I saw Wayne cast a furtive look at the man with the paint thinner next to me. His gaze flicked to me for a moment before he turned to the front. A few people were watching him, as if surprised that he wasn't intoning another monologue about drawing with charcoal.

I inched away from the bloodstained man as he stood up. He pressed the stop button half a dozen times, as an impatient old lady might if the bus had missed her stop. The screech of brakes broke the sleepy silence as the man stumbled past me. I caught a whiff of solvent and body odour which nearly made me retch.

As the drunk man staggered out onto the street, clutching a bottle in his fat hand, Wayne stood up as well. This didn't surprise me in the slightest (as this was the stop he normally got off at), but he came the other direction, towards me. There was a general mumble of surprise from the surrounding passengers; maybe it was just a curious eye over the corner of a newspaper, or the absent-minded removing of an earphone - yet all the regulars hadn't failed to notice that Wayne wasn't behaving normally.

He was twiddling his moustache distractedly, heading directly towards me. I moved over to let him sit down, taken aback.

And he didn't croon his usual abnormal anecdote either.

"That man," said Wayne, "is following me."

I looked round, intrigued.

"He's on the warpath, gorgeous. Wants my head on a silver platter, that one does! Well, he ain't getting it. It ain't my fault she died."

"What are you talking about?" I asked sceptically, but it didn't seem to do anything to halt his diatribe.

"He always blamed me for what happened. Told me i was some mental retard who didn't deserve to be happy. Can't believe I ever let him get to me ... not when he's drowning his sorrows in a can of paint-thinner."

I was so surprised, I said, "What?" very loudly for the silent atmosphere. Then I blushed as I realised that nobody had heard Wayne's latest rantings.

"If he -" Wayne jerked his head in the direction of the drunk man on the street "- hadn't started that fight in the first place ... He was always the worst drinker. Always sat in the corner with his mates, downing a bottle of Stella a minute ... selling pot from under his jacket ... thought he was the bee's knees, he did ... well, he decided that enough's enough. Came over to take up issue with me, said his sister deserved better ..."

Wayne spiralled off into a dreamy recollection of his "sweetheart", while I quietly digested this latest news.

" ... and then he went for me. I remember every single punch he and his mates landed on me. I've still got the bruises," he added matter-of-factly, frowning reminiscently.

"Then she stepped in. Always had to be right, she did, it was why I loved her. Impossible to argue with. Anyway ... she took issue with him. Told her own brother to back off, and leave me alone.

"Well, obviously, no-one was telling him what to do, not when he was surrounded by his mates. So his right-hand man - probably high by that time - he shanked her, right there and then. Right between the ribs. It was the longest second of my life."

He was silent for a long time. The bus had settled down again, for no-one could hear Wayne's rantings except me over the grinding engine.

"Plastered," said Wayne in an empty voice. "Flaming plastered. It does horrible things to people ... he jumped to conclusions pretty fast. Put her death on my shoulders straight away. He's on a vendetta for revenge now, to make himself feel better. Still off his rocker - that's what solvents do to you. Ever since she died, I haven't touched a drop. I'm the one who's made the effort to change. But if I'd've got off on my stop today ... well, the bloke might've seized his chance."

Wayne had talked himself into silence, for the first time in living memory. Thoughts were buzzing in my head like angry bees - Wayne had never given me so much to think about with one of his stories. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing. I was touched that he had chosen to confide in me. But why? Because my name sounded like his dead girlfriend's? I had to admit, it was freaky. He was freaky.

I was half-relieved when the bus reached my stop. I got off quickly, avoiding everyone's eyes, and walked off down the pavement, refusing to look back to see if he was watching me out of the window.

The End

9 comments about this story Feed