The clouds had gathered over the town casting a grey light on the bus stop at the end of the street. It was here that Mandy sat on the bench, purse clutched on her lap, glaring at the sky. She had not thought to bring her raincoat and there was no telling when the bus would come. Mandy was on her way to visit her dad who was staying in the hospital on the other side of town. If it had been clear weather, she might have walked it but with the sky darkening and her legs already aching by the time she got to the bus stop she had come to the decision to be a little lazy.
A minute later the bus still had not arrived, but a man in a faded jacket had joined her in the shelter. ‘You alright love?’
‘Fine thanks,’ said Mandy, not wanting to make conversation.
‘Where are you off to today?’ he asked.
Mandy gave him a look. The man was in his late forties, and had to stoop a little in the bus shelter as his head brushed the low-lying tin roof. He was handsome, she supposed, but much too old for her.
‘Visiting my dad,’ she replied, not wanting to appear rude. ‘He’s been sick with meningococcal. I’m not too worried. The doctors seem to think he’ll pull through given time.’
The man nodded. ‘Ahhh. That’s no good. I hope he gets better.’
Mandy gave a tight-lipped smile. ‘Thanks.’
‘You mind if I wait for the bus with you?’ Shaking out his newspaper and crossing his right ankle over his left knee the man settled beside her on the bench and began to read.
‘The bus seems to be running late,’ she said, filling the silence.
‘It could be,’ he replied.
Mandy peered at him out of the corner of her eye. He was paying very little attention to her and didn’t seem to notice. A bus pulled around the corner and rumbled to a stop, grazing the sidewalk. Mary shot up and waited by the door as a mother and child got off. The man read on.
‘Excuse me, sorry,’ said Mandy. ‘Can you tell me? Does this bus stop at the hospital?’
‘What hospital?’ barked the bus driver.
‘You know the one on Keira Road? Next to the train station.’
‘I don’t stop on Keira. Only go to the City,’ said the bus driver. ‘You getting on?’
‘No, sorry,’ said Mandy, and speaking quickly before the woman could shoo her away she asked another question. ‘Do you know which bus I should take?’
‘No clue,’ said the bus driver. The woman hit a button and the doors slid closed with a clang. The bus pulled away.
Mandy resumed her seat on the bench and played with the strap on her handbag. Her nails caught on the material and she frowned as a piece of fake leather peeled off. It was looking a lot rattier than she remembered. She would have to purchase a new one soon.
‘You know, I’m really sorry but I think I’ve forgotten your name,’ she said, breaking the silence.
The man glanced her way and gave her a small smile. ‘It’s alright. People always seem to forget me. My name’s Jack.’
‘Well nice to meet you again, Jack.’
‘You too, Mandy.’
Mandy checked her watch again and played with the buttons on the side. The strange thing was, she thought as she watched the electronic display beep at her, although she knew this was her watch (it was on her wrist after all) she could not remember when it was she had bought it. Then there was the issue with her hands. They looked different. Bizarre. As if someone had snuck into the apartment in the middle of the night and performed some perverse science experiment on her sleeping form that involved replacing her hands with someone else’s. She was over thinking things, Mandy decided, and she tucked her hands firmly under her arse and sat on them.
A second bus pulled around the corner and came to a halt. The doors opened long enough for Mandy to jump up and ask, ‘does this bus take me to the hospital? You know the one on Keira Road?’
‘What?’ asked the bus driver.
‘You know, the hospital!’ cried Mandy. ‘The one opposite the gas station. Keira Road. Don’t you know it?’
‘Got no clue, Miss. I just follow the route that they give me,’ he replied.
Mandy cursed under her breath and tried again with a strained smile. ‘Alright. Then where does your route take you? Does it stop on Keira Road?’
‘Where’s Keira Road?’
‘You’re kidding?’ cried Mandy. ‘How old are you exactly?’
The bus driver stiffened and swept his long hair out of his face. ‘You getting on or what?’
‘No I don’t think so.’ The doors shut in her face. Mandy stood in the gutter and watched the bus drive off as the first few raindrops fell from the sky and ran down her nose.
‘I don’t think any of the buses stop at the hospital,’ said Jack turning a page.
Mandy stepped back under cover. ‘Why not? I caught it only a day ago and it took me straight there.’
‘Don’t think the hospital is there anymore. Think it got closed down a while ago.’
‘I think I knew that,’ said Mandy, hugging herself.
‘You normally do. It just takes you a while to remember,’ agreed Jack. He closed the newspaper, tucked it back under his arm, and looked at Mandy.
‘I know you, don’t I,’ she said. And she meant it. There was something in the lines of his face. The set of his shoulders that was terrifyingly familiar. But it was hard to hold onto the memory. Like holding wet sand in her hands, once she started to loosen her grip the thoughts trickled away.
‘You should do,’ said Jack, watching her reaction. ‘It just takes a little while sometimes. Today’s a bad day. Must be the weather.’
Mandy nodded and watched the rain slap the pavement. It was getting heavier now. Catching the leaves and washing them into the gutter. When she closed her eyes, she could just see the outline of what Jack was asking her to remember. It came to her.
‘You’re my husband. We’re married,’ she said, shaking the memory loose and turning to marvel at him.
‘Yeah. Ten years in September,’ he replied standing up and opening up his umbrella. ‘You ready to go home now?’
Mandy looked at her hands, the ring on her ring finger shone dully in the grey light of the afternoon.
‘I think so,’ said Mandy, taking his arm.
Together they stepped out into the rain.