Welcome to the ninety-second in this daily series that is ‘5pm Fiction’.
Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
I was nearing completion of the 2012 project when I decided that I didn’t want to stop at the end of May so 5PM Fiction was born. I put a load of prompts on the 5PM Fiction page and today’s was to write a second person viewpoint story from the prompt ‘the bus stop’, so here is my 548-worder.
Standing room only
With the only space on the bus next to you, standing room only, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, to say “hello”. You’ve smiled at each other for weeks, but not one word. You don’t know his name – no-one knows each others’ names on the number 42. He shows his pass to the driver, who you think is called Alex but his badge just says ‘driver’, as if he could be anything else.
It was the same on the train, a core of familiar faces for six years, grey suits amongst black ones, Financial Times mingling with Daily Mails and Kindles, but you want this to be different.
And now he’s standing next to you, dripping wet, with his hair sticking to his head. There’s a stray hair you want to move away from his eyes, the eyes that pull you in every time they meet yours. He reminds you of Mr Darcy and you wish he’d take off his jacket so you could see how damp his shirt is.
He smiles then looks down at his shoes. You look too, knowing they’ll be one of three pairs, all black, just different stitching, all polished as if they’re going to be inspected at any moment, and they now are… by him.
He coughs and looks up. “Not good for the leather,” he says and you nod.
“Kills suede too,” you say, never imagining that those would be the first words you say to him. You wanted them to be more romantic, invite him for a coffee, lunch perhaps or a film, but you know big talk starts with small talk and even the weather as a topic thrills you. What you say next will be pivotal, you want to take your time but a woman rings the bell, moves towards the front of the bus and he’s looking at her empty seat, so you have to be quick.
You go to speak but he says, “There’s a seat there if you’d like it.”
“I’m fine, but thanks,” you reply and grip tighter on to the handrail as the bus lurches round a bend.
“Me too,” he says, and another standing passenger takes advantage, thumping down and stuffing his case between his calves.
There are only a couple of stops until you have to leave and you’re debating whether to stay on, be late for work, take the day off even, when you spot the white cable running from his right ear. “What are you listening to?”
“Classical. A bit of everything but Erik Satie at the moment.”
“Gnossienne or Gymnopédies?”
He laughs. “You know your Satie.”
“My favourite, next to Beethoven.”
He nods. “You get off at St Giles, don’t you?”
“At the top, yes.”
“Nice part of town.”
“Not too noisy.” You cringe as the talk shrinks further.
“What do you do?” he asks, as if he read your mind.
“Lawyer. Property. Pretty dull really.”
“Office-based. Little action.”
“You’d rather have your day in court?”
You laugh. “Something like that.”
Your stop approaches and you know staying on now isn’t an option. “Well, this is me.”
“It is,” he replies, then holds out his hand. “Tom Austen. See you tomorrow.”
You shake his hand and smile. “Daniel Taylor. ‘Til then.”
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.