I'd always hated public transport. There was always something about it that always put me off. Perhaps it was the smell, the smell of many different people mingled together with petrol and dust, making my nostrils turn at the stench. It could be the way it was overcrowded, or completely empty, or maybe the way it was never on time.
Whatever the reason, public transport was just unappealing to me, and when the need to use it came about one not so sunny afternoon, I was less than happy. Lunch with Heather had cost more than I thought it would, and I couldn't afford the taxi fee back home. This was why I hated having lunch with Heather; she would never go somewhere cheap.
That and she was a bitch. But then again, I'm not one to talk.
After rummaging through my handbag for non-existent spare cash (a garden salad really shouldn't cost so much), I gave up hope, and walked to the nearest bus terminal, where a bus was pulling up at the curb. Finally, a bit of luck. The doors opened, and I stepped on board to discover the bus was almost filled with people.
Maybe I wasn't so lucky after all.
The doors closed about a second after I came inside, leaving a guy to run into the side of the bus where the opening had just closed. The bus driver seemed indifferent and uncaring. Probably did that for fun, I thought. Wasn't my place to ask, so I didn't. Instead, I asked for a ticket.
"That'll be two-forty, miss" I handed over my money, careful not to touch his hands, and he thrust a ticket towards me, then started up the bus. I walked over a seat that occupied a boy with long black hair and a guitar, the seat next to him unoccupied, unlike many of the others.
"Can I sit there?" He turned towards me, and said no.
"I would, but I'm saving to for my girlfriend. She's getting on at the next stop. Sorry
" The boy looked as if he meant his apology, so I mumbled a 'never mind', and made my way up the end of the bus. The bus then started to move, and I jerked forward, holding onto a nearby pole for support. A little boy sitting next to his mother snickered. I sent a glare his way, and the smugness disappeared from his face. I looked away from him to see a spot a few seats away. Picking myself up off the pole, I walked towards it. A punk looking kid with a bright green mohawk and several face piercings was sitting with his head rested against the window.
Too annoyed to care about his looks, I asked, "Can I sit there?"
He looked at me, shrugged, and then went back to his stance against the window. I sat myself down, and folded my hands on top of my legs. I turned to the boy sitting next to me.
"I'm Courtney" He didn't look away from the window when he replied.
"I'm Duncan" The name seems to fit him, mould in with his looks. He just seemed like a Duncan somehow, like Heather seemed like a Heather, and I seemed like a Courtney.
I turned my attention to a blonde couple in front of me, who looked like they were paying more attention to themselves. My heart jolted as I remembered the boyfriend who left me last week. Having lunch with Heather meant she wanted to talk about it, which meant attempted repressed memories were brought to the surface, which meant me not being able to get them out of my head. Another reason to hate lunch with Heather.
I was brought out of my deep thoughts when the bus jolted to a halt. The doors opened, and a girl with short, blue tipped hair dressed in dark clothing stepped inside, and walked over to the boy with the guitar. Next to me, I saw Duncan stiffen. The girl turned to face us, and then quickly looked back to her boyfriend, who was now sitting with his arm around her, seeming content.
"You know her?" I asked Duncan. It took him awhile before he answered me.
"We've met" Somehow I knew I wasn't going to get much more of an elaborate answer, so I didn't press. The trip was silent for a while after that, Duncan still staring out of the dirty window, me staring at my hands, wishing I was anywhere else.
"How much longer is it till Maple Street?" I asked, breaking the silence that seemed worse than the awkward conversation.
"Doesn't go to Maple Street. This goes a different route" he replied, his voice gruff. "If you want to get to Maple Street, you're gonna have to wait for the bus to go back to the stop you got on at"
I stared at him in disbelief. "You're kidding me, right?"
"Well, how long till it comes back around?" Please don't be long, please don't be long, please don't be-
"Bout another hour or so" I groaned. Duncan's face moved to form a small smile.
"What?" His smile was now turning into a cocky grin. I noticed that his eyes were a bright blue, almost teal. I'd say they were nice-if they belonged to a nice person, which Duncan was slowly turning out not to be.
