl’s eyes fluttered and she muttered something.
“I think she’s coming too,” Dylan stated the obvious.
“All you alright?” Claire asked the girl. What did you ask a complete stranger when they were returning from a faint? “You passed out for a minute there. Are you thirsty?”
The buss stopped again.
“Mmm, I don’t know. Maybe,” said the girl in a soft, dazed voice, looking up at Claire and Dylan.
“A nice man,” Claire glanced around but the stranger who had given her the tea was gone. He must have gotten off at the last stop. “…gave us this tea. It looks pretty hot, but if you sip carefully.” As Claire spoke, she got that lump in her chest that she felt whenever she helped someone in need. She thought that she should do this more often.
The girl gratefully sipped the tea. Dylan handed her the granola bar. She was looking much better and the colour had returned to her face.
“You feeling a bit better? I’m Claire, by the way.”
“Yeah, thanks. I’m Susannah.”
“I hope we didn’t hurt you when we caught you,” Claire said.
Susannah shook her head. “I’m alright.”
“When is your stop?” Claire realized then that she had missed her own stop and had a moment of panic. “Oh no… I’ve missed my stop. It must have been a couple back.”
“Yeah,” said Dylan, “I missed mine too.”
“Were you going to the auditions for the Shakespeare play?” Claire asked.
“Yes, how did you know?”
“I saw you in the last play. I helped with curtains. I’m auditioning too, actually. Although I probably won’t get a part.”
“You never know.”
The bus stopped. “We should probably get off here and get ourselves a bus back the other way,” said Dylan.
“My stop’s not for a while yet,” said Susanna. “Thank you for... catching me. That’s never happened before.”
“Yeah, no problem. Bye.”
Dylan and Claire got off the bus together. Time to find their way back and hope they weren’t too late for auditions.