This is an extract from the beginning of a short story of mine. The whole story is full of subtle secrets which all come together in a crescendo in the last line, but I’m sorry, you won’t get to see it all here… *weeps loudly*. So I offer this little teaser...
The old lady snapped open her purse. With trembling fingers she gently caressed the object through its silky velvet pouch.
‘Yes, this will be fine. It’s just down the lane,’ Raissa said, peering out of the window at the darkening landscape.
‘Are you sure, lady?’ the bus driver’s voice was uncertain. He knew the area. Once a body wandered into this forest, there was a good chance they’d never walk out again.
With a shrug, the bus driver turned the key. The ancient bus juddered to a halt.
He watched his passenger in the rear-view mirror. He saw her apply bright red lipstick, check her hair in the fancy compact, snap it shut and return it to her purse.
‘No luggage then love?’ he asked.
‘No, I don’t need luggage this trip.’ He watched her smile dreamily and he wondered exactly who she was meeting in the bush. As far as he knew, all the houses had been bulldozed years ago to make way for the sawmill. He remembered there’d been quite a kerfuffle at the time but these things always settled down. People had short memories.
He turned around in time to see her popping something in her mouth, then take a tiny sip from her water bottle. She stood up slowly, wobbling a bit, clutching a parcel.
‘Well, I’d best be going then. Let you get on,’ she said. She held a posy of red roses in her white-gloved hands.
The bus driver was on his feet in an instant, remembering his manners. All his other passengers were long gone. No one came this far out. He’d added this stop to his itinerary just for her. He could hardly let her hitch all the way from Anernene.
She took his arm and he helped her down the steps. He smiled at the picture they made — they could be heading to the dance floor to perform a quadrille.
Once on the ground, she turned to him with the sweetest smile. Her face was lit from the inside – he could see her delicate beauty shining through.
‘Thank you kind sir. I’ll be on my way.’ A smile, a gentle touch of her hand. Looking down, he saw he was clasping a tiny red rose.
He watched her, twirling the flower absently in his hand. ‘How will you get back?’ he asked.
‘Don’t you worry about that,’ she called. ‘That’s my secret.’ She winked, waved, then walked off, her back ramrod straight, her steps faltering. He saw her clutch her bright red coat around her tiny frame, though the late afternoon was balmy. Strange, he thought. In a moment she was just a shadow amongst the trees.
‘A lady of quality, that,’ he mused as he stepped up into the bus. He sat pondering a moment before he could bring himself to turn the key.
The old lady heard him gunning the engine. For a while she’d feared he would stop her. The age of chivalry was not dead. She smiled and walked on into the darkness…