I PICKED AT A SPLIT END IN MY HAIR; the bus was travelling along rough ground and my hair kept jiggling in my fingers. The bump in my stomach vibrated and my body jolted as the bus passed over a pothole. I tucked away the wisp I was picking at and fixed my hair - wiping off my hands on the old and rotting leather seats.
I pulled the foundation out of my bag and unscrewed the lid - dabbing a bit on my finger. I rubbed it over the forming bruise on my wrist where his finger marks were becoming clearer now. I looked around at the near to empty bus; there were only a couple of Greek locals. I repositioned the pillow hidden underneath my shirt and fixed up my face, covering the scars with the cheap foundation and a hand mirror- five Euros from a dodgy stall that had a banner along the top, it loosely translated to 'chemist' in Greek. I stuffed the foundation and mirror back down the bottom of the bag and looked out of the window; Greece's sea side flicked past.
The Mediterranean was not as clear here, it looked simple; plain.
Plain is good. He won't think I'd go to somewhere plain. So I
don't. I keep going. Trick him twice. Smart bitch knows what
she's doing - she's done it enough. The bus driver yelled over
the buffeting wind screaming through the windows. His accent was
hard to understand, and he was switching back and forth between
dialects. I leant over the aisle to a Greek woman nursing a
"Excuse me, what did he say?" I asked in Greek. She looked up at me.
"He said twenty minutes until we reach Thessaloniki," her accent was heavy, but audible.
"Thank you," I replied and leant back in my seat. I twisted at the gold ring on my finger; I'd been sleeping for two-and-a-half hours.
The trees began to clear and the outline of the city came into view. I peered ahead of the bus to try and see how long the road was but there was an orange swirl of dust clouds blocking my view. I fixed up the pillow again to try and make it rounder and put on my jacket and straitened my skirt - I was wearing an old navy blue pencil skirt - the type librarians wear - and a plain white blouse and starchy black work jacket. I looked like a mother-to-be on a boring business trip. I repositioned the pillow again and settled my hands on my lap; it had to look real.
My fingers started to twist at the ring again; I slipped it off my left hand and fixed it onto my right hand - single mum it is. The light at the front of the bus flicked on; we were at the outskirts of the city and approaching a lone bus stop with a small, brick cubicle - probably a bathroom. The bus jolted as we stopped and I clasped onto the seat in front and clutched at the pillow. The Greek woman on the other side of the aisle held out a comforting hand. I smiled at her and stood up, softly flicking my bag over my shoulder as I moved into the aisle.
The woman placed her hand on my arm and mouthed 'good luck'. I mouthed back 'thank you' and smiled. I started shuffling towards the front of the bus, one hand on the pillow, one hand leaning on the metal brace on the seats. The plain black shoes I chose for this outfit had no grip on the bottom of them and I slid to a stop as I reached the front of the bus. I took a second to lean on the metal bar before moving down the steps to the door. The bus driver saw my belly and got up and swiftly slid in front of me, jumping off the bus. He put out his hand, offering to help me down. I took it and pretended to struggle down from the small step. I smiled at him and he repositioned his cap on his head.
He was an old Greek man and looked as though he had worked as a
hard labourer most of his life based on the distinct creases
across his face and bronzed skin that could only be the result of
time in the sun. His smile was the type to make others smile back
at him and he seemed like the friendly type who would just start
up a conversation with you.
"Could I please have my bag?" I asked politely in Greek. He nodded vigorously.
"Yes, Yes, I get it for you," he said hurriedly and moved to the side of the bus and kicked at the latch - the dodgy metal doors swung open. A bag fell out and the bus driver used his shoulder to stuff it back in. He looked back at me and I pointed at my suitcase, he climbed onto the shelf and dragged out my bag and handed it to me.
I pulled out the handle and smiled to him, saying a quick thank you in Greek. He blushed and repositioned his cap again - it seemed like a habit. I pulled my suitcase over to a rundown bench and perched on the edge. The bus driver swung the doors back in, they hit the metal with a clang. I peered around him and saw him trying to force the doors back into their latches.
He slid back suddenly and stood still - holding his hands up in apprehension that the doors might suddenly swing out again. When they didn't swing out after a minute, the bus driver walked back towards the bus doors, turning quickly to wave and adjust his cap once more. The doors snapped shut violently behind him.
The engine kicked and spluttered, sending black smoke out of the exhaust pipe. The bus began to jolt into life and slowly began to slide down the road, until, with one final jolt, the bus sped off down the road.
My watch said 5:00PM - half-an-hour until the next bus comes. I waited until the bus was out of sight and stood, walking over to the bathroom cubicle. The bathroom was a small and tight room and yet I still struggled to find the light switch. I spun around and a metal chain clinked into my face. I pulled it down softly and the room was illuminated by a dull, flickering, yellow glow.
I sighed and locked the door - laying the suitcase on the ground on the other side of the 'room'. I was able to unzip the clean black suitcase with ease and I pulled out a dark brown, curly wig; an old jumper; a pair of converse and some shorts. I changed quickly and dumped the excess clothes on top of the open suitcase.
The bathroom had a small toilet with murky green water in it and a small cracked mirror stuck onto the bricks above a standing basin. I looked around the cracks in the mirror and pulled out the thousands of bobby pins in my hair - the red wig fell to the floor and I picked it up and lay it next to the brown one.
The light began to flicker so I shoved my feet into the shoes and picked up the brown wig. I fastened it to my head with the bobby pins and put the rest away. The light gave up and flicked off; I closed the suitcase and fumbled for the lock on the door. I opened the door and was greeted with the sound of squawking birds and then silence. I wheeled my bag over to the bench and sat down, pulling on my hoodie as I sat.