"You're acting like a Princess, all upset that there's a change in your important schedule. You don't catch public transport much, do you?" I found myself wishing that there had been another seat on the bus, this guy was really getting on my nerves.
"I'm no Princess" I replied. He opened his mouth to retort, when the girl and her boyfriend up the front stared giggling. The boyfriend pulled her close, and she seemed to melt into his arms. I watched as the grin slid of Duncan's face, and was replaced by an expressionless mask.
"You do know her, don't you?" I asked gingerly. Not looking away from her, he nodded.
"Her name is Gwen" he said slowly, as if it hurt him to say her name. "And yeah, she's my ex" Duncan sighed and folded his arms across his black shirt. "Don't you just hate it, when you try so hard, so freakin hard, to impress someone? Try to be everything they would want you to be, do everything they want you to be, but in the end it's just not enough for them? I'll tell you what, it fucking sucks" Yeah, I did know what he meant. And he was right, it did suck.
"His name is Daniel" I said. Duncan turned to look at me, confused. I went on, "my previous boyfriend. His name is Daniel, and he's perfect. I really don't know how to explain it, but he is just, so perfect, in everything he does. All the girls love him, and that included me" Still does, "I was so surprised when he asked me out, I mean, I didn't even know he knew me, or noticed me, but apparently he did, because he came up to my locker one day, and asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with him" I took a shaky breath and continued, Duncan still looking at me, but with knowing instead of confusion. I guess he knew how it ended, just like I should have.
"The next few months had to be the best of my life, being with him, it was like living in heaven with the top angel. We would go on romantic dates, walks in the park, study sessions; call it cliché if you want to, but it was just that perfect. It was when I thought it couldn't get any better, when
." My voice was trembling, along with the rest of my body. Duncan seemed to notice, because I felt his arm wrap around me, and he pulled me next to him, in a kind of sideways hug. I didn't seem to care about a complete stranger hugging me, the care and attention was too good.
"Hey, it's ok, you don't have to cry over him," Duncan consoled, "he dumped you, didn't he?" I sniffed and nodded my head, trying to hold back tears and remember the vow I made with a bowl of ice cream in front of a crappy chick flick after our breakup; I wouldn't cry anymore tears over him because he wasn't worth it.
"He sat me down one day, in the park, after one of our walks, and told me that it wasn't working out. I didn't have any idea what he was talking about, I though he were doing great. Daniel told me, he said that I was a good girlfriend, but I wasn't good enough, he needed someone better, someone smarter, someone prettier
" I took a deep breath, talking about him was never easy (except when dissing him with Heather. Everything was easier when talking to Heather, especially dissing)," All in all, I just wasn't good enough for him" I sighed, happy to get it off my chest, but sad that the thoughts of Daniel were now at the top of my head.
"It sucks, doesn't it?" asked Duncan. I nodded. "Like hell" We both let out a small laugh, a laugh that was both sad and happy, if such a laugh existed.
"So, why did Gwen leave you for Jesse McCartney over there?" Duncan laughed at my nickname for the new boyfriend.
"That's a good one, gotta give you credit for that one. His real name is Trent, I prefer Elvis" He sighed, and suddenly, the joking mood disappeared again. "Gwen and I were doing great, she was the best girlfriend I ever had. It was like she was my best friend too, which just made it better, you know?" I nodded, and he continued.
"She met Trent in her music class. They were just friends, didn't think much of it. I'm not the type of guy who goes overboard if my girl talks to another guy, I mean, I have chick friends and don't date them. It was nothing, well was, until she started hanging out with him more, blowing off our dates to go study with him, or go to a concert, or some shit like that.
"It was on her birthday that it all just blew up. I had the whole day planned out, I was going to pick her up at her house in my car, give her the present I spent ages picking out for her, and then spend the day doing things that she loved, like going to an arty thing and going to that park she likes. I even snagged tickets to go to Death Cab For Cutie. They were only a tribute band, but I know how much she loves them. I don't normally go through all that trouble for a chick, it was a lot of work.
"I got to her house real early, don't normally accept that eight am exists, and I knocked on her door with a bunch of flowers, these black ones I found on my drive over to her house, thought she might like em, or something. I dunno. Anyway, her mum opened the door, and told me she was at Trent's. I was shattered, you know? I told her I had the entire day planned out for her ages ago, and she looked pleased, real happy" Duncan was starting to look more and more pissed. I was guessing this didn't end well.
"I drove over to the dude's house, and she was standing out the front with him, all happy and laughing. He was giving her a present, and she was hugging him. I got out of my car, and yelled 'what the hell?' and she looked at me, kinda surprised, and scared, like she was caught out, or something. Trent went all defensive, and told me to get off his property. I ignored him, like the idiot he was, and asked Gwen why she was here, when I told her that I was going to come and get her. She said it was because Trent was her friend just as much as I was.
"I just looked at her, and said I thought we were more than friends, and I realised that it was all over. Our whole relationship, it was over. She tried to correct herself, but I knew she picked him, that he was her perfect guy, not me. I tried to be such a great boyfriend, tried to be perfect, but it wasn't enough. I just walked away, wouldn't-couldn't look back at her. Back in the car, her present sat on the passenger seat. It was like a reminder that I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't perfect like her"
What did you get her?" I asked.
"I got her a necklace, a real nice one. Didn't even steal it, because I know she hates it when I go all illegal. I saved up for three months, washing cars and running errands" he replied.
The next few minuted were spent in silence, as the bus rolled on and on. The bus veered up to the curb at the bus junction, next to a park. Gwen and Trent stood up from their seat and, hands entwined, stepped off the bus. I watched them walk away from the bus into the park, arms swinging between them as they spoke an unheard conversation.
"That was our park" said Duncan in a small voice. "She used to come here and sketch and I used to watch. I always thought this was our special place
"This was me and Daniel's park too. I try not to think about how many other girls he brings here now" I grabbed Duncan's hand in mine, and squeezed it. For some reason, the action felt right, and not incredibly weird. I went to pull away, but Duncan held it in place, and we both watched Gwen and Trent disappear behind a bunch of trees next to a lake. Seeing the lake again made me remember what I did with the last gift Daniel ever gave me.
"I threw a necklace Daniel gave me in that lake" I said. Duncan looked proud.
"Yeah, I threw the necklace I was going to give to Gwen in there. It helped. A lot." I nodded, agreeing. It did help in a way, getting rid of the necklace. Almost like throwing Daniel into the lake. Which admittedly, the thought had crossed my mind. Quite a bit.
"I'm sorry about Gwen dumping you, you don't actually seem that bad"
"And I'm sorry about Daniel dumping you. You don't seem that ugly" I could feel a blush creeping up to my cheeks.
"Where are you headed?" I asked Duncan, trying to change the subject, as well as ignore Duncan's growing grin.
"Nowhere really, I just kinda like riding the bus. It's peaceful in a way, driving, or rather, being driven"
"I get that" For the rest of the ride, the conversation was filled with small talk, about school, friends, family, pretty much anything that came to mind. It was nice, talking to a guy again. I had missed chatting with Daniel, even if the conversation would be slightly different. Maybe Daniel wasn't as perfect as I thought.
After a while, the bus pulled back up to the junction that I had started off at. I was happy to finally be home, but a bit sad to say bye to Duncan.
"So, I guess this is it then" he said, looking a bit down.
"Yeah, I guess so" I slowly pulled my hand out of his and got up off the seat.
"You gonna try and catch another bus home?" he asked, his face amused. I grimaced.
"No way, I'm calling my mother" I waved good bye, and walked down the bus. Muttering a thanks to the bus driver, who didn't acknowledge me, I stepped off the bus.
"Courtney, wait!" I turned around to see Duncan leaning out the door. He handed me a piece of paper with a number roughly scribbled on it.
"Just in case you ever want to catch the bus again!" He yelled out before the doors closed millimetres short of his face. I laughed before placing the scrap of paper in my purse, and taking out my phone to call my mother.
Ten minutes later, I was sitting in the passenger seat next to my mother. She was talking about something that had happened to her at work, but I wasn't listening. Instead, my mind was on the punk teen I shared a bus trip with. I remembered the number sitting in my purse, and I smiled.
Maybe public transport wasn't so bad after all